Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Wide and How Long?

Giant Greek Salad . . . one of many food items 

 Three weeks ago, my friend, Phella (used the name Grace in talk), walked into my office and said, “Room 300 is 43 feet long and 31 feet wide. We can set up two serving tables for food, one table for drinks and seven tables with ten chairs each and there will still be a space large enough for Gary and Dona to stand and greet friends.” I looked up at her and said, “how tall are the ceilings?” Room 300 has a peaked roof - she thought for a second before answering, “I don’t know. Maybe the ceilings are 35 feet. Why?” I said, “listen to this passage of scripture from Ephesians – Chapter 3 verses 16-20.

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

Both of our eyes filled with tears. Room 300 is home to the John Wesley Sunday School class. Our class. We were measuring the room and setting up tables in order to host a luncheon following a memorial service. Jason, the son of our friends, Gary and Dona, was diagnosed with stage IV colo/rectal cancer 7 years ago. On July 5, 2013, at the young age of 40, Jason received his ultimate healing.

During those 7 years, we all saw what it means to be rooted and established in love and we also grasped just a glimpse of how wide and how long and how high and deep the love of Christ really is.

Did you know that the love of Christ might be as wide as the waiting room at UAB Hospital where Jason had many surgeries? Many class members sat with the family during those surgeries. Did you know that the love of Christ might be as long as the interstate to Chattanooga and back? Gary and Dona drove that interstate back and forth as many times as they needed to do so – no matter how tired they were. Did you know that the love of Christ might be as high as 100’s of prayers lifted on Jason’s behalf – asking God for healing. Jason was told that he had only a 25% chance of being alive 5 years from time of diagnosis and he lived 7 years. God heard those prayers. Did you know that the love of Christ might be as deep as a 9 X 13 casserole dish filled with poppy seed chicken?

All of these may seem small – sitting with a friend, driving back and forth, praying, cooking – but as St. Teresa of Avila wrote we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ on this earth - Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

When we are the hands and feet of Christ we show and experience just a tiny glimpse of how wide and how long and how high and how deep the love of Christ is . . ..but it is only a tiny glimpse because Christ is able to do so much more than we can even imagine.

Verse 20 of the scripture says - Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine . . .immeasurably more. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Jason’s family graciously wanted to invite everyone who attended the memorial service to the luncheon. Those of us planning the luncheon emailed back and forth a few times and in the last email I shared these same verses of scripture with them and said, “It is going to be ok. God is going to do immeasurable things on Friday.”

On Friday morning before the service, the food started pouring in. We fed every single person that showed up. We sent a packed cooler of food home with the family. We sent trays of desserts to the hotel for a hospitality suite for the family’s out of town guests. We had enough food left over to serve a homeless ministry . . .and they even received pieces of yummy pie and cheesecake – a delicious treat for them. Immeasurable – no need to get out that big old tape measure . . .these things weren’t measurable – they were far greater.

I know from personal experience that the love of Christ is indeed wide and long and high and deep –much wider and higher and longer and deeper than room 300 . . .but on Friday, July 12, room 300 all 43 feet by 31 feet – certainly held an abundance of the love of Christ. Most amazingly of all . . . God is indeed able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine in and through us. On that day, a hard day by earthly standards – because Jason will be missed so very much – we were surrounded by a love like no other – a love that can heal all wounds – a love that knows our pain . . .God’s love is so wide and so long and so high and so deep . . . he can do immeasurably more than we can ever imagine. Thanks be to God.

Monday, July 29, 2013

She drives . . .she works . . .she cleans . . .

Well, yesterday I woke at the crack of dawn and finished packing my stuff and loaded it into my car. I sure did miss Mark. He is such a good packer and loader. It took two trips to get my stuff down to the car but I was smart and borrowed the cart from the hotel and loaded my heavy suitcase on it and rolled it to the car. I took enough clothes for two weeks . . .why? because I packed all my insecurities in that stupid suitcase. I read someone's post on She Speaks 2013. She said that she was going to take clothes to change throughout the day. Well, I thought I needed to do the same. Did I ever do that? Heck no!!! It was nice today. I had clean and ironed clothes all ready to wear to work!! I actually passed a girl in the lobby yesterday and there was that giant suitcase on the cart and I said, "all my insecurities are packed in that suitcase!" She actually seemed to understand! I grabbed a banana and a piece of sausage from the breakfast buffet and was on the road by 6:30 Birmingham time. I drove through some pretty intense fog in North Carolina and some rain in South Carolina but the weather was pretty good for driving. I stopped three times for the bathroom and one of those times I also bought gas . . .and I didn't realize it until I went into the little gas station portion but I was not in a nice neighborhood at all but it was ok. I smiled at folks and they smiled back and I remembered that we were all created by God and I decided I would not have any preconceived notions about other people. I went to the bathroom, got a diet pepsi and got back in the car and headed on my way. At some point, I stopped and loaded a sermon from my home church onto my phone and listened to the sermon from the contemporary service from last Sunday . . .while my husband was worshipping in the early traditional service at home. It was kind of nice to know that I was connected in that way. If you want to hear an incredible sermon, listen to this: http://www.trinitybirmingham.com/sermons/july-21-2013-you-me-we-committed/ So . . .made it home in a little under 7 hours. Actually, I called Mark and he said they were all at his mom's house eating Sunday lunch (our family tradition). I knew there was NO food in our house so I went to her house for lunch before heading home. I planned to go to the store and do all sorts of stuff in the afternoon but I couldn't do a thing. I just sat in a chair with my feet propped up on the stool. . . and then I went to bed and slept . . .like a log . . . and then went to work . . .and now I'm supposed to be cleaning to get ready for young adult study tomorrow night. Several people have asked me to share my talk that I gave in the critique session. I'll post it tomorrow. We are going on our staff retreat in the morning down to Horses Horses. I'm looking forward to the day. We will be doing our planning for the fall. I keep thinking about the comment from the weekend. I just want to serve Jesus. I need to remember that tomorrow. I just want to serve Jesus. Yes, I drive. I work. I clean. I want to serve Jesus.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

