Life in Pieces

snapped tree

They did the obvious work first: removing the tree that was snapped by 155 mph winds and fell on their roof then rolled onto the back of their truck. They took pictures of the damage for the insurance claim they’d file in the coming days. Then they began picking through the water saturated things inside this house in the Florida panhandle that is a gathering place for our family.

Ten days later and there is no electricity but cell coverage is coming back in spurts. My cousin drove an hour and half away to have wifi and file a claim with their homeowners insurance. They were the only ones inside a restaurant they found open at the beach to celebrate her husband’s 60th birthday. This will be one none of us will forget.

We live 9 hours south and have had our scares with hurricanes. Last year we evacuated as Irma took aim in our direction but unlike Panama City, we escaped a direct hit and Irma’s punch was much lighter. It doesn’t matter if you live in tornado alley, on a fault line or where annual blizzards cover your cars there is nothing to prepare you for sifting through your life amid the ruins of your home.

When my cousin found a spot of cell coverage she called and quickly said, “We’re okay”. In an instant you realize all the stuff is just that and you celebrate life.

We’ve been able to talk to a few times. Each time we speak I hear her old self coming back but this devastating event will remake her like they’ll remake their home.



Boxes of photo albums had expanded with water were pulled from the attic. Some were beyond saving but the ones in frames made it. Pieces of their life sat in piles to save or trash.

She sent texts as she sorted through. I wish I could have been there with her. She’s not a cryer but I know my eyes would have teared up and maybe together we’d have let a few tears fall. We would have found humor where we could because it’s what our family does. But the texts were good. Her words connected us.

As she sifted through the damp and curled pieces she found love letters between she and her husband when they were dating. They had survived Hurricane Michael just as their love has survived. Thirty-eight years of marriage doesn’t come without figurative storms and they’ve had a few. We’ve all had those moments when we surveyed the damage and made decisions to rebuild or not.

Standing in the middle of their house with a gaping hole through the roof, water still puddled on the floor, insulation hanging down through the ceiling, he asked if she wanted to move. It didn’t take my cousin long to answer a definite NO. She reminded him she likes her neighborhood and her neighbors. This is more than a house. It’s where they’ve put roots that are stronger than the trees tossed like toothpicks.

The ruins that remain are looking more like pieces than can be put back together.

“The rainbow doesn’t negate the effects of the storm, 
but does bring light to the dark and is a symbol of hope.”

*As I finished this I got word their water and electricity have been restored!

The Things We Keep

It had been a while since my father-in-law died when I saw his phone number still in my husbands contact list. It was thoughtless of me to call this to his attention but I did. He knew it was there, of course.

Mama had the same phone number over 30 years. It was the only one I knew by memory not speed dial. She was the last to maintain a landline, one that would give a busy signal because she never used an answering machine.
When Alzheimer’s progressed to where she needed the safety of a nursing facility I never deleted the phone number from my contacts. I can recite it today as fast as my own.

It’s been 2 years and three months since mama died and I get it. I’ve cleaned out my contact list a couple of times since her passing and both times my finger paused at her name before going on to the next. As if leaving her name in print in my electronic contact book will secure her place in my life.
I am slowly starting to sort through things as we prepare our move into retirement. Clutter is not me but there is So Much Stuff. Every room I walk through holds more things to decide what to keep and what to let go. On the wall is a framed cover of Carole King’s Tapestry album. I practically wore the grooves of the vinyl down the summer of my 14th year. It’s never the item but the memory connected to it.
Every year when we bring out the boxes of Christmas ornaments there is a gold-painted construction paper macaroni star made by one of our kids in preschool. Our kids are in their late 30’s. Dried pasta and Elmer’s school glue are amazing.
I may not be a pack rat but I have a sentimental heart that holds tightly to memories.
At some point I’ll need to let go of our daughter’s favorite rag doll. The one she carried by the braided pigtails until they came unglued from the side of her head. I’ll have to find a new home for our son’s first teddy bear that he named Freddy and the Star Wars figures he’s insisted we keep for him the past 20 years.
Letting go of the things feels like a betrayal. As if all the stories are tied to an object when the most precious things for us to keep are the stories.
There are tangible things we keep. Granny’s dishes kept packed in a box. Ticket stubs from our first trip to England. Family bibles. And phone numbers in contacts.

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.

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 {visit}

It happened in the blink of an eye. How our arms went from rocking our babies to waving goodbye.

How the home they were born into turned into two, three, four, as our calling took us to new towns, different houses and faces but kept us together.

Those who’d traveled this parenting road said it would happen, said it would come too fast and it did. From the white cap worn for kindergarten graduation to the cap and gown for high school and college. It was a flash that our home went from theirs to live to a place to visit.

on the road 6416


The son and his wife get on a plane and the daughter and her little family pack the car, complete with dog, and we ready the house that has never been theirs but home isn’t the house.

