just need the zipcode for Heaven

Dear Mama,

Well, we are just about done.  The house at Blackberry Flats is almost all cleared out, Mama.  I know you’ve probably been shaking your head, wondering what was taking me so long to get it in gear.  I can’t say, really, except that it was just too much to think about.  To get myself together enough to do.  I know you sure must be proud of Mess Cat and Leroy.  They really made it happen, didn’t they?  And Sister, she helped too.  And the prayers and ideas and help from Bubba and Coey–thankful for those too.

I guess it was just me that was the bump in the road.

And I’m sorry, Mama.

It’s just none of this seems real.  Still doesn’t.  Like one day I’ll wake up and we’ll have a long talk analyzing THIS dream.  It’s been a h— sorry.  Yes ma’am, I’ll watch my mouth.  But you have to admit.  If the past three years, the past fifteen months even, have been a dream, it’s been one for the books, right?

We tried to be good stewards with all of your “things,” all your “stuff.”  I know you’d just as soon we packed up most of it and given it to folks who needed it.  With the exception of the few things you talked about and pointed out where you’d like for them to go.  And one day I will be able to let go of more of it.  Just, not quite yet, okay?

Saturday we came across your “Backdoor friends are best” plaque that hung at the back door.  Remember how I used to be embarrassed to have folks, friends of mine, come in through that door?  You had that old-fashioned wooden clothes drying rack back there, remember?  And you’d hang all of our unmentionables on it to dry.  If we knew someone was coming over, one of us girls would make a mad scramble to go and hide those things.  We couldn’t have folks coming in the back door and seeing that.  Now I miss that life of knowing folks well enough to go in through their back door.  It speaks to the relationship and to the trust and the love.

As I held the plaque I knew.  Aunt.  She needed this.  I hoped she would be okay with us offering it to her.  I knew you would be.  They are our oldest and best “backdoor friends,” aren’t they?  I sent it to her by way of Cuz’n.  She and I talked yesterday.  Turns out that was the right place to send it.  But you knew that, didn’t you?  The only thing was, she wanted to know if I’d be okay seeing it at her back door.

Oh Mama.

Today I’ve thought about that question and how quickly I said “Oh please yes!” as my heart leapt with something akin to joy.  At first I thought it was because it would have a good home (you know how I anthropomorphize things–and yes, Daddy, used that one just for you!).  But as the day wore on, I heard from Mess Cat.  The last of the things have been delivered to a thrift store that will help families who have gone through what we did with Daddy.  Bless ’em.

And my heart crumbled just a bit.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy that Mess Cat and Leroy and Shaker are going to make so many new and wonderful (I love hearing you say that word in my head right now) memories.  Have you seen Leroy out in the building?  It’s about to enter a new heyday for sure.  They have beautiful plans and ideas for the house too, Mama.  But most of all, it will be filled with love and laughter again–your favorite way to decorate, the way you decorated it best.

But for a moment this afternoon, as I drove home from Macon, I saw the empty house in my mind’s eye.  And what my eye stayed on was that freezer.  Oh, it’s not there, no ma’am.  Going to be put to good use.  But between it and the refrigerator–you covered them (in your organized way of course) with pictures of our babies and pictures our babies had colored.  Or drawn.  Or scribble scrabbled.  Just for you and Daddy.  There on the windowsill was the little baking cat figure that Aub picked out for you.  The plate we painted for you and Daddy hanging on the wall.  All around you, Mama, you decorated with love.  Your placing these things throughout your home, all the way back to your dresser and the wooden bead necklaces that first Aub and then Princess made for you, spoke volumes to me over the years.

And today, in thinking about them not being there, I realized what they all said.

All of those things you placed freely around your home, said–

You belong here.

You are loved.

You are special.

You are mine.

 

And that’s when the tears came, Mama.

It’s not that I won’t ever not belong there, but it’s time to move on and let new stories come to life in that house.  I’ll knock first and I’ll enter through whatever door Leroy and Mess Cat decide they want folks coming through.  And it will be okay.  Better than, even.

But if Aunt does decide to hang that heart with the back door friends message by her back door–

well, that will be just fine with me.

Because you know, then, for just a moment, I can remember that I had a place that I belonged, a house that always said, “you’re mine” or “well, hey, it’s you again, where you been? what you been up to?” And I can smile and give thanks and know.

I was loved.

Miss you Mama.

Always, and always and always,

love,

t. annie

 

 

A Birthday, A Couch, and a Whole Lot of Love

We moved the brown couch in our house eight days ago.