God has called . . and I have listened . . .now what will I do?

OH MY GOODNESS!!  This has been an unbelievable few days!  There really are not enough words to describe all I have experienced.  I arrived on Wednesday night not knowing anyone and as I got off the elevator tonight, I told my new friend, Janet . . "I love you.  I can't believe we've only known each other since Thursday morning."  Isn't it amazing that God can weave our lives together like that in such a short amount of time?  Those of you who know me are thinking it is just because I can talk to a fire hydrant and learn its life story in ten minutes.  NOT SO.  Tonight at dinner, the lady sitting next to Janet poured out her life story about having two young adult children with autism.  She said that this conference was like no other she had ever attended.  People actually cared about YOUR STORY.  People asked and wanted to hear and actually listened.  700 women bonded with other women . . .I felt like I made at least 15 new friends and made two strong friendships.  There were two young women in my speaker's group that I would love to mentor if we lived in the same city.

I just got off the phone after talking with Mark (I sure have missed him!).  I told him that even these famous authors and speakers have made us feel like they are our friends.  I don't know how they have done that but they have.  They have made themselves vulnerable by sharing their stories with us.  They have made us laugh and they have made us cry.  They have told us about their children and their hopes and dreams and successes and failures.  They have reminded us over and over and over again that each one of us is called by God for a unique purpose that only we can fulfill. . . and that we don't have to do it alone.  Not only do we have the power of the Holy Spirit, but we are surrounded by sisters . . .and we don't have to compare ourselves to those sisters because if we are busy looking at those sisters .  . . we can't keep our eyes on God.

I am bone weary . . .but filled to the brim and over flowing.  I dread the drive home tomorrow yet look forward to returning to ministry refreshed and refueled.  I have been reminded WHY I do what I do and even more importantly WHO IS THE HERO IN THIS STORY CALLED LIFE (and over death!!) and WHO I AM SERVING.

The talk critique went as well as could be expected.  I was the only one out of 10 women in my speaker's group who used full notes.  I am still a little shocked by that.  I talked at length about that with Mark tonight.  I can't imagine trying to stand up and teach a 20 minute Sunday School lesson without having my typed out notes.  I make lots and lots of eye contact but I would be rambling all over the place.  They recommended that I work on that but they said they loved the content.  As a matter of fact, one person thought my content was so good that I should submit it to a magazine!  (I forgot to tell that to Mark!!)

I will post it on my blog in a few days . . .perhaps.  For now . . .I do know without a shadow of doubt that God has called me to be in ministry for him . . .to use my gifts for him . . .I have listened.  What will I do?  For now, I will study some more.  I need to get deeper into the word of God.  I need to fall in love with the word of God.  So often reading scripture is a chore.  I don't want it to be that way.  I will continue teaching and facilitating and praying . . .and I will wait . . . .for some reason . . . I feel like God may be planning to change my call soon . . . .but I don't know why I think that or how I think he would change it . . . I just feel a strange stirring in my heart like I felt when I first received the call to teach all those years ago.  So . . .I covet your prayers please.  God is speaking and I am trying to listen . . .and be obedient. . . .and to be honest, that scares the crap out of me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Drinking from the firehose

At Trinity when we get a new staff member, we often tell them that working with us is like "drinking from a firehose."  Ministry is coming at you so fast and furiously that you can't take it all in.  Today has been like drinking from a firehose for me.

We started with amazing worship again this morning.  Michael O'Brian is leading us in worship music.  He used to be with New Song.  He is doing a great job.  Let me just tell you that there is nothing like hearing over 700 women singing.  It is an amazing sound.  Just think about angels.

Lysa TerKeurst spoke at the opening session and she was also the speaker for my first breakout session.  She is such a great speaker and so warm and funny and she seems like someone with whom you could be friends.  She used a scripture from 2 Samuel 20 and talked about how we should each want to be remembered as One Wise Woman.  Later in the day, a young woman in my speaker's group who heard me say that I have taught sunday school for 20 years said, "you must be one of those "one wise women."  Brought tears to my eyes because I certainly never think of myself in that way.  I was so humbled.  Lysa said one thing that has brought me to my knees.  She said that we have to hold our ministries with open hands.  Our identities can never get caught up in our ministries.  God has some work to do on me.  She told us that when our identities become entangled with our ministries is how we become insecure.  I can see it as plain as the nose on my face . . .NOW.  She closed with these words, "may we leave our mark as one wise woman."
The first break-out session was "The Power of a Story."  She had some excellent points and I made great notes.  Here she is a professional speaker and she told a funny story about a booger!  (of course, that is not what I remember most - I'm just so tired that I was sitting here in my bed laughing about it right now!)  I also have a note written in my margin that Clinical Secret works because she was talking about sweating.  I sweat like a PIG when I teach or speak and that made me feel so much better that she even said something about it!  I learned a lot, didn't I?  Seriously . . .I learned so very much.

