Slow Down, Woman!

Stop! Smell the flowers. Resume tearing through your life like a maniac.

 

I must say, I was pretty proud of myself this morning. I was on my usual morning route, taking teenagers to school. As I rounded the corner into the neighborhood, a group of children walked toward their school, and toward my car, taking up much of the road. I came to a complete stop, feeling a sense of pride for keeping these children safe. They moved to the side of the road, and I pulled forward and around them. As I went by, one of the boys yelled out “Slow down, woman!”

I was taken aback. Didn’t he know I had just kept him and his friends safe by stopping while they got out of the way? But then I smiled. I hadn’t really been that heroic. The boy was right. I came around the corner quickly, and stopped completely when I saw the children. When they were out of the way, I turned my steering wheel away from them, and stepped on the gas…not realizing how fast I was driving. Yes. I needed to slow down. Truth from the eyes and heart of a child.

So where do I go from here? Tomorrow is a new day. I will work at having a lighter touch on the gas pedal. I will try to be more aware of my surroundings, and of speed limits. I will concentrate on being present in the moment rather than allowing my mind to wander as I drive. And so we shall see what tomorrow brings…

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So This is 50

 

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I’ve been 50 for ten whole days now. I’ve hit the half-century mark. My 30-year-old daughter planned my party (a Sound of Music theme). My 70-year-old mother made my birthday cupcakes using my great-grandmother’s carrot cake recipe. I collected my Facebook birthday greetings and printed them out…64 pages worth!

I don’t remember what I thought “50” would be like when I was younger. But I don’t think this was it. I recall at some point thinking 50 was “old.” I’m not sure what constitutes “old” now, but I don’t even consider my 70-year-old mother to be “old.” Perhaps my 89-year-old mother-in-law is old, but I’m not even sure of that.

I’ve enjoyed musicals ever since I can remember. In my 50 years of living, I can identify with the emotions lines from musicals bring on. “I could have danced all night” from My Fair Lady. “To every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and, snap, the job’s a game!” from Mary Poppins. The entire song “A Puzzlement” from The King and I. “Tomorrow” from Annie. All of the songs from Fiddler on the Roof have become dear to me since my family and I performed in the community production at Camden County High School in 2012.

I have accomplished much in my 50 years. Most importantly, I am a wife and a mom. I have held many different jobs, from fast food restaurants to offices. I have volunteered for causes I care about, like the Special Olympics, the Salvation Army, Care Net, and Justin’s Miracle Field. I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2015.

I have learned much in my 50 years. I have learned the importance of kindness. I have learned the importance of offering and accepting forgiveness. I have learned that things done for selfish motives fade quickly, but things done from a heart of love last. I have learned that love conquers fear. I have learned that you don’t have to agree with people to be polite and kind to them. I have learned the importance of investing time in the people we love. With all I have learned, I think the most important is that I still have much to learn!

The New Kid

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When I was growing up, my family moved every three or four years. That gave me lots of opportunities to be the “new kid.” To this day, when I find myself in a new situation, I quietly observe for awhile before I make any effort to join in.

As a child, I would hide behind my parents or my little brother and follow their lead. Thinking back, I realize I always thought my brother (two years younger than me) was braver than me. He would enter a new situation and make friends. I would become friends with his friends.

As I became an adult, the need to hide behind another stayed with me. For many years, my children were the ones I hid behind. I didn’t feel like I was “enough” on my own. I have grown more confident as the years have passed. I received counseling for some of my childhood insecurities, and studying the Bible helped me learn who I am in Christ. My years as a student at College of Coastal Georgia also helped shape me into the person I am today.

My mother and I lead a second grade Sunday school class. I enjoy watching to see how new children respond to us. Of course we always greet each child with a smile, and a “we’re glad you’re here!” My heart always goes out to the bashful ones who come in nervous. Mom and I do what we can to make every child in our room feel comfortable, and to feel they are an important part of the group.

