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Who’s In Charge?

Do you have someone in your family who’s always got your back? You know that if you’re in trouble they will be there to kick butt and take names. I have someone like that in my family. It’s my sister-in-law Gail. She is one of those rare souls who will take care of you when you need it most.

Once when I was hospitalized I was on so much medication that I was very sick and overheated. [Sounds like most of the vehicles we’ve owned.] Anyway, there was not a fan to be found according to the nurses. My sister-in-law Gail came to the rescue. After a quick disappearance down the hall she returned with a fan. She set it up, turned it toward me, and immediately I felt better. I asked where she found the fan. “Some old man down the hall was asleep so I took his. He won’t miss it.” Holy cow! And she did that for me.

Another time we were in the middle of painting the inside of our house when I went into labor. She came over and finished painting and cleaning so everything would be nice when I came home with the new baby.

I love that she calls her mother every morning and every evening. I know that if she cannot reach her she’ll call me and I can walk over to Nina’s and make sure she’s ok. Poor ol’ Nina can’t make a move without us knowing about it. She even calls us to let us know if she’s going out with friends so we won’t worry. Gail has finally got her trained to keep us posted. That’s a very good thing.

Gail has raised the most well-mannered and hard-working children I’ve ever known. Her three oldest sons are now raising children of their own to do the same. Her three younger children will no doubt be just as great, because some things are just not an option in her household.

Has her life been a bed of roses? Not so much. In fact like most of us, her strength is in direct proportion to all the trials she’s been through. That’s why she is so strong. Well, that and the fact that she is the middle child, which she will gladly point out if the occasion arises.

She’s currently raising her second set of children. I think of the verse in Job 42:12 which says, “So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.”

Today is her birthday. I wish her many, many more, because somebody needs to be in charge! I’m so glad it’s Gail.

Gail and granddaughter Savanah

Gail and granddaughter Savanah

A roach scurried out from under the microwave. Yes a roach. How many years has it been since I’ve even seen one of these detestable creatures? Between shrieks I grabbed the nearest weapon. He waited, taunting me with his beady eyes and twitchy antennae. Back under the microwave he slipped just ahead of the flip flop. With no time to extract the microwave from its tight fitting home, visions of a roach mutiny filled my head. I might have had a mental breakdown at that point but again, there was just no time.

“Grammy come get on the boat! We don’t want to leave you! GRAMMY GRAMMMY GRAMMMMY! The boat is leaving! The boat is LEAVING!”

“Honey I can’t play boat on the bed now. We need to eat and get ready to go. C’mon, hurry hurry.”

Plunking the two toddlers into their chairs as they looked curiously at their Grammy was not to be done quickly. Questions about the shrieks came tumbling from sweet Marie who wondered what should be feared and if her attractive young grandmother was even grown up enough to be in charge. Jesse being the strong silent type peered at me with sky blue eyes of wonder as I shoved cereal bowls toward them and spoke in words he knew not.

“Woof it down kids, woof it! No time to dilly dally.”

“Pray?”

“Oh yeah. Go for it.”

Marie being the spiritual one of the bunch flew into blessing everyone she knew and thanking God for all things that may or may not happen while they stayed with their grandparents. She reviewed the fact that Mommy and Pop were flying on a big plane higher than the sky across the water to work with Mario the missionary. Jesse got bored with all the details and peeked to see if the cereal was worth all the fuss. A few Aldi O’s during the prayer surely wouldn’t hurt as his sister seemed to be taking her sweet time invoking the Almighty.

A loud triumphant “AMEN!” signaled the end of the blessing. “Spoon?” asked sweetie Marie. Tossing utensils in their direction I too shoved a spoon into the Pumpkin Seed Flax Granola which promised health and yumminess. As soon as the spoon hit my tongue I knew something was amiss. Apparently yesterday’s peanut butter was on the back side of the spoon even though it had been through the pot scrubber cycle in the dishwasher.

“Yuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkk!!!” and other exclamations of displeasure rolled off my milky peanut butter tongue.

“We not say yukky at table!” reminded sweetie Marie. “Pop say we no say yuk at Mommy food. Not nice.”

“Poopoo. Poopoo! POOOPOOOO!!!” exclaimed my strong silent one. Apparently the urgency of the situation was more important than breakfast conversation etiquette.

