Friday, November 6, 2009

Still learning

I am a kindergarten drop-out.

That's my confession for the day. Most who know me well already know the particulars of why I dropped out of kindergarten. Those who don't know the particulars, well, know me well enough to figure out why I didn't survive that early session of learning in my life.

I made it two weeks: reclining on a bathroom rug at nap time (not sleeping but eating Lisa Winter's snack - she was very glad I dropped out, I'm certain) and going home every single day to tell Mama that the kindergarten teacher was really that woman who wore a black dress in "The Wizard of Oz."

Several years ago, an author penned a popular book called "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Although I'd recommend the entire book (I listened to it once on tape while travelling to Nashville. You will realize how long ago that was when you note I stated I listed to it on TAPE), there's an excerpt from the book that gets reprinted and repeated quite often.

While thinking about a lot that I don't know today (not to mention things I still have yet to "get"), I realized that I did learn a lot of positive things very early in life. Maybe not in a kindergarten setting but at the age I would have been in one.

So I wanted to share Robert Fulghum's insight here again. I needed to be reminded and feel some other folks might need to be as well. Particularly on the day after such an almost unspeakable tragedy occured on an Army base in Texas.

If only we could adopt a large portion - if not all of these - concepts in our lives, I can only imagine how different the world around us might be.

So here it is. Read it for the first time or the bazillionth. Although I'm certain the last sentence of this passage is placed there on purpose, it does resonate what could solve some of the turmoil we now feel if we would only adopt it as a basic action in each of our lives.

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:


Share everything.

Play fair.

Don't hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned - the biggest
word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about
three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put thing back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are - when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sooey!?

I took an H1N1 shot today at work. Yep, I'm one of those "high risk" individuals who works with children so I was innoculated! I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. I had just commented to someone at another school and not 15 minutes earlier that I wouldn't take one because it's too "experimental."

Never say never!

I thought about that conversation as I was watching the nurse plunge the needle into my arm. Painfully. (Not really. She was awesome. I honestly never felt a thing!). I tried not to cry since there were kindergarten kids and first graders taking the shot standing staunch and brave like seasoned Marines.

Now I feel the urge to squeal. And I'm craving slop. I sure could use a roll in a huge mud hole somewhere.

If you see me wearing a University of Arkansas shirt, you'll know the shot has really done me in!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All in a day's work for her

I have lots of acquaintances but few real friends. You know, the kinds of folks you could call from jail at 3 a.m. and they would bail you out … eventually. Or the ones you could call from the hospital in the wee hours of the morning and they would come to your bedside – most likely without changing out of their pajamas.

I am blessed with a handful of people like that in my life. Even though they offer me encouragement and the love I need to survive on a daily basis. Often they will do something so extraordinary that will just wipe me out emotionally. After it happens, the event just serves as a reminder why I love and admire them so much anyway.

Denise Webb did just that Tuesday.

As principal of two elementary schools that will be consolidated into one beautiful new school next year, Denise has a job few people could do. Much less WANT to do, honestly. The sheer responsibility of it must be overwhelming at times. Yet Denise does a phenomenal job overseeing the business of both schools which includes taking care of the students and the personnel.

She calls it just “doing her job.”

While I was at West Corinth Elementary School Tuesday morning, a child became ill in the cafeteria. Denise immediately went to his side and remained there. After they moved him to the little cot next to the principal’s office, Denise sat on the end of it and comforted the child. They talked about monster trucks and other things the little boy wanted to discuss.

Watching the tender way Denise was caring for that little boy smacked this big girl right in the heart. I literally stood there and sucked back tears. Although I’m never ashamed to cry, I was simply afraid if I started I wouldn’t stop this time. I was that touched by what I’d witnessed.

And the good feelings produced by the principal didn’t end with that act of kindness.

We went to watch drummer Nina Rodriguez give a presentation to the West first graders using small drums. Each child was given the opportunity to pick out a drum and then Nina taught them how to associate their school subjects and rhythm.

Denise noticed one child in particular was having a difficult time playing his drum. Rather than just coach him from the sidelines, Denise got on the floor with him, took his hands in hers and began showing him how to play the different rhythms on the instrument.

