LESSONS I’M TRYING TO LEARN #1 in a series: IF WE HAVE A HEART FOR GOD


Nothing qualifies me to write this post other than the fact that I am a sinner. I do not have any theological education except for that gleaned from the pages of the bible, and various pulpits.  I realize I don’t know everything and am well aware that I lack understanding many, many things that concern the workings of the heart and soul of modern humanity with relation to God. This particular blog post is the first of a series I plan to write on lessons I’ve learned and is derived strictly from my own experiences and opinions. The subject is subjective.  So, proceed with caution. You may not agree with me. That’s your choice.  It’s ok.

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HIDDEN SIN AND THE NEED FOR CONFESSION

Nothing is more humbling than confession. I mean nothing. It borders on humiliation. I’m no expert but I know this to be true from personal experience. I am, however, an expert sinner. As I look back on my life, there are areas of sin in which I am truly ashamed. I won’t go into gory detail – that’s between God and me – but I’ve done things that would upset any mother if she heard such details about her child. The only redeeming part is that mothers are sinners too. We all are, of course. Unfortunately, escaping the desire to sin requires a strength that we, as mere humans, don’t possess. There is no human willpower greater than sin, only that given by the Divine. The catch is we have to ask for it. God gave us free will. He worked the desire to make choices into our DNA, so to speak. That part probably hurts Him but He has such innate love for us, His desire is to see us become whole in every sense of the word. And that includes our choices. It’s simple, really. One cannot consciously make horrible choices and expect to have a wonderful life. Can you identify? Geeez, I can. It’s a been there, done that, bought the t-shirt kind of thing.

Before I get into what I really want to talk about today, let me ask – why bother feeling bad about our actions? What is sin? And why is it so bad? I mean isn’t it simply normal to do the wrong thing sometimes? Well, yes. Yes it is. But when you weigh the difference between what hurts and what gives joy, it’s easy to understand. Do we want to always have a cloud of despair hanging over us, or do we want to enjoy breathing deeply of peace of mind and heart? If we have a heart for God and all things holy would we want to risk loosing them by following our own agenda for what we think brings happiness?  Could going against the word of God actually bring happiness?  That’s the definition of sin, that which goes against the law and teaching of God.  Sin clogs our proverbial arteries and keeps us from living life to the fullest. It’s like lung disease that keeps us from being able to breathe. Once it takes hold, we are forced to live with it but we can’t without coughing and spewing and gasping. It chokes the life right out of us. And that, my friends, is one reason why we bother worrying about our sins. We seek forgiveness of them because we can’t live a good life with them on board. God’s forgiveness is like a holy lavage washing away the obstructions and leaving behind clean, breathable airways. Holy forgiveness is like spiritually cleansing proverbial arteries and inserting stents to keep the life blood flowing.  Only it isn’t just a patch. It is healing.

Hidden sin. It’s a killer. It’s hard to see, hard to imagine, hard to find, hard to bear. It is just that, hidden. I’ll share a good example of that given to me not long ago. Let’s say a person decided to rob a store. He enlists the help of his good buddy to drive the getaway car. The poor buddy, suddenly excited about the worldly wealth coming his way, blindly follows the directions given him and the caper is pulled off. You know where this is going, right? Both are guilty, both have broken the commandment “Thou shall not steal”. Is one more sinful than the other? What if they both confess their sin and ask for forgiveness? Could there be hidden sin that needs confessing? There is in the fact that the first person enlisted the help of the second. He enticed his good buddy into sin. He essentially gave him a ticket on the train to ruin. Don’t think I don’t know that the second person did, in fact, accept the assignment. He did and that’s something he has to atone for. But what if the first person doesn’t confess the sin of dragging another down with him? The hidden sin becomes a thorn in his soul. It festers there and keeps him from complete healing. The first person needs to see what he has done in terms of leading another into sin. He gave the ‘ticket’ to his good buddy. It’s true the good buddy had it stamped, so to speak, and he is responsible for that, but the ticket (hidden sin) is what got him on the ride.
Now this is an extreme example, not one likely to be commonplace so lets think about something more relative. Let’s look at a scenario that is far too common – Let’s say a married man is attracted to a woman at work. She is vulnerable and desperately wants to be loved by someone, anyone. She says she draws the line at taking another woman’s husband but that doesn’t stop the man from pursuing her and trying to convince her that having an affair is a good idea. He comes onto her so strongly that finally she gives in and they have a full blown affair. They both come to regret it and seek forgiveness by confession. But let’s not forget this: her sin of adultery is strong enough to ruin lives. His sin of infidelity AND leading his co-worker into sin also has grave consequences. They both ‘bought the ticket’ but the hidden sin needs recognition and confession for a complete healing.

