Christmas at My Age

In recent years many of my doctors have started conversations with these words: “At your age….” At your age I want you to take a baby aspirin (even though I have no family history of heart issues)At your age your teeth start to shift. At your age your eyes, your skin, your sleep…..

There is one childhood Christmas that sticks in my mind. It’s the year I asked Santa for an Easy-bake Oven.  I was 8 or 9 and the anticipation filled me with such excitement that I woke up in the middle of the night to peek into our living room to see if Santa had come. 

There is another year where I remember hearing the reports of where Santa and his sleigh were at that moment. I was a year or two younger and don’t remember the desired present but it was the excitement and anticipation of the event.

At my age, I’ve seen a lot of Christmases. Not all were happy or filled with excitement. We shift from the fables and presents and getting and think more about preparing and giving. We try to figure out ways to balance all the things without losing the reason we celebrate.

At my age I want the kind of Christmases where I still experience the wonder of the season. I want to be filled with the glory the angels sang about and know the joy of giving. 

At my age I want to hold dearly in my heart the memories of those we’ve lost while I hold the joy of their eternal peace and wholeness. 

I want to deck the halls and smile at the twinkling lights, to line our shelves with the Santa’s collected over the years, to celebrate the remnants of our past and the hope of our future.

At my age, I want to remember that Christ is being born every day, over and over in our life when we cling to his hope and peace and share his joy and love. 

Merry Christmas

A day of rest

If Sunday was a day of rest, rest didn’t come until after Sunday dinner. This is when mama would slip off her Sunday clothes she’d covered with an apron and take to her room to study next Sunday’s lesson for the class she taught in Sunday School. I often found her stretched out on her bed, book in hand and eyes struggling to stay awake.

Daddy would take to the living room to watch whatever sporting event was on while all they wanted from my brother and I was quiet. they’d have preferred if we took naps but we weren’t those kids.

Growing up with preacher parents dictated a different Sunday routine. In a time where few stores outside of a pharmacy were open on Sundays, I think most people never thought Sunday was a working day for the Pastor.

This was the only day that saw my parents slow their pace. Even in these unhurried moments there was doing. It seemed a waste to not be doing something.

Which is why I’m not one to sit with idle hands. And it’s why our son doesn’t like to watch movies at home with me. My hands are busy on a keyboard or holding a paint brush or adding to my To-Do list when he wants me to actually look at the screen!

In my efforts to learn ways to improve my writing skills, some suggest you write more; everyday, if only a few lines in a journal. Write, write and write some more.

I’ve found writing to be an outlet of discovery for me. Seeing the words take form and give shape to ideas and beliefs is like releasing pent-up tension.

Other times the words are a reminder of the goodness of God when the world seems to have gone mad. They are a prayer of thanks for His grace and mercy, so undeserved yet so freely given.

I think I’ve always known the rhythms in my life. The times when I had to push through and when to pull back. There haveve been times the words weren’t there and I released myself in that freedom.





acrylics on paper

continuing our family art heritage

continuing our family art heritage

My first expression of art, as I believe words fit well that description, was with crayon in hand. It was a way for mama to keep me busy when she needed me out of her way. I took well to it advancing to pencil sketches and trying to copy things I saw.

It’s all been a learn-on-my-own hobby and one that challenges my mind in different ways than finding words. I’m not satisfied with most of what I do and critical of being better at copying others designs than creating my own. That’s what has kept me from identifying as an artist. But there have been lots of ‘buts’ in this stage of learning.

I pulled back from the words this weekend and took to paint again. Whatever God gives us to do, the ways he’s gifted us are all His. I’ll trust Him to the outcome. I’ll trust Him to declare what is His as good.

Linking up with Kate Motaung in the final week of our study of the book, On Being a Writer.

Five-Minute Friday {try}

A weekly link-up with Kate Motaung who gives the word prompt and signals GO, followed by a group of word-hungry bloggers, free writing for 5 minutes. Yep, that’s our 5-minute Friday.  This weeks prompt is ‘try’. GO!

daring adventure quote

“Try it, it’s good.”

“Try it, you’ll like it.”

“Just give it a try.”

“You have to just try a bite or you don’t get desert.”

I’ve heard my daughter negotiate with the granddaughter for the better part of five years. She’s been a stubborn eater, not willing to try new things that weren’t covered in chocolate or sugar. When you think about it, she might have a point 😉

It was equally challenging to get the granddaughter to put her face in the water in swim lessons or to try to float on her back. With her mother, a certified train the trainer lifeguard, at her side, her fears remained.

I don’t remember if I was a picky eater as a kid but I still can’t snorkel or like to have my feet on the shifting sand of ocean I can’t see. I can’t get the breathing right of the snorkel thing and that scares me and it only takes one sighting of a stingray or jelly fish close to shore to make my steps cautious and shallow.