This past Sunday our class was combined with the first grade. Not being very familiar with the first-graders, we didn’t know who was a regular attender and who was new. One of the first graders I will call Lana. Lana was very respectful. She also had a song in her heart and was almost constantly moving! She felt she just had to dance, and she would. Mom and I told her that in the Bible many people praised God by dancing.

I loved watching how comfortable Lana was with herself. I loved her even more when she told us she’d only lived here for two weeks! Talk about the new kid being ready to take on the world! I hope nothing comes up to squelch her self confidence. I hope she always praises God with her body, and her heart!

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Hurricane Lessons

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Today is my son’s 28th birthday. He and his older sister survived Hurricane Hugo in Summerville, South Carolina on September 22, 1989 when he was not quite a year old, and she was nearly three years old. And now they have survived Hurricane Matthew.

I can vividly remember the television announcements in Summerville as Hurricane Hugo approached. I hunkered down with a family who had a house that had been built by a building contractor for himself. It seemed the safest place to ride out the storm. The television announcements carried on and on about how we should evacuate. Then, suddenly, the announcement changed. “If you have not left yet, don’t leave now. Do NOT leave now! Find a safe place to ride out the storm!”

The family I stayed with and I set up pallets for my children in their hallway, away from all windows. The children slept through the storm, but the adults watched and waited. The winds were amazing. We listened as the wind howled outside. The power went out. When the eye of the hurricane passed over, we very briefly went outside. Then quickly back in as the winds came again.

The house was intact after the storm, with minimal damage that I recall. But with many trees down, no running water, no power, and no telephone service, Summerville didn’t seem like a place I wanted to be. We packed my children up and drove a long way to stay with relatives of the family I rode out the hurricane with. The trip away and the trip back were eerie. Trees were twisted and snapped off. Nothing looked like it should. I was working at Waffle House at the time, and had no way to contact them to tell them what I was doing. When I did return about a week later, I was told that if I hadn’t returned that day I would have been fired. I was told about all the tips the waitresses received for working after the storm.  I was far more concerned with my children’s safety than with money, and I was frustrated that the Waffle House manager didn’t seem to understand why I left. I found a different job shortly thereafter.

In September of 1999 I was living in Camden County, Georgia. We were told we should evacuate for Hurricane Floyd. The memories of Hurricane Hugo were so vivid in my mind, I insisted that we leave as quickly as we could. My husband and I packed both our vehicles to the gills, and with our three children headed off to his mother’s house. Our youngest was very nearly the same age her brother had been during Hurricane Hugo.

What was normally a 4-hour trip was a 12-hour trip as we evacuated for Hurricane Floyd. When we returned we found that the only thing that had happened at our house was that our welcome mat was flipped over. One of our cars had not been running well, and did not survive long after the hurricane evacuation trip. My husband and I ended up feeling like the evacuation was very expensive and served little purpose.

When we heard Hurricane Matthew was on its way, we thought we’d hunker down and ride it out. But when school was cancelled and we found out we could both get off from work, we decided to take a trip to see my mother-in-law again. This time one of our cars had its’ “check engine” light on, so we left it behind. We packed three days’ worth of clothes, our wedding album, and our youngest daughter’s baby book. And our cat. As we headed out we heard that evacuation had become mandatory. Our usual 4-hour trip was only 5½ hours this time. A huge improvement over the 12-hour saga leaving for Floyd!

At my mother-in-law’s house we watched the weather on television occasionally. But we avoided watching the news too much for fear of upsetting our youngest daughter. She knew her sister had stayed behind in Jacksonville, and that her brother had stayed behind in Kingsland, and we didn’t want her to have too much reason to worry about them. As it turned out, they both came through the storm just fine.

We left on Thursday and returned on Sunday. When we got home we found our Yum Yum sauce in the refrigerator was discolored, and that the things in our freezer had thawed and refrozen. So we chunked all the contents in the trash, cleaned the fridge and freezer, and bought new food. Aside from losing two day’s pay, the expense of travel, and about $60 to replace the food we lost, Hurricane Matthew had little effect on us. However, many others in Camden County experienced greater losses, and the death toll for the people in Haiti hurts my heart every time I think about it.

