Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shell Seeking

Tonight, as the sun was setting in the western sky behind the rows of hotels lining the coastline, First Born and I went walking on the beach in search of shells. This was his first shell quest and I was excited about the time spent with him alone while Little Sister had a late day nap with my Hero.

As I walked the beach I experienced fleeting memories of my own childhood trips to the east coast with my family. My earliest memory of the beach dates so far back in my brother is in diapers and I am afraid of the water as it pulls me towards deeper, dark water. Later, my fondness for the beach grew, especially the year we lived in North Carolina and made frequent trips to the coast.

I carry the large, purple bucket as I walk in the dense sand of a low tide with the gentle, warm waves lapping at my ankles. First Born scurries around after each piece of solid matter he spies as the waves roll back. I peer in the bucket to see what treasures he has found, pieces of childhood memory, priceless morsels from the ocean. The beauty he sees in a piece of broken, cracked, wave worn shell escapes me, and yet I allow the collection to build, adding weight to the bucket.

First Born’s eyes dart to and fro spying his treasures sitting on the top of the sand, uncovered by the receding waters. I realize he is only scratching the surface, finding only what the waves push across his path. I call him to my side, knowing he needs to know the treasure he can find if he digs deeper, getting below the surface.

I plow my toes into the sand, feeling the precious nuggets below. Lifting the sand, making a hole as I pull my foot free, a small wave sweeps across the spot drawing the sand away from the small shells which had been lodged below the surface of the sand. First Born scrambles to grasp each bit then looks up at me, his bright face questioning, “How did you know that mom?” Alas, I have no magic answer to give him, no secret bite of wisdom known by few and handed down the generations; I too was once a child on a quest for the perfect shell and learned through trial and error that the digging always brought the best to the surface.

As First Born dashes off to his own dig spots, seeking his own buried cache, I ponder our moment. Sweet child, how do I tell you all the most precious pieces are hidden under cover? We must never just take anything, anyone at face value, only seeing what the waves roll across our path. There is always something special, important, of value found below the surface. It may take more time to find, and sometimes we get dirty in the process, but the reward is worth taking the course to get there.

The bucket is filling more slowly now, First Born is taking more time and really looking at his pieces. And he is digging deeper, searching and finding absolute exquisiteness buried below the surface.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Father’s Day and June 21, 2009 brings me great sorrow and great joy. It is a milestone on two fronts for me; on one hand joyful and exciting, on the other sorrowful and grief filled.

On the eve of Father’s Day 2008 we held my father’s memorial service in Houston ten days after his death. It was a great time of celebration of his life, fond remembrances, honor, and love. The service itself had actually been written by Dad some unknown date (likely after his diagnosis but not near the end), found later on a cocktail napkin in a file titled “final plans.” My brother and I were both awed and amazed by the gift he left us…the songs were selected, the readings and poems; we had no question as to what he wanted for his memorial, his last hurrah. The only challenge he left us was who to appoint for the task of putting his last “project” into action. The positions were filled by those close, special, beloved, and Dad’s service went off without a hitch. And then we partied, also in “Bob Gregory” style, an open bar, decadent hors d’oeuvres passed through the crowd by tuxedoed staff, live piano and songs sung by any who wanted to sing, guests dressed to the nines all elegant despite their heartache.

Father’s Day 2008 came and went for me as a colorless silence, finding time to physically recover from rejoicing his life. I was tired, exhausted more like, left lifeless, empty, and alone. Although my Hero was by my side and both my little birds danced nearby, I found little that day but the energy to take each next breath, not recognizing it was Father’s Day…for me, it was just the eleventh day of my life without my father.

Today, I find, the pain has been excruciating, gut wrenching, taking my breath away. The hole he left in me ripped open anew, a great chasm of emptiness. At moments I have not known which way to turn, my heart screaming, “He is gone! My father on this day is gone. How can I smile? How can anyone smile when I am so…” So what? What is this place I find myself, wanting all to know how I feel and no one to be happy around…alone? My heavenly Father touches the jagged edges of the gash, easing the throbbing emptiness, pouring the Holy Spirit into the crevasse, filling me with His love. It is enough, more than enough. And I take a breath, and a step, and I force my face into a smile, for I know no pain will ever be so great His love cannot overcome.

