The Changing Family Table

Every year it seems Thanksgiving is getting closer to being squeezed out by all the fanfare of Black Friday. In between the adds for “Best Deals” are the grocery specials on sweet potatoes and turkeys.

Then there are voices proclaiming appreciation for Thanksgiving more than Christmas. They like the slower pace dictated by the day that seems to be focused on family.

Family has always been the focus of our Thanksgiving gathering. Some years have included friends who would have been home alone. We discover which customs we share and where we differ…usually as it relates to food. My mother-in-law always brought the northern foods to our more southern group that would never consider having a Thanksgiving meal without pecan pie.

Menu aside our real reason for gathering was each other. This year will be the first in our 41 year marriage where we won’t be with family on Thanksgiving day. In today’s mobile society that’s quite an achievement. It also speaks to the fact that we like each other.

I know my heart will be missing our coming together. It already does. I’m saddened that my cousin won’t be able to host this year because of damage to their home caused by Hurricane Michael. Five weeks later and only one supermarket chain has been able to reopen.

While we won’t be with kin we will be with our community that gives us every reason to be thankful. Some of our residents in our ARC will celebrate with their sponsors or friends. Very few will share the day with family. For all of them we will be that for them, as best we can while also wearing the hats of pastor, teacher, director. Seeing change in their lives gives us more than we can ever give to them.

One of our counselors focuses on gratitude in one of her groups. Many of us have learned the value of incorporating thoughts of gratitude daily. It’s an intentional practice. It’s especially important for those who find themselves living in a place that was their last hope.

We’ve used different ways to share our thanks over the years. Reading their words humbles me and draws me in a little more to their journey.

We’ve done this at our family Thanksgivings too. Our words of thanks are evidence of privilege: family, music, food, laughter. They are simple and general even though said with true gratitude.

It’s a mingling of both that brings hearts together in a real family table. One that extends beyond the literal table and chairs. We need the experience of each other to build a stronger community. But we need it most to come closer to God’s immense grace and mercy.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.

Write 31 Days {week 4}

This is the last full week of October’s writing challenge. I’m enjoying culling through my photos to see what is sparked by the prompts. It’s not always the obvious. I’m trying to stretch my mind though some days….there isn’t much to stretch. You can follow me on Instagram to see my previous posts or check them out here: week 1, week 2, week 3.


21 | start

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

Start a book, a garden, a family. Start singing. Start dancing. Start living.

22 | help

My husband and I are Administrators of a residential rehabilitation program. People come to us for some kind of help. Some come seeking shelter from the streets thinking they just need food and rest. Some are looking for a magic cure. But they come searching for help. Help is easy to offer. That’s what we do. 

As I walked down the hall trying to balance the boxes I had in my arms one of the residents called out, “Need help?” “I got it”, I replied as I continued toward the door. He was persistent as he said a littler more firmly, “Let us help you.”

Me? Need help? He caught me. Yes, I could have managed the load I was carrying but to be honest, it was nice to have someone notice the load and want to share it with me. I want to think that accepting his help actually helped us both.

There’s an old hymn we sing we often sing that reminds us who is our true help.

“Are we weak and heavy-laden,

  Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge—

  Take it to the Lord in prayer;

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

  Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,

  Thou wilt find a solace there.”


23 | common

Shells are as common to our South Florida landscape as fall leaves are in the northeast. What’s ordinary to one isn’t to another which is our cue to take note of the every day things around us. The simple and familiar are where our gratitude begins.


24 | brief

The lifespan of a butterfly is brief. Yet in it’s time it does what it was created to do. 


25 | capture

Like so many others, this young one is watching for a wave to capture. Often, they spend more time waiting. Perhaps the anticipation is part of the lure. 


26 | celebrate

11 years ago I stroked my daughter’s hair as she gave birth to her daughter. We celebrate the grand’s birthday this weekend. We’ve been to parties at parks, bounce places and zip lines but this year we’re being banished. After we eat at her choice of restaurants and watch her open her presents, that is. This year she’s having a sleepover. Even her dad is getting the boot for a girls only night. I expect there will be little sleep and an overflow of giggles.


27 | whole

Our nephew and his bride cut through the whole for the first slice of their wedding cake. This is how we live life – one slice at a time. Make it sweet!


Write 31 Days {week 3}


14 | ask

41 years ago today, the minister asked and we said “I Do” 


15 | When

“Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. ” – Ray Bradbury 

When? Now


16 | Pray

Some of our family live in Panama City, Florida. Hurricane Michael has devastated that community. It will be months before any kind of normal will resume. My brother-in-law made the decision to stay in their home. It was a category 2 storm when they went to bed Tuesday night. No one was forecasting it would be a strong cat 4 when the country woke up Wednesday morning. This photo is of one of the rooms in their house. He and his wife stood where they thought it was safest as the winds snapped a big pine tree in their yard that fell on their roof and rolled on to the back of his truck. They are thankful to have survived along with their sons and families there. But as the needs of this community fade from the headlines (as they are) please don’t forget to pray for them. Pray for electricity and clean water to be restored. For hospitals and schools to be able to reopen. For needs to be met and strangers to come together as neighbors.  Pray for each other.


