This really IS the view from my front porch. Sweet, huh?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Daddy Said...

Our time on earth will come to an end but many of the things we say will live on in the heart and mind of others for years to come.  My Dad had many sayings that I will never forget:
-“You are sharp as a tack and just as flat-headed.”
-“When you get right, it’ll get right.”
-“There but for the grace of God, go I.”
But one of the wisest things my Dad ever said to Ricky was to” find a fun hobby and then go do it.”  Ricky, like my Dad in many ways, always has to be working at something.  While this is a great trait in a man it can wear you out before your time.  We enjoy doing fun things but it is just not in our nature to choose fun over work that needs to be done.  Ricky’s workday starts at 6:30 (He drives a school bus, teaches all day and then drives the bus in the afternoons.) and ends around 4:30.  Then he usually finds something to do around the house until dark.  In the summers his ecology work takes him out on long workdays until the job is done.  In between this work, his honey-do list usually has him working on some project around the house.
Well, all work and no play makes Ricky a dull boy so it is my job to find something fun for us to do, right?  I have recently taken an interest in photography and one of the best things about landscape/nature photography is that it gets us out and away from the work at home.  Ricky is great about loading up and taking me to see the beauty of the Ozarks or somewhere else equally as amazing.  I’m sure there are other places on earth just as beautiful as Arkansas but we definitely live in photography heaven right here. 
Recently I decided that I would like to visit a spot known as the most photographed spot in Arkansas, Whitaker’s Point (Hawksbill Crag).  To get the best shots we needed to be there early in the morning so I asked Ricky if he wanted to go camping that weekend.  Now remember that my style of camping in the past has been in a heated/air-conditioned travel trailer with a microwave, refrigerator, comfortable beds, running water, a toilet and a shower. We sold our camper some time ago so at this point in the conversation Ricky is assuming that I booked a cabin.  Much to his surprise I was really meaning camping… without a tent.
We ended up at the campgrounds in downtown Ponca.  Our Friday night date night did not include Lowe's for the first time in months.  We cooked supper over an open fire, had smores (without the graham crackers - I packed a little too light), and JiffyPop popcorn. (We now know why the packaging says to NOT use over open fire.)  Instead of a tent we slept (I use that word lightly) under a shade canopy in the two–man hammock next to a tent occupied by two men who had obviously consumed too much beer and too many beans that day.  The chorus of snores and (insert imagination here) went on all night.  We were joined by the biggest dog I’ve ever seen and a large white cat curled up at our feet in the hammock before the night was over.  We laughed all night long over things about our adventure that were much funnier as an experience than as stories later repeated to others. 
I’m not sure if it was the 38 degree weather and heavy dew or being flipped out of the hammock and leg cramps that had us both awake at 4:00 am but we decided to pack up and head to the trail much earlier than originally planned.  This meant using flashlights for the first 45 minutes of our 1.5 mile hike to reach our destination which is one of the most breath-taking views in Arkansas.

Along the way we found evidence that a bear had been there before us.  To quote Ricky, “Lucky for us, it’s not steaming."

The prime picture taking moments were short lived and then it was time to head back and see what we missed while hiking in the dark. 

 But our journey back was a pack of three instead of two.  While taking in the sunrise we were joined by Jim.  Some would be disappointed to have such a private moment interrupted by a total stranger but Jim packed two cameras and shared my desire for just the right shot.  After visiting a few short minutes we learned that Ricky and Jim have a common bond – teaching.  We have teased Ricky for some time about his ability to talk to anyone – anywhere, and this just proves it.  In territory labeled as “Wilderness Area” Ricky made a new friend and they held animated conversation for hours.  Little did Jim know when he woke up that morning that he would later be introduced to the common name and Latin name of most all trees and plants in that area.  I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, the teacher or the student.

  Later, after Facebook stalking Jim, I learned that there is much Jim could teach us regarding animals as his past titles include University Veterinarian and Director of Veterinary Services at Duke University and University Veterinarian and Director of the Animal Care Unit at the University of Kansas.  Our little time together left us all wishing for more time to get to know each other better.  Hopefully our paths will cross again someday.
There are moments in life that you look back on with a smile and this was definitely one of those.  I wasn’t able to get that perfect picture to hang on display in my art gallery (one small wall in my office) but the picture in my mind will last forever … or at least until dementia takes over.
LIFE LESSON:  (You thought I forgot didn’t you…)  Take time to make memories with those who are special to you.  You never know when, but a day will come when the memories are all you have left of them.
 Steele Creek, near Ponca

 Steele Creek, near Ponca

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ouch, That Hurts!