Each hurricane I experienced helped me focus on what’s most important, and that is family. Most things can be replaced (with the exception of wedding albums and baby books!). Relationships cannot.

As we experience life’s storms, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual, let us be about helping others along the way. Don’t use another person’s loss for your gain, as those who loot and steal. As we set about caring for one another we all become stronger and healthier.

Sister Act and Sound of Music

My family and I had the privilege of watching the play “Sister Act” at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre in Jacksonville on Saturday night to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday. There were 18 people in our group. My daughter Mary stayed home sick from school today, and when I got home from work she asked if we could watch the movie “The Sound of Music” together. It is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I readily agreed. As soon as the movie started and the nuns came out, Mary declared that The Sound of Music and Sister Act are the same.

“Well,” I said. “They both have nuns and singing, but I think that’s where the similarities end.” But on careful reflection, I realized there are more similarities than I originally thought. Both Maria from “The Sound of Music” and Delores from “Sister Act” hide in a convent. There is danger and gun play in both stories. The nuns are the heroines in both stories. Good triumphs over evil in both stories.

The Alhambra has tiered seating, and there are no bad seats for watching the play. Much of our family was seated at the third tier away from the stage, right at the wall nearest the stage. My niece started dancing when people were dancing on stage, and when my daughter Mary noticed, she joined her. Our family figured it was all right, since the girls were about as far away from the stage as could be, and they weren’t likely to be distracting anyone from the play.

At the end of the play we got a BIG surprise! The nuns and several other cast members came out after the play to meet my niece and Mary. Fortunately my sister was quick with the camera and got a picture. The girls just glowed, they were so happy! And of course, seeing her grandchildren so happy made Mom’s 70th birthday party that much better.

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Happy Birthday, Mom! And many more!

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

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I never intended for my blogs to become book reviews. But here we are. My second book review blog post.

“The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” was given to me by Breana Hilerio when we had a class together at College of Coastal Georgia some years ago. I often talked about my own daughter Mary who has Down syndrome, and our conversations made Breana think I would enjoy this book. She was right!

Kim Edwards weaves an intricate story, addressing emotions, thoughts, and actions seamlessly, and moving deftly between the point of view of different characters. Throughout the book Kim Edwards shows how a single moment in time can be captured in memory by all who experienced it, but that memory is different for each person.

Through Kim Edwards’ imagination and story telling skill she creates an entirely believable cast of characters, and we get to know each one personally. In a mere 401 pages, she covers the years 1964-1989. I found myself many times praying for the characters, feeling their pain, wanting them to connect with each other and face their pain together…and then realizing there was no need to pray. The book was written, the characters set. My prayers wouldn’t change a thing.

When Mary was growing in my womb an ultrasound revealed a thickening of the skin at the base of her neck, and a possible heart defect. These were indications that she might be born with Down syndrome. Following protocol, my doctor sent my husband Keith and me to  a genetic counselor. The woman’s face has blurred in my memory, but I remember her urging us to have an amniocenteses done to confirm the Down syndrome diagnosis. As I read the paperwork we would have to sign to have the  amnio done, the words “could cause unintended abortion” leaped off the page. I pointed the words out to Keith, and our decision was made. We would not have the amnio done. Down syndrome or no, our love for our child would be unchanged.

We went back to the genetic counselor and declined the amniocentesis. She urged us to rethink our stance. The window of time for which we could legally abort and “try again for a healthy baby” was rapidly closing.  She described how difficult our child’s life would be. She gave us an overwhelming amount of information contained in brochures and books that made our child’s future look bleak. Keith and I again declined the amnio. The genetic counselor, grim-faced, let us go.

At my next doctor appointment, my doctor was encouraging. He was glad to know that we were carrying our baby to term, and keeping her. Mary was not diagnosed with Down syndrome until the day she was born. But I skimmed the information the genetic counselor had provided, reading bits here and there. I was shocked to learn that many parents of children with Down syndrome had cosmetic surgery done so they wouldn’t “look” Downs. I was disheartened to learn how many parents of children with Down syndrome abort.