The food at the conference center/hotel  has been amazing today.  They have served us buffet style and they are serving over 700 people in a very timely manner and they are serving good food.  Dinner was a choice of flank steak or salmon with quinoa and potatoes and gorgeous salad and green beans and lots of other choices and the most beautiful choices for dessert - from bread pudding and whisky sauce to cheesecake!

Another session I attended today was tricks to use while speaking - eyes, voice, hands, posture, connectors.  The guy that taught that class has taught that same class for major corporations and he was really good.  We had to role play and I hate role playing but it was ok.  I felt pretty foolish but I lived through it.  He said, "after you finish speaking, you should be sweating!  It is work!"  That means two people have confirmed that my sweating on Sunday is ok.  I'm beginning to feel better about that!!!

Luann Prater did a session on prayer this afternoon and I am so glad I went to that one.  I had to go to my speaker coaching group and I was late to the prayer session and thought about not going into the room .  . . because I was late.  I am SO GLAD I slipped into the back of the room.  She said, "when I am having a pity party, Lord, remind me that I am not in competition with anyone else."  She also said, "god wants to do something fabulous through me."  She had all of us - there were maybe 60 or so of us in the room - hold hands at the end of the session and she prayed a very powerful prayer over all of us.

Now those of you who know me, know that I am a rule follower.  Tonight . ..I broke a rule.  I had signed up for one class . . .and I went to another one.  I am so glad I did.  I never do that kind of thing.  Ever.  I went to hear the session on "your most important message" which was about how every time we speak (teach) our most important message is to share about Jesus.  Feel good stuff ain't gonna get it according to the two ladies that taught the class.  They reminded me a little of my baptist upbringing. . . which is not all bad.  One of the ladies shared her story of how she was raped right after she graduated from college and how her life was changed . . .and then how God worked through all that muck.

After dinner (I told you it was a full day - drinking from a fire house!! . . .I know this is a lot of words and this post is mostly for my benefit but if you are hanging with me, I am thrilled!!), we were privileged to have Michael O'Brian lead us in more worship music.  Then Michael Hyatt, a New York Times Best Selling Author and Speaker spoke to us.  It was excellent.  He talked to us about building our platform and building our tribe.  It was so interesting.  I feel so knowledgeable!!!

So . . .yes, I drank from the firehose today.  I hung with my two new friends some more.  One of my new friends met with a publisher and her book is going to get published.  She is an amazing illustrator.  I've never seen artwork like hers.  I want to buy her book.

More importantly, yes . . .I heard God speak . . .several times today.  He spoke directly to me a few times today.

Tomorrow is the big day.  My speaker coaching group will be meeting from 2:45 until dinner and we will each make our five minute presentation and then be critiqued.  If anyone out there is reading this, I sure would appreciate some prayers.  I feel like a small fish in a mighty big pond  BUT I do know that God has called me to teach and to facilitate.  I do know that he is giving me tools in order to grow.  I do know that I am NOT in competition with these ladies (even though I have a competitive spirit and want to win . . .and there is no winning!! - not really - but sort of -  you know what I mean? I know that makes no sense - I just reread it).  I do want to bring glory to God.  I do.  God's love is so wide and so long and so high and so deep. 

I need to get some sleep.  I am tired.  it was a good day.  I've been drinking from the firehose.  I heard God speak.  Lord, your servant is still listening.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I heard HIM today . . .

Well, I was indeed feeling a little sorry for myself last night.  I was trying not to let it bleed through in my blog post.  I actually erased a whole paragraph because I just couldn't bare my soul to the world as easily as I thought I could.  I was in a hotel room all by myself watching a Disney movie (which was cute) feeling excluded.  I did pray about it as I was falling asleep . . .and several times during the night . . .and again this morning.

We were given a voucher to use for breakfast at our hotel this morning so I went down to the Bistro and I decided I would try to "make a friend" ONE MORE TIME.  There was a lady ordering her food.  I saw her ordering food last night and I knew she was the same one because I heard her tell the person that she had lots of food allergies.  So I took a deep breath and said, "are you here for She Speaks?" and I smiled at her.  She said, "yes" and smiled back.  I took another really deep breath and said, "would you like to sit with me and eat breakfast?"  Oh my goodness . . .I felt like I was in middle school and I was trying to sit at the popular girls' lunch table.  She was a total stranger.  She said, "YES"!!  So we got our food and found a table and there was a lady about our age at the next table and new friend number one (Cheryl) asked lady at next table, "are you here for She Speaks?"  She said, "YES"!!  We asked her to join us.  I got even BOLDER.  I said, "may I ask a blessing over our breakfast?"  Oh my goodness.  I am with total strangers in the middle of a hotel lobby.  I've known these women less than ten minutes and I am praying with them.  We ate breakfast together and chatted and made plans to walk to the conference together.  Amazing how different just a small social interaction can make you feel.  Friend number two's name is Janet and she has a horrible cold.  Before we left the lobby, Cheryl said, "we are going to pray for you to feel better."  I had known these two women less than 30 minutes and we prayed together in PUBLIC two times.  We didn't make a big deal out of it either time.  There were about four tables of big ole bikers right next to us and I don't think they even noticed . . .but if they did, that is just fine, too!!

