Saturday, October 31, 2009

In My Life.....

It's been ten years. I would never have thought my life would change so much, never have believed that I'd be here, doing this and enjoying my life.

But I still miss him, even now.

Ten years is a long time. For a child, it's their whole life. But for me, it's both an immense distance and the blink of an eye. In this time, my children have gone from high school students to accomplished and polished young women, and my eldest has become the mother of a child of her own. I have gone from being a homemaker who cleaned houses on the side to make pocket money to a college student who is making plans for graduate school.

You could never have told me, ten years ago, that I would be standing here without him.

In September of 1999, my life was a very different one. My eldest daughter was a senior in high school, her little sister a junior. We had moved into a house in the woods, peaceful and pretty. My sweetheart and I were getting ready to celebrate our nineteenth wedding anniversary, not long after his fifty-first birthday, and we had already started talking about what we might do together once our girls had gone on to college. Life had settled into a happy routine.

Then, eight days before our anniversary, he suffered a massive heart attack. In a moment, he was gone.

Time passed, as it always does. Our daughters grew up, went to college, did very well for themselves. J married young, a good, kind man I am proud to call my son-in-law. C has a sweetheart as well, and I'm happy he is in her life. J went on to pursue her passion as a dancer after college, C went to work on her PhD.

And I went on as well. I grieved, struggled, strived to make a new life for myself. For a number of years, I cleaned houses to make a living, while searching for what God had for me. I went back to school part-time, and found that I had some real ability to write and speak.

And as time went on, as the years went by, I changed. I became more sure of myself. I learned to trust God more, and to believe that He wasn't going to abandon me. I learned to listen better, little by little, and found that He had plans for me. Much to my surprise, I found myself visiting graduate schools, and settling on Duke Divinity. And as I work to finish my senior year at State and get my applications ready, I pray for clarity. Even all these years aren't always enough to explain the call I now realize is on my life.

During rehearsal today, I was given this song to sing. And I think it says it all.

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more.

("In My Life", Lennon/McCartney)

Thank you for being a part of my life, beloved. And I thank God that we had those years together.

Your (remembering) sis,


Friday, October 16, 2009


Dear Friends,
I will return to my Wednesday and Saturday posting schedule tomorrow, with a post on the incredible changes that have happened in my life in the last week. In the meantime, here's a bit of my life for me to think about....

Music is my native tongue, so to speak. I think in lyric lines, hear music in my head, harmonize constantly with almost anything I'm listening to. I honestly can't imagine it any other way. So, when my favorite band, Third Day, decided to return to the North Carolina State Fair, you know I had to get a ticket, right? I was online the minute the tickets went on sale, and managed to snag a third row, center seat. Wonderful! I could hardly wait to see them again!

In the meantime, life went on. My semester started going full-speed ahead, and I became overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things I had to deal with. Between the classes, church, and my music, there were days that I felt like I could barely keep my head above water. Some days were better than others, but some days I felt like going back to bed and pulling the covers over my head.

I know, I chose to do this. The path I'm called to is going to require this of me, this and sometimes even more. Knowing this didn't make me feel any less worried, however. And for the last couple of weeks, I felt like I was carrying more and more each day. I slipped into my old habit of obsessing over whether I really knew what I was doing. Did God really ask this of me, or was I just imagining it all? I had to know, somehow, whether this was for real.

So, forward to tonight, Dorton Arena, and five thousand fellow Third Day fans. I was sitting there, wishing I had a clue why I felt so lonely and tired, wondering if I had made a mistake coming there by myself. Surrounded by happy couples, families and groups, I felt tremendously alone. But I decided that, even though I was feeling down, I really wanted to hear Mac Powell sing, and I settled in for the beginning of the concert.

And God reached down, for a moment, to touch me.

I was drawn in, and started to sing along with Mac. Old favorites, like "Love Song", and "Blackbird". Worship songs, like "King of Glory" and "God of Wonders". I had finally relaxed, felt peaceful for the first time in days. I had my head thrown back, and was weaving harmony in with Mac's melody line as the lyrics touched my heart:

It’s been so long since you felt like you were loved
So what went wrong
But do you know there’s a place where you belong
Here in my arms

When you feel like you’re alone in your sadness
And it seems like no one in this whole world cares
And you want to get away from the madness
You just call my name and I’ll be there
You just call my name and I’ll be there....

I was crying. But not from sorrow. From relief, from a feeling of peace I had really missed.