Yesterday was absolutely beautiful.  It was Labor Day, the last holiday of summer, and for those of us fortunate enough to be off work, the last day to enjoy doing nothing. (Labor Day, do nothing – is that an oxymoron??)  My goal was to sit by the pool, soak up some rays, read a book and do nothing else remotely close to the word labor if possible.  I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the way of my doing nothing, I picked up a tiny splinter in my big toe.  I remember thinking, “Ouch, that hurt” for just a minute and then went on doing my... nothing.
Now, here it is, hours later and I can’t sleep because of a throbbing pain in my big toe.  I’ve felt all around this little body part and can find… nothing… that could be causing my pain.  I’ve tried sticking my foot out of the covers and placing it in front of the open window that is letting a 45 degree breeze blow into the bedroom to cool it off but I can still feel every beat of my heart in my toe.
Have you ever tried to look at the bottom of your big toe?  If you haven’t, just give it a try.  We see little babies putting their toes in their mouth but, let me tell you, the older you get, the harder it is to get your failing eyesight close enough to the bottom of your toe to see anything. Also, for me there is also a lot more between the eye and the big toe than there used to be.  I know I must look really silly in this Houdini contorted position only to find… nothing… there to be causing this pain.  I’ve taken tweezers and poked around, scraped around and dug at this calloused appendage of my body and still found… nothing.  I would think that I’ve gone mad except for the faint memory in the back of my mind that at one point over the past 24 hours I had an encounter with something that made me think “Ouch, that hurt.”
How many times have we experienced similar moments in our life?  We’ve been invaded or even allowed something into our lives that is foreign to what we know to be the acceptable way of doing things.  When it first happens our conscience tells us “This is what you should not do so let this be a lesson to you” yet we secretly invite it to come on in. We’re having fun and experiencing life so it’s nothing to worry with.  It may be hours, days or even months, but eventually, it starts to affect the way we act and feel.  It doesn’t bother us too much though so we continue on as if it isn’t there.  Others don’t notice it so it’s no big deal, right?  But our body has a natural way of eliminating anything foreign to it through a process called festering.  It starts off as an irritation and then becomes red and enflamed.  If left long enough, infection sets in and a much larger area of our body is now included and hurting. An area that was once impossible to find is now easily seen, yet still hard to get too.  While the location of that intruder has not changed, our motive to remove is has become greater. 
The good thing about festering is that, no matter how bad it hurts now, the cause of the problem is much easier to remove. The bad thing about festering is that the innocent area around that point of entry is now hurting too and the healing process for all involved will take time. Now a little healing ointment is needed to cleanse the wound and fight the infection.  In most cases the whole body can be restored to the original state as if nothing had ever happened.  But often we are left with scars that remind us for years to come of pain from the past.
If I had been wearing shoes my big toe would have been protected and at this very moment I would be sleeping instead of writing this blog but I wanted the freedom of stretching my toes and not being hindered or feeling strapped in.  Life Lesson:  We are given protection throughout our life.  It’s when we want to exist outside those boundaries that Satan finds us vulnerable and an easy prey.  He attacks us sometimes through little, unseen objects that easily pierce us only to grow into something that can become damaging to us. But we have a healing salve through Jesus Christ.  He wants to cleanse and remove the infection and pain.  Sometimes the healing powers of this ointment are new to us having never been called upon before.  But many times it was there all along, sitting on the shelf, waiting to be used by us.  Why do we wait so long before applying such a miraculous resource? Is it fear of how others will see us, worldly distractions, contentment, or even pride?  We should let… nothing… get in our way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Here's Your Sign

I recently had a conversation with one of my children about how to know if a decision she is making is the right one.  Decisions made now will set the path of her future.  She is struggling with knowing if this is what she should do.  As a senior Alison is faced with many changes in the next year and she is struggling with the uncertainty of her plans.

This took me back many years to the days when I was faced with these same questions about my life.  I'm not sure that I put as much time into the plans that set me on the journey into adulthood.  Thank goodness I had the support and encouragement of my parents.  In reflection I can see that while they never told me what to do they gently guided me toward choices that would be healthy and rewarding. 

