The Tour Guide

I woke to his little hand patting me on my back.

“Mama,” he whispered loudly.  “Mama!”

I rolled over.  “What is it, baby?”  It was my seven-year old little fella, Cooter.

“I had a bad dream.”  He climbed up beside me.

I wrapped him up in a big hug.  “It’s okay.  Mama’s got you.  Nothing bad is here.  You’re okay.”

He took a deep breath, sighed, and fell back to sleep almost instantly.

As I listened to his gentle breathing, I wondered–where does a seven-year old get the material to have a bad dream from?  What has happened in his world that could disturb his thoughts enough that he would have bad dreams?

I honestly feel like a tour guide whose tourist has said, “Oh, you know what, I really don’t care for this place you’ve chosen to take us.  The food here really stinks, and the rooms aren’t comfortable, and I am not enjoying myself.  At.  All.”

I mean, I’m leading my little guy on this journey, teaching him, pointing out cool things to see and think about, listening to his questions and trying to answer as best I can, and somewhere, somehow something slipped into his little mind that upset his equilibrium.   And gave him bad dreams.

On my watch.

Just stamp “Failed” on my forehead and put my picture up on a wall labelled “Bad Parents.”


Bless him.  He sure fell back to sleep fast.

But not me.

I wondered if he had dreamed about them taking his cup at the pizza place.  Last night was Guy’s Night Supper, and he and his Daddy had gone to the pizza buffet place to eat.  (The place where he could eat free for the first three years of his life–I am sure they lost money on that deal.)  He ate and ate and of course had to visit the little boys’ room.  His Daddy took him and when they came back, their drinks and plates were gone.

Poor thing.  He was devastated.  He said it was the worst night ever.  (Yes sometimes he has a little bit of the drama in him.)  I expect it had a lot to do with the fact that he loves a coke (all kinds) and since we only rarely have it at home, he intended to get his fill last night.  But then…..cup gone.  Meal over.  Done.

He was all kinds of sad and mad all rolled into one.

Or was it something more serious?  A few days ago we were in the Gomobile, and Cooter was sitting in the very back.  He was looking at his Bible, the one his Sunday night group uses.

“The end of the Bible doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Oh me.  All I could think of is how am I going to have a conversation with my seven-year old about the Book of Revelation when I don’t even understand it myself?

I swallowed hard and braced myself.  “What part in particular, buddy?”

“Well this part about Paul.”  Paul? Okay, good.  I can do Paul.  I think.  “He was in jail, right?  And he loved God, right?”

“Ummm, yes and yes.  You’re right.  Go on.”

“Well he was in jail for telling the people about God, right?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“But Mama, couldn’t God have gotten him out of jail at any time?  I mean, he was telling people about God and Jesus.  Wasn’t that what he was supposed to do?”

Oh my stars.  I was quiet for a moment, taking it all in.  Ummm, could we talk about Revelation now?

I waited too long I guess, because then he asked, “Mama, didn’t Paul die in jail?”

Last night I lay there thinking of all the things I could have said, things I wish I had said, worrying that my limited biblical and religious knowledge is not going to be enough in raising this one.  He thinks a lot and asks a lot of questions.  And they’re not all about when do I think Star Wars VII will come out.

I convinced myself his bad dream stemmed from my lack of comforting answers.  Or at least ones that could give him some peace, some hope.

It was with a tired mind and a weary soul that I awoke this morning.  My little guy crawled out of bed and started getting himself ready for the day.

“You had a bad dream last night, do you remember?”

He shook his head.  “No I didn’t.”

“Well, you said you did.”  I was confused.  Didn’t he?

“Oh wait, yeah, I did.”

I asked him if he wanted to talk about it.  At first he shook his head no.  Then–

“So I was about to eat my lunch and I had a lunch box and then all these ninjas came up and tried to take my lunch and then Shaker [his cousin] came up and started fighting the Ninjas and I helped him and so then it was all okay and we sat down and lunch was good.”

Y’all.  Oh bless it.

And him.

And my exhausted mind.


Well he could have picked that up anywhere.  A Magic Treehouse book.  One of his sister’s favorite shows.  The history book he likes to look at.  Any of those places.  None of which have very much at all to do with me.