My life has led me down the road that’s so uncertain
Now I am left alone and I am broken
Trying to find my way
Trying to find the faith that’s gone

This time I know that you are holding all the answers
I’m tired of losing hope and taking chances
On roads that never seem
To be the ones that bring me home

Give me a revelation
Show me what to do
‘Cause I’ve been trying to find my way
I haven’t got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
Or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I’ve got nothing without you
I’ve got nothing without you

Once again, I'm reminded of all the things I've spent the last few years learning: how much I'm loved, that I am called for a purpose, and that He'll give me what I need to keep moving forward, one step at a time. I can't see into my future, I don't know what I'll be doing next year, next week, or even tomorrow, but it's alright. He knows, and I'm walking with Him.

Give me a revelation
I’ve got nothing without you.

Your (step by step) sis,


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's not what you do...

Singing isn't my life, but it has come very close sometimes.

The first time I can remember singing, I was all of four years old, and performing something simple in a church Christmas pageant. I liked it so much that I wanted to stay on stage longer, and my older brother had to come fetch me. I sang every chance I got, after that.

My first time in front of a church congregation, I was all of seven. I sang "How Great Thou Art" at the Seventh Day Adventist church that ran the school I was attending, and loved every minute of it. By the time I hit my teens, I was singing in a school choir and a member of my church's adult choir. I sang for school programs and some community events, and every chance I got at church, including plenty of solos. I was good, and I knew it, so I took every opportunity I could get to perform. Anywhere, any time, anyhow.

This had some good effects. I got plenty of attention for my abilities, and my voice continued to improve. I got plenty of chances to meet people and learn how to be comfortable in front of crowds.

But, this also had some bad effects as well. Since this was the only thing that I did that got me positive attention, when things went wrong I was devastated. I can remember being horribly depressed for days after forgetting the lyrics during a solo at a Christmas eve service. I felt that if I couldn't do this one thing right, that maybe there was nothing I could really do well at all. I put every last bit of my self-esteem on the line, every time I went forward to perform, and if I failed, I felt as if I was a failure. That if what I did wasn't good enough, that I wasn't good enough.

This false perception has taken years to change. I had to learn that I had more than one gift to use. I had to find out that if something went wrong, it didn't make me a failure. And most of all, that my gifts and talents were not what made me of worth to God. I am of worth to Him because He chose me, not because I have something He needs. That I can please Him by being myself, not by trying to be better than everyone else around me. Not an easy thing to learn, but something I'm still working on finding out.

I still spend a lot of time singing. I am behind a microphone almost every Sunday. And, honestly, I'm pretty good at it. Not the best in the world, not the worst, but pretty good at using the gift of music that has been my most visible talent all these years. Yet, finally, I know that God loves me no matter how my next performance turns out. I am loved, as is.

It's not what you do, it's what you are. God's child, as is.

Your (singing) sis,


Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's not what you have...

I love books. Actually, I love just about anything to read, be it blogs, magazines, or the backs of cereal boxes on a slow day, but especially books. Enormous unabridged dictionaries to look up unusual words, children's picture books to scan and tuck away for my future grandchildren, cookbooks with a thousand different recipes for chili. Gardening books that discuss heat-loving plants, tomes of British and American history, classic science fiction that I've read over and over again. Biographies of visionaries, rulers, and rebels. Fantasy, mystery, theology. I love them all.

And you can tell it the minute you enter my apartment. My little bitty studio apartment.

I have books all over the place. On shelves, in drawers, under the bed, on my desk, in my backpack and purse and truck. I have more books than I have time to read this semester, this year, maybe even a lifetime. And they just keep coming, from thrift shops, bookstores, friends, and Paperbackswap. And I even have books in storage with my personal effects at my friend's house. Just in case I don't have enough to read, sometime in the next century, right?

Really, it's not as bad as it could be, not as bad as it has been in the past. When I moved here, at the beginning of my time at NC State, I got rid of several hundred books. I gave them to friends, to the thrift shop, to fellow members of Paperbackswap, to my church! I knew I couldn't possibly fit them in this new home of mine, not even in boxes. I had to get them out. And with great reluctance, I did so.

For a good while, I felt free. There was plenty of space, and other people would have the time to read my hoarded volumes, while I concentrated on finishing my degree. But then, I started picking them up again. A few books here and there, what could it hurt? I could save them for later, for break, for summer, I'd get to them sooner or later, right?