So . . . . . .we walked down and registered for the pre-conference sessions and looked at books (you know  how every conference has book tables?).  They also have a prayer chapel set up so I went to the prayer chapel and prayed.  They have every conference attendees name typed on a strip of paper (over 700 women) and they have bigger pieces of paper that look like parchment.  On an 8 1/2 by 11 piece of parchment, they have one of the many names for God typed in big print.  Like spokes, they have about 20 of the attendees names attached to the piece of parchment paper.  Interspersed among the papers are candles.  They have a huge cross in one corner of the room.  They have two padded kneelers in the center of the room.  They have a circle of pillows in the middle where you could either sit or fall on your face in prayer.  There are people in that room continuously praying BY NAME for all of the conference attendees and speakers.  Isn't that powerful?  I spent some time on one of the kneelers praying.

The opening session of worship was amazing.  I am not a crier.  I was moved to tears within the first few moments of music.  We were singing basic praise songs I've sung 100's of times and we sang one hymn . . .the music was beautiful and full of the Holy Spirit.  Sharon Glasgow spoke to us and she was funny and insightful and set the tone for the day.

I attended three break-out session today - two on social media . . .facebook/blogging/twitter/websites and one on developing your message.  We were reminded all day that everything we do is to bring glory to God and that we are to be CALLED by God first and foremost . . .and that sometimes we are called and then we have to wait . . .sometimes for many years . . .sounds like my story!!

I've known for years that God called me to teach.  Teaching is different from speaking.  Some of these women want to be like Beth Moore or they want to be the Key Note Speaker at events.  Yes, they have a story and they feel called to tell it.  When I say they have stories . . .these women really have stories.  Some of them are trying to get book contracts and will be meeting with publishers and agents tomorrow and Saturday.  It is not easy to get published.  You have to have a platform - followers on twitter and facebook.  Our world  . . .it is a'changin'!

But God's call is still the same . . .Lisa, do you hear me?  Yes, Lord, Speak.  Your servant is listening.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What is HE going to say over the next three days?

It has rained and rained and rained some more . . . and as I was driving to work this week, this was my view.  Yes, I was on the interstate and yes, I took this picture and  yes, I know it was stupid but I had to take this picture.  I promise that I endangered no one.  I leave for work later than most of the rest of my town so I was not in rush hour traffic.  Look . . .it is like the eyes of God.  This is not a touched up picture.  I took it with my phone propped on top of the steering wheel.  My caption on instagram was something like "God's eyes are blue?" . . . so that is how my week began . . .seeing the eyes of God.

Last night, we hosted our Tuesday night young professionals group.  Goodness gracious.  Mark and I love those young adults.  We are doing a study called Soul  Detox and it is so good.  The presenter is a little different from others we have used before but the "meat" is good stuff.  Last night was about radioactive relationships.  This topic is so important for every age but it EXTREMELY important for these young adults who are making decisions regarding relationships with potential spouses, friends, etc.  Good stuff.  Every close relationship in your life is either a spiritual asset or a spiritual curse.

Today I drove more miles by myself than ever before. A first!   I actually did a fist pump in the car when I navigated through Atlanta and landed on the other side safely!  I am so thankful that I don't have to navigate through Atlanta traffic every day.  I listened to a lot of satellite radio - I love The Message - channel 63 on my satellite.  I also caught up on some phone conversations - hands free!!  It was a big day!  My best friend of 25+ years became a grandmother for the first time . . so we had to talk about that!!  I also talked to my "boss" and my sister and my mother-in-law and my son and my husband.  I DID NOT TEXT while driving.  I did text with my daughter and two friends while at the gas station and while at Hardees or some hamburger place.  I went in and ate lunch at a table by myself!!  I decided I needed to get out of the car for a few minutes.

I tried to connect with some of the other conference attendees tonight.  I am an extrovert. . . EXCEPT when I am the only person I know . . .and then I become shy and an introvert.  It is rare but it is true.  So I actually flung myself out there on facebook and asked if I could join some folks at a meet and greet tonight . . and no one answered me back . . .soooooooooo . . .I went down to the bistro in my hotel and ordered this
(I paid for it! - the conference doesn't start until tomorrow!!)

and a really good burger (I just realized I ate two hamburgers in one day - only one bun!) and once again sat at a table by myself and ate dinner (that sounds really pitiful!!!!).  Then I came back up to my room and watched a Disney movie which was a treat (really!!  Beverly Hills Chihauhau - cute movie!).  I never get to watch anything like that anymore because all we watch is "boy/man" tv.  You know - we watch "naked and afraid" and "duck dynasty" and "swamp people" and "life below zero" (or something like that) . . .or rather Mark watches those and I sit in the room and sort of listen and either read a book on my kindle or look at facebook or blog. .  .but at least we are in the same room, right?

So, I don't think I've taken very many selfie pictures before but here I am.  I am in my room at the hotel.  I gave up my room at the fancy hotel because the conference planners called me and asked me if I would be willing to do so.  They offered me a night with one of the main speakers/authors along with 60 other women.  I drove down the street to the other hotel to check it out today.  The main hotel is much fancier.  We were supposed to be able to walk back and forth between the hotels but it is uphill from the conference center/hotel back to my hotel . . .all the way uphill . . .so I am not sure how many times I am going to be hoofing it up that hill.  I think I will just pack my toothbrush in my purse tomorrow morning and see how the day goes. 