*sigh*  Maybe I haven’t failed him as much as I thought.

Although this boy might be the reason I finally wind up at seminary twenty-four years after walking away from the opportunity.  I have a feeling I’m going to need all the help I can get when it comes to discussing his thoughts on theology and trying to answer all of these questions.  I’m starting to wonder if maybe he’s the one leading me on this journey; if he’s actually the tour guide, showing me all there is to see.

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Love and sweet dreams to all.


The Sound of Music

My heart rejoices.  My girl is playing her guitar again.

After a couple of years on the oboe (and a minor fortune spent on those reeds!) and a couple of years on percussion, my oldest Aub asked for a new instrument.  She wanted to try her hand and skills on the guitar.

My girl's beautiful, treasured guitar.  Where it belongs, with her, at college, foraging a new path on the journey.

My girl’s beautiful, treasured guitar. Where it belongs, with her, at college, making a new path on the journey.

We got her a beautiful guitar and found an even more beautiful soul to teach her how to play.  I knew we’d found the right teacher when at Aub’s first lesson the teacher asked her, “Who’s your favorite artist?” and taught her to play a Taylor Swift song that very day.  The lessons continued just like that.  They eagerly shared songs they had heard with each other and they played and played and played together.  Eventually they began singing together too.

While it made her nervous for us to sit and listen, Aub would play her music in her room.  While I cooked supper in the kitchen, I could hear the tunes coming from her bedroom, and I LOVED it.  It sounded perfect to me.  It may or may not have been, but it didn’t matter.  It was beautiful, and my girl had found her instrument.  The one that touches her soul and brings her joy.

A woman who brought her nephew to swim practice last week pointed him out to me as they were all jumping in the chilly water.  “That’s him,” she said.  She told me that he’s had some hard things in his young life, but he told her, “When I swim, I’m free.”

Tears.  Yes.

And that’s how I think music makes my Aub feel.  Free.  To be happy, to be sad, to be pensive, to be angsty, strong, bluesy, joyful, silly–goodness knows there’s a song to fit any one of those emotions and more.  Free.  To feel.  To be.  Whatever.

My two favorite memories of Aub’s playing each involve my parents–the two people who loved and continue to love her so much.  In May less than a year before Mama passed, Aub had a recital with all of the students of her music teacher.  She played a beautiful song while another young woman sang.  It was amazing.  I looked over at my Mama, who was so happy to be there with her neighbor friend, and saw tears of joy in her eyes.  There wasn’t a lot that could do that since Daddy’s passing seven months prior, but her grandchildren could.  And this one, playing the guitar, an instrument Mama used to play herself–that brought her great joy.  A precious memory.

About a month or two before Daddy left this world, he was in his hospital bed in the living room, and I was sitting with him, talking and not talking.  Just being together.  Aub was in the “big room,” practicing her guitar before her lesson later that day.

Daddy cocked his head and looked at me.  “What is that?”

“The music?  That’s Aub practicing on her guitar.  Do you want me to ask her to close the door or stop for a bit?”  I wondered if the sound was keeping him from resting.

He shook his head slowly.  “No.  No, don’t make her stop.”  He paused.  “I thought it was the radio.  She’s really good.”

Y’all.  My Daddy never gave praise lightly.  If he praised you, he meant it and you had earned it, no two ways about it.

That moment right there–my Daddy made me cry.

Yessir, she is good.

For a while, the music has been quiet.  I don’t know why.  I don’t ask.  But I have missed it.

So you can imagine my joy when she said she needed her capo from home, that she was going to play at the Chapel Service on Sunday night.

We made sure she got it, that’s for sure.

When I asked her last night if she had played during the service, she said yes.  I could hear something in her voice, and while I couldn’t pinpoint it exactly, I gave thanks for it.  I was sad that I wasn’t there, but she hadn’t been sure if she would play or not, and I think she needed to do this on her own for the first time.

As I curled up to go to sleep last night, I gave thanks.  I might not have been there watching my baby take another huge step on her journey, but I know that her biggest fans were.  They were there listening with tears of joy and in amazement–thinking, “That sounds like the radio.”  I know they were there.