Keith and I already had two older children when Mary entered our lives; Chris 10 and Chrissy 12 years old. Somehow having parented those two for so long gave me the courage to set the books on Down syndrome aside and just watch my Mary grow. She is 17 years old now. She has hit mile stones delayed, but she has hit them. She still can’t tie her own shoes, but she continues to try. Mary loves to pray, play baseball, swim, sing, act, and cook. She loves school! She lines up her dolls or stuffed animals or action figures and holds class for them.

“The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” talks of marriage. Mary pours a lot of love into the world around her, and I occasionally wonder if she will pour some of that love into a husband.

I sometimes wish I could go back to that genetic counselor, remind her of the discouraging things she said, and introduce her to Mary. I wonder how many parents she was able to talk into aborting and trying again for a “healthy baby.” I wonder if she has regrets about the lives and love lost to this world due to abortion and the hand she played in it.

So much anger, hurt, and misunderstanding can be overcome if we will just take the time to talk to those we love. Attempt to see the world, to see ourselves, from our loved one’s point of view. Change our focus away from ourselves and learn the love languages of those around us. Then speak the language they understand so they can KNOW that they are loved.

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4th of July, 2016

 

Bad Dads of the Bible

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I don’t usually use my blog to share book reviews, but somehow this time it seemed appropriate. The subtitle for Bad Dads of the Bible by Roland C. Warren is “8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid.” Roland C. Warren starts each chapter with a current dad story, and matches it up to a biblical dad story. He covers the mistakes made, and how good dads can avoid them. He even throws in some of his own dad mistakes for good measure. I find it amusing that some of the worst dads in the Bible were also some of our biblical heroes. It is a vivid reminder that Jesus truly was and is the only perfect person, and God is the only perfect Father.

Here is the chapter list:

  1. A Clarion Call to Fathers
    • In this chapter, Warren reminds fathers of the critical role they play in their children’s lives, and the importance of filling that role well.
  2. David: He was Paralyzed by His Past Failures
    • My favorite statement in this chapter was on page 29. We “struggle with understanding the difference between hypocrisy and spiritual growth. You see, hypocrisy is when you try to stop your children from doing something you are currently doing. For example, when a father says, ‘Do as I say but not as I do.’ However, spiritual growth is telling your children to not do something you did, because you learned it was not God’s best for you or violated his principles.”
  3. Laban: He Made His Children Compete for His Affection
  4. Jacob: He Turned a Blind Eye to Sibling Rivalry
  5. Saul: He Made it Difficult for His Children to Honor Him
  6. Abraham: He Abandoned His Child
  7. Eli: He Failed to Discipline His Children
  8. Manoah: He Failed to Tame His Child’s Talents
    • This chapter particularly intrigued me because I thought our children’s talents are things to be celebrated and encouraged, not “tamed.” However, Warren explains this “taming” as ensuring the child’s character and the way they use their talents honor the God who created them.
  9. Lot: He Pitched His Family’s Tent Near Temptation
    • This chapter deals with the issues of pornography and sexual addiction. On page 153, Warren states that “Pornography is a form of passive abuse that can irreparably damage a marriage and negatively impact one’s ability to be a loving and engaged father.”
  10. 6 Things a Dad Must Do to Be a Good Father
    • Good Fathers
      • Affirm their children
      • Are physically present
      • Are emotionally available
      • Are spiritually involved
      • Love and pursue the prodigal child
      • Reach out to the fatherless

 

This Father’s Day, I know of several people who will be spending their first Father’s Day without their Dad because he died during the past year. If you know anyone in this situation, please take a moment to share a kind word with them, and perhaps one of your favorite memories about their father.

Some fathers find themselves in the list of “Bad Dads.” I hope that’s not you, but if it is, I encourage you to take my friend Bennie Goldwire’s advice: “Let us all keep in mind: As long as God continues to Bless us with the Gift of Life there is always the chance for A New Beginning.”

For those who have the privilege of spending time with their Dad, help him know how much he is appreciated!