“Hurry Jesse hurry! Good job going poopoo potty. Hang on! Poppy’s getting out! Hurry hurry hurry!”

“Go away Grammy.”

“Okay. Call me when you’re done.”

Back at the table wielding a clean spoon, one bite of healthful yumminess and a sip of lukewarm coffee later I was summoned from yon potty.”

“Gammmmmmmy… I fwoooooo!” Holy cow little man! That is some giant poopoo in the tiny potty. I guess there IS something grosser than roaches and yesterday’s peanut butter. Wait wait wait. Let me clean you up before you go back to breakfast. Wash hands baby. Soap soap soap!

Okay kiddos. Get a move on! Let’s wear your pretty clothes we picked out last night. No Jesse not that shirt. You slept in that one. Here’s the one you liked last night. No honey please don’t cry. Your Superman shirt has milk on the front. Please Jesse please… okay. No problem. Superman will be dry before we get there. It’s okay. Yes. Mommy will be home soon.

Marie please be still while I put your pretty tutu on. How do these shoes fasten? Do they still fit? No honey your Superman shirt doesn’t match this tutu. Let’s dress up pretty okay? Please?

Okay. Superman will be fine. Do you know where it is? No Jesse don’t tear all the clothes out of the suitcase honey. Stop jumping on the bed. You might fall. We’ll find it. Maybe it’s on the dryer… Nope. Marie honey I don’t know where it is. Will you please wear this pretty outfit? Please don’t make your pouty lip. Thank you sweetie, that’s a good girl. Yes Mommy will be home soon. You and Jesse go play with Poppy while I get ready.

Poppy helping

Poppy helping

Three minutes later I emerged from the bathroom looking lovely in yesterday’s clothes. I tried to remember the last time I had showered and washed my hair.  When I sat down I realized my pants were unzipped. “Thank You Lord for that timely revelation.” An unusually loud thwack signaled my phone had fallen out of my pocket. Several cracks spread across the face of our other grandson who serves as my screen saver. I looked at sweet Able who is three and thought of how much I miss him since his parents had the audacity to move to Texas. My heart smiled at the thought of our teen granddaughters in Illinois as I knew they were making their own breakfast and dressing themselves. Three daughters spread across the globe, all with children getting ready for church this morning gave me joy as we wrangled our two little passengers into car seats.

The sweet happy chaos of raising children is so rewarding and actually quite… easy.

Easy like Sunday morning.

Fun after church

Fun after church

I think this big pot of flowers is kinda pretty. Sitting on my front stoop it dresses up an otherwise nondescript landing. At a glance it looks rather refined in the large stately planter. Upon further review one might discover that the pot is actually plastic. The faux cement urn is a stately planter wannabe. But I love it better than an actual antique because it’s light enough to haul around and doesn’t crack when I hoist it to the place it looks best. A plant-wise daughter commented that the purple foliage is some sort of weed I keep bringing in each winter to save on a sunny windowsill. Whatever dear. I love it.Pot

The ivy is leftover from a Christmas tree I fashioned one winter in the same planter. Twisted around an upside down tomato cage shaped into a cone with tiny lights, it looked rather elegant in a redneck topiary kind of way. Apparently even ivy must be watered for alas, my ivy tree turned brown when that small detail never entered my teeny tiny brain.

The little striped vine is Wandering Jew, or should I say Nomadic Israelite. Like its namesake it is strong and thrives anywhere it has the privilege of landing. The delicate pink flower in front is a happy little remnant of my Mother’s Day gift which did not survive the June from Hell we experienced here in N.C. A little water might’ve helped but alas… teeny tiny brain. Thankfully I pinched off a piece of the beautiful petunia and stuck it in my planter before it was eternally too late.

All these happy remnants crammed together in a plastic pot look better together than they would on their own. Some have survived harsh winters on a Southern windowsill. Others sprouted in foreign soil only to be nurtured and elevated as beautiful. Some fill in the gaps just doing what they do. Others add a unique flair wherever they find themselves.

It reminds me of home… as in land of the free and home of the brave. So many treasures crammed in a big resilient pot we call America. If only we could stop with the finger wagging and name calling. If we could look for the value in folks we might discover that we actually complement each other with all our differences.