We anticipate the visit because it’s a time for coming together.

family christmas  family christmas


lunch time at the falls

But it’s temporary. A visit isn’t where you’ll live, but when it’s the kind of visit that is led by your heart, it’s a place where time goes too fast, again. Hello’s and goodbye’s collide. Laughs and hugs are shared, too much food consumed and too few photo’s taken.

The house lays still again. In anticipation for our next coming together of joy their visit brings.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and flash mob of bloggers for to free write for 5-minutes on the word prompt provided by Kate. Join the party!

Show me love

At 50+ years of marriage they held hands when they walked. We joked it was to steady one another as their balance was a bit off. Teeter and Totter their son called them. They teetered and tottered into each other which is the only place they wanted to be.

He called her baby doll when he wanted something and she knew it. She knew he was angling for her to fetch something for him but she smiled and he grinned mischievously.

Ruth and Byrd

Byrd and Ruth

They went through tough times long before I became part of their family. They were tried in some of the worst ways possible, losing a son, breast cancer, manic depression as it was called then.

They retired early for health reasons, mostly because he figured he’d run his course and it was time to enjoy life and they did. Even after bypass surgery side-lined him a bit and two operations in successive years to remove a benign tumor on her optic nerve. They healed again. Together.

Love never gives up.

We had just married when he was in the throes of depression. He sat silent, rocking back and forth on our visits. This man I barely knew, the one who would come to treat me like his own daughter, love me and look out for me, I was seeing him at his worst.

Our next visit would find him running high and talking a mile a minute. He regained the weight he’d lost and she was beside him through the literal highs and lows. Through all of it while doctors regulated his meds to find a balance.

Love cares more for others than for self.

They didn’t know they were showing me love. The giving and taking care, the smiles and laughs they shared. This lasting love built on more than attraction, more than desire.

This love they made into commitment, through good and bad, highs and lows, this love was modeled to their kids. This is the love my husband saw and shares with me. He saw it in his parents marriage and his grandparents marriage. Sixty-two years together they shared.

I saw it too. The same sly smiles his grandfather had when his wife called out, Conrad! The way his smile turned her stern face into a chuckle.

Hudson with Nana and Papa

Nana and Papa's 50th

Show me this love. This love that goes beyond gifts of romance, this love that surpasses troubled times.

The Messages says: “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

That is the love they showed. To anyone who was looking, watching, this is the love that was tattooed across their life.

Show me this love.

King-sized life

My hand tugs the king-sized sheet up and I smooth it down before placing the pillows on the bed and walk to the other side to do the same. Every morning.

We started with a queen-sized bed. It was enough. I wondered aloud why anyone would want a king size. All that space when you end up puddled in the middle together.

We live in a parsonage; a house owned by our organization. It’s fully furnished so we get what we get. Our second appointment we got a king sized bed. That was 19 years ago and every appointment since has had the big bed where we square off our space and snuggle deep into its comfort.

It can mirror a life of years spent together. We started small and close. A small cottage with a drop-down table attached to our living room wall because there was no other eating area. All of life shared in this cozy place. No man cave, no bedroom t.v., no gazillion channels to feed our differing tastes.

red white quilt


blue and white quilts

You can see a bit of two ruts in this mattress that has formed to our positions for seven years. The space between that has become comfortable causes much discomfort when we feel squeezed into the full-sized bed at our daughters. How do people do this?

Our lives have spread out some, it’s good and healthy to find your way as one, always knowing you’re only one that is apart of two.

I wonder the temptation of space. The becoming one that forgets about the two.

We value alone time and personal space. American families are smaller but our houses bigger. Fewer people, more space. We build more space only to fill them with things to connect us, texting each other in the next room.

I celebrate the positives of technology and am thankful that cell phones help our children remain more connected to us than the days of land lines and pay-by-the-minute long distance calls. I’m thankful for seeing photo’s of friends living in other countries and being able to watch their children grow up. There is a certain connectivity but yet we are lonely.

Lonely for the more that comes with conversations, real voices to hear the joke, real faces to see the sly grin, the raised eyebrow. We’re learning human connection can’t be replaced by technology. Aren’t we?

Or are we letting our carefully crafted profiles represent reality?

Throwback Thursday {Granny’s bible}

I can picture her place so well. The duplex where Granny lived, the one I spent weeks in the summer with her when we’d sleep with the front door open and screen door latched.

The three rooms were sparse but all she needed. The front room had an uncomfortable couch with wooden arms and squishy cushions. The photographs of her three sons in various military dress, her daughter in her Salvation Army uniform hung on the walls. There was the bulky black and white television she manually changed channels on from As the World Turns to the Guiding Light.

Through the kitchen with its linoleum floors was her bedroom. The metal framed bed on one wall, her telephone on a small table next to the double bed. A dress and vanity completed its furnishings.