I was able to capture this digitally through the viewfinder of my camera while sucking back even more tears. One of the photos captures the youngster gazing at Denise with such a look of awe and admiration. It’s one of those moments that is hard to explain, for the most part, but is easily interpreted by viewing the photo.

Denise recently returned home after a weeklong mission trip to El Salvador. I never said anything to her about it, but it has been funny to me that she took a trip to do in a foreign land what she does on a daily basis here at home. But I’m very proud of her for following the Great Commission and extending her missions work.

And equally proud of her for coming back home and continuing to serve here.

On Tuesday – just as she is pretty much every day of her life – Denise Webb was the hands and feet of Jesus in the world around her. And her example made me not only admire and love her more, it made me want to be even more like the One she was representing.

The one she so boldly serves.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Choosing freedom

I heard this song on the way to work recently. I’m sure the entire set of lyrics could serve as the foundation of a sermon on their own - course, to keep folks happy, we’d need to toss in a few verses from the New Testament among the lines there!

Although the first verse gets my attention every single time I hear this song, it wasn’t what drew me in today as I was listening to it. It was actually the bridge this time. Although all four lines speak very deeply to AND about my life, it was one line in particular that “got me” today:

“Captured by grace now I’m finding I am free...”

Freedom carries a lot of definitions and means a lot of different things to individuals. National freedom has proven to be costly for some folks, tightly protected by some and taken for granted by others.

You can be free from many things in your life and your environment like sin, substance abuse, physical ailments, or an abusive spouse.

And sometimes you are free before you ever realize you were bound.

One Sunday morning at church we were singing the song “Freedom” and it hit me. I was free! For the first time, I totally understood the verse in John 8:36 (The Message version): “So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.”

Another translation puts it this way: “So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free.” (Amplified Version)

Unquestionably free - that has a nice ring to it.

Funny thing about it, though, I didn’t realize I was so bound until God set me free that random Sunday morning. Although there were no literal chains holding me captive, in my mind I could see heavy chains - much like the strong and heavy iron ones prisoners were held by back in the day - dropping from my hands and feet and waist. And I could almost hear the clinking sounds as they fell to the floor our church.

It was a truly amazing moment for me. And one I’m glad I have DVRd in my memory so that I can play it back from time to time.

Although that kind of liberation may not make sense to some folks, it was a literal life-changing moment for me! I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it has made in my attitudes, my actions and my outlook. I literally do praise a little louder than I did before. I jump higher, I love deeper and I worship more freely. Most importantly, I trust more fully than I ever did.

I have been released.

And I credit it all to God’s amazing grace and forgiveness. Although grace and mercy often go hand in hand, they are truly different characterizations. Mercy, by definition, is seen as not receiving the punishment we deserve to receive while grace is receiving something positive that we did not deserve to receive.

It’s arguable whether or not I deserved to be bound. But it’s really arguable when I can admit it was something that I probably allowed to happen even though I never truly realized it had.

Utilizing grace once again, I truly want to do just as the song states, and love God not with just words but with every bit of my being. I want to not only live a life that honors Him and His glory but I want to live in a way that leaves no doubt how much I truly love and adore Him.

And because of that love I give to Him, He will enable me to share His love with those around me.

My earnest prayer for my own life - since I’m instructed to pray for myself as well as others - is that I will remain free and not allow myself to ever become as bound as I once was.

I now know the difference. And I choose freedom.


Everytime I Breathe
(Big Daddy Weave)


I am sure
All of heaven's heard me cry
As I tell You all the reasons why this life is just too hard
But day by day,
Without fail I'm finding everything I need
In everything that You are to me

(Chorus)
Every time I
breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never wanna leave I wanna stay
in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your
Face and Every time I get another glimpse of Your heart
I realize it's true, that You are so marvelous God
And I am so in love with You
Yeah, so in love with You

Now how could I,
After knowing One so great
Respond to You in any way that's less
than all I have to give

But by Your grace,
I wanna love
You not with what I say but everyday
In the way that my life is lived

(Chorus)
Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never wanna leave I wanna stay in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face
and Every time I get another glimpse of Your heart
I realize it's true, that You are so marvelous God
And I am so in love with You

(Bridge)
Wrapped in Your mercy I wanna live and never leave
I am held by how humble, yet overwhelmed by Your majesty
Captured by grace now I'm finding I am free
You are marvelous God and knowing You is everything

(Chorus)
Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer
I never wanna leave I wanna stay in Your warm embrace
Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face
and Every time I get another glimpse of
Your heart
I realize it's true, that You are so marvelous God
And I am so in love with You.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Turbulent learning

I’ve been blessed to travel on commercial airlines quite a bit in my lifetime thus far. I won’t say it’s one of my favorite ways to get from the proverbial point a to point b, but you simply can’t beat it for speed when it works efficiently.