How many areas in our lives do we have hidden sin? Wow. Good question. And a good reason to seriously contemplate what we include in our confessions to God. Our desire, no, our need is for complete forgiveness and healing of our heart and soul.

Let me ask you this; have you seen a child learning to walk? Did you love to see him struggle to get to their feet and take their first steps only to fall to the floor and cry with a broken heart? Of course not. Well then, were you delighted when the child managed to get to his feet again and actually take those first steps with an ear-to-ear grin on his face, triumphantly clapping chubby hands and happily giggling? I like to think that this is how God feels when He sees His children get up off the floor and try again in terms of asking for healing and help to live a wonderful life in accordance with His will. The key to doing that is first carefully examining and then baring your soul to Him, hidden sins and all. Yes, I know He is all-knowing and already has seen what you are, much the same as you do with a child. But, oh how He loves when we learn to come to Him!

Think about it.

And by the way, please pray for peace.  Once again, let me say the world is depending on your prayers.  Please pray that mankind will wake up to the atrocities of war, famine, need.  It’s not too much to ask.  God surely has sent people with the skills and ability to do the right thing.  Please pray that people will wake up and finally do the right thing.

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GOD GARDENING ~ a personal experience


Anyone who knows me knows I love gardening.  My garden is Eden to me.  I have planned it to attract birds, bees, squirrels.

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I’m not really accomplished at it, not really a green thumb here as the compost pile can attest to. Lots of failures in terms of trying to grow something and having poor results.  I remember the first time I tried to have a pot plant. I was 17 yrs. old.  My first apartment was over a garage and it was so rickety the dresser mirror slapped the wall when a person walked across the floor. It was downtown Alexandria on Fisk Street, the rent was $40/month, and my landlord was Mr. T.W. Moreau. But it was home for me and I loved it. I wanted to make it my own by having a real live potted plant. I went downstairs and dug up some dirt, put it in a pot, and planted a piece of ivy someone gave me. First of all, Mr. Moreau wasn’t happy about the hole I dug, and secondly, I had no clue about a plant’s basic needs like light and water. Or potting soil. Funny thing now that I look back on it, I didn’t have a clue about a much of anything!

A lot has changed since then. I can call myself a gardener about as well as I can call myself a writer and an artist. I use too many quotation marks, commas, and colons. I start over with a painting as much as I have finished results.  Ha!  The painting I’m working on now, I had to wipe out 4 times before I got what I wanted and that was just the undercoat!  That’s just what I do. That doesn’t mean I have reached the pinnacle of what the world deems success, it just means that I have done what my heart desired. I have learned to nurture.  I’ve learned to garden.

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There are shortcuts to gardening and maybe everything else. I have found over the years that the rules of gardening correlate to the rules in life. For example, the species of humans must have community, friends if you will. Gardening is like that. All your friends want to give you a piece of theirs. You accept seeds or a plant from one friend, then another, then one more.  And before you know it – a little piece of all your friend’s gardens now live at your house. You water when it’s dry, throw a little Miracle Grow around when you think about it, pull a couple of weeds every time you go outside – then voila, people think you have a green thumb. It’s simply not true. You just have very good friends. My garden has my mother’s and Aunt Kat’s hostas. Faye, Sylivia, Deborah have shared a multitude of flora and fauna with me. Sue gives me a start of a Night Blooming Cereus every year. Every year, yeah, because somehow I manage to…. Well, I don’t even want to say it. I have daylilies galore. They keep multiplying, kind of like friends. A shortcut, but one with staggering success if you put your heart into it. My heart is into it because of my grandmother. She had a real greenhouse. I can remember the smell and her constant attention to it. It represented something akin to love and security to me.