As parents we hesitate to tell our children about all the wrong moves that we made before we arrived where we are today.  Too many times stories of our wrong doings when we were young become endorsements or permission for them to do the same stupid things.  But allowing them to think that we never faced trials and temptations like the ones that are shoved in their faces today is misleading too.  The middle ground is to share with them how God used those times in our life to mold us.  God allows us free will which can lead to disaster when we try to go it on our own but He never leaves us to pick up the pieces by our self.  We may ignore His help but He is always there.

Many times we ask for a sign from God that we are doing the right thing.  We tell God what we want to see as conformation that we have made the right choice.  We limit Him to our expectations when he has so much more in store for us.  Martie Mangum, a Baptist preacher, blogged on this subject.   He reminds us that God has already revealed His will for us and it is found in His word, the Bible.  We ask God to be the one to move when, in reality, it is us that must take action.  If we are not spending time with Him how can we expect to recognize His will for us?

As Alison continues to search out her future we continue to pray for her.  She may try many things before finding a perfect fit but that's o.k. When the right one comes along she will know. This year will go by so fast and I know she will live it to its fullest.  She has already started marking the lasts- last year in high school, last year to be manager for the football team, last year to play basketball, etc. and a new chapter in her life is about to begin that will be filled with many firsts.  As I set back and watch this all happen I will try to not cry.  I did say "try" didn't I?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

There Ain’t No Fleas On Me

5:30 am
There are four dogs in my bed as I write this, well, actually one has temporarily fled for safety  under the bed at the moment but you get my point.  Three of these dogs live at my house and one is a visitor.  Way too early this morning, Drake (my niece’s dog – they are on vacation so he is with us) sat on Mocha (Ali’s 2 lb. Chihuahua) and no one in the room was happy about this.  Did I mention that this was at 5:00 am?  The fight was on.  Drake lives with a very large American Bulldog and it is told that Drake “rules the roost” but this little Chihuahua just put him in his place.  Needless to say, I am wide awake now so here goes the latest blog.

We love our house dogs very much and they pretty well do whatever they want when they want – to a limit.  And, yes, we usually have one or two, sometimes three dogs in the bed with us at night.  Ricky jokingly accuses them of being the cause of any bug bite he receives.  Because there is no way he could have gotten bit while traipsing around in the National Forest doing his summer job or while working outside. 
We recently visited with an older gentleman who used the phrase “you lay with dogs and you’re gonna get fleas.”  He was referring to how we need to be careful who we associate with.  His step-son was recently killed by someone he barely knew in what was apparently an argument that quickly got out of hand.  From what I’ve heard, it probably stemmed from a misunderstanding but J. is still dead and there is no way to undo any of their actions.
My girls think I am “old school” and over reacting when I constantly tell them to be careful about who they are with and where they go.  Hopping in the car with someone else’s friend that you don't know could lead you into a situation where you have no control over the outcome.  Just looking “nice” or thinking they are safe because they hang out with someone you know is not a good enough reason to put your life in their hands.  Even allowing someone else to drive your car makes you responsible for their actions almost as much as if you were the one driving.
Which leads me to my next thought – how well do we really know those we call our friends.  Most of us have at least one Facebook friend that we only know through someone else yet we call them our friend.  I agree that Facebook is a safe place to get to know that person, much better than getting in a car with them, but this seems to water down the true meaning of the word friend.  Webster defines a friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.”  I like that!  It should be an honor to be called someone’s friend.  It is a title that I do not take lightly.
I guess I just want my girls to understand that I gave birth to them and, for some strange reason, I feel responsible for them.  I want them to realize that while we cannot control the actions of someone else, we can control our own actions.  They probably get tired of hearing me say “be careful” or “make me proud” every time they walk out the door but it’s my way of reminding them of this.
Back to the flea thought.  We put drops and dips and collars on our dogs to protect them from fleas.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could put something on our children to protect them from whatever life throws at them?  Oh … but we can ... it’s called ... PRAYER!!
To those of you who are my friends, my true friends, I thank God for you.  To those of you who are becoming my friends, maybe a new Facebook friend, thanks for sharing the moments of your life with me through comments about your day or pictures of your happenings.   I look forward to getting to know you better! 
Have you met these members of our family?  They drive me crazy but I love them all.