This day also brings great excitement as my Bird steps forth a bit less my baby and a bit more a boy. He eagerly awoke this morning (pre 7 am) and danced into our room ready to go to camp. This is his first camp, a rite of passage for many boys and girls, and he is going with our church. Each year they trek to the hills of Tennessee with the children to take them on a walk with God. His excitement was contagious, bubbling forth and taking over the morning… “Is it time to go yet?” Alas, my child you must have your breakfast first.

My Bird has grown such strong wings in his seven short years, time which has flown for me. He is ready, more than I would have him be, to leap from the nest and test his wings. Today I sent him off into an unknown (literally I do not know where this camp is located) praying the Lord keep His hand over this flight, and under if the little wings begin to quiver. My little Bird grows so fast, questing for knowledge and adventure, truth and light, excitement and challenge. I trust I have given this Bird the wings to fly this flight, and return to the nest stronger, wiser, and flying better than I know he can, for only He knows how this Bird can truly fly.

I know my father would be proud of my son today (and I like to think he also has his hands on Bird’s solo flight).This circle of life, revolving around me, this day bringing me such great strength and such deep sorrow, with His hand leading me on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ephesians 4:1-Worthy Calling

After I wanted to be a blogger, but before I began this one, God met me at a women’s weekend event. It was at this meeting I was given confirmation of some changes He wanted me to make in my life. He also whispered to me the name of this blog.
I had looked forward to the Esther Experience for months and had even wanted to go the previous year, but the location had been prohibitive. The only two things I was sure of: the theme “Called to Be Free,” and that He wanted me to be at this event. So I went with no expectations and an open mind and heart.
Although the event was only two days at the end of April, God gave me so much of Himself that weekend. The personal growth, revelation, release, insight, and answer I received were both overwhelming and freeing at the same time. I found my life touched through verse, prayer, meals with my sisters in Christ, praise and worship, and quiet moments. It was during one of these quiet moments God told me “Ephesians 4, no more, no less. This is what I have for you.”
I have spent much time in this chapter in the time since, thirsting for all he has to give me. And I am certain I have grown and heard more of what He wants me to hear. But I also know He is calling me for more regarding this chapter.
Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
As He has called me with this chapter for my own growth, He has also called me, as Paul urged the church in Ephesus, to share it. I hope my life, such as it is, is found worthy of the calling I have received…to grow, share, learn, teach, counsel, love.
I pray the Lord find my words pleasing, valuable, worthy of the calling He has given me for now. I also pray you listen to hear His sweet voice when He calls you too.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Once In a Lifetime

Living in Knoxville we had the opportunity of a lifetime last week. The primary East-West interstate running through town has been closed for over a year while MAJOR revamping occurred. Although having I-40 closed has been a moderate inconvenience for us, it has been an interesting project to watch evolve. Last week the project was complete.

As part of the celebration prior to the opening of the new interstate on Friday afternoon the highway department teamed up with the Knoxville Track Club (, as well as a number of local businesses, to host the Fast40Dash, a 1.21 mile race on the new interstate prior to cars being allowed to drive on it. Having a small runner in the house this was not an event we could miss.

The organizers were surprised with the turnout of over 1600 people. Although we arrived too late to get C registered for the actual run we were issued numbers to be included in the Walker Wave. No one was allowed on the interstate without a number. Spectators were required to watch from the Hall Of Fame Bridge running over I-40.

The energy was amazing. Having waited so long and watched the demolition and reconstruction of a portion one of the major transcontinental highways created an excitement I have never experienced before. Each time an announcement was made the crowd perked up waiting for instruction. When the National Anthem was sung the electricity was prominent.

The races were run in six waves: wheelchair, males 39 and under, females 39 and under, males forty and over, females forty and over, and then the Walkers. Although the wait was long for our turn, it was incredibly cool to watch standouts in each wave, both for speed and determination. One of the 39 and under female runners actually moved me to tears upon her finish; despite being extremely overweight and relatively out of shape she ran the race start to finish in a bit over fifteen minutes. She exhibited a courage I did not have seeing as I wouldn’t have even considered running this race.

Once we got our turn we started out together. It didn’t take long for C to decide he was going to run whether we were in the walker group or not. I volunteered to run with him, but couldn’t keep up for long. I smiled, slowed to a walk and told him to get to the timing tent and wait for us. Although I turn him loose at times like this with some trepidation, I remind myself of my calling to give him strong wings to fly on his own…this will be just one of many time I must let him go it alone.