Over the years I found that gardening is like loving God. Yes, it is. He who made all things. He who loves. He who nurtures. You wouldn’t believe how thankful I am for that! Gardening has revealed Him to me. He provides just the right amount of whatever is needed by His creation. Don’t you just love that? Please let me show you how He works this into our very own lives:

We’ve kind of had a struggle the past three years. There has been major illnesses for both my husband and myself. I have kicked it in the butt but my husband is seriously ill at the moment. We are two (barely) old folks who love each other very much, fight like cats and dogs (it’s in our DNA) and share every aspect of our lives. When I hurt, he hurts. When he hurts, I do too. Sometimes we have worldly needs that might take some creative financing. You know, the limited (barely) old folks budget thing because of medical bills, etc. Here is something I have learned; it is not necessary to worry about these things. Period.

A couple of months ago, I was commissioned to paint a picture for a Christian organization called the ACTS (Adoration, Community, Theology, Service) retreat community. To my surprise, I found it easy to come up with a composition reflecting the theme to match the future retreat for women as requested. Must have been the art angel sprinkling grace dust upon me. I don’t know. Anyway, I painted two pictures and over the weeks it took, I made it clear that this art was a donation to the community because my own spirituality had grown due to them. I love the ACTS organization. They are amazingly talented in revealing the love of the Lord to one and all. Finally the day arrived when two reps from the community, Charlotte Wasmer and Father Derek Ducote, came to assess my simple paintings and make a choice as to which one they would choose.  Fr. Derek asked Charlotte which one she wanted. She quietly said “I want both of them”. I couldn’t believe it and was so happy and humbled. We had a great visit for a couple of hours before they left taking both paintings with them. It was wonderful.  They gave me a beautiful card of sweet gratitude signed by several ACTS personal.  Before long, I got a text from Charlotte saying she left a love offering and I would know it when I saw it.   What!?   I found the envelope. I got chills when I opened it. I took it to the living room where my husband was lying down. I told him “you have to look at this”. He said he didn’t need to. I told him more firmly, “you have to look at this. I told you God would provide.” He took the envelope and his mouth dropped open.

Two weeks or so before, I threw a fleece before the Lord. If you don’t know the term, it means asking the Lord to provide for a specific need. I needed new tires on my car. I asked for that. And I trusted.

The envelope contained $400. The tires cost $398.

If that’s not GOD GARDENING, I don’t know what is!

Do me a favor please.  Will you pray for peace?  Please.  So much is going on in our country, government, world.  Let us all turn to God.

 

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Do me a favor please.  Will you pray for peace?  Please.  So much is going on in our country, government, world.  Your prayers are very much needed.  Let us all turn to God.

 

HONOR FLIGHT FOR VETS – THE UNDER APPRECIATED


Would it be possible for a daughter to be more proud of her father?  I think not.  I am proud to tell you that my father, TSgt. Bill Thoms Sr. (USAF ret.) was among 40 war veterans chosen to make an Honor Flight.  Veterans of WWII, the Korean conflict, and Vietnam war boarded a flight out of Austin, Texas on September 7, 2018, destination Washington DC.  The goal:  giving these under appreciated vets a chance to view, touch, and acknowledge the war memorials erected to serve as a reminder of hard-fought freedom, a service they provided with their blood, sweat, and tears.  Oh, I know that’s a cliche, but do you see the truth in it? Can you imagine what these men and women went through, what they saw, how they felt?  I can’t.  Although I was raised an Air Force brat, all I knew as a child was that Daddy was always gone somewhere across the world.  I was too young to understand the whys and wherefores but I do remember the fear that plagued the hearts of my older brother and I while he was at war.

Dad is a veteran of Korea and Vietnam wars. He offered 22 years of his life to the United States Air Force.  He served his country with an uncommon pride. He was a good leader and teacher who had a heart for the young airman he ‘sarged’ who were away from their families and were decidedly homesick.  He would bring them home on weekends and holidays to ease their angst.