Cap on the brown couch during one of Aub's photo shoots in 2003

Cap on the brown couch during one of Aub’s photo shoots in 2003

It’s known as “Cap’s couch.”  There are so many memories around that couch.  Mama and Daddy bought it years ago and put it in the “big room/playroom.”  The blue fold-out couch was already in there, so now they each had one.  They always said that the brown couch was to go to Auburn, my oldest, when the time came, because she had spent so much time on it.

And now it’s here.

Daddy reclining on his couch as Mama and Cooter show off his new skills of standing and walking.

Daddy reclining on his couch as Mama and Cooter show off his new skills of standing and walking.

And my girl continues to spend time on it.

Aub asleep on Cap's brown couch.  Under Cap's argyle blanket we made him.  The argyle was a thing between us.  A precious sight.

Aub asleep this morning on Cap’s brown couch. Under Cap’s argyle blanket we made him. The argyle was a thing between us. A precious sight.

Each night she’s been home from college since we moved it in, she has slept on her Cap’s couch.  She says it’s so we’ll all remember that it is really hers, but I know she knows I know what she’s not saying.

Got that?

We all miss them.  And today we are especially missing Daddy, Cap.  He would have been 71 today.

Daddy and our Princess on his birthday back in 2008.

Daddy and our Princess on his birthday back in 2008.  It was on Daddy’s birthday in 2004 that I called him from Japan, where the Fella was stationed, to tell him of this precious gift due in November–our Princess.  What a birthday gift!

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that.  Daddy never aged.  At least not until the lymphoma and the chemotherapy and radiation starting taking their toll.  He will forever, in my mind, be around 40–the age he was when I was in high school.  When he was calling out spelling words, helping me train for the state literary meet.  Helping me with trigonometry.  Teaching me to drive.  To pump gas.  Driving back to town to pick me up from work.  Listening to my stories of how my day had gone.  Watching football games and the summer Olympics with me.  Teaching me how to grow up and fly.

Oh Daddy.

The last time we were together before the day our world fell apart and everything changed–first the seeking of a diagnosis and then the fighting the diagnosis–I sat next to my Daddy on that same couch.  I was showing him a book in the Edward R. Hamilton Booksellers catalog that I was thinking about getting my Fella for his birthday the next month.  Daddy looked and nodded, but now I suspect he was having vision problems even then.  I sat almost shoulder to shoulder with him.  I can’t say why, but that day things felt different.  I felt protective of him.  He’d been having some balance problems but all the doctors had written it off as other things.  Never anything so serious as lymphoma of the brain.

Well, that’s enough of that.

Today I baked a cake, and we took turns saying what we loved remembering about Cap.  Our Princess said she loved it when they flew a kite together at Blackberry Flats.  Aub said she liked that he taught her big words.  Cooter shrugged and said, “Everything.”  Yep.  I hear you, buddy.

My Daddy came across as the strong, silent type.  He was both of those things, but so much more.  He was more than his bearded look might suggest.  He was a wise man who was also intelligent and kind–not a combination you come across as much as you might think.  He was a good listener, and when he spoke, others listened.  When he retired, folks signed a card for him.  Several mentioned how much they would miss him listening and sharing his wisdom.  Amen, my friends.  Amen.

Daddy could be quiet and contemplative, but when he laughed his booming laugh, it seemed as though the whole house was shaking.  He could click his tongue and shake his head, very much like his Mama, and you just hoped you weren’t on the receiving end of that disappointment.   My Granddaddy used to say that when my Daddy pointed his finger at one of us, it was a MILE long.  It sure felt that way.  It seemed like he always had some cut or bruise on his hand or grease under his nails from working with his hands.  He loved to do that.  To create.  He inherited that from his grandfather and father, who were both talented carpenters.  He also created with words.  He wrote.  He read.  He observed.

Daddy was fascinated with the world.  But mostly with the little things that might be ignored by other folks.  He loved reading about science and philosophy and where the two meet.  Daddy loved children.  He loved talking with them and teaching them things.

Daddy loved wasps.

One summer he set up his video camera and recorded them.  For hours at the time.  He wanted to know the whats and whys of their actions.  The other day when Mess Cat and I were going through the video tapes at the house we found one marked “wasps.”  She sighed.  I laughed.  I love that about my Daddy.  After he got sick, the wasps practically took over his building out back.  I used to say that the ones he recorded thought they’d hit the big time and went back and told their family and friends to come and see.  I think Blackberry Flats was the “Hollywood” of the Wasp World.