The ‘what if’s’ have stopped many a try.

What if I fail?

What if I look stupid?

What if others laugh?

To fail is to never try at all.

To never step out of our comfort zone is to not trust God to be who he says he is.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

To never try is to never risk and to never risk is to never love.

Five-minute Friday {ten}

Linking up for the weekly five-minute free writing frenzy (say that 3 times fast!) with the gracious host, Kate Motaung. Stop by her place to link up.

The granddaughter is here this week. All 7 years of her Taylor Swift-singing, Barbie-clothes-loving self.

She reminds me of why it was good we had our kids when we were young!

Our world changes when she comes.



Surfing on Baba



The house is filled with Popsicles and Peach water. The living room earns its name as a room that is well lived in with toys scattered about from one end to the other. I will make more quesadillas in 3 days than I’ve made the last 6 months.

The lovely community pools we haven’t visited in….well, that long, are finding us regulars and I’m thankful for a flexible schedule allowing me the trips to the pool and the Dollar Tree. (7-year olds can teach you a lot about economy and the Dollar Tree!)

She jumps on our bed and I LET HER! shhh….don’t tell her mama or uncle 😉

I let her sleep in because I need that extra time for myself.  (How did I ever do this with 2?!)

But the best 10 minutes of the day are the ones spent snuggled in a chair reading from the republished Dick and Jane books (her choice), my first reader.

She nestles in close, knowing the words coming before I turn the page. We close the book and walk to her room where her iPod sits cradled to play her lullaby playlist while she sleeps and I sit on the bed next to her when she says, “sing me a song, and what about the prayer?”

That time when she wrestles with not wanting me to go but trying to be the big girl and sleep is yawning its way to both of us, that time is the best. The softest, gentlest time thanking God in soft words for his good gifts to us.

Five-Minute Friday {fear}

Linking up with Kate, the gracious host of Five-Minute Friday. Stop over and share your voice.

This is about daddy. Because it’s time and I should think of him more often.

An outgoing prankster filled with charm, I imagine daddy swept mama off her feet as they married when she was but 16. He was already an officer in the Salvation Army and had to resign his commission to marry her. My aunt recently told me she’d been ask to talk him out of it but his mind was made up.

When they married, he joined the U.S. Army and served the minimum with them. Mama attended the Salvation Army training college and daddy was reaccepted as an officer. They served together in several appointments, even opening the Army’s work in two cities in Arkansas.

Stories of his childhood would spill out of him when we got together with his siblings or parents. Disagreements would likely happen about the version being told but laughter was the end result.

My love of music and photography were passed down from daddy. He had more musical talent than the rest of us, being very accomplished at the trombone and playing accordion. He could play piano by ear enough to pick out chords when needed.

Daddy moved fast. He coached church ball teams, took church youth groups on outings, picked up donations, opened thrift stores to help support the local work and handled business of the local units he directed. He preached on Sunday, sometimes also leading the songs as he played the accordion.

He let us listen to the radio of our choice at breakfast and in the car. He whistled. Often.

I scared him to death as I got older. I should have stayed with mom. He didn’t know how to raise a teenage girl and did it out of fear. Strict curfews and questions made me feel guilty of things not done. Dances weren’t allowed and being late 5 minutes once resulted in a scene I’ll never forget.

I learned early daddy wasn’t perfect. I never doubted he loved me. Never.

Performing my brother’s wedding ceremony

Well into his 50’s he called one day to ask my forgiveness. He was tearful. I was uncomfortable. I’m not sure what, specifically, he wanted forgiveness for. I don’t think I handled it well. He knew I loved him. I’m sure of it.

His last few years were sad. Poor health from diabetes brought an early retirement and he could never handle that mentally. He was depressed, trapped physically. He died at 63. It was unexpected even though he’d had problems. There was a relief of sorts. A relief knowing all of his sorrow was gone.

I marvel at how much my brother seems to know about him that I don’t. Last week Paul talked about daddy liking baseball. A sport I never remember him watching. I’ve already forgotten the team Paul said he liked. Boys and their dads. It’s different. Mama was right. Paul needed to live with dad after their divorce. Mama was mostly right. Daddy told me that. He told me he couldn’t handle that she was so often right. Big for him to admit to that. Sad he couldn’t live with it. Fear had its grip.

Father’s Day. Not the same attention as Mother’s Day. There won’t be as many cards sold or phone calls made. I was blessed. My parents weren’t good at marriage but they could have written a book on how to behave after divorce. For that, I’m thankful. For his laughter, his loving me as best he could, him teaching me to drive, him loving Henry and him loving God. All of that and more I’m grateful to my heavenly Father.