Tonight I’m thankful for the music in our lives and for the ones who share it with us.  I give thanks for a special music teacher who shared the joy and wonder of learning and performing music with my girl.  And I am grateful that those who are on the other side of the veil are still helping me raise this beautiful soul, with their love and encouragement that knows no boundaries.

Most of all, I’m glad that there is the sound of music in her heart again.  Music is a balm to the soul like no other, and I’m glad my girl is free again, free to feel and play and sing and to find a peace within that makes its own beautiful melody.

May you hear music in your heart today too.

Love to all.


I have been a bit teary today.


That’s what I’ve felt for a little bit now.

Teary because I’m overwhelmed.

Maybe not how you think though.

Overwhelmed by what people can do.  What their hearts and sweet souls lead them to do that touches the lives of those around them.  Sometimes people they know, and sometimes the lives of complete strangers.

Either way.  It is a sight to behold and amazing to experience.

I have wonderful friends who know that we homeschool and who thought of us when they came across book treasures.  My littles love books almost as much as I do, and they have been busy digging into the new additions to our library.  The idea that people who didn’t have to would take the time not just to see the books and think, “Oh Tara and her zany crew might enjoy these…..” but also make the time and effort to see that those books are put in our hands.

Humbled.  Thrilled.  Grateful.  Teary.

I know of a woman starting out her photography business.  Instead of asking folks on Facebook to help her get clients, she asked about high school seniors in our community who might not otherwise be able to have the excitement of having senior pictures made.  She wanted to get some experience and help someone out at the same time.  What a beautiful way of giving back!  I know how much it meant to my own senior almost two years ago to have that time blocked out where she was the center of attention.  It’s a huge deal and another one of those “traditions” that children from lower-income households might miss out on.  Can you imagine if all of our photographer friends made such an offer to one or two young teens in their community?  That message of “I care” and “you matter to me” is so important for a young person to hear.  I can only imagine the difference that could make in the life of a young person about to embark on a new journey in life.

Really good stuff.

There is a pet trainer who loves what she does–she truly loves animals and their people and gets joy out of making their lives smoother, helping them understand each other better.  She loves what she does so much that she offered her time to help a puppy that was uncomfortable in the bigger classroom setting.  She set aside time to work with the family and taught them things they can do to help the puppy work through what stresses her.  To love your job, your calling so much that you give of yourself, your knowledge, your heart, and your time so freely–that is someone who has a beautiful heart.

Overwhelmed by the kindness.  By the passion for a calling.

I found myself watching a show “Kim of Queens.”  Kim Gravel is a former Miss Georgia who is a pageant coach.  Her style of coaching fascinates me, and it’s a great study in psychology, which I enjoy in lieu of going back to school and taking classes and reading case studies.  It takes less time, and I don’t have to write research papers.  On a recent episode she auditioned for new clients.  A young girl came in whose mother had lost her job, and they had lost their home.  The girl sang for Kim, her Mom, and her sister, and they all fell in love with this girl’s spirit.  Kim offered to coach her for an upcoming pageant.  The show went through all that occurred to get Adia and the rest of the girls ready for the competition.  Though Adia didn’t place, she triumphed.  She did well and overcame her fears, and Kim went to her and her mother at the end of the episode and offered Adia a full scholarship  for her coaching.  To paraphrase the former Miss Georgia, “I run this business to make money.  I like money.  But I don’t love money.  I love changing lives and building strong women.”

Weeping.  Overwhelmed.  By the giving spirit of someone whom folks are lining up to give their money to so she’ll coach their daughters.

Just yes.  This.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the good in the world, and this past week has been a particularly hard one.

Tonight my heart is lifted.  By the laughter and wisdom shared during an unexpected visit with three strong and beautiful women this afternoon, by the sound of joy and laughter in the voice of my oldest whom I miss when she’s away, and by the kindness of those around me who overwhelm me with their generosity, love, and encouragement.

May we all take time today to think of someone else, to let our passion for what we do, no matter what that is, shine through and brighten someone else’s life.

If we have something, may we share it.

If we have something to give, let us not wait another moment to pass it along.

If we see someone who needs a listening ear, a kind word, or just someone to sit and be quiet with, may we run, not walk, to be right there beside them.