So I am here . . .and I spent a lot of time praying and listening to praise music today in the car.  The conference is She Speaks but I am hoping that I hear God speak this weekend.  I feel like a sponge that has been left on the side of the sink while the family has been on a two week vacation . . .a little dried out?  I am ready to soak up everything He has to say this weekend.  Speak Lord Speak!  Speak loudly!  Speak softly!  Speak where I can hear you!  Speak Lord Speak!  Speak to me!  Speak through me!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What to do with all those extra tomatoes . . . .

Last weekend Mark and Glenn went to the farm and when they returned, they brought goodies. One of the goodies included a box of tomatoes . . . alabama garden tomatoes . . .home grown. Nothing like a good home grown tomato.  I had just purchased a small box of tomatoes from Mr. Davidson, the vegetable man, on Thursday . . .so I had more tomatoes that I could eat.  Mark doesn't eat tomatoes unless he makes himself.  How could you not love a tomato sandwich with mayo and lots of pepper???  YUMMY!! 

So this box from the farm was sitting in the laundry room floor full of tomatoes (I put these three back in to take a picture for y'all!) and I saw a few fruit flies . . .so I knew I had to do something quickly.

I put a big pot of water on to boil.  As soon as the water came to a rolling boil . . .

I dropped the tomatoes into the water for just a few seconds.

When you do that, the peel releases from the tomato in a thin sheet.  There is no waste of the good "meat."

I put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and placed all the tomatoes on the cookie sheet and slid that cookie sheet right onto a freezer shelf until later in the day.  When they were nice and solid, I placed them in a freezer bag and sucked the air out (using a straw in the zipper top of the bag) and put them back in the freezer.  Now I have a nice bag of fresh tomatoes to use in gumbo or soup or sauce.  This is such an easy way to freeze those extra tomatoes!!!!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

supper club

I just saw this "draft" in my blog list and I looked at the lovely pictures and actually said out loud, "ah heck. This was back in May and it is now July 17!!" Thought I would share anyway! Guy and Phella's new house is so nice and they have this wonderful breezeway between their house and the garage.  One wall is the outer wall of the house and one wall is the outer wall of the garage.  The other two walls are screen.  On this evening in May, the breezeway was doing its job . . .catching the breeze.  It was quite comfortable outside. I always wanted a breezeway when I was growing up. The house across the street from us had a breezeway . . .but I think I remember that family storing their deepfreezer in their breezeway and only using it as a walkway from the garage to the rest of the house.  I love that this breezeway is also a "living space."  Granted . . .we live in the deep south and we have lots of pollen and lots of long and hot days so I don't know how much I, personally, would use an outdoor space because I am soooo hot natured and I have so many allergies . . .but Phella . . ..Phella is cold natured.  I bet she will use this space often.  I can just see a big old comfy chair and a small table.  It would be a great place for morning devotions!!

Phella set a beautiful, yet simple, table.  She had mason jars with twine wrapped around each one and she used hydrangeas from her yard.  She used plain votive cups with white candles and a burlap runner on top of white cloths.  There was another flower in the jars also but I have no idea of the name of that flower.

I love this picture of the "glow" of the candles against the rough texture of the burlap . . .and the flowers in the background and even further back the lush green of a May evening in Alabama.  I don't feel like I get "great" shots often but this is one of my favorites . . .maybe not Southern Living worthy but certainly good!

I didn't take very many pictures that night but for some reason snapped this one of Laura M. and Mark.  Isn't that an incredible island?  We ate our appetizers inside.  I was in charge of appetizers and made sausage stuffed mushrooms.  They were yummy.

This night in May was a good night because Gary and Dona were able to join us. They have been unable to join us most months due to Jason's illness and travels and having their house on the market and other reasons. We thought we were all going to be together but at the last minute, Scott and Bonnie had to bow out due to other activities that day that had worn them out (that is a southern expression!! worn out!). When we are all together, there is this sense of family - of belonging - like no other. 

We sat on the porch and ate supper and drank great margaritas (courtesy of Guy's blender skills) and talked and laughed and talked and laughed some more. Just sitting here typing those words calls up that evening in my mind. It is one of those memories that makes you smile - not just a smile on your mouth but a smile in your heart. You know what I mean? I think that is one of the main reasons I blog. I don't want to forget those kinds of evenings. Those rare moments when everything seems just right.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to Get Rid of Snake in the Yard

The strangest thing happened. We have had a snake in our back yard for several years. We have found his skin and we saw HIM last year ONE time. This year, we realized that he was living under the bush at the top of our driveway. He was a good snake. My husband assured me of that fact. I decided that I would try hard to not be afraid of him.  I would remember that he was going to eat mosquitoes.  I hate mosquitoes.  If he was going to eat them, that would be a good thing, right???  So . . .he was living under the bush and also he was living in the bush.  (he did scare . . .startle . . .Mark when Mark was trimming the bushes because half of the snake plopped out of the bush onto Mark . . .glad I wasn't outside to see that!!!)