A fascinating man who was fascinated with life.  He taught me to respect and tell the truth and take care of what we had.  And others.  Take care of others.  He once told me I didn’t need all the clothes I owned.  Just a couple of pairs of jeans and a few more shirts than that.  No need for all I had.  One day I hope I get to the point where I can pare it down to just that.  I’m afraid it won’t be anytime soon though.

Most of my happy memories with Daddy are from before his fight with the Giant began.  We had good times then too, it’s just that so much of that time we felt the weight of worry hanging over us, so it was hard to see past that.

An exception was when he came home after being away that first time for over a month.  He walked (!!!!!) through the back door on his own.  Slowly and steadily and by himself.  We had picked up pizza for their supper and driven over to meet them.  Leroy had driven Mama and Daddy home from Emory in Atlanta.  My children’s world had been turned upside down by the absence of their Maemae and Cap, but in that moment all was right again.  Cooter, a little over two and a half, was already digging into a slice of pizza.  He grinned so big with a mouthful and said, as though it were any normal day, “Hey Cap!”  Daddy stopped, reached out for the counter for support, smiled just as big and said, “Hey, Cooter.  How’re you doin’?”

Tears, y’all.  All was right again.  For a while.

My other precious memory is much later–almost two years later.  Daddy had become almost completely bedbound, partly due to the progression of the Giant and partly due to falling and breaking his hip months before.  He had been up in the wheelchair–maybe for an appointment at the Cancer Care Center?–and we were getting him back in the hospital bed in the living room.  Mama and I got him all the way back in bed and his head on the pillow.  As I was about to leave the room for a minute, he asked me if I could help him.

Oh Daddy, anything.

I leaned over so he could wrap his arms around my neck.  And I half lifted, half pulled him up higher in his bed, so he was in a better position.  Bless him, he couldn’t maneuver it very well himself anymore.  He lifted his head up off the bed enough for me to tuck his pillow back in place.  I asked him if that was better.

He closed his eyes and nodded.  I reached out and touched his shoulder.  Just as he had reached out and touched my toe after the birth of my first child seventeen years before.  No words were needed.

As I started to walk away, I heard him clear his throat.  I turned back.

“Thank you, Tara,” he said, barely above a whisper.

No, Daddy,  thank you.

Each day I left their house, as I said my farewells to my folks, I would go in wherever Daddy was, sitting at the table, reclining on the brown couch, sitting in his recliner, or finally, laying in the hospital bed, and I would say,

“Bye Daddy, see you later.  I love you.   Thanks for everything.”

I meant it then and I still do.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.  Love you.  See you later.  Thanks.  For Everything.

This picture was taken 19 years ago when I was expecting the first grandbaby.  He took me almost every week to DQ to get an ice cream cone.  I miss him every day.

This picture was taken 19 years ago when I was expecting the first grandbaby. He took me almost every week to DQ to get an ice cream cone. I miss him every day.

If the House is Quiet and the Brit-coms Aren’t On, Then…..

It’s Saturday night.  The house is finally quiet.  I went in search of my Brit-coms on PBS, but instead a concert was playing.  Missing the Brit-coms made me think about my favorites– “Keeping Up Appearances” and “As Time Goes By” among others.  Thinking about “As Time Goes By” made me think about their brilliant cast, which then made me think about Dame Judi Dench. (I’m living out my own version of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” here.)   I remembered a quote I’d read from her several months ago:

The more I do,

the more

frightened I get.

But that is

essential.

Otherwise why

would I go on

doing it?

–Dame Judi Dench

Not only is she a talented actress, she is also a very wise woman.

So I decided to look up more words from this woman who seems so familiar to me, after years of spending Saturday nights together.

And I found this one.

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Wow.

Be careful what you seek.  You just might find it.

She shot that arrow right through my heart.  As though she’d been reading my mind.

Because, you see, I do this.  I build bridges left and right in my mind and cross all of them, testing them for security and comfort and safety, not trusting what they will be like on the other side unless I check them out.  Way in advance.  Well before I reach the bridges.  And most of those bridges are only in my mind.  I will never have to cross them in “real life.”  This is how I know Anxiety Girl* is back for a visit–you know, my friend who is able to leap to the worst conclusions in a single bound?  Yeah, her.