Another thing about Dad, he loves his family.  His grandson Will accompanied him as his required guardian – as if he needed one!  (Even at 87, Dad is amazingly with it.)  It was just as important and moving for the grandson as it was for the grandfather.  How lucky was Will and what an awesome opportunity!  I’d be willing to bet these two share memories that will have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives.  No doubt, no doubt at all.

Please enjoy the following pictures of this dream-come-true trip made possible by Honor Flight Austin.  It is a privilege for me to share them.

 

 

 

 

 

Dad and Will getting ready to leave.  And no, that’s not a hat on Dad’s head.  Honored to accompany the Vets was Brian Manley, Austin Chief of Police.

dad escort Honor Flight Escort

 

 

 

 

 

dad in the middleLook at these wonderful Vets!  Dad is the 4th one in the second row.

 

 

 

 

 

Dad getting chummy with the President.  The Air Force Monument, and the boys in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

IMG-1367 Air Force Memorial with the Pentagon in the background.  He served them and he served them well.

 thumbnail_IMG-1363              Dad proudly sitting in front of the WWII memorial, Texas pillar.  Too young to serve in that war, but proud nevertheless.

viet nam mem  The Vietnam Memorial Wall.   His opportunity to see it is long past due.  Bless his heart.

thumbnail_IMG-1373 Air Force Monument.  I can imagine Dad just about burst at the seams when he saw this one.  For many years the Air Force was his life.

tomb of the unk solAt the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Dad is the 3rd from the left.

Please note the link I have included.  It is from the Fox 7 news in Austin, Texas.    Really good viewing that shows the Vet’s parade, etc.

http://www.fox7austin.com/news/local-news/honor-flight-brings-40-veterans-to-washington-dc

AND THEN THERE WAS THE WELCOME HOME!

 

 

 

 

 

On the flight back to Austin, our vets received letters from loved ones and friends thanking them for their service.  Lots of love and tears were aboard that flight.  Once they landed in Austin, look out!  Please enjoy the following, it’s well worth the view.

 

 

I understand that all veterans deserve to be recognized.  Each and every one deserves to be saluted for their contribution, their sacrifices.  They deserve to be honored.  And by the way, I do include our men and women in the Middle East even as we speak.  I thank them all for their service.

Bill, Scott,and I, with our spouses, as well as all your grandchildren, want to thank you, Dad, for your service.  I do believe that serving your country was the most extraordinary and accomplished thing you have ever done.

Please pray for peace.  This blog post should convince you that we should pray and pray hard for peace in the world.  We’ve lost too many soldiers and loved ones.  It’s a sad, sad thing.

Eternal Father, we praise you for helping us get through these man-made conflicts that break hearts and destroy humanity.  Thank you, Lord, for these Vets who serve their country.  We ask, Lord, for your compassion and mercy for the days ahead.  We pray for peace!  Amen

GOD BLESS AMERICA

Please note:  Photo cred goes to Tina Lea of HONOR FLIGHT AUSTIN.

 

I’M JUST LETTING GO


It was so hard for me to get out of bed this morning. The alarm went off at 6 a.m. and I turned the bedside lamp on. At 6:30 my sweet husband came into the room with a cup of coffee and told me “I heard you snore so I thought I better do something.” What? Me, snore? Yeah, that was me. Oh how I wanted to sleep! But here’s the thing – I wanted to see Jesus more than I wanted to sleep. I practically had to scratch my way out of the warm and cozy trap that is my bed and adjust my crown of attitude into one more conducive to dedicating my Sabbath to the God of Glory, instead of What Nancy Wants. If attitude can get a person anywhere, projecting a good one is a start. So, half an hour late already, I struggled to set about getting ready for early Mass. Wonder of all wonders, I managed to get dressed and head toward Bunkie town.

Flash back: In June, I had the true honor of being one of the many prayer ministers at the Steubenville South Youth 2017 Conference in Alexandria, Louisiana. Long ago, when the movement first came to this part of the country, I was a part of the prayer team but took a hiatus when I married Pete and moved further south. It felt so good to be back into it this year. Man, if only I could tell you in human words what it is like to gently nudge a young person to the Way! All that to say this: The message, the speakers, the music, everything was great. It was mighty. A person would have to be a pillar of salt not to be moved. Hosted by Paul George, who by the way, knows how to get a young person’s attention (“clap once if you can hear me, clap twice etc.”) That really tickled me. The speakers were quite the line up of young adults who knew where they had been and know where they are going. Fr. Leo Patalinghug (EWTN, & Beating Bobby Flay – think “Holy Guacamole”), Megan Mastroianni, Chris Mueller, Sarah Swafford. Our own Josh Blakesley Band (http://www.joshblakesleymusic.com), and guest Sarah Kroger(http://www.sarahkroger.com) provided absolutely perfect music.