If there is change needed, let us be first in line to get it started.

It only takes one moment of thinking outside the box and making it about someone else to change a life, to change our world.

Tonight I’m most thankful for the tears that flow freely and for being overwhelmed.  To the life changers out there, thank you.


Love to all.

Who Makes You Feel Loved?

Two weeks ago I asked my oldest, a college sophomore, a very telling question.  I asked it without any expectations of the answer, just on a whim.  I like to give in to whimsy sometimes (that might be my word for 2015–it’s in the running), so when it came to mind, I asked.

“Who makes you feel loved?”

Her first answer was pretty quick.  It was folks who live in this house.  Including siblings–which warmed my heart since I’ve heard some not so nice nicknames tossed out lately, followed by the assurance that they are terms of endearment.  Ahem.  Yeah.  Right.

After she thought about it for a few more minutes she continued adding to her list.

It was beautiful.

I had no idea.

My Mama told me one time when we were talking about a baby coming who was unexpected:  “Every child deserves to be loved.”  Then this woman who never met a child she didn’t love added:  “Every child deserves to see eyes light up when he or she walks into the room.”

Today I was thinking about Mama and how her eyes never failed to light up when I entered a room she was in, even when she was so very sick in the hospital.  And how her eyes absolutely glowed when her grandbabies came around.  Her eyes lit up and her arms flew open, waiting to give each one a big hug, embracing them with her special brand of love.

Tonight I am thankful for those memories.  I wonder if my children will remember my eyes lighting up for each one of them.  If they will know how they are my greatest treasures on this earth. I really hope so.  I give thanks for those who love my children, those who make them feel loved–the ones who take time to care and listen and laugh and sit with them in the dark.  The ones whose eyes light up for children who are not theirs and yet–are.  Thankful for this loving village.

Who needs you to show them they are loved today?  Whose eyes light up when you walk in a room?  Who makes your eyes light up?

Let us all make this a day full of lit-up eyes and showing folks what they mean to us.  Just such small moments can change the world.

Love to all.


A Gem of a Day

Thirty-seven years ago today, this evening to be precise, our family got a big surprise.  In the days before finding out the gender before birth was a common thing, my Daddy surprised us with the news that we had a new baby brother.  Exactly what I’d wished for.

After three girls, my brother completed our family.  Not because, as friends would playfully punch Daddy on the shoulder and say, “You finally got yourself a son.”  Not because he was what my Mama predicted after having a brunette, black-haired, and blonde–a red-headed baby who would remind her of her sweet grandmother’s red locks.  No, he was born with a head full of black hair instead. He completed us because he was her Gem.  He was her baby, and he had been long-awaited and prayed for.

I remember Mama calling the house on the very phone that sits on my back porch now.  I got to talk to her while Daddy was fixing our supper.  She described my new Bubba to me, and as I looked across our small kitchen at my Daddy, I nodded.  All the things she said–head full of dark hair, big blue eyes, dark skin–described my Daddy as well.  A boy.  Our lives were about to change.

In a very good way.

When he first learned to speak, we had a game we’d play with him.  I remember that day he first learned it and how we couldn’t wait for Daddy to come home to hear his “routine.”

What does the cow say?  Moooooo

What does the dog say?  Woof woof

What does the horse say?  Neigghhhhhhh

and so on–until we asked him using his nickname he earned by NOT wanting his hair washed EVER…..

What does Buffalo Hair say?    nec’ week, nec’ week   (as in that’s when he wanted his hair washed)

and finally–

What does Gem say?    I love you


Melted my heart, every single time.


He was my rock finding walking buddy.  He’s the one I loved to bring books home to when I worked at the library all through high school–I remember him loving “Billy and Blaze” books.  He’s the reason we had the cool AJ Foyt van and race car on a trailer to tow behind.  Our Great Aunt got it for him but we all loved playing with it.  He was the one ten years behind me in school who was a great student and even greater person.  As child number four he was allowed to do things that I was not–like running around barefooted in the middle of winter (Daddy–“he’ll come in when his feet get cold”) and not using a top sheet on his bed because he tossed and turned so much it just wasn’t worth trying to keep it on.  He didn’t have to eat the crust on chicken pot pies because of the alleged headaches it gave him *ahem*, and he’s known for being short and succinct with his words–like the time he was supposed to introduce himself at a televised Quiz Bowl competition.  He said his name and “Senior” and that was it.  We still laugh over that one.