What would it look like if I didn’t cross any bridges until I came up on them?  There’s a fine line between being carefree and careless, between being over-prepared and without a clue…..these fine lines elude me.  I usually wind up over-prepared (for things that don’t happen), over-stressed (over things I am anticipating will happen), and over-worked mentally (trying to get all my plans together–plans I NEVER HAVE TO USE).  I wish I could no kidding (and sorry if you start hearing the Frozen theme song here) “let it go.”  All of it.  And try taking life–the joys and heartaches and adventures and rainy, sleepy afternoons–as it comes.  Whenever and however it comes.

Unfortunately, I learned the fine art of script-writing my life many moons ago, and it is a hard thing to stop.  But I’m trying.  I wish there were a twelve step group for those of us addicted to being prepared.  I’m not meaning to be facetious here, and I don’t mean to offend those with more serious life-threatening addictions.  I recognize it’s a minor one in the whole scheme of things, but it can be somewhat debilitating.  I feel like a catcher always in position who doesn’t know which way the ball is coming from, so I’m constantly spinning and watching for it from all directions.

Which isn’t really possible.

And now that I’ve exhausted and mixed metaphors like I do, I want you to know–if you struggle with the “what if’s” and “I’ve got to be ready for anything” and “what is coming next?,”  you are not alone.  There are several of us.  And one moment at a time, maybe we can overcome.  Being prepared is not a bad thing.  It’s just the being prepared for anything and everything that could potentially, might possibly happen–that, not so much.

I’m going to try to let go and only worry about bridges that I can actually see up ahead.  It’s a waste of time and energy to do otherwise, right?

*sigh*

I really wish the Brit-coms had been on tonight.  Would have made for a less exhausting evening.

Love to all.

*created by artist Natalie Dee of www.nataliedee.com

Sleeping in and Seeing Clearer

A few mornings ago, I was laying in the bed on my side, and I was putting off getting up for as long as possible.  I had been up late the night before, and I was fighting a headache, and I was tired.  Okay, the reasons don’t matter, I’m just making up excuses.  Suffice to say, I did not want to get up.

I lay there with my arms folded in front of me.  And I discovered something really funny.  Funny strange.  When I closed my right eye, my left eye, which was closest to the pillow, saw a huge obstacle (my arms) in front of me.  When I closed my left, my right eye gave me a different view.  I could see over the “obstacle” to what was beyond.

Huh.

Okay, so I’m easily entertained and I might have been looking for reasons to stay put (did I mention the house was cold that morning–the bed was not)–regardless, I spent the next few minutes closing one eye and then the other.  The difference in the view was fascinating.  I pretended being horrified by this huge insurmountable thing in front of me and then breathing a sign of relief when I could see beyond.

And finally that was enough of that and I got up and began my day.

I spent a lot of time that day thinking about the lesson in what I’d discovered.

When we see things that we don’t think we can get through, get over, get around, go beyond, maybe all we need to do is take a step to the side and look at it from a different viewpoint.

And yes, I realize it’s not always that easy.

But I also know that sometimes I stay in one place, looking at a situation, letting fear and doubt take over, because I keep looking at it through the same lens, from the same perspective, same point of view.  When perhaps if I talk it over with someone I trust or find a way to think about it differently or even let it go for the time being, maybe I will be able to see a way around/through/over what once seemed unconquerable.  Chances are even good that there’s more than one way to get to the other side.

All’s I’m sayin’.

That and sometimes maybe it pays to stay in bed a little longer.  It can be good for the eyesight.

Love to all.

Something in the Water

I have a very clear memory of my Daddy, in his jeans and his blue chambray shirt that Mama made him, standing at my Granny’s sink near the door to the back porch.  He has one of her small red solo cups of water in his hands.  He is standing, staring out the back window over the sink, looking out over the cow pastures and the barn and the pasture where our horse was grazing.  He might have been thinking about hunting a tree in the woods come Christmas, or he might have been anticipating the weather and trying to decide what he could accomplish before the storm came up.  Or he might have been just resting his mind and heart for a few minutes.

He takes his cup and leans over the sink, refilling it at the faucet.  He takes a long drink, and the “ahhh” sound comes from him as he swallows.  It is refreshing and it is good.

It was only recently that I figured out why he always went and took a drink of water from Granny’s sink before we left.  Staring out at the place he grew up, he took a long drink of water–water that tasted like home.

The sink and view out the kitchen window--where I refresh my soul.  At Blackberry Flats.

The sink and view out the kitchen window–where I refresh my soul. At Blackberry Flats.