Life is good when you have the love of your family, your friends and faces like this-
Keep Smiling!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"Ding, ding...(cell phone)"

I was awoken this morning a little after 3:00 a.m. by the quiet “ding, ding” of my cell phone letting me know that someone had sent me a message.  The message was from a dear friend and simply read “Mom just passed away.”  My mind immediately rushed back 18 years ago to the day my own Mom passed away.  Both remarkable women left their families as a result of cancer.
As I often do when I can’t sleep I turned to Facebook to see how many of my friends are suffering the same plight.  The second message listed was a link (See below) about a subject that has become all too familiar in our little town of Lamar – Heatstroke in athletics. 
Both of these thoughts, losing your Mother to cancer and losing your child from a condition common to their passion, have left me saddened to the state of tears.  I have personally experienced the loss of my own Mom to cancer and my daughter was on the field there beside T.D. the day he went down; one experience just this past year and the other over 18 years ago, yet the tears flow freely and the lump in my throat just won’t go away.  Through blurry eyes I sit here typing as a method of therapy for me and others who know what I am referring to. 
We want to comfort others in their time of hurt so we often share a hug, bringing them close to us.  By wrapping them in our arms we relate that their pain becomes ours to help lessen their load.  But often times, God has given us the gift of “experience” as a way to comfort those we care for.  Empathy is to actually know through experience the pain they are feeling.  It does not take away what they are feeling but can help them by knowing that others understand the feelings from inside that cannot be put into words.
While I truly know the feelings that are being experienced by the family of Ms. Sara Williams I don’t even pretend to understand what Mark and Tina have gone through.  Losing a child has to be the most painful thing a person can live through.  So the obvious question is – Why would God allow something like this?  I don’t have the answer but I found comfort in my time of loss by knowing that my Mom’s strength shown through her death was such a witness to others.  Sometimes people can see the love we have for our GOD through how we handle death just as much, if not more, than how we handle life.  It’s easy to say “God loves you and wants to know you” when life is “good” but to say it when you are hurting, be it in a cancer-stricken state or when your child lays lifeless in a hospital bed before you, is SO powerful.  To all who have done this, I commend you.
This emptiness I feel this morning is not only for those I care about who are suffering but is, in part, a selfish longing to hear my Mother’s voice again, to be wrapped in her arms and to share a laugh over something her grandchildren have done.
Life is too short to be wasted on petty squabbling among each other or to let pride stand in the way of something we know in hearts should be done.  So…  seize the moment and take action.  If there is something left undone in your life, ask yourself if it is really important.  If the answer is “yes” then start planning now to DO it.
To the Williams Family I want to say how sorry I am for your loss.  You all have been through so much in losing both parents in such a short time but you have the strength of faith, family and friends to lift you up – let them! 
To the Davenport Family I want to say that I am so in awe of how you have presented yourselves through all of this.  You so eloquently stand before the public eye fighting for awareness and prevention so that others will not have to suffer as you have. 
We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand; Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come, But we have this moment today. – Gloria Gaither

Sunday, June 26, 2011

(Revised) This is not One Tree Hill – You are NOT Payton Sawyer

For those of you who have no idea what I am referring to I have included a definition:
One Tree Hill is a young adult television drama set in the fictional town Tree Hill in North Carolina and follows the lives of teen, now adult characters, including basketball drama in the early years and intertwined relationships, be it friendship or love.  Lucas and Peyton have been two of the main characters, as well as one of the central love stories, throughout the show.

Over the years the storyline has covered the issues of non-functional families, first loves, break-ups, divorce of parents, alcoholic parents, devious Fathers, murder, lies and deception, rivalry, pre-marital sex, teen pregnancy, the trials of marrying while still students, drug addictions, stalkers and hostage situations.  Sounds like your typical soap opera, right?

As a child I spent most of my early days at my grandparents while my parents worked.  Most days were spent lying on the living room floor under the quilting frame in front of the TV.  Grandma and Lucy Black, Aunt Jeffie Ashlock, Bessie Frost or another of the neighborhood ladies would gather round the frame and quilt while “The Days of Our Lives”, “The Doctors and “Another World” would play out a fictitious world before us.  My first memories of soap operas include “Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives” and a then sixteen year old Julie Horton (Williams) lying on the beach in a bikini.  Very risqué for television viewing in the 1960s.  Having grown up watching these “Soaps”, I didn’t see any harm in allowing my children to watch similar shows.  It is fiction and we all can tell the difference in real life and those of our fictional friends.  Most TV shows push the limits of reality and normal lives but we tell ourselves “it’s just a show.”  That’s all well and good until we can no longer tell the difference. 