The State of Georgia something or other once had a thing where you sent in a letter nominating your child as an All Star something, and they would send you a Georgia All Star shirt for each one.  I don’t remember what Mama said about the rest of us, but Bubba?  He was her All Star Fire Ant Agitator.  No antbed existed in the yard at Blackberry Flats that didn’t have two or three sticks poking up out of it.  All the work of my baby brother.

When I returned home from college and later in life, he delighted, night owl that he is, in keeping me up late, having conversations that were good and fun and meaningful until I was dropping off and talking gibberish.  I can still hear his laughter as he’d leave my room–mission accomplished.

He’s the uncle who is the cool one because he taught all the cousins to play “Colored Ribbons.”  He sneaks up and attacks when they least expect it, and the children all adore him.  When he first became an uncle, he used to bring us food from Nu-Way on Friday afternoons.  We’d catch up on life and he learned how to love and play with a baby at the ripe old age of 18.  From those days to this past August, filled with soccer games and playing chase and sneak attacks, he is adored by all of the children.  And Miss Sophie.  She literally moped for a few days after he left from his visit in August.  Dogs and children adore him–is there any better testimony to his character?

As a child he taught me about the joy in seeing life from a different point of view.  And he’s still doing that.  He has taught me about grace and how to handle hard times and we talk about hard things like prayer and where the people we love go after they leave this earth.  We also talk about this life as parents and the joy and fun, worry and difficulties that can come with all of that.  We share stories and ask each other advice, and we try to lift each other up.  And while we may not often talk about it, we walk together in this place of missing the ones who raised us so very much.

Tonight I give thanks for one of the best gifts my parents gave me and the world.  My Bubba, our Gem.  Poor guy–he had the equivalent of four females raising him.  He survived us putting him in the purple baby doll stroller that had springs on it.  When we put him in it, it went almost to the ground.  When we tried to lift him out, it came up with him, making it almost impossible to extricate him.  It took some doing to get him out of there without Mama finding out.  He deftly handled being our “go-fer” (go see if we can watch tv for example) by throwing us under the bus when Daddy asked him had we put him up to it.  (“Yes, Daddy, they want to watch it.  I don’t.”)

He’s a thinker and a world changer with a heart as big as the world.   I am doggone tickled that he’s one of mine, and I feel even more fortunate to call him my friend.

Love you, Bubba.  Happy Birthday!  And as Mama would say, Happy Everyday!


Barring Unforeseen Circumstances

I love my job.

The one that has me spending no two days the same–the one that can turn around on a dime, as quick as the numbers rise on a thermometer or a stomach goes south or as fast as we realize we have to have this particular something by Saturday.  I rarely plan anything without saying “barring unforeseen circumstances.”

Because those circumstances that do come into being are just about always unforeseen.  The good ones as well as the bad.

And I’m learning to roll with the punches.

Well, for the most part.  Although Mama said “Flexible” was her middle name (jury is still out on that one *ahem*),  it most definitely is not mine, but I’m aiming for “somewhat limber.”

I love the chance for creativity that this job offers.   The other day Cooter said he wasn’t feeling good.  He had a couple of things to do that evening, places he was supposed to be…..activities he is a part of.  He drew a picture of his head with an arrow through it and brought it to me.

“This.”  He handed it over.

“What is this, bud?” I asked.

“It’s what my head feels like.  Right.  Now.”  He paused for effect.  “And my stomach is bothering me too.”

Hmmm.  Really.  First I’m hearing about all of this.  Okay.  Not that it was impossible, but well…..

“Oh I sure am sorry about that.  Okay let’s just sit and relax for a few minutes.”  I waited for a little bit, and then:  “Hey, I have an idea.  Who wants brownies and ice cream?”

That boy jumped up so fast he made MY head spin.  “I do!  I do!  I do!”

“Ha!  You playing me?  I thought your head and stomach hurt?”  He at least had the decency to look properly chagrined.