17 | Pause

This beach is where we go to pause. Lucky for us it’s only a 20 minute drive and worth the congested traffic. The limitless horizon, the sky that is never the same, the palm trees waving their crowns, the ebb and flow of the tide…all of this part of creation is like breathing. It’s where I can finally exhale and inhale God’s grace.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 the Message

18 | Search

I search books and music for meaning, for rest, for encouragement and self-improvement. Sometimes in my quieter, darker moments I’ve even searched for God. I’ve found he’s never far. He’s in the words, the melodies, the smiles and tears. He’s in each life-giving breath.

“His purpose in all this was that people of every culture and religion would search for this ultimate God, grope for Him in the darkness, as it were, hoping to find Him. Yet, in truth, God is not far from any of us.” Acts 17:27 the VOICE


19 | who

The song sticks in my head, unwanted and uninvited. While the WHO were a band of my generation they weren’t a band I followed but that song…….’who are you, who, who, who, who?’ Now it’s on a loop in your head. You’re welcome 😉 

Who is the word prompt for today.  So, who are you? We use descriptors on our tag lines and about pages like mom of two, wife of one…..writer, artist, believer, sister, friend..”  But who are you? If you’re like me it might depend on the day or even the time of the day. I’m not the same at 7 am that I am at 10 am. But those are external things. 

Who I am behind the externals is a deep feeler, an over thinker and someone who desperately wants to give grace to others to the great extent it’s been give me.

So, who are you?


20 | audience

Our great-nephew turned 1 this week. No doubt he is surrounded by an audience of family and friends coming to celebrate his life. He’s my brother’s first grandchild and the delight of his Jefe and Honey (the names are really getting creative!), his aunts of multiple generations and cousins. All of us not living close enough to gobble up baby hugs but we remain his biggest fans.

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!

Write 31 Days {week 2}

This the second week of the writing challenge to write everyday in October. I’m expressing my writing with photos posted on Instagram and posting weekly reviews here. You can find week one here.

Five Minute Friday gives word prompts to direct our writing. If you want to explore the writings of others check out the hashtag #write31days.

Day 7 | Hope


From the tiny acorn, the ones that litter the yard and crunch under your feet, come strong oak trees. The acorn and mustard seed, both small in size, are symbols of hope. Their growth and strength doesn’t come overnight but with waiting. Their growth is not limited by size. Hope in God is always without limitations. 

“Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!” Psalm 131:3 the Message

Day 8 | Comfort


“The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.” Maya Angelou

Cornbread is one of my comfort foods. My granny made hers in a cast-iron skillet in the oven. She liked to crumble her cornbread in a glass of buttermilk and eat it with a spoon. I just like it slathered with butter. Though it’s pretty good to crumble a bit of it and add to beef stew. Delicious comfort!

Day 9 | Inspire


“Creativity takes courage.” Pablo Picasso

Day 10 | How

“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt  

I wonder if we’re at our strongest when we feel the weakest.

Day 11 | Door


This is a door at Thomas Edison’s winter home in Ft. Myers, FL. (An interesting tour) Edison opened the  door to sight and sound with his inventions of the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, film, and movie camera just to name a few. These days I’m contemplating what new doors will open to a new future. I’m learning to accept not having that answered today. I can accept it because I believe in God who has been called the door. It’s not always easy but faith seldom is.

Day 12 | Praise





The past 10 years we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family in Panama City, Florida. Most years, tables have been put end to end outside to accommodate our growing family. Over the years we’ve added spouses and grandchildren and held space for empty chairs of parents who have passed. 

Each year my cousin (our hostess) has a different way for us to express our thanks. One year there were five corn kernels on our plates. Another year we wrote on construction paper leaves and hung on a branch. It wasn’t the method but the priority and reason we gathered. From youngest to oldest we shared things that filled our hearts with thanks. Music, family, faith, being together, laughter….so much.

This year Hurricane Michael marched through their town with no respect to the families who make their lives there. When my phone lit up with my cousin’s name I answered screaming her name in sheer delight – “Beki!” Her first words were actually, “Breathe….breathe….we’re alright. Our home is destroyed but we’re all okay” A tall pine tree at the corner of their yard came down on their roof and then rolled onto his truck. They were inside their house praying and singing songs of praise. They were scared but the worst had passed and now we were so very thankful for their safety. Gratitude is another form of praise. 

It’s too early to know if we’ll be able to gather for another Thanksgiving celebration in their yard this year. But we will continue to praise as our hearts are full of thanks for each other. 

Day 13 | Talk

I miss this lady.  I miss her laugh and her encouragement. I miss the long talks we had catching up on life from our corners of the country. I miss her heart for service. But all that I miss is held in our memories and passed on to us through her example. 

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.