For those who bear the Name of Jesus Christ, do we remember His charge to us? The instruction He gave which fulfills all of Scripture? You know… His top two commandments which trump all others:

Love God.

Love people.

It’s the simplest hardest thing we’ll ever do.

When haters hate and government governs and evil seems to win, our job is to love the ones we find in the pot beside us. May we follow the precious example of the families of those slain in Charleston as we purposely love. For love trumps all other Scripture. It is God’s plan and the best and only hope for our country.

What? Are you wagging your finger at me? Whatever dear. I guess I’ll have to purposely love you… which might be rather difficult.

But with God’s help surely not impossible.

She took my breath away. Really. I couldn’t breathe because her perfume sucked the life from my nostrils. The smiling young waitress stood by our booth telling us about the specials of the day or that the kitchen was on fire or something. I could not hear because her fragrance was so loud. Usually I have a heart for waitstaff as I too was employed at a very busy restaurant in south Florida while I struggled to fund my college adventure. Therefore one of the things I love about my husband is that no matter how poor we are he always tips big. But this time I wondered if we’d make it to the end of the night without hurling.

With my face buried in the menu as if trying to block the waves exuding from our host, ugly thoughts entered my brain. “Good grief girl! Who told you that is pleasant? You remind me of some grandma who can’t smell anymore so she DOES smell of mounds of blossoms that could be pleasant in a much lesser dosage.”blackeyed

Oh wait. That was ME only a little while back. One of my very fashionable daughters gave me fragrance which I loved. I entered a family gathering floating on a cloud of eau de splendid only to hear, “Holy cow mama! What is that smell?!!”

“It’s the cologne YOU gave me sweet daughter of mine!”

“Well I didn’t expect you to wear the whole bottle all at once!”

How embarrassing! I had no idea my olfactory senses had dulled as bad as my eyesight. Dollar store reading glasses can only fix so much. I dropped the cologne in the trash and have never been tempted to stink it up again.

Annyyywayyy… back to the restaurant. Did I tell you the waitress was serving seafood? Wafting o’er her fragrance of Roses from Gehenna was the wonderful aroma of fried catfish. The night just kept getting better. I wondered if David noticed all the havoc being made in the air surrounding us. If he did he said nothing at all about it. And of course he tipped her nicely.

The lesson was strong that night… really really strong. Fragrance, like talk, is best received in small doses.

So I’ll stop talking now lest once again I stink it up.

Except for maybe a prayer…

“Lord help that girl have a daughter one day who is wise enough to say to her mom, ‘HOLY COW MAMA! WHAT’S THAT SMELL?!’ And Lord please deliver those in her presence in the meantime. May their night end without hurling. Amen.”

Brand New

She placed the fragile prize into her grandfather’s hand so he could see her beautiful treasure. The shell of a tiny bird was the source of her excitement. With so much amazement that she could barely form the words she explained to him how the baby bird hatched from the egg and flew away.fragiletreasure 2

“Yook Poppy Yook!” And look he did with oh such care! These precious little ones the Lord has trusted us with are also fragile treasures. I love how he is soaking up every minute. Something about having grandchildren around makes everything brand new.

Today is a milestone birthday for him, the big SIX-O. He is definitely better than ever. The past few years of transition have taught us both some very valuable lessons; stuff we knew but didn’t really KNOW firsthand until we had the privilege of experience. I think our top three would be:

  1. God shows His strength best in our weaknesses.
  2. God really will provide everything we need.
  3. God’s timing is perfect. Wait on Him & rest in His care.

When our talents and abilities are not enough, when we’ve exhausted all our resources, when we don’t have a clue what to do, that’s when the Lord shows us things we’ve never considered possible!

Happy Birthday David! Thank you for allowing God to use you, for resting in His care, and for leading our family well. I look forward to the next forty years with you, which hopefully will be a little more Promised Land than Wilderness. Either way, we’ll soak up every minute together. It’s all brand new!

An Empty Chair

She drove twelve hours to get here. This beloved daughter of mine has not lived at home since she graduated high school in 1994. Off to college she went where she would meet her sweetheart and together they began their own great adventure. They’ve explored exotic places like China and Russia and South Carolina; birthed babies in New Orleans and eastern Kentucky. Put down roots for a while in the bluegrass of western Kentucky. Recently they settled in the beautiful Midwestern state of Illinois where they’ve bought their first house. She spoke of it fondly and her eyes sparkled when she mentioned “home.”