I feel the same way.  It was the last thing I used to do when I visited Mama and Daddy–fill my cup with “Blackberry Flats juice,” as Mama called it.  Well water, straight from the kitchen sink.  Nothing better.  I too stood, looking out the window over the sink.  Watching the littles playing on the swings, remembering our swingset Daddy had put up in the back for us when we were little.  He even brought home a slide from the landfill and worked to attach it to the playset and built a ladder for it.  I looked at the silver maple that has grown so much over the years, remembering sitting in a lawn chair out there, the summer after I graduated from college, moving the chair so I’d stay in the shade as the sun travelled across the sky.

There’s something healing about water from home, something that touches my soul.  And my Daddy’s too.  While he was at Emory University Hospital for those weeks while they worked out his diagnosis as he fought the Giant, whenever we went to see him, we took up washed out milk jugs filled with Blackberry Flats “juice.”  Daddy didn’t like the water up there, and I can understand why.  We even met my aunt and uncle once as they were passing through on their way up there to see Daddy, and  we handed off a couple of gallons.

My people are serious about their water.

And there’s nothing like cold well water.

Tonight I am thankful for the comforts of home. And the memories.  They refresh my soul and fill me up with good things–the strength and will to carry on and keep on lovin’ folks.  Just like Mama and Daddy did.

There’s something in the water y’all.

And it’s all good.

That 20/20 Hindsight

Tonight I’ve been thinking about me way back when.  Maybe it’s being back home, going through things that are markers of our childhood and growing up years, I don’t know.  Whatever it is, it’s got my thoughts going back and wishing I could tell Then Me a few things that Now Me has learned as time went by. 

What I wish I’d known thirty years ago–

that it’s never that serious.

that of all those things I worried would happen, most never would.

that my body was absolutely okay.  The best it was going to be.  That I was beautiful, and the voice in my head talking about my weight or my ears sticking out too far or my elbows….it was lying to me.  None of that mattered.  I was beautiful.  Just like I was.

the brand of clothes I had…..or didn’t have…..did not matter as much as those who did have the “right” brands would lead me to believe.

my parents were smarter than I thought.

they really did love me.

they really weren’t the meanest people on earth.

and I am glad they were my parents.

one day they would become my best friends, and one day a while later I’d miss them with every breath.

a stick shift is cool to drive, and one day I would miss having one.

one day I would miss our house and home…..and all the people in it.

one day my siblings would be among my best friends.

no boy or guy or man is worth compromising what I believe.  Or shutting others out.  Or worthy of all of my time and attention.

no friend who really loves me will tell me just what I want to hear.

no job is small.  Every job is worth giving your all.  One day I would be glad I did.

the worst mistakes I would ever make wouldn’t be the less than satisfactory grades or the accidents I had…..they would be the words that came out of my mouth that I couldn’t take back.

my parents were way smarter than I ever gave them credit for, and they were dispensing wisdom I wish I paid more attention to.

my favorite color would change.  Often.

my favorite pillow would not.

the lady in England whom I met was right.  One day I would come to love planting flowers and thinking about which ones were my favorites.

clotheslines are cool.

one day I would miss the smell of sheets dried on the clothesline.

the number of times I rolled my eyes at my parents would come back to me in spades.

the music my parents loved and the shows they watched would become my favorites too.

when my friends asked me what I thought about this boy or that fella, I should have kept my mouth shut.

I would fall in love three times with people who couldn’t walk or talk or speak my name.

old people are the best.

The best.

old cars are the best.

old roads are the best.  Forget about the interstates.

old houses are the best–new ones feel a bit pretentious sometimes.

I would travel the world and never find a place that brings me comfort like the places I grew up–my Granny’s, my Great Aunt’s and home–Blackberry Flats.  Ever.

my faith is not static.  I should not be afraid of my evolving beliefs and growing questions.  It’s all part of growing up and learning about the world and all we believe.

it’s the little things I would remember the best.  I wish I had spent more time on the little things–like taking walks with my brother and playing games with my sisters.

if I want to be a writer, write.  If I want to be an artist, create.  If I want to be a storyteller, tell stories.  I need to make my own magic.  Not sit back and dream and wait.  Dream and then do.

in fourth grade, if I don’t tell the teacher why I put the quotation marks there, I will carry that for the rest of my life.  Stand up and speak out.  More.  At all.  Make my voice heard.  It matters.