Full disclosure: This was originally written three years ago but never published. It obviously took over 5 minutes to write but less than that to edit today. It fit today’s word prompt, fear, and it fits our recognition of Father’s Day this weekend. Thank you for your kind grace.

Throwback Thursday {the South-ish}

I walked into the office, said to the first two employees I saw, two men who’ve come through this 6-month program to live a sober life and know my craziness quite well, “Let’s all talk with a Southern accent today”. They smiled and paid me no never mind.

We live almost as far south as one can go in our country, down near the tip of Florida but this is not the South. The accents here are more likely to be from New York and New Jersey or Boston or Haiti or a variety of Latin countries. Nary a ya’ll in ear shot let alone for a poor soul to even know what a yonder is.

Most of my growing up years were lived in Oklahoma and Arkansas, a few years in Louisiana where you really hear some accents. I was raised with words like reckon and ice box (though we never had an ice box) and drawers referred to under garments than to a piece of furniture.

all that's missing is the moon pie

all that’s missing is the moon pie


Some days I miss those words. I miss those times when pop came in bottles and soda was in a box kept in our ice box. I don’t miss the times nearly as much as I miss the people and that is the connection I have to these words.

I was 17 and living with a family from church while I finished my last semester of High School. I was living in this South, Florida, the one that has long become home to me. The woman in this family informed me they didn’t have an ice box but a refrigerator. Yeah, so did we. We still called it an ice box. Your point?

Words like darn and gosh were akin to cuss words in our house. We were more likely to hear mama say sugar foot while daddy favored fiddlesticks.

Summers I spent at Granny’s and being as how she never drove, EVER, the church van would pick her up for services. Every week they’d drop her off and say, see you Sunday or see you Wednesday and she replied, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” with a sly grin on her face.

We are in Tennessee this week for a conference and were surrounded by that familiar accent, a bit thicker in these parts than where my kin folk were raised. I’ve heard it start to slip from my tongue a time or two, my first language really.

Sweet tea is in abundance just like biscuits and gravy. The waitress calls everyone honey or sugar and no one is offended.

in granny's backyard

in granny’s backyard

swimming holes, rope swings and grandpa

swimming holes, rope swings and grandpa

It must come with age. This clinging to things that bind us as a people. My kin from the sort of South, because Arkansas isn’t really the south, didn’t have that deep drawl that could make the name Nell into two syllables. But we have the language that seems to sweep through that part of this diverse nation. So I hold to these words as if I’m holding to Granny and mama and I hear Grandpa saying ‘gall durn it’ when talking football, the sport of the south. I pull out “well, bless your heart” which must be said slowly, each single word separated and with a hard R in heart. I reckon I always will, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

M is for memories

She is okay. We are still being tossed about in the waves of a grief that is going on 7 years now.

Mama is as okay as anyone with Alzheimer’s dementia can be. She is being cared for. She lives in a safe place meaning the doors have alarms so no one can wander outside without alerting staff.

She is clean because staff sees to her well-being.

She is visited by family and friends and she still smiles and laughs at times though she sleeps more.

She is content and we have come to value that word, that state of being.

The grief is more gentle these days. It’s felt strongest on birthdays and mother’s day. The cards that won’t come and cards sent to her and signed “your daughter” still carry a whisper of a hope the words will have meaning.

Tears come more on these days. Tears for dreams once held of more time spent together with her. Tears for a mama who is more gone than present.

I find myself talking about her in the past tense at times, as though she has passed. The part of life where we knew each other as mother and daughter has passed. And it is sad.

For a moment I will allow myself the sadness of that loss but I want to remember more what she doesn’t. I want to remember the time we met on her side of the country. When we drove a little Nissan from Ft. Lauderdale to Yellowstone National Park packed with two kids in the back seat in the days before electronic entertainment devices.

At her son and daughter-in-law’s ordination
With her kids in 2009
Her ordination photo 1959

Or the other time we met in the middle, them driving from Yakima, WA and us again from Ft. Lauderdale to meet at a house outside Branson, MO.

There would be more cross county trips for us and even more flights for her to be at graduations and weddings and just to be with her kids.

Her sacrifice for us was always there. She is my Proverbs 31 woman. The one who was up before the rest of us to cook breakfast, and serve it and clean up after.

The one who sewed dresses for me and patched many a knee on my brothers jeans.

The woman who made sure the family money was spent wisely, shared generously and saved something when there should have been none left.

She loved people and her life’s work was to help those in need. She was living the calling God had placed on her life to serve and this is what brought her joy.

Mama would be the first to tell you her limitations. She didn’t like being overweight and she could have a harsh tone if warranted. She suffered a broken heart when daddy divorced her but she found love again, much to her surprise I think.