 My line of work brings in clients who have tried to live lives very reflective of the fictional characters of One Tree Hill.  The only trouble is that at the end of the hour their problems have not been solved by a hero stepping in to make things right.  Every night in Tree Hill is exciting and fun but reality is that Clarksville is quaint and small town.  Some find this boring. While fun at the time, looking for excitement often has repercussions, some lasting a lifetime.  Our feel good, instant gratification society is reaping the consequences of our actions through fatherless children and welfare dependant families. Some are able to overcome these obstacles and better themselves.  Family support and other resources help them make the best of their situation and obtain an education while raising their family in semi-normal conditions.   But many end up in my office looking for the answer to all their problems.  They have discovered that the partner responsible for the making of their child does not possess the qualities needed to be a Father.  Others realize that their experimental use of drugs has resulted in a criminal background that now makes them ineligible for many of the support programs that they need to live independently.  And then there are some that are raising children with disabilities that are a direct result of substance use while pregnant.

None of these results of living life on the edge of excitement are insurmountable but most could have been avoided.  Needless life lessons are being lived out now because they wanted to experience the life of Payton Sawyer or her friend Brooke.  If you ask them later if it was worth it most will tell you that it looked much more fun in Tree Hill.  Most of these adventurists have managed to eventually get back on the right track but the burdens they have been dealing with bring on unnecessary depression along with physical ailments.  They are tired of fighting the fight and hope for the day their prince will rescue them just like in the fairytales of our childhood.  For some, the prince has yet to come and they see no way out.
The desire to be independent and live life the way “I” want to just because “I” can needs to be approached carefully.  This approach seems innocent but often leads to making choices that lead a person down paths that become one way streets without our realizing it.  The next turn –around spot is often much further down the road than we planned to go.  In many circumstances, by the time we reach a place to turn around, we’ve forgotten how we ended up there in the first place. 

It is easy for me to stand on this side of 40 and say these things because I’ve never faced many of the temptations and trials our younger generation is facing.  But I can offer these words as reminders of why it is easier in the long run to be content with normalcy over choosing excitement.  

 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a (New International Version)  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails
I feel certain that no soap opera relationship or fairy tale romance carries these traits but this is the definition of true love and it is something we all can have. 
Love, the real kind that lifts you up instead of dragging you down, is definitely worth waiting for.  To some it may seem as if it will never come.  They give up and settle for something less or think they are experiencing love but have nothing else to compare the real thing to.  Look at where this “fake” love has brought you.  No relationship is A+ all the time but ask yourself “Are you experiencing positive relationship moments most of the time? 
One last piece of advice I have to offer is…
Don't settle for the one you can live with, wait for the one you can't live without.  I did.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ole Glory

The City of Clarksville goes all out to add color and interest to the main drag through town.  For each holiday Main Street is decorated with related seasonal banners on the poles.  This looks especially festive in the fall months with orange, yellow and brown leaves dancing in the breeze.  Around Christmas and on into January there are white snowflakes on sky blue banners.  A few days each year American flags are proudly displayed. 
It is such a beautiful sight to enter town and see rows and rows of red, white and blue.  This happens every patriotic holiday and on the birthday of important people. 
 I can still remember when I was little I thought they put the flags out on June 14th each year for ME!!  I was certain that the only important thing about this day was that it was my birthday.
Some of you are still at a loss as to why American flags would be posted on this day.  June 14th is known throughout America as Flag Day.  The week of June 14th is designated as “National Flag Week.”  During National Flag Week, the president will issue a proclamation urging U. S. citizens to fly the American flag for the duration of that week.  President Barack Obama’s Flag Day proclamation states:
“When the American Flag soars, so too does our nation and the ideas it stands for.  We remain committed to defending the liberties and freedoms it represents. And we give special thanks to the members of the Armed Forces who wear our flag proudly.  On Flag Day, and during National Flag Week, we celebrate the powerful beacon of hope that our flag has become for us all, and for the people around the world.”
While my parents were quick to educate me about the history of Flag Day, they still allowed me to inwardly celebrate that the flags were on display for me just like they are to celebrate the birthday of
George Washington
 Abraham Lincoln.
I like that they wanted me to feel important.