When she first left for college, which was only two hours away, my mama heart hurt. I’m such a weeper. But I knew it was only temporary… or at least I thought. I recalled my own mom saying how hard it was when I left for college. She’d look at the toothbrush holder with one empty space and miss her redheaded girl in south Florida. Not being a weeper like me, in her mind the best way to fill the void was to buy an extra toothbrush. So she did. Thanks mom.

When our Stephanie arrived last week with her youngest daughter Kianna we asked what they wanted to do before the time got away from us. A day trip to the beach was their number one, after visiting the grandparents of course. They haven’t seen the ocean in a very long time so off we went. The four hour drive there and back was just a skip and a hop after the long journey here. It was totally worth it to watch them play in the ocean and chase umbrellas down the beach when the tide suddenly sucked the life out of our party. Coolers, extra clothes, towels, snacks, and flip flops were pulled away when the last wave of the rising tide came in a lot stronger than expected, leaving even faster than it came. Several days later Steph was still shaking sand from her purse which was snatched off the back of a beach chair and dumped into the surf. Her wish to take a little coastal life back with her has surely been granted.photo (67)

Time flew and before we knew it our visit was over. David and I stood on the porch and waved till they were out of sight. Thanks to her dad the fluids in her Jeep were checked, fresh pork chop sandwiches were ready for lunch down the road, and a crepe myrtle tree she bought was carefully loaded. Kianna having the same weird humor as her grandfather commented that she was not crying at all. Her eyeballs just get sweaty sometimes.

Back inside the house an empty rocking chair reminded me of the best part of the visit. Steph had pulled it from the den into my little reading nook where we shared a footstool and coffee in the mornings. We talked of family, the things the Lord is teaching us, and of hardships He’s carried us through. We shared decorating ideas and the crazy terror of raising daughters. We laughed at our wild hair and cried over hurtful relationships. Well… I cried because I’m a weeper. She just listened and related. Our time together confirmed what we’ve known since 1994. The shortest distance between two points is the love we share.

But it doesn’t hurt to have an extra toothbrush to fill in the gap.empty chair

Don’t you love the sound of moving water? Waves gently lapping on the shore, a mountain stream tumbling over rocks, summer rain hitting a tin roof: there’s something about the sound of flowing water that gives the soul a gentle rest.

A while back David and I designed a fountain using a watering can and a tin tub. A small pump pushes the water up through a hose which is tucked into the watering can. The watering can sprinkles water into the tub making the soothing sound of rain. Oh how I love it. When we first came up with this idea we were in our “forever home” and assembled the fountain in the front yard. Neighbors would stop as they walked by to study how our engineering marvel worked. If we noticed them we’d step outside and point out the black hose which was hidden in plain sight. It’s funny how some things aren’t visible unless you’re looking for them.

When we thought we had sold our house and moved into this little rental, we took our fountain apart and tucked the pieces in the shed. There was no reason to reassemble it since this was only a temporary residence. When the sale of the other house fell through and the bottom dropped out of the economy, we also found ourselves unemployed and waiting on next. About a month ago God brought about an amazing turn of events. The perfect job opened up for my sweet David. But the best part is that we get to call this little temporary residence home now. Finally it felt right to set up our fountain again.

Just look at her pour!ftn

I love Matthew 11:28-30. Beside it I wrote the date May 7, 2014 and a note which says, “during a long night of worry.” So much sickness and financial strain. By then we had been jobless for seven months. But the Lord reminded me that night that He can be trusted to bear my burdens and gently teach me in the process.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to Me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’”

We moved here eight years ago and the whole time I’ve been thinking temporary. “Don’t get too attached” I warned myself. Now suddenly I’m free to enjoy the lovely little home the Lord provided. It was hiding in plain sight. How funny that we didn’t think we’d be here very long. Now I am allowing myself to do the dance of joy. My fountain is out and making a beautiful sound as it softly splashes a happy song.

“You’re home my dear. Listen and find rest for your wandering soul. What’s that? You have to tinkle again? Well bless your heart.”

Thank You dear Lord for my sweet little fountain, for indoor plumbing, and for my home.

There’s just no place like it!ftn 2

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