Knowing her imperfections, we still praise her and recognize the depths of her love for God.
What she doesn’t remember we proclaim and celebrate.

These words from Proverbs describe her well. A woman who never set out to charm or to be anything other than “neat and clean”. A woman whose beauty was heard in her laugh and shared with her smile. A woman who loved and served God above all else. Thank you, mama.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
    but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

Throwback Thursday {moms}

Scan 11

Our kids were born just before the explosion of baby stuff. You know, baby Nike shoes, toilet guards so they didn’t fall in, designer everything?

When our kids were born we laid them on their tummy in the crib and we gave them honey and peanut butter before they were even one!

We had terribly unsafe walkers and baby swings you actually had to crank by hand.

When our nieces were born and we learned the latest in protection, we marveled that we ourselves had managed to make it to first grade.

We wouldn’t think of putting our granddaughter in the car without a car seat and child-proof cabinets are a must but things have changed. Mostly, for the better.

Baby monitors? Not in 1980. Our house was so small we didn’t need an electronic device to alert us to the baby’s crying.

In mama’s day they didn’t even have disposable diapers. It’s no wonder few women worked outside the home. They were busy washing diapers and hanging them on a clothesline to dry. Not to mention sterilizing bottles. The insanity of it all!


There’s a family story about daddy getting up in the night to change my diaper (that part is highly suspect) but I continued to fuss. When mama got up to check me he had put both of my legs in one leg hole of the rubber pants. What are rubber pants? some of you may ask.

You may not believe it, but there was a time when all diapers were cloth and rubber pants had to be put over the diaper to keep wet diapers from making everything else wet. It’s simply archaic!

We used cloth diapers for the first few months. They came with the diaper service.

Mama and Granny would marvel at all the baby gear today. Boppies, monitors, baby bouncers and swings and 10 kinds of bottles. 

The rules have changed too. Don’t ask me because my kids are in their 30’s but I hear they are only to be placed on their backs in the crib and no crib bumpers!

Laughter has been a trademark in our family. And in the words of Erma Bombeck: “If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.”

It’s how you get through parenting: laughter and prayer. Though not usually at the same time 😉 and I wouldn’t trade a moment for anything. The hardest of times that make you question God in heaven have only made me more thankful for the unconditional love my Heavenly Father has for me. Amazing love, amazing grace. 

What’s you favorite parenting story? I’d love to share some laughs with you today.


Five-Minute Friday {hide}

Hide and Seek.

It’s the most fun childhood game. Especially when played when pre-schoolers. That age when they haven’t figured out the true nature of hiding. When their giggles give them away long before you see their toes peaking from behind the curtains.


the grand reflected in the passenger mirror

the grand reflected in the passenger mirror

kk and Avery

We adults know about hiding. We hide the clutter when company comes and hide the secrets we’re convinced will make us unworthy of being found.

And being found is what’s it’s all about. That’s the delight of the game with the little ones. The anticipation that builds when they know they are being looked for. The silly noises we make when we expose their hiding place and the belly laughs that spill over in the excitement of being found.

It’s not about hiding at all but being found. 

Linking up for the weekly Five-Minute Friday blogging party hosted by Kate Motaung. Everyone is welcome so hop over to Kate’s place.

Five-Minute Friday {real}

The reality of this week had been staring me down. I wasn’t going to give in as I often do. Give in to whining and lamenting (which is a better sounding word than complaining). Real is what we do in this family. Hard truth? Give it to me because we can handle the truth, Col. Jessup.

We work in a world where reality is too real at times. Where we are face to face daily with men in addiction who cannot hide any longer. “We’re only as sick as our secrets” is one of the recovery sayings.

But this weeks reality was closer to home, or at least heart, as we were going to be with my brother who was diagnosed with stage 2 prostate cancer and was having surgery. We would face that together with family and friends and we would feel the realness of cancer hitting our family.

kk spring break collage


We had the granddaughter in tow as it was her spring break week. Instead of the beach we were in a car 4 hours there and again back, sleeping in a new place to her but with familiar faces, familiar laughter and loud voice and dogs!

Who knew it was the imagination she brought with her that would be the perfect balm to this kind of real. Her 7-year old smiles as she delighted in being allowed to bounce on our bed. The chorus us Five Little Monkeys that hasn’t been heard in a very long time and the pretend play she gathered us in. Joy. Real joy.

Fake is often polite and without emotion. It is safe. Real, however, is often heavy and awkward and lacking in manners.

The Velveteen Rabbit ask the Skin Horse about being real:

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

And there it is. The best part of real: truth.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for the weekly Five-Minute Friday roundup. Hop over and join the fun. It’s always real.