As a parent now, I understand better their reasoning.  We want our children to be self confident and know that they carry the necessary traits to be great things, even become a president.  If it were up to us parents a flag would fly on each of their special days.

My children have heard this story and love reminding
me that the flags were out just for me today.  Thanks
girls for keeping the memory alive.  May we make
many more special memories in the years to come.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Phone In The Fridge = Time To Slow Down

5:30 am  Alarm goes off.  Let the dogs out.  Feed the dogs. Feed the bird.  Do the chores.  Hurry to get ready for work.  Rush around and leave for work.  Work, work, work.
12:00 pm  Go to lunch with my husband.  No – show an apartment to prospective tenant’s family. 
12:30 pm  Now rush to lunch with my husband.  Rush back to office to leave for a meeting with Congressman, Steve Womack.
1:00 pm  Hurry to 1:15 meeting.  Wait for 1:15 meeting that doesn’t start until after 1:30.  Great meeting.  Hurry back to the office.  Work, work, work. 
4:30 pm  Rush home.  Exhausted but much that needs to be done.  Rush, hurry, rush…
8:45 pm  Go to the truck to look for phone that I must have left there after lunch with husband because I’ve not seen it since.  Think, think, think …
9:00 pm  Rush back to the office.  Open fridge where lunch leftovers were placed.  Remove phone from on top of takeout box.  Rush home.

Do you ever wonder where everyone is going in such a hurry?  A few weeks ago I was pulled over for going too fast.  I didn’t even realize that I was speeding.  (Why in the world they feel the need for 40 mph there is beyond me.)  I was just going on auto pilot at the normal speed of my day.  Too fast!  Every day now when I reach that same spot I slow down but the people behind me, who obviously have never been stopped for speeding through there, ride my bumper and/or pass me, desperately in a hurry to get to something that must be very important. 

I am reminded of a young child anxiously requesting that her Daddy “Come here, Quick!!”  The parent told her, “Just a minute, Honey.”  The child responded “You’re gonna miss it.”  Joining the child, he experienced one of the most beautiful sunsets he had ever seen.   Some things in life are worth rushing for but how do we know when it’s time to rush and when it’s time to slow down?   Only you can know what is worth the anxiety that rushing causes.
 Are you in a hurry to nowhere?  What are you going to do when you get there?  Does all the rushing to get there make you too tired to enjoy the event itself?  I don’t have the answers to these questions.
The next time you feel the need to rush off to do something, ask yourself “What will I miss by being late?”  “What will I gain by rushing?”  In the case of the Daddy and daughter above, the time spent with the child is worth it all, even if the sky had not been brilliantly painted.  In the case of my being stopped for speeding, it could have cost me a lot.  To the nice officer I say “Thanks”!
Now that I’ve found my phone, I can finish this blog, rush to do the laundry, pick up around the house and hurry off to bed.  Did I not learn anything today???

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.
This is a statement that has come up in conversation with friends after the recent tornado that came through our neighborhood nine days ago. 
It is unimaginable the amount of work to be done in the clean-up process.  Where does one begin? What is to be done first? The task as a whole may seem too big to swallow (the elephant), but taken one bite at a time it can be worked through until the whole thing is gone.
The view from my front porch has changed recently, not only pictorially but philosophically.  I’ve seen how in an instant our priorities can change.  What seemed important to us yesterday is now irrelevant.  The needs of others takes precedence over our own needs.

While the tragedy of a fatality in our area is one of the results of damage done by a mighty wind, good can be found in everything.  Neighbors who barely took the time to speak when passing before this event were working side by side that night towards a common goal.   Word of others hurt and in need of help sparked energy and efforts to clear a path through hundreds of fallen trees so that their needs could be met. 