I’ve been a fan of Josh Blakesley & company for years. In fact, although my beloved and I are in our -ahem- 60’s, we have been known to travel the 40+ miles on a Sunday evening to Mass in Alexandria during which the music is rendered by said band. Enter Sarah Kroger. I had not heard of her before Steubenville South 2017. I found a couple of her CDs for sale and scored.

Ok, now flash forward to today: On the way to Mass, my thoughts were the usual “gosh I’m getting old, how did this happen, maybe it’s too late to do so-and-so, my memory is missing, something is wrong with my brain, gosh my hands hurt, oh, my back, this oldage is killing me, on and on and on.” Suddenly for some strange reason, I heard Sarah Kroger singing. Oh yeah, I forgot I was playing her CD. The words I heard captured me, literally dragging my attention away from my internal dialogue. Wow. How did that happen? The song must have been written for that very moment in my life. No? Well, you might not think so but I do. Let me say this about that; isn’t it amazing how God’s timing is perfect and how He reaches us exactly where we are and exactly when we need Him? Here, read these words.

“I thought by now I would be running on an open road

Not here standing with a heavy load

Unable to move

I thought by now it would be everything I ever dreamed

Not unsure of what there is for me

Or what I should do

And I can’t see straight and I just can’t seem to find my way

So I’m letting go, I’m letting go

For once in my life

I don’t need to know. I’m just letting go

Oh I’m letting go.

And like a friend this heaviness is settled in my soul

I don’t have to hold it any more

You whisper to me

“Be still don’t fight. Just let me make the burden light”.

So I’m letting go, I’m letting go

For once in my life

I don’t need to know. I’m just letting go.

Oh, I’m letting go.

I will not be afraid to open up my hands

I will not be afraid to let you in

I will not be afraid, your love is more than I could know

So I’m letting go, I’m letting go

For once in my life

I don’t need to know. I’m just letting go

Oh, I’m letting go.”

Powerful, huh? I meditated on that after I took a seat in church. The message I got from that wonderful song is simply to stop worrying and trust more. Sounds like a cliché but it is what it is. It comforted me. It helped me see that the course my life has taken is not so far off what it should be. I am more aware of the road I am on. If I can let go, if I can trust.

Now here’s where it gets Real. To my delight, Father Taylor Reynolds was the Celebrant for Mass. I’ve watched him grow up in Bunkie. His mother is a lady I know and admire. He is with our parish for the summer before he returns to Rome in the fall. So you can imagine how it warmed my heart to see him this morning. When Father Taylor read today’s Gospel (Mathew 14:22-23) he had my complete attention. What he said afterwards brought tears to my eyes. And it still does. It is the story of Jesus walking on water. Allow me to paraphrase the homily. First Jesus leads the disciples to the boat, rides with them to the other side of the lake, and then leaves them and goes off by himself to talk to his Dad. The guys on the boat carry on until the wind gets tough, the ride gets rough and terrible fear moves in. Suddenly, they look up and see Jesus walking on the water toward them. But, as Fr. Taylor pointed out, he didn’t calm the seas. He didn’t tell the wind to stop. He did, however, say “don’t be afraid”. Peter told Jesus “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said “Come” So, Peter stepped out of the boat in faith. Then he faltered. But Jesus reached out and caught him. Thank God! Fr. Taylor pointed out how close Jesus was to Peter as he took his faltering steps and started to sink. He was right there, close enough to grab him. What wonderful news! What a fantastic analogy!

So the lesson God gave me today goes like this; Life is a journey, yet another cliché, but true none the less. On this journey we hope we are doing the right things. We have our problems, our burdens, our forks in the road. We don’t know where to turn. We need Him to show us the way. We need to trust Him through the storms. We need to step out in faith and know that Jesus is right there for us when we falter, and feel like all is lost or it’s too hard to carry on, or we don’t know what to do. We need to believe.