We noticed that he loved the warm bricks.  The sun would shine on the bricks and heat them up and he would slide out onto said bricks and warm himself.  So one afternoon, I pulled into the driveway and I immediately saw him sitting there.  I grabbed my phone and hopped out of the car and started snapping pictures.

I was able to get really close to him because I could hold the phone up and snap away.  I could see his "tongue" (do snakes have tongues?) flicking in and out.  I was that close to him!!!  I was a little freaked out but I kept saying to myself, "he is a good snake.  good snake.  good snake." snap snap snap

Guess what? You know how to get rid of a snake? Have a photo session with one. He did not like having his photo taken numerous times. He didn't seem happy when I was taking his picture. That was actually why I stopped. He seemed a little agitated . . .which made me agitated. He was gone the next day . . . and we haven't seen him since. So . . .if you have a snake in your yard . . .take his picture . . .a bunch . . .with your phone . . . .and he will be gone . . .just like that! hahahahahaha!!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Friends loved as much as family

Every once in a while, people are blessed with friends whom they love like family. We have been blessed in that way. There are several families in our church whom we consider family. We call them when we rejoice. We call them when we are sad. We call them when we laugh. We call them when we cry. We call them when we need help. They do the same with us. One of those families is pictured here. We love this family - all of them and right now we hurt with them. You see, seven years ago, Jason, the handsome young man on the left was diagnosed with cancer. He was way too young to have cancer. It just couldn't be true. But it was true.

Jason was a fighter. Jason, along with an army of doctors, fought a long hard battle. He took more rounds of chemo and had more radiation treatments and more surgery than any one body should have to endure. He and his daddy, Gary, said they were running a marathon - not a sprint. Jason did just that. He kept on putting one foot in front of the other going from one scan to the next. On Friday, Jason went to be with Jesus. I can hardly type those words without sobbing. Yes, I am a Christian and yes, I believe he is with Jesus and yes, I believe he is no longer in pain and his body is whole and I hope he is eating something really yummy and enjoying every bite and I hope he is fishing in God's favorite fishing spot . . .but oh, Jason will be missed on earth. One of my preacher friends, Wade Griffith, told me that when we pray for healing, we are praying for MORE TIME. God gave Jason more time. Statistically his chances were slim of living even five years yet he lived here on this earth 7 years after his diagnosis. He was a fighter. He was courageous. He was running a marathon not a sprint.

Jason loved to fish. Anytime we were able to spend time with Jason, he and Mark were talking about fishing. Oh he loved to fish. He was also so kind to our daughter, Laura. I can't give you a single example of that but it is somehow seared on my brain that he was so kind to her.  I can actually see them laughing together about something - that is some memory that is tickling around in my brain.  He loved his crazy dog . . .even though that dog drove his daddy and Dona crazy at times. He loved his family.

Did I mention that he was a fighter? Did I mention his courage? Did I mention that he was running a marathon not a sprint? Oh, yes he was.

Back in November our friend Butch (another friend loved as much as family) died when she fell down a flight of steps. Butch mailed a card to Jason every single week telling him that she was thinking of him and praying for him. She actually put a card in the mail to him on the day she died. I keep wondering if Butch was standing at the Pearly Gates waiting on Jason with open arms . . .standing beside Jesus saying, "I've been waiting on you. Welcome home. You are going to love it here. Let me show you around." I know that is probably not theologically correct but that thought has given me comfort over the last few days. This is going to be a really hard week for our friends. We are going to surround them with prayer . . .and we are going to surround them with hugs . . .we are going to feed them (we live in the south - we are united methodists - that is what we do - feed people!!). We will be with them on Friday at the memorial service. They are our friends. They are our family.  We sure will miss you Jason.  Tell Butch hello for us.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Robert & Suzanne's Wedding and our weekend in Atlanta

Warning - photo overload!!  Memories included!!
I was reading my daughter-in-law's blog this morning and she said that they are in the wedding and wedding shower and baby shower season of life . . .and so are we. Wherever your kids are/whatever season . . .no matter the age . . .that is pretty much where you find yourself also. I imagine that might change as they get older, but I don't really know. I do know that we are also in the wedding, wedding shower, baby shower season of life!! The last few weekends have certainly proven that point. We have had so much fun. One of those weddings was in Atlanta. We drove over after lunch on Friday afternoon in time to arrive at the Georgian Club for the rehearsal dinner.  I'll have to tell a story on myself.  I forgot my cute little dressy black purse - you know - the kind that holds a lipstick and your cell phone and not much else??  I forgot it at home - 2 hours away.  The only purse in the car was my Vera Bradley shoulder bag . . . it did not match my dress nor the decor of the club.  At this moment, I cannot remember what my poor husband said to me that made me so furious but I remember my retort.  It was, "why do you ALWAYS have to criticize me?  why can't you say nice things to me like other husbands?"  At that point, I threw my car keys at him and exited the car in a huff and stomped across the parking lot in my high heels into the air conditioned lobby of the building."  I stood there and waited on him.  In a few minutes, he arrived . . .carrying my Vera Bradley handbag (I'm laughing as I type this but it was SOOOO NOT FUNNY at the time) and he said, "I found your phone but I don't have the car keys."  I said, "Well, I threw them at you so you should have them."  So it is only about 100 degrees outside and we both stomp back across the parking lot and he opens the door and says something like, "see they aren't in here."  I said, "move!"  I reached my hand down beside the seat and pulled out the keys.  I've lost way too many things in that same spot so I knew they had to be there.  Then we went back inside and put smiles on our faces and went to opposite corners of the party and were very nice to other people.  End of story.  I swear.  In hindsight, I do not know why I have to act like such a butt.  I was the designated driver so I didn't even drink anything except for toasting later in the evening.  The meal was delicious, the centerpieces were lovely, the bride and her dress were really lovely, the toasts were from heartfelt to hilarious.  It was such a nice rehearsal dinner.