Our Princess was thoroughly impressed.  “Oh Mama!”  She even clapped her hands.  “That was very good.  I’m going to remember that so I can do it when my children are playing me.”

Ha.  Well, okay.  Sure.  Go ahead.

Today they were talking about where they’d like to live when they grow up.  Turns out Cooter isn’t going to get married but plans to adopt two girls and two boys and the boys will have bunk beds in their room, so he can get a three bedroom house.  Or maybe a four bedroom.  He wasn’t sure.  He might need bedroom number four in case our Princess’ children want to come over and spend the night with their cousins, he says.  Or, Princess said, “maybe you should have it for when my husband wants to have a guys’ night sleepover!”  Oh me, these children.

Apparently they both plan on living in Florida too, because, well “duh” (my word, their attitude) Mama, “Disney, our children…..Disney.”  So yeah, pretty sure that when I closed my eyes for a few minutes this afternoon, I was being nominated for worst parent of the year because we live five and a half hours away from Disney, and I won’t move us any closer.  (Our Princess, who apparently has picked up for my love of Georgia, asked how close to Disney we would be if we lived at the very “bottom” of Georgia.)   It’s an award I deserve, I suppose.

Tonight I found myself laughing to myself, knowing that I have truly reached the pinnacle of Mamahood.

I think my children have Fall Fever.  The weather is a little cooler.  They asked me if we were going to turn on the heat.  (Ummm, no.)  The weather has been gray and overcast, and they are having a hard time focusing.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Despite all that, they have been fussing and fighting most of the afternoon and evening–the kind of arguing that makes a Mama crazy.  (“He’s touching me.”  “She pushed me.”  “Mama make him/her stop!!!!!!”)  Within a fifteen minute time span I found myself saying:

“Don’t you even think about doing that again!”

“Ahem.  Do it again.  Do.  It.  Again.” (complete with the teeth clenched and everything)

When you make two completely opposite statements, and they mean the exact same thing… might be a Mama.

Tonight I’m thankful for my children, the reasons I have the job I do.  Some days they make it easy, many not so much, but they always keep it interesting and they usually throw in some much-needed laughter as well.  I love the adventures my days become, and I love being along for the ride as they figure out who they are and whom they going to be.

Tomorrow is another day, but it’s sure to be full of more mischief and things that surprise me and others not so much.  And I even know our plans ahead of time for a change.

Well, you know, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Wishing you all a job you love.

Love to all.



Just My Type

Today something lovely joined the area of my house that is fast becoming my haven, my spot, my place to be…..and nothing more.  I lie back there and daydream while watching the clouds float across the sky as if I don’t have anything at all to do.  I sit in the midst of things from “home” and I feel like I am home.  All.  Very.  Necessary.  Things.  Tanning my soul.

But I digress.


I found this little treasure on a local yard sale site.   A very dear lady was selling this because she and her husband need to downsize.  I fell in love with her (the typewriter, and well, actually, her owner too) from the moment I first saw her picture.  She is a 1941 manual typewriter.  Can you imagine the stories she’s seen?  The ones she’s helped to write?  And the best news of all…..she still works.  I just have to change out her ribbon.

Well, the littles are thrilled to say the least.

When we were little, my parents had an old manual typewriter.  It was beautiful and awesome and had a lovely dusty blue case.  And they let us play with it.  We thought we had hit the jackpot.  We loved it.  You really had to pound the keys to make it type, as one does with manual typewriters.  It blew our minds that Mama had typed on it regularly.  That woman must have had almost as much strength in her fingers as she had in her spirit.

Years ago I had been reading “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” and its sequels by Joan Aiken.  I loved the story.  It has been a long, long time since I last read it, but I guess there is something in it that inspired us all (at my suggestion *ahem*) to play orphanage with all of our stuffed animals.  We created a roll sheet, typing each one’s name, one finger and letter at a time.  I can remember whole weekends when Mama and Daddy indulged us and let us take over the living room with our critters and our adventures.  The typewriter was used for everything from creating menus to listing rules of order.  We kept them all paper-clipped together quite efficiently.

I wish I were that organized as an adult.

I am thrilled about the addition to our family.  She has already begun the sharing of the stories, as I heard a few good ones as she was handed over from her former owner to me.  That was a delightful part of my day actually, meeting a new friend and hearing her stories.  She admitted that she has written more than one on this very typewriter.