Where Kindness Leads

Moving as much as we have, much was lost. Or tossed, or given away. Most of it just stuff but time reminds me of the photo’s  dad had that didn’t end up with me or my brother. I’m surprised there are a  few cherished things that found their way to our home.

Durham bible

mamas songbook songbook note

The books and bibles are well-worn and today I finally glued the spine back to one of the family bibles and a songbook given to mama. Kind words were written inside from the giver and I was quickly reminded of the kindnesses that have spread across generations.

Notes written in books, a delicate handkerchief from a pastor’s wife when I was a teenager, funny pictures with friends who could bring out silliness in me. I wondered if I’ve been as kind in return.

me and Suzi

I thought I had the correct change when I walked in to get a soda. But I’d mistaken a penny for a dime, plunked the money and drink on the counter and said, “I’m short a dime and going to the car to get it.” Walking back in, a young man walking out said “I gave her the dime”. Kindness from a stranger.

I am moved by kindness. The simple gesture of a coworker offering to walk me to my car when night has come, someone holding the door open, these ordinary everyday acts, I don’t want to miss the grace of giving and accepting.

My mind goes to the gentle rhythm of a melody from long ago….

It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance, O Lord

Knowing that you love us no matter what we do

Makes us want to love you too.    – Your Kindness Leslie Phillips

“His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Romans 2:4b TLB

The rest of the verse is hard. It talks about our stubbornness and our refusal to turn from our sin, from our own desires rather than His. The verses talk about his judgement that will come. But, God wants to move us with his kindness, His benevolent patience.

God, help me to be moved by your kindness, swayed to put your ways above mine. With each kindness shown me by a stranger may I see your face, your hands, your grace. Forgive my stubbornness. May my heart be turned to you.

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.

We are artists

I come from a tribe of women who were artists but in their time, art was necessity. Quilts were lined with feed sacks and used to keep warm. Today, I hang them on the wall as art.

When Granny didn’t need to make quilts anymore she crocheted tiny purses for my Barbie. The other women-folk said her lemon meringue was the best ever and just how did she get that meringue right every time?

Mama could whip up a meal without ever looking at a cookbook or recipe. Her shopping list in her head and before you knew it all was dished up and on the table. Just get out of her way when she was creating. That’s an art form to me.

She was even good with a camping stove

She was even good with a camping stove

thread basket


paint brushes and pens




Somewhere along the way, I separated arts from crafts and determined the crafting part was lesser. Not worthy of the ‘artist’ label. So what if you had a pattern to dictate how many rows to crochet or a picture to help you decide colors? It’s still your hand holding the that crochet hook or hand putting brush to paper . It’s your fingers typing out the words and your voice singing full-throated from the music written by another. Is this less?

Another lie I’ve swallowed whole. Another one I’ve allowed to determine I’m not ___________ (fill in the blank).

Loved by God, and I still believe the world.

“Aren’t we all artists? When we open ourselves to the world and welcome all the beautiful and terrible things and we do not let it destroy us? That is when the magic happens. Holly Grantham in SheLoves Magazine

Belief is a choice and I’m believing these affirming words from Holly. Claiming that title artist for myself. And you? Care to make some art with me? Let’s get all the colors out and swirl them around with our fingers because sometimes art is messy. It gets under your fingernails and even after you’ve washed your hands you find that blue spot near your wrist. Ah, it’s the best!

paints tag


color swirls

Let’s set our tables and invite friends who stay too long because the laughter is so rich.

Let’s listen to the stories of others and cry and rejoice with them. Then let’s share our own stories. Type them out word for agonizing word and believe they matter because they do.

This is the kind of mess I find satisfying. When the beautiful and terrible collide and the terrible does not destroy but somehow, and it can only be grace, this becomes art.

Five-Minute Friday {belong}

She stood in line with the other 4-year-olds, a cool October morning, listening to their coaches instructions on which way to run down the soccer field. She pointed with the others but when she took the field, she didn’t belong. She held back, reserved, doing her best but this wasn’t her place.

soccer team


It fell apart for me at 14. The year my parents divorced leaving me in an unfamiliar world, parents separating states apart, no longer leading the only church I’d belonged to, no longer leading our little family together.

Everyone has a story


The moving started soon after, every six months a new state, a new school and belonging was not something I knew but something I longed for.

We landed here, this town I’ve come back to, my senior year in high school and half way through the year, like clockwork, dad was ready to move again but I was done with it. I was done being the new girl and I needed to stay someplace long enough to fit. I needed to know what belonging could mean. I needed a place for who I was becoming to plant roots and grow.

So I stayed and I belonged and the roots took hold and grew deep for 20 years until God had a change in mind that would take us on a journey of a different kind of fitting and a deeper kind of growing where our roots would grow more deeply in Him rather than place. This is where I belong.


She stood with the girls, her 6-year-old self now, in her first dance class. She has twirled for years and finally the timing is right for her to dance. Her shyness ebbs as she finds this place of belonging.

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for her Five-Minute Friday blogging part. She provides the space and the word prompt and a delightful party of writers gather to add our spin to the dance. To join in, click here.