It was the kind of vanity with a little bench seat where I could sit and brush my hair seeing my reflection in the mirror. Granny’s brush and a few bobby pins on the middle portion, her Sunday School book and bible on the side. The bible she picked up every morning to take with her in the front room where she sat in her chair and spent time reading God’s word. This woman who never made it past 5th grade managed to read the King James Version, the one I still fumble with.

stuff at Ruth's




The bible was placed back on the dresser, it’s pages worn with book marks and Sunday bulletins stuck in random places. Her scrawl of handwriting with notes here and there, some verses lined in red.

“Don’t set that brush on the bible. Don’t set anything on the bible.”

Those were her instructions, few that she had.

I know it isn’t the book itself. It’s not the worn leather cover. It’s not the thin pages. It wasn’t what she held in her hand but in her heart that was sacred to her and that made the book sacred. Special. Something not to be under but above. It was revered as much as the word itself. Like so many of Granny’s actions, this left a mark on me because this isn’t any other book. It may sit on our shelves between our favorite novels or biographies or journals but it’s different. It’s words, while written centuries ago, are living words. They are words that have changed the course of man. They are words that call for surrender.

I’m attempting to join #write31days blogging challenge for October writing on my chosen topic of people.  Disclaimer: attempting 😉 31 days people

It’s Your Day, Son

Thirty-four years hasn’t dimmed my memory of this day. I can replay the details as if it happened last week. Maybe it’s because you liked hearing the story when you were little. On our cross-country vacations you’d call out from the back of our minivan, “tell me about when I was born”.

Heather and newborn Jonathan


We had one car at that time and had to borrow one from friends while my dad was visiting. Daddy said to have that baby while they were here so I did and 10 days before your due date you were born and added a new level of joy to our family.

You seemed in a hurry to do most everything, son.


Ft. Lauderdale beach

at Cindy's pool

After swim lessons that seemed like pure torture (for me as much as you) you took to the water like a little fish. Whether it was in the backyard pool, at the beach, on the lake at camp, you liked being on the water and anything outdoors.

Our vacations were epic with specific memories made by you marking our travels.

The buffalo in Yellowstone. Jumping over our campfire at the Grand Canyon


J jumping campfire


J wading



Scan 338

Walking over boulders in the Badlands and climbing the rocky shore of Acadia National Park in Maine you have brought smiles and laughter to our family and cemented these memories in our hearts.

You were the question asker too. I like that, son. It means we can talk about all kinds of things. Answers didn’t always stop at definitions but could easily end up in theological discussions. Keep that curious nature and keep seeking truthful answers. You knew God’s truth early on, son, and you always will.

You’ve made us proud, boy. ‘Boy’ – the name your sister has called you. We each have our special name for you. Your uncle dubbed you Big J when you were a little guy but I call you J.



We’ve had our differences and our challenges but never anything that could separate our love for you or yours for us. You’ve talked about your dream of working with your dad one day, when he retires, because you know he’ll never not do something. He misses you, son. Always.

This day will always be yours. June 24, a day we celebrate you a little more than the other days. But everyday we celebrate you. Everyday we are blessed.

In His Hands

People use to say I looked like him. Not something a daughter likes to hear, especially a teenaged daughter who’d rather be compared to, well, to a girl! We do share that ruddy complexion and my eyes are a little like his though they are brown like mama’s.

We have our similarities, some good and some I’d rather exchange for a smaller nose and clearer skin. It was music that was one of our first connections. Daddy loved it. But music, in those days, wasn’t all around everywhere. It wasn’t portable. You had to be more intentional about bringing it into your home. We had radio’s – in the car. If you were really fancy you might have a radio as part of your stereo system. The big boxy thing that had a television in one side and a record player/radio in the other. Yes, times were hard 😉

On Sunday mornings daddy was the conductor. Salvation Army band music would be on the stereo and he’d whirl around the house waving his arms in the air, hands dipping and bobbing as if conducting the band. I suspect this made it easer for him to wait for us to get ready for church because he loved this music.

Bill McFarland (dad) on left

Lt. Bill McFarland (dad) on left

Daddy had an ear for music, played the trombone as his primary instrument but could handle the accordion pretty well and could pluck out the melody and basic chords on the piano for a hymn song if pressed into service.

As we got older and car radios had FM stations, he’d let us choose the station to listen to riding to school. That was the best. Him listening to our music and sometimes whistling along.

These thoughts spilled over me again as I was listening to new arrangements to old songs. It’s a longtime tradition in The Salvation Army. I was listening to Send the Fire and I’m In His Hands, two of my favorite newer arrangements to Army standards. As I listened I thought, daddy would like this. Yes, he favored the brass bands, but he’d like the duet on I’m In His Hands with the old and new woven together. He’d like this I tell myself.

His last years were sad years but the comfort is in knowing he was, and now is, in his hands.