I am humbled.  And inspired.

And while my stories might not get written on this lovely instrument, as she sits there watching me write, I know she has a high standard for me, and I intend to live up to it.  I shall do my best to think and remember and share great stories and edit and spell check and always, ALWAYS put two spaces after a period.  It’s just the right thing to do, you know?

She thinks so too.


May you find something today that brings you happy memories, and may you find yourself challenged to be the best you can be….


Love to all.



About Smiles and Being Beloved

Some Sunday nights at our gatherings we talk about hard things.  We attempt to answer hard questions.  We wipe away tears from laughter and from introspection.  And though we may not leave having answers to all of the questions (or some weeks, any), we leave with a sense that we are not alone in our questions and doubts and heartaches and joys.  That is huge.


It’s what most of our Sunday evenings look like.

This past Sunday night my pastorfriend shared this video from Phileena Heuertz of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism.

It’s all about hearing ourselves called “Beloved” by the One who created us.  That we are just as loved, each and every one of us, as our Creator loved the Son.

That’s a lot to take in.

While the words said in this clip were powerful, what struck me the most were the faces.  The faces of the people in the video.  When the camera focused on one person and his or her face filled the screen, I found myself searching.  And yearning.

What was I waiting on?  What did I want to see so badly?

And then it came and I knew.

The smile.  One after another.  Their smiles transformed their faces.

I know folks say that eyes are the windows to the soul, and I won’t argue the point.  And while I recognize that tears are truly an intimate thing to share with another person, I realized as I watched each person smile that smiles are the most precious, intimate, and vulnerable things we can give to another person, especially a stranger.  It brings us closer.  Tears can come, and it’s okay if the person sitting with me doesn’t also cry.  But a smile is nearly always shared.  When we are brave enough to share a smile, we wait and hope for one in return.  And we are often crushed if it isn’t.  When each one of these people in the video smiled, so brightly and openly, I found myself smiling right back.  Connected.

And I know this happens every day.   We might not be the best at opening up like that to strangers.  But when we do, it’s rare that we aren’t gifted one right back.

The idea of being beloved.  Of being worthy of being loved.  That’s hard to accept sometimes.  Many times I don’t feel like a beloved. Or like I’m worthy of more than being tossed in a holding pen for a long, much-deserved time out.  Is it hard to feel loved in those moments?  Absolutely.

What if, what if we are one of the ways our Creator shows others they are beloved?  What if we could do just that–look someone in the eyes, smile with all our being, and say to another, “You are beloved.  You bring this world great joy.”

I think that could be just about the most precious thing to be called to.  To tell others they are loved.  By us.  And by the One who breathed life into them. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  There are no “buts” in God’s love for any of us.  Nor should there be any in the love we share with others.


It’s a beautiful, mesmerizing, and life-changing word.

Who needs to hear they are beloved today?  Look in the mirror, hug your friend, smile at a stranger in the checkout line, and tell them.  

You are beloved.  

Love to all.




We Can Do Better…..

I’ve been fascinated with the journey of the “Humans of New York” photographer.  From Europe to Africa to Asia…..the stories of the people he comes across in his journey have made me laugh, cry, and fall to my knees in thanksgiving.  Sometimes I forget how good I have it.  Brandon’s photos and stories often remind me.  And, as painful as it can be, I am thankful for that.

Saturday he shared a picture of a man from Saigon, Vietnam who described what it was like to be on the ground when the American planes were bombing them.   He finished with:  “When they dropped their bombs, I don’t think those pilots knew what it was like on the ground.”  (Click here to see the photo and story from Humans of New York.)

The grace given in those last words blew me away.  I don’t know that I’ve ever extended grace that looked anything like that.  That’s powerful and challenging and I just don’t think I have what it takes to forgive like that.

And that makes me sad.

Below the photo on the Facebook post were the comments that people had made about this mans’ story.  The ones most liked by others were at the top.  And that’s where I read the other words, the ones that have stayed with me today.