I matter.

sticks and stones, well yeah, but words.  Sometimes they hurt most of all.

no matter how bad things were that I went through or dealt with, I would do it all again to keep my children from having to go through that pain and hurt.

the drive away from home in frustration and anger when I was a teenager was way shorter than the drive back as an adult when one of my parents was sick.

I wish I would have spent more time loving me and less time looking for someone to love.

More time swinging under the tree and dancing beneath the stars and less time worrying, “What if…..?”

I wish I had shared more grace and light and spent less time being afraid of the dark.

I wish, I would have, If only…..

but for tonight, I’m thankful for the journey I have had.  Thankful for the ones who guided me on it, who very likely spent much time in prayer over me and my ways.  I give thanks for friends who don’t just tell me what I want to hear and for my parents whom I miss more and more each day (especially today).  In the midst of looking back at what I wish I knew then, I am very glad to know what I know now.  Which in another twenty years (Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise) probably won’t look like much in hindsight either. We’ll just have to see.

Until then, love to all.

 

 

 

Reverent, Rambunctious Moments and What Benjamin Franklin Said

This afternoon at our Sister Circle we had to close the door.

It was that kind of afternoon.  The kind that has sisters sharing intimate stories of body aches and pains and female stuff and of heartbreak and family betrayals and the pain of grief.

We were busy y’all.

No reverent moments of quiet today.

Reverent moments of conversation and compassion and comfort–yes.

It had us all laughing as we talked about aging and what women still have to deal with even as they age.  We compared aches and symptoms and found once again that we all have more in common than different.  At one point two others pulled out their bifocals and we were all looking “intelligent-ish” and talking about how important it is not to limit yourself to one point of view.  Yeah, we find meaning in almost anything.  That and laughter.  That’s how we roll.

We were loud and boisterous, and there were tears over lost relationships.  There were conversations about sisters and family and how important it is to have good boundaries.  Each one of us has been touched by at least one death that devastated us.  One of my sisters shared that it had been three years since her Daddy died, and each day he used to be so thankful for another day.  She misses that.  I understand.

We talked about injustice, about people judging others based on skin color or their body shape or how they live.  And how that’s just not right.  We shared how hard it is not to judge even when we know it’s not right.

Earlier today I had a “notification” that one of my great writer friends had just posted on Facebook.  Only the beginning of her post was showing–“I have no idea what God will do with it…..”

My mind immediately put a “but” after that and I was very curious to see where she was going with it.  Before I could click the link, my mind finished it out–“I’m tired of trying to handle it myself, so I’m going to give it all over to God to handle.”

Whoa.  Wow.  Where did that come from?

I decided to wrap up our session with this phrase and see what each one was thinking and how she would finish it out.  This was seriously the only quiet time the whole afternoon.

As each one of my sisterfriends shared her thoughts, I was once again in awe of their faith and strength.  It blew me away.

I have no idea what God will do with it but…..

–I always keep Him first no matter what.

–I know He will make the right choice for me. 

–God woke me up for another day.  And that’s good. 

–It’s a gift. 

–I will be grateful, good or bad. 

After that last thought was shared, this beautiful and compassionate woman said, “It was never said there wouldn’t be rain.  There’s rain and sun.  It won’t ever be all sun.”

That made me think of a quote from Benjamin Franklin I heard on “Liberty’s Kids” the other day.  I believe it was on the final episode.

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Today I am thankful for a room full of sisterfriends who love and laugh and think and share, all with passion and a boisterous energy.  I am thankful for our kind words for each other and for our being able to gently call each other out on things that are hard.  I give thanks for the opportunity to be a part of this safe place where they feel comfortable sharing and forming friendships that last long after Tuesday is over.  Each week I am touched by our time together, and I appreciate my sweet friend who first created this opportunity for me.  And for the women who keep coming back.

I am humbled by the faith of these women.  Each one has had a “hard row to hoe,” as Daddy would say.  But not a single one of them lets that slow her down or become her excuse for giving up.  I am learning so much from our time together.  Today my heart was full to bustin’ seeing how they cared for a tearful sister who just needed to be heard.  An amazing group.  They not only comprehend the truth in Mr. Franklin’s statement, but they are living it out.  Not a single one of them is sitting around waiting for her heaping helping of “happiness” to be handed out.   Instead each of my sisterfriends is reaching out and taking a chance, dreaming big, working hard, laughing lots, and loving her Creator–and pursuing the happiness she is seeking.  Happiness doesn’t come in a bottle or bank account or briefcase.

Turns out it comes from within.

And it was with you all along.  You just had to catch up to it.

Loving the laughter…..love to all.