But I've just realized that I'm working on getting too many books. Again. And it's time to stop, or at the very least, send out books as fast as they come in. I don't have the time to read them! And what is the reason for a book? To be read, that's what.

Okay, so I have a lot fewer than I used to, I still have more than I need. And that goes for a lot of things beside books. What do I really need, anyway? How many CDs can I listen to? How many shirts can I wear, how many pairs of jeans or shoes? And how many pairs of earrings does one woman actually need? The answer is, really, a lot less than I own. And I'm betting that a lot of us can say the same thing.

No matter how cool the ads look, I am not a better person for buying things I don't need. I'm not a nicer person, a better friend, mom, singer, or student. And if I am given a certain amount in life, God didn't just give it to me to please myself with. When I'm not constantly feeding my craving for the latest and greatest by my favorite authors, I have more to give to others who can use the help. People who probably don't have way more things than they need. And that's something that makes me feel better than even the best book.

Time to read what I have, and stop browsing over at Amazon, right?

It's not what you have, it's who you are. The person God made you to be.

Your (recovering book addict) sis,


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Get Lost.

Yeah, I admit it, I need to get some glasses. I should see an eye doctor and get something stronger than the dollar store reading specs that I use to read and use my computer. And I do tend to get turned around when I'm trying to find an unfamiliar place. But add up driving in the dark, not having a decent pair of glasses, and being late to a volunteer job early on a Saturday morning, and you have the perfect recipe for a real problem.

I've been to this location before, a few months ago. I was supposed to be there by 7:00 AM, and I got there a few minutes late because I got turned around. But I thought I remembered how to get there this time, and I had a printed set of directions from Map Quest. So, I wasn't in a hurry this morning, when I pulled out of the parking lot at 5:55 AM for what was supposed to be a 45 minute drive. You'd think I'd know better by now, considering my history, but once again I blithely set out on my way. Without pre-reading my printed directions. Big mistake.

So, I'm tooling along on I-40, and realize that I haven't made a mental note of my first exit number. So, I turn on my dome light (mistake #1), and pick up my directions to check the exit number (mistake #2). As usual, when the light is dim, small print is a bit of a blur, glasses or not. So, I'm driving, and trying to read my map, and of course, I misread the number. Is it 303? 306, 308? I thought it said 303, and made my exit, thinking I was making pretty good time. But several minutes later, I looked at the signs and started to see familiar road names. Wait a minute, what?

Much to my surprise, I had managed to get myself completely turned around! I was actually heading back toward the part of Raleigh I live in! And of course, time is ticking away, and I had to get turned around and try again. Which I did. And made the very same wrong exit.

By this time, I was thoroughly upset, and it was almost 6:30. Due at my volunteer work at 7. I was now driving very fast, though thankfully on a part of I-40 where the speed limit is 70 mph. When I turned around the second time, in a different place, I finally managed to find the proper exit, recognizing a landmark from my previous trip. And got to my work at 7:10.

Alrighty, boys and girls. What is the moral of the story here, other than the fact that I need to bite the bullet and buy new glasses?

Know, and plan for your flaws. I am a person that has a problem finding my way around without a map, or a guide. So, was I smart to try to make a 45 minute drive at 6 AM on a Saturday morning, without figuring out my route in advance? Nope. When all else fails, read the directions. Know what they say.

Let me repeat that last line again: READ THE DIRECTIONS. Whether it's a road map to a strange town, the steps on how to make a cake, or a manual on how to repair your car, reading the instructions tends to make your life easier. Read up. Ask others. Find out what you don't know from someone who does. Get a guide. A friend. A GPS. Why get lost if you don't have to?

And this applies to a lot of things in life. As a Christian, I know that I don't know everything about what I need to know in life. But God has supplied a lot of the information I need, if I'm willing to take the time to study, think, and ask for directions. I don't have to wander around the back roads, worried that I'm going to be late, and that I'm running low on gas, right?

And neither do you, believe me.

I really do think I'm going to get my eyesight checked. And I'm going to read my directions before I find myself on I-40 going in the opposite direction than the one I planned. How about you?

Your (somewhat confused, but finally found) sis,


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To-do list.

It's Wednesday, I survived my three exams in my classes yesterday, and it's time to get a few more things done. But which ones? And where do I start?