It’s an African proverb:



This has moved me to tears more than once today.  Our world, our country, our community, our families are in turmoil.  And who is paying for it?  Those who don’t have a dog in this hunt, a bone to pick in this fight.  The innocents.  The ones who don’t get a say in how this all plays out.  The ones who have often have no idea why the fighting is going on at all.  As if those of us in it do…..


Tonight I am thankful for the peacemakers in this world, for the ones who stand up to speak for those in need.  I am thankful for those who use their words to put down on paper stories that teach us it’s in our hands to make a difference for the ones who have no voice.  And I am thankful for Brandon, whose brave journey and stories from around the world have yet again touched my heart and challenged my soul with the task of growing and doing better.

My parents used to say, “If you know better, do better, and folks’ll like you better. ”


Love to all.


Comfort in a Cup

We have a few traditions when it comes to birthdays in our family.

First of all, we celebrate for more than a day–we have birthday weeks and sometimes happenings for our birthday month.  It’s all about the celebrating the lives of those we hold near and dear.

You get to pick what kind of cake (or pie or big cookie or whatever) you want for your birthday.  I spent years asking my Mama for a red velvet cake.  Only it was a brown velvet because she wouldn’t use all that red dye.  I think there was a study or something…..anyway, never mind the color, it was delicious.  For years she made me that.  In more recent years, I chose a Texas sheet cake.  Ooey, gooey chocolate goodness.  My mouth is watering as I type.

The birthday supper is a big deal.  The honoree gets to choose anything he or she wants.  And if you’re lucky enough to have your birthday on a weekend, you get to choose two meals.

And so it was for my girl.  She came home from college the day after her birthday, so we celebrated all of Saturday.  I knew she wanted Mexican food, so I had that planned for supper.  But for her birthday lunch, she asked for something I haven’t made in years.  Something my Mama used to make, and my new 19-year-old grew to love it sitting around the table with Mama and Daddy and whoever else happened to be at their house.  Easily among the best comfort foods ever.  The smell of it cooking.  I mean, y’all.  For real.  I was in memory heaven.

Mama was a good steward of what was in her pantry and refrigerator.  She rarely threw anything out.  Over the years she learned great ways to recycle leftovers in a new dish.  Her way of using leftover mashed potatoes might just be her most creative and best tasting effort of all times.

Baloney cups.

Pan number one of baloney cups....oh the smell of them cooking.....

Pan number one of baloney cups….oh the smell of them cooking…..

I grew up on bologna sandwiches.  I can remember being in my bed, waiting for sleep to come, and singing the O-S-C-A-R  M-A-Y-E-R song.  We loved our B-O-L-O-G-N-A.  I loved taking the red rind off and then making sure I had gotten every bit of goodness off it before throwing it away.  Delicious.

When Mama had leftover mashed potatoes to use, she used to pull out her biscuit baking pan and lay bologna slices out on it.  She’d put a scoop of mashed potatoes on top, and add a slice of cheese.  She put it in a hot oven to broil, and voila’ the house smelled amazing, and our taste buds were in for such a treat!  She served it with some fruit and we had a meal.

One of our favorites, though we didn’t get it very often.

I was surprised when my baby girl asked for this for her birthday.  Surprised and delighted.

Pan #2--who decided that 11 slices makes a pack?  Interesting choice, don't you think?  I mean a dozen or a baker's dozen, but 11?  Is that an Oscar's dozen?  :)

Pan #2–who decided that 11 slices makes a pack? Interesting choice, don’t you think? I mean a dozen or a baker’s dozen, but 11? Is that an Oscar’s dozen? 🙂

It was a special treat for all.  The Fella loved it and had memories of when we made this years ago.  I don’t think the littles had ever had it, and they were intrigued and not a bit shy about digging in.  (Suffice to say we went through a whole pack of bologna for the just the four of them.)

The way the house smelled took me back to a safe and happy place, and for a little bit I was home again and my parents were close, and oh–I think I might have gotten the greatest nourishment from those baloney cups, and I never took a bite–my soul was fed and my heart was full.

The only problem is I made the mashed potatoes from scratch.  And only used about half of them.  So now, I have leftover mashed potatoes…..and if a Mama has leftover mashed potatoes, chances are, she’s going to need some baloney to go with it.


Love and the comforts of home to all.