I was able to put my anger aside long enough to take a picture of Mark and Allen.  Mark looks a little afraid of me at this point, doesn't he?  Oh me - I must have been really bad that night!!!!

Robert, the groom, is a twin like our kids.  The rehearsal dinner was on his (and his twin brother's) birthday so they served this cake that night.  I'm trying to remember if we sang happy birthday or not???  Maybe???
The Georgian Club was a lovely location with a really nice view from all those windows. 

The party lasted until 10:30 or so and we had not checked into our hotel yet so we arrived, checked in and crashed and actually slept in (somewhat) the next morning.  What a luxury.  It was a gorgeous morning and we enjoyed looking out our window at several different condominium complexes around us.  I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a high rise with one of those balconies.

We NEVER go out to breakfast unless we are somewhere alone like this.  We used our phones to look up restaurants around us and then just started walked toward one.  Our cell phones today make life so easy.  We actually walked a few blocks away to The Corner Bakery Cafe.  Mark ordered french toast made with cinnamon rolls and bacon and eggs.  He was disappointed in the french toast (I thought it tasted yummy but I don't like that much "sweetness" for breakfast) because it was kind of doughy in the center.  That is the same reason he prefers waffles over pancakes.  He prefers a more "done" texture.

I ordered this it was a breakfast panini with a side of baked home fries.  I have been eating grilled cheese or grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches for breakfast for years and people think I'm so weird.  When I bit into the breakfast panini, I said to Mark, "Oh my goodness, tastes just like what I make!!"  I don't think I had ever had a panini before.  Of course, their sandwich was really much much better than what I make at home because it had a whole lot of other ingredients on it but after realizing that restaurants serve basically grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches for breakfast, I'm going to quit feeling weird and just start calling mine a "breakfast panini."

As we were walking back to the hotel, there was a nice little bench in the shade and we sat down for a moment for Mark to text with a friend.  I never thought I would type those words.  We've both had our Iphones for a while and Mark will text a few words to us but he was actually typing a long text to our friend in Nashville about a car!!  You can see the street in the background . . .no cars . . .that changed quickly.  Even on a Saturday . . .I have never seen so much traffic in my life.  Our drive to the church for the wedding was supposed to take 9 minutes.  Guess how many minutes?  45!!!  Thank goodness I am married to a man who always makes us leave early or we would have been late!!!!!

One of my favorite parts of the day was a trip to Trader Joe's.  I wish we had a Trader Joe's.  I don't understand why we can't have one.  Our city is large enough to support a Trader Joe's.  Who do I have to beg?  We need a Trader Joe's.  I filled up a shopping cart and even bought our door prizes for Bible study and paid for all of that and then Mark found me and we bought a case of wine for a shower we were hosting.  They even gave a free bag to me because it was my first ever time in a Trader Joe's!!!  I'm going to Concord, NC in a few weeks and I've already googled . . .there is a Trader Joe's and yes, I plan to go!!

These are my pretty feet for the wedding.  I have a tendency to wear flip flops all the time.  You can't see the heels but the sandals even had heels.  You do see that there is as little to the "shoe" as possible.  I know that you all REALLY wanted to see my feet, didn't you? 

Here we are after the wedding.
Laura and Allen after the wedding.
Mark, Lisa, Laura, Allen and Guy after the wedding - we missed Phella!!!!

The reception was at the Atlanta History Center and the cocktail portion of the evening lasted at least an hour and they made the exhibits available for us to meander through.  This was a really cool exhibit and Mark and I took a few photos.  I think it would have been so neat to ride in one of these buggies.

Mark loved this little house because everything in it was exactly like the stuff at our farm house from the windows to the floors to the mantle.

A bunch of us were able to sit together at the reception - Laura, Allen, Lisa, Bonnie, her mom, Debbie, Jim and Mark.  Bonnie's daughter, Lauren, took the photo for us.  A full meal was served buffet style and it was nice to have a place to sit and eat.

The centerpieces were  lovely.  The flowers and candles were floating in water in these tall cylinders.  I've noticed that a lot of folks have used these tall cylinders with various "things" inside them at the different receptions.

Robert changed into a white dinner jacket before they made their grand entrance into the reception.  He was made for a white dinner jacket.  His personality screams white dinner jacket!!

Suzanne's dance with her daddy and Robert's dance with his mom were both sweet.

Dave and Laura are both smiling!!

The happy parents of the groom - Dave and Kim - Kim's dress was beautiful!!

oh - here is the picture of Robert and Suzanne and their first dance - they are both great dancers so it was fun to watch them.