The apartment is looking a bit of a mess. I live in a studio apartment here in graduate student housing at NC State, (I'm an undergrad, but being 49 does occasionally have its good points!), and it's just a wee bit small. In one room, I have a mini kitchen, my enormous desk, a twin-size bed, a love seat and a reading chair. And there's stuff on every flat surface right now. I need to do the dishes, clean the bathroom, run a load of laundry, and clear my desk before an avalanche of books and papers slides onto the keyboard. I need to vacuum, and I need to wipe dust off the bookshelves. In other words, I need to totally clean this place before one of my classmates shows up on Friday morning to work on an assignment with me. Sigh......

Then there's the class stuff. I need to read chapters in four of my five textbooks, taking notes as I go. I need to type out an assignment to be posted on a class website, go to the library website and start researching treatment methods for borderline personality disorder, and write out flashcards for this coming week's vocabulary words in espaƱol. That's actually a shorter list than usual, but it's still going to eat up some time.

Add to this my work over at my church. I'm one of the people who are working as staff for our current Alpha series, and Wednesday is the day we run it. So, I need to head over there this afternoon and set up tables, get prepared for serving dinner, set up the book table, and make sure that the volunteers know what they need to know and do. There's the band rehearsal on Saturday, some cleaning of the building to get done, and some volunteer work I've signed up for in Smithfield this weekend.

Finally, and just as important as everything else, there are things that I need to do for myself. I need to take a walk so I can get some exercise and blow the cobwebs out of my brain. I need to spend some time in the scriptures and prayer every day, and a lot of days I don't get there. I need to work on my applications for grad school. I need to cook some healthy food and get it in the freezer for those many nights when I'm exhausted and don't want to cook. And I need to spend time with my friends before I start turning into a hermit that just comes out of my hole to work!

God help me. I know I can do it, I've done it before. But there are times I feel somewhat overwhelmed by my chosen life. I can end up feeling sorry for myself, if I'm not careful. I can get tired and worried, if I'm not careful to remember why I'm doing this. I'm doing this for a reason: I am called to be a person who serves God by serving others. And it's not an easy road! But with God's help and strength, I can do whatever He asks me to do.

So, time to write out today's to-do list. And choose not to let it get to me. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, after all.

Your (persevering) sis,


Monday, September 21, 2009

Ain't it grand?

There's a suitcase sitting open on a chair, slowly filling up with things for a certain baby girl. Pinks and greens and blues and yellows, blankets and onesies and bibs, with a yellow rubber ducky sitting on top of the stack. Soon, I'll make a quick trip to Denver to deliver them to my sweet J, eldest daughter and mother-to-be. Hey, did I mention I'm about to become a grandmother?

I started my family fairly young. I met my future husband when I was just nineteen, married right before my twenty-first birthday, and by the time I was twenty-three I was a mother twice over. It was a wonderful surprise, actually: I wasn't a girl who dreamed of getting married and having babies, but God had plans for me, and I'm happy with how it turned out. J and C are both now in their mid-twenties, through with their undergraduate work, and are beautiful, talented young women. If you've been around me for a while, you've probably heard me talking about them, and yes, I'm really proud of them both.

So, when I told my friends and family at my church about J becoming a mother, they decided to show how much they loved me (and my beloved J) by throwing a shower! And since J is in Denver and I'm in Raleigh, I got to be the proxy guest of honor. Cool! It's been a good number of years since I've been to a shower, and it was really fun to be inundated by beautiful and useful things for my future granddaughter. (Yes, it's a girl, name as yet to be revealed. I'll get back to you, I promise!)

Y'know what? I am very much loved. This is just another reminder of it.

It never ceases to amaze me, really. I grew up thinking that if I could work hard enough, be good enough, look pretty enough, be religious enough, that I could earn the love I needed. But no matter how hard I tried, it just didn't happen. There was always something I missed, something I didn't do well enough at, a standard beyond my reach. So, after a while, I pretty much gave up on the effort. I knew that I was a Christian, I knew that God had (for some strange reason) accepted me, but I felt like a second-class citizen. Never good enough.

It took Him years to get through to me that I was loved as-is. Not for what I might be someday, not for what I could do for Him, but just for being me. Quirks and all. Sometimes, I get angry, wondering what I did to deserve the bad things, the problems and stresses and griefs of life. But then I remember that I didn't do anything to deserve all the wonderful things I have, either. God is with me through all of it, and I am completely loved, no matter what. As the song says:

When we don't get what we deserve
it's a real good thing (real good thing)
When we get what we don't deserve

it's a real good thing (a real good thing)

Oh, yeah. We get love. Ain't it grand?

Your (well-loved) sis,