Let go. Release the heaviness in your soul, your burdens, your insecurities. Step out in faith knowing that He is in control and He won’t let you go. He’ll be there for you and with you throughout your journey. “Be still, don’t fight. Just let Me make the burden light.”

I’m praising Him for that lesson today! Oh Jesus, I’m loving you! Thank You from the bottom of my heart! I wish I could convey my concern and compassion to the many who have not yet entered into a life with Christ. It just doesn’t make sense not to want to love and be loved, not to want a richer life with riches that matter and carry over into the next life, the one that is Eternity, not to want a better, more meaningful life. I’ve had a life without Him, although as a believer I thought I had it all. Wrong. There is more. So much more.

Below you will see the CD cover I reference by Sarah Kroger.  She’s awesome.

 

Pray for peace, people. Our world needs your prayers.

 

LETTING GO: an exercise in faith, a gift of grace


Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes change, that is, the change that interrupts our lives and makes the world we know uncomfortably different. I’m tired of the old cliché that states change is good, necessary, and a catalyst for growth. *foot stomping* I don’t like change!

But I don’t want to be stagnant either. And because I am a believer, I live by the assertion that I must change to live up to the potential assigned to me by God. What? Am I so full of myself that I actually think the almighty God of heaven and earth knows me personally and even takes the time to direct my path if I ask Him to? Yes. Period. Therefore, I must accept change as it comes and then discern how I choose to react to it. I must exercise my faith to allow whatever change is at hand to make me a better person, one more worthy to live up to God’s expectations of me. In the meantime, I don’t want to miss any of the graces He wishes to bestow upon me as a direct result of my decision to accept the direction of His hand over the changes of my life. And in the bigger picture, the change that effects me will have an affect on those around me. It’s a domino effect, you see. The changes in other’s lives influence me, the change in my life influences others.

Simple truths, right? Yeah, it’s easy as long as it is happening to someone else. “Therein lies the rub.” In case you didn’t hear me the first time, I don’t like change. But change is a lesson we all have to learn and grow from, hopefully. It’s a lesson that creeps up on us every day and demands we pay attention. It is stubbornly present and won’t let go, much like a dog and his favorite bone.

We liken change to either good or bad and, face it, the bad changes are the ones that really get our attention. Unfortunately, the good changes are the ones we accept, perhaps joyfully, but more often than not, without a second thought that they may, in fact, be blessings and graces sent from you-know-Who. Both good and bad are golden depending on our reaction to them. Uh huh. It’s true. Let me illustrate why I feel this way.

I haven’t blogged much since I had a brain tumor removed in August 2015. Even though it was a simple (! Did I just say that??), nearly painless surgery, it has not been without it’s effects and that has taken some adjustment to get used to. For example, I have written the previous sentence three times. Moving on… My memory is affected. I don’t remember a lot of the more recent past, things I have done, places I’ve gone, most notably, people I’ve met. Not too many weeks ago I was in a grocery store and a couple passed by me. They greeted me by name as if they knew me well. I had no idea who they were. I nodded to them, smiled, and proceeded on out the door. But it bothered me a so much that I didn’t recognize them that I had to go back into the store and find them. That lovely couple was gracious enough to understand my explanation that I had no idea who they were. I apologized to them and told them about the effects of my surgery. I felt like a fool. But they were kind and actually seemed happy to fill in the missing blanks. What a relief!

All of that just to say this: I’ve been through a lot of changes lately. Trust me. And I suppose there will be more to come. God, please grant me the grace to go through them the way You would have me to.