It was a lovely weekend - nice to getaway.  Mark forgave my outburst and we ended up having a good time.  We came home on Sunday and still had Sunday afternoon to regroup and get ready for another work week.  Fun weekend - yes, it was.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ben is going to medical school

We drove to Nashville on a Thursday afternoon in May to meet our family at a restaurant in Nashville to celebrate an important event!!  Ben was graduating from Vanderbilt!!  Family events are very important, aren't they?  We struggled with whether to go or not because Mark had to take a day of vacation and we both had to leave work early on a Thursday afternoon . . . but I'm glad we went.  We drove up to Nashville and our first stop was at the home of our friends, Jan and Hayden.  We visited with them for a few minutes and freshened up and piled into their car and drove to the local drugstore to get a graduation card . . .because I had forgotten ours!!  We all then drove to dinner at a locally owned restaurant, Nero's.  We pulled up in front of the restaurant for valet parking and I didn't have on my high heels . . .I had on my flip flops.  If you know me, you are not surprised by that sentence.  I could not get my shoes changed fast enough!!  The valet drove the car about ten parking places away from where we were standing and I realized that I left the camera in the car during all the shoe changing business.  Poor Hayden had to run get the camera out of the car.  By that point, he could have parked the car instead of tipping a valet.  Of course, we were laughing like crazy . . .we always LAUGH LIKE CRAZY when we are with Hayden and Jan.  EVERYTHING is funny when we are with the two of them.

Ben is the middle son of Mark's sister, Susie and they live waaaaayyyy up in Delaware.  We've loved knowing that Ben was just a short drive away in Nashville . . in the SOUTH.  Now he is going to medical school at Jefferson way up NORTH again.

Some of the highlights from that night:

1.  Hayden's daddy was a doctor.  Hayden and Jan gave a reflex hammer to Ben that belonged to Hayden's daddy.  What a thoughtful gift!!!!!

2.  The owner of the restaurant came into our private room and visited with us and gave us the recipe for the corn muffins that we devoured (we devoured the muffins not the recipe).  He would NOT give us the recipe for the spinach that Mark asked him to share.

3.  The valet came into our room to find Hayden (after the previous aforementioned adventure - I've always wanted to use the word "aforementioned").  Hayden said, "we aren't ready to leave yet."  The valet said, "I am!!!!"  I don't believe that has ever happened before.

4.  Susie (sister-in-law not mother-in-law) had made little favors for each place at the table -- chocolate -- Mark ate all of his before dinner was served.  Everyone hid their candy from Mark after that.

5.  Our nephews are cute and funny and polite and I wish they all lived in Alabama.

We had a nice group for dinner and we were in the perfect private room.  Susie (sister-in-law) on the left and then her mother-in-law, Betsy from Delaware and then Jan and Hayden and Quint (Susie's father-in-law from Delaware) and Thomas (youngest nephew - will be a senior in high school this year . . .hoping he will come to college in the real south!!!) and Ben and Paul.  I have no idea where Bob and Grandmother (Susie) and Mark and I were - I guess we were all on the other side of the room or in the bathroom!!

So after dinner, Hayden and Jan and Mark and I went back to their house and sat around and laughed and talked.  Mark and Hayden took the dogs for their bedtime walk.  Jan and I visited.  We all went to bed.  We got up the next morning and visited over breakfast and then Mark and I headed over to the Vanderbilt campus for graduation.  The ceremony was supposed to be outside but . . .wait for it . . .guess what . . . .it was RAINING!!  So instead of sitting outside, we were inside an unairconditioned gym IN THE SOUTH.  Yes, you did read that correctly.  To be honest, I really didn't think there were any unairconditioned public buildings in the south anymore.  That sentence shows how spoiled I am, doesn't it?  Bob and Susie graciously arranged a parking pass for us at their hotel so we parked our car there and walked several blocks to the building.  It was raining so we were a little damp when we arrived.  I was a little sweaty at first.  .  . not dewey . . .but sweaty . ..I know that is not ladylike.  I was not feeling very ladylike at that moment.  It was a coat and tie affair so I had on a dress . . .and I was sweating.  After settling into our seats, which Bob and Susie had graciously saved for us even though there was a "no saving seats" policy, it was not so bad.  It was not as warm as I thought it would be with that many people in one building.

You can see that everyone is dressed up.  The men had all removed their jackets.  When we were sitting, you could see lots of folks fanning (they provided fans - that was nice!).  This is my handsome brother-in-law, Bob.

Bob and Mark even allowed me to take their picture together.  Looks like Mark was about to say something to me.  I can't believe Mark still had on his coat.

I forgot my big camera lens.  It was probably a good thing because there was not much room in our seats and I was already juggling my camera, my phone and a purse.  There is Ben . . .lining up (last one on the row)

Well, I'm going to be honest.  We sat there for a few minutes after Ben was awarded his diploma.  Mark got up and walked around a little and then he came back and said, "let's go."  So we walked back to the hotel.  Once again, Bob and Susie graciously gave us their room key and we were able to go in and get a snack and go to the bathroom.  We then went down to the lobby and waiting on everyone else to return.  As soon as they got back, Susie and Grandmother Susie took a cart to the room and loaded Grandmother's stuff onto the cart and we loaded her into our car and we headed to Birmingham.  She had been with them for about two weeks and I think she was ready to be at home in her own house.

It was a whirlwind trip - round trip to Nashville in 24 hours - dinner, a short visit with friends, graduation, late lunch in some fast food place (Arby's I think? - it was sustenance, not good food - just fyi) and home again. . . but in reality, it was priceless.  and now . . .now . . ..Ben is going to medical school!!!