Both at work and in my home neighborhood, I saw people who just wanted to help others - in any way that they could.  And even the smallest gestures of kindness were greatly appreciated.
We spent five days without electricity, hot water and microwave and 9 days without cell phone, landline phone, TV and internet.  But life goes on and we managed quite well.  We worked during the daylight hours ‘til our bones were weary and after dark we spent time as a family sitting on our front porch visiting with each other.  We laughed and shared stories and made memories that will grow a little wilder each time they are recited.  It felt good – it felt right.
Each of us will at some point in our lives face a storm.  Whether it is an act of nature or self-inflicted, there are still tragedies that evolve as a result.  But life goes on and we must pick up the pieces, one by one, until some semblance of order is found.  Thank goodness for true friends that are there to help us.  Maybe we are unable to see for ourselves the damage this storm has caused.  But others are there to help us design a plan enabling us to carry on.  We have gained new respect for these storms and the damage they can cause.  We’ve devised a plan to take cover when immediate danger is near.  Riding out these storms can be scary at times but the journey will make us stronger in the end. 
That night, shortly after destruction came in the form of eerie, green skies and funnel clouds, we looked upward to see a clear, star laden sky sparkling like a sea of diamonds.  The awesomeness of God’s creation and power was unmistakable. Just like the rainbow, it reminded me of one of God’s promises to us.  He will never give us more than we can handle.  So when you feel as if you are eating an elephant,pour on the seasons as best as you can and go at it one bite at a time, enduring until the end. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Waiting for the Rapture

Did you really think it would happen today????  If you did then we need to talk.  The whole subject of Harold Camping and his ”End of the world on April 21st  just upsets me.  To think that someone could be so wrong and yet be a representative of Christians in the eyes of the worldly unsaved.  It sure makes us Christians have our work cut out for us.  I’ve already wasted too much space on this subject.

It’s that time again – time for summer fun.  We took the cover off of our pool and this is what we saw.

What a disappointment.  Since this is our first year to do this I had no idea what to expect.  But this is not what I thought it would look like.  This is not what it looked like when we covered it up for the winter.  There was stuff in there that I have no idea where it came from or how it got there.  Sure, I expected it to look a little different but not like this.  I knew it would take a little work to get it clean so that we could enjoy it but I was truly shocked at what we found.

After a little work, removing leaves, adding Shock, filtering and backwashing and vacuuming to remove the trash we were able to see the results of our efforts.  Sparkling clean water.

Here comes the life lesson – Aren’t we just like that pool?  Things in our life look pretty good and we place a cover over them and forget about it.  When it comes time to remove the cover we start thinking about what we covered up.  Deep down we know that it’s not going to be just like we left it.  And sometimes we are so surprised by what we find underneath.  It takes work to remove the ugly truth but once it is gone things look so much better – refreshing and clean.

Many things in our life are like the leaves in the pool and have no business there.  We would have been better off if we would have worked harder at keeping them out.  They caused lots of damage to us while they were there but it is not impossible to remove them, just hard work.

Some times it takes Shock to get us back to where we need to be.  Shock destroys the elements that breed the ugliness making us able to cope with the results and continue the cleaning process.

Filtering is a way of quickly removing what does not need to be there.  It may get in but it is removed before any harm is done.  And backwashing shakes up things so that they can be swept away forever.

Vacuuming is a maintenance process.  It’s one of those things that must be done on a regular basis for the rest of our life.  But if done consistently, we will remain clean.

How does your life “pool” look?  Have you taken the cover off yet?  Remember that you can’t enjoy it until you do.  I know that I have lots of work to do but I plan to enjoy life AND the pool.  Grab your suit and come on over.

Oh, and about the Rapture... I'm ready and waiting.  Are you?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dedicated - 52 Weeks a Year