So, some of these changes I’ve been through recently have been pretty hard. They get the most attention, of course. The biggest and hardest change has been the death of our former daughter-in-law. Erica was not without her issues. If you are a human being, you too have issues. But Erica’s issues were a bit out of the ordinary. The first time I met her (she answered the door at my son’s house and promptly closed it in my face) I thought she was incredibly rude. Little did I know she was afraid of what my reaction to her being in my son’s house would be. Poor thing. I often wonder what on earth my son told her about me to cause that fear! No matter. I learned to love her. In fact, the day she married my son I fell in love with the brilliant loving smile she gave my son after they were pronounced husband and wife. Aside from that, she bore my first grandchild. When he was born I felt a love like I had never felt before in my life. She was responsible for that. Had it not been for her, who knows if I ever would have discovered what unconditional love was all about? Erica and my son divorced after their difficult marriage refused to survive. They were forced to continue their contact with each other in order to raise their son. And by the way, that boy is awesome which speaks to the success of their efforts. Even so, they went their separate ways. Not too many years passed before Erica became seriously ill. The choices she made hindered any healing that we all prayed for. Over time she lost function of her kidneys and liver and had to go on dialysis. Eventually, her circumstances dictated she live in a nursing home until she could get on her feet. The rehab was good, she was successful and was ready to be discharged to home. The last time I saw her at the nursing home she was so happy and full of life and ready for a new beginning! We rejoiced and she ascertained that her healing was certainly due to Divine Intervention. Then she had an accident and smacked her head on the concrete. It was the last assault her body could tolerate. Within two weeks she was gone. She died at the age of thirty seven just when she was getting her life in order. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that our God has a purpose and a plan for everyone. But I had a hard time accepting it, even now, a hard time believing it. My head says no way. My heart says it has to be. That, my friend, is the definition of faith; believing in what you cannot see, like it or not.

As it would happen, on the day before Erica’s wake, my grandson and I went out to lunch. He is very nearly fourteen years old now and such a man already. I had heard from one of my former neighbors that my old house, the one I poured blood, sweat, and tears into, was being demolished. This I had to see for myself. So on the way back from lunch, the boy and I drove past my old address. The neighbor was telling the truth. There wasn’t a house standing, there was instead rubble strewn about, piles of bricks, pipes reaching out of the ground as if looking to connect to something, anything. Lumber, solid, hard heart-pine and oak, was stacked along the perimeter of the old house’s stead. Ghost-like, lonely. There was a man sitting on a pillar of bricks and one standing close by, obviously the workers employed to take the house apart. He approached me as I pulled up and greeted me like a long lost friend. He didn’t know me but somehow he recognized the attachment I had to this place, this ground on which a lifetime was lived and children were raised. He let me tell him how I loved this place when I lived there, how I raised two boys there, how I remodeled the kitchen and built that deck laying in pieces over in the far corner. He smiled knowingly as I told him that was MY home, the one I bought and paid for myself. As if to comfort me, that darling man proudly assured me that he had already removed the kitchen cabinets and, in fact, had recycled them into another project he was working on. And the doors. And the beautiful parquet floor that I put down piece by piece on the floor. (My knees have not been the same since!) His eyes lit up and he told me he figured I was the one who stained the glass on the back door and bathroom windows. Yes! It was me! He proudly led me around the back of the property to show me he saved them somehow knowing a person would come around asking about them. Yes, me again.

For the next few days after Erica’s funeral, I mulled over these big changes set before me. Big big changes. You know, I came to understand something. I spent more time living and loving, and trying to live life in that old house than I have anywhere since, at least so far. I learned about myself and others. Life lessons. Heartache. Joy. Self-discovery. I had hard lessons about growing up. Sacrifice. Selfishness. Forgiveness. From 1987 to 2001 I lived there. I sold it in I think 2002 or 2003. I poured heart and soul into that old house. I gardened to my heart’s content, coaxing flowers from the earth, fashioning sidewalks and secret flowerbeds. I labored and was constantly surprised at the results. Working on that old house gave me the confidence I lacked previously to accomplish many things, personally and professionally. I think there was not one inch of that house and the ground beneath it that I didn’t touch. My identity was tied up in that house for a time but I wasn’t sorry to let it go. It was, after all, just a building. I was grateful to have had it. It sheltered us and gave us a sense of security. It had a foundation when I didn’t. Then the boys left home and I got married and moved away. Change happened.

I can in no way compare loosing Erica to the tearing down of my old house. That would be ridiculous. I can share my reaction to the changes. Loosing Erica hurts. Her presence leaves a hole in the life of her precious son and all who love her. The demolition of the old house merely evokes sentimental musings. Both soul and building are now memories, albeit one more poignant than the other. One leaves behind a legacy, a life, and now love eternal. The other, just memories.