E was less enthusiastic to be participating in this momentous event. Although she wanted to be there she assured us she did not need to run, or walk for that matter, as she would ride in the“strowller.” Lucky for her Barry is wrapped around her finger and ensured she completed the course in true princess style.

It was awesome to partake in such a momentous event knowing it is unlikely I will ever have such an opportunity again. And how many people actually get to take a picture of their children doing what they were told after saying, “Kids, go sit on the freeway.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Right Equiptment

As I have taken on this new role as a stay at home mom I knew there were things I would need to change, or adapt even. When I was a working mom there were certain things required each day in my life as a work-out-of-home mom (I say work-out-of-home because I have always understood mother’s who stay home work as hard, if not harder, than the rest of us). I needed my Blackberry, purse, makeup, proper office attire, usually a packed lunch, appropriate shoes; you know…the standard office, behind the desk kind of girl stuff.

So now in this new role I find different things are needed. My first real “outing” with the children was to story time at the local library. We have literally thousands of books in our house. There are books which belonged to my mother as a child, my books from childhood, all of my father’s book collection (including his everything from his BA, MA, and PhD), as well as the fiction and non-fiction which arrived after dad died too. I thought the library would be a good adventure for the kids and an opportunity to avoid permanently increasing the numerous hardbacks in our house. And maybe this would be an opportunity for me to meet another SAHM. I know very few, and the ones I do know are from church and not close by geographically.

Upon our arrival, Ms. Jules (the librarian) sweetly guided us into the meeting room for story time; the topic for the day was the sea and things which live in it. I entered the room to find five other mothers (two pregnant) and fourteen children. Ms. Jules gave the children instruction on where to sit and they both angelically complied, leaving me standing by a table wondering whose children had come with me to the library and what was I to do now?

I chose a seat at the table, which I later learned was the craft and coloring table, and not really where a proper mother is to sit. A proper SAHM quickly plops herself on the floor with a strangle hold on their rambunctious two year old who is not quite ready to be engaged in a formal story time setting…Oopse, I blew that one right off the bat.

As I sat, watching Ms. Jules and the children, I began to observe these other mothers. Two more came in after me, much to my relief, as I was sure I would be the only “not on time” mom. So in this nice room of moderately well behaved three to nine year olds (and a few less than three hellions bundles of energy), I begin to have an awareness of these other women. It is in this moment I find I AM NOT properly equipped to be a SAHM.

My first clue that there I was somehow deficient was the moment I realized, other than Ms. Jules, I was the only adult in the room not adorned with a ponytail. Every other mother in the room, some short, some long a few in between…but every one of them had a ponytail. Now don’t get me wrong, I like ponytails, and have had enough length to my tresses many times in my life to don one, but right now my locks are short, very short actually for me. I felt somehow naked, vulnerable, almost out of place at that moment. I did not have the right equipment to participate in this sport.

The other glaring irregularity I found between myself and all of these other mothers was my full faced war paint. After years of not leaving the house without it (ok, I sometimes occasionally once in a blue moon leave the house without it) it has become part of my routine, so ingrained in my being I feel “off” if I forget. I sat in awe of these women in their ponytails and perfect comfort WITHOUT war paint. I observed a few with mascara, some pretty pink gloss, a touch of color on the cheek, but none were fully ensconced in product the way I tend to be. They were pretty, natural, comfortable in their glowing magnificence. Their absolute unconcern for a “face” was refreshing, and yet an oddly obscure notion to add to my world.

I felt awkward, remote, and unengaged with this new sorority I am pledging. It was a moment when I was both puzzled and enlightened at the same time. I find myself intrigued by the equipment needed, or not, for this new role I am taking on and realize I have much to learn, and much I can change...if I want to.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

One year

One year

A blink of an eye

And yet, an eternity…

Looking back, sadness, sorrow, loss

Memories, warm and soft, tender, painful

Upheaval is so great, the empty chasm so wide

And yet, moments of joy dash in and out, over and under

A smile graces my face and a tear rolls down my cheek

At times the mourning is distant, like dancing clouds on the tops of the mountains

Then again the grief frequently so close it takes my breath away

And then the kind rush of a child’s voice, a husband’s touch, the nuzzle of a sweet canine

I am reminded that I must go on, in spite of the gaping hole I feel inside

Each moment, knowing I was loved

And knowing I loved you.