Yes, the little girl in this picture is me, being held by my Mom.  This picture was taken documenting those having perfect attendance in Sunday School.  To receive this recognition you must attend Sunday School EVERY Sunday in the year.  A pin is given for year one, a wreath that fits around the pen for year two and then, each year after, a bar that attaches to the pen and wreath is given.   I was celebrating two years.  I was two.  Notice the lady standing next to me.  Her pin and chain represent twenty-four years of Sunday School perfect attendance.  WOW!! What dedication!  My chain made it to eighteen years before I missed a Sunday.  
 The dedication needed to accomplish this was not of my doing but that of my parents.  They made the effort to see that I was there.  It was important to them.  Being dedicated teachers and leaders helped motivate them to be there for those depending on them.  But more than that, they were teaching me about dedication, commitment and reliability.  Not only through their service to the church but through their service to God. 
Whenever we would travel, we would stop and take the time to go to Sunday School and church.  It was a neat experience to visit and worship with others.  I remember one Sunday while traveling through Georgia we unknowingly stopped at the home church of then President, Jimmy Carter.  (Don’t think they didn’t check us out!  My Dad had to answer many questions being fired at him by a group of Secret Service men.)
I never really appreciated the dedication my parents had regarding this until I became a parent myself.  I’ve since missed Sunday School for many different reasons and I sometimes wonder – does it matter if I’m there or not?   But deep down I know it does.  Not being there means I’ve missed out on an opportunity to hear how God has blessed those that I worship with.  It means I’ve missed a chance to praise God, a chance to learn more about Him, a chance to grow through shared experiences of others and I’ve missed how God has used them or chastened them and lead them back to Him.
As Mother’s Day approaches I reflect back to the years I had with my Mom.  She was one special lady!  Cancer robbed me of time with her but I still have great memories that nothing can take away.  I’m not sure if my being an only child made our relationship closer or if it’s that way no matter how many children you have.  I just know that when I was with her I felt special too. 
As a mother of three I worry that one of my girls will feel that my love is not equally divided between them.  But really it’s not divided because they all get 100% - 52 weeks a year. Some may say that is not mathematically possible but you mothers know, like I do, that it is. 
I take my role of being a mother seriously.   Sometimes it’s scary and I wonder if I did them right by teaching them what they need to succeed in life or if their trouble and heartaches could have been avoided if I had stressed certain points more.  But Ricky and I have prayed for them daily since they were born.  The example of dedication I saw in my parents has set a high standard that I continue to try to achieve.  And the memories of my Mom (and Dad) keep me smiling.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Elizabeth, Lisa, Leslie & Alison McCarley

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I really tried to get this posted on the 28th but, oh well...
I have decided that growing old is not fun.  It’s better than the alternative, but still not fun.
 First it was my eyesight.  I hate not being able to see.  Now my vision is changing so fast that within a year I cannot use my new pair of glasses.  We used to laugh about a dear friend having “reading glasses” distributed throughout her house.  (LND – yes I’m talking about you.)  But now I have glasses for reading, glasses for the computer, glasses for playing the piano and glasses for watching sports.  Each pair is a little different and helps make their task easier.
 I used to be able to bend down (a.k.a. squat) in the floor and immediately pop back up.  Now I pop while trying to get up and am doing well if I don’t fall on my face while trying.  Example – Josh’s wedding when I crashed to the floor after having squatted (that word sounds so ???) while taking pictures of Zac.  Luckily it was a Catholic wedding and they just thought this Baptist girl couldn’t hold her liquor.
And then there’s the medication issue.  One pill a day for blood pressure.  One pill a day for hormone replacement.  (Ricky makes sure I remember to take this one.) This week I was diagnosed with an esophageal ulcer – caused from taking … you guessed it – medications.  So the doctor prescribed three medications to correct this problem.  But here’s where it really gets confusing. “Eat smaller meals more often.”  And new med #1- “Take one pill four times a day”  along with new med #2-  “Take one pill four times a day on an empty stomach, one hour before or two hours after other medications.”  And then there’s new med #3- “Take one pill 30 minutes before meals.”  Confused yet?  I am.  I have no idea what to take when.  Did I mention that new Med #3 will cost me $325.00 a month after insurance.  That’s enough to give you an ulcer!!  Those of you over 50 are nodding in agreement.   I’ll stop here for fear of boring the younger readers who do not yet understand what I am referring to.
The last half of your life, and I think I’m there (I do not intend to live to be 94), is referred to as “The Golden Years” because these years are valuable, worth more than gold.   What will I do to increase the value of my Golden Years?
- I hope to grow wiser with age.  Job said, ”Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days” Job 12:12 
-I hope that I can pass the wisdom I’ve gained through age on to the next generation.  “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching…”  Proverbs 1:8
-I hope to become more Christ like with age.  “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness” Proverbs 16:31
I have no doubt that I will continue to have challenges to overcome that will seem like mountains to climb.  But with the Lord’s help these will be conqured.

"HOW we grow old is far more important than how OLD we grow." -Unknown

 April 28, 2011 - Happy Birthday to You.  Ricky - my husband, Ann - my step-mom, Lloyd - my uncle and Erin, my Facebook friend.