I am a better person for having loved both. They represent different planes in the plan of life. I have learned lessons from each; patience, perseverance, love, frustration, epic failure, joy, happiness, satisfaction, hope, forgiveness. Yes, big changes indeed.

Eternal Father, You Who loves us in ways we can’t imagine, thank you for the gifts You have given. Thank You that Your daughter Erica touched my life, gave me my first grandchild, and taught me lessons no other could. Thank You for that old house and the lessons I learned there; the strength and stamina I needed. Please let me keep these blessings in my heart always and never be afraid to think of them and grow from them. Father, I’m asking that my faith be strengthened to accept Your will and not question it. Thank You again, my Lord, that You love us.

Amen

 

Please don’t forget to pray for peace.

Psuedo Elvis, Faux Marilyn


I have just about come to the conclusion that most men want to be like Elvis Presley and most woman want to be like Marilyn Monroe. I’m going out on a limb I know, but this is just my own observation. Maybe I don’t get out much. I don’t know. You tell me.

For those of you who have read my book Secrets of the Old Ladies’ Club you may remember the scene when the mysterious new resident of the retirement village is outed. His give-away is his famous (self-proclaimed) rendition of How Great Thou Art, circa Elvis Presley, which he performs from the church choir loft.

I know you are thinking that could never happen, right?

Wrong.

It happened. And not only in the book. It happened in REAL LIFE not once but TWO separate times. First of all, you should know that I MAY have patterned the character in my book on someone (or two or more) I actually MIGHT have known at one time, a man, shall we say, who imagined himself channeling Elvis from the choir loft. It was a good impersonation too, but the tinkling of the piano keys sounded a little lone-star-country-bar-ish. I fully expected to hear the clink of glasses (or beer bottles) after the dismissal. Thank God I didn’t. Keep in mind I MAY be exaggerating. Or not. At any rate, I turned that experience into a great scene for the Old Ladies’ Club.

I never expected to ever be confronted with that situation again. After all, it’s fiction, right? Sure.

Let me just say that I know more than one man who fancies himself a new age Elvis. Dear God in heaven, (seriously, not irreverently) please don’t let that happen again. If I could, I would give you dear readers all of the scary details about another hopeful who wanted to gift an unsuspecting congregation with his own impersonation of How Great Thou Art, as per Elvis, during a funeral, an act that would no doubt mortify every single person in attendance especially the straight-laced pastor who had a tendency to frown upon such unsolicited displays of talent. I was drafted to be the one person to put a stop to it before it started. I must add that pseudo Elvis dearly loves the grieving family and would do nothing to hurt them. He just over estimated his abilities … and his wife’s reaction. As for the aforementioned effort to put a halt to the show, just know that it wasn’t pretty. But nobody, I repeat nobody in the church had any idea of the ensuing concert manifestation or cancelation.

Whew. Rest assured we made up later although it was touchy for a while. We’re still friends.

Please don’t think that I’m foolishly above all. I’m not. Obviously I have huge flaws. And I’m not trying to pass judgment on anyone. I’ll put it like my husband does: Won’t they please let Elvis rest in peace? Faux Elvis is just not the same.

Thank God for His everlasting mercy and forgiveness! I’ll keep working on my flaws, my sins, my uncanny ability to (wrongfully) pass judgment. And I’ll keep asking Him to forgive me every time I fail because I know Who is King, Just, Right, Fair, Forgiving. And Everlasting. I really like that everlasting part.

As for the Marilyn Monroe remark. Well, I just threw that in there to be fair to the guys. I’d like to be Marilyn Monroe. Not BE her exactly, but look like her. Yeah, I’d love to look like her. She sizzled! Now that takes talent! Yes, to all the Elvis wanna-bes, I am a Marilyn wanna-be. So there. Don’t hate me for it. But please stop me if I ever put on a see through dress and start singing Happy Birthday Mr. President.

elvismarilyn

Will you take a moment and pray for peace? And for the kidnapped girls of Nigeria? And for victims of Mother Nature? And for a cure for cancer? And for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?