I’ve flown in various kinds of weather – snow, rain, thunderstorms – and on varying sized planes. Whether they were little commuters, with two seats on one side of the aisle and one on the other to make a row, or 10 seats across completed with two rows, all of them have made me feel as if I was being hurled by Hercules through the air in a tube.

Today was no exception.

The commuter flight from Philadelphia to Memphis was filled to capacity. The guy beside me was a bit bigger than me and didn’t have a problem taking up his seat and part of mine (in addition to the arm rest that was supposed to divide our space). Although I was far from comfortable sitting by the window (a spot I don’t normally choose and I wasn’t at liberty to change), I tried to make the best of it by concentrating on the Beth Moore book I had started on the trip up on Wednesday.

Completing the book before arriving at our destination, I was looking out the window at the cloud coverage when our pilot’s voice came over the PA system reminding us to keep our seat belts securely fastened.

Although the pilot was anticipating turbulence the pilot never slowed down. In fact when it did get bumpy, he seemed to be flying wide open through it. The plane weaved and bobbed, but the pilot never seemed to take his foot off the gas pedal (I’m assuming planes have gas pedals like cars – I honestly don’t know). He never slowed up.

I couldn’t see the pilot’s hands at that moment, but I sat there imagining that he was gripping the steering wheel with both of them. I doubt it was a “white knuckle” moment for him, though. I’m certain he had logged some air time in worse weather than we were experiencing on that September Sunday afternoon. Instead, I’m sure his hands were poised in the same sort of confidence he exudes while sitting in that seat on any given day.

Most likely the pilot just placed faith in the aircraft to operate in the manner in which it was built.

In my mind – and a short time jotting it down later in the back of my Beth Moore book (the only paper I had available at the time) – I drew an analogy of our lives and the flight while looking out the window from seat 7A.

I will be honest. I wasn’t totally at ease during the last moments of that flight. But I wasn’t frightened to the point that I wanted to cry out to God to rescue us from the weather conditions although I always tend to fervently pray without ceasing whenever I’m seated in an airliner.

Instead, I thought about some of the bumps I’d flown through in my own life in the past few years. Some of them were truly difficult to maneuver. With some of them I had to rely on skill to navigate through them while others I just had to choose raw courage and strength.

The turbulence affecting our plane Sunday was brief and we were jetting through smooth skies the rest of the way to the airport. I’ve learned to realize the turbulence that rocks my personal world from time to time is often just as brief and I soon find a smooth pocket of airspace in which to set the course of my life on again.

Yep, I honestly prefer the smooth sailing over the bumpy rides in life. But it’s in those rougher times that I recall who truly is piloting the vessel. And I again let go, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride a bit more by allowing Him to have complete control.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Out of the mouth of babes


My sister and I went to visit my nephew and his family up in Kentucky over the Labor Day weekend. While I was putting my stuff in my bag to come back home, my great niece, Taylor, and I had the following conversation. Keep in mind she is just barely 6 - but pretty sharp for that age.

Taylor: "I got you something at a yard sale the other day." (Holding her hand out with an object in it).

Me: "Awww ... that's a cute little cat! Thank you!"

Taylor: "You're welcome. See, whenever you want a baby, all you have to do is look at this."

Me: Speechless at first. "Well, OK. Thank you for thinking of me!"

I tried to set the cat down on the bed where I was going to leave it (I'm not quite convinced it actually belonged to her. She likes to make up stories to go along with objects around her).

Taylor: "You have to put it in your bag and make sure you take it home with you!"

Me: "I will put it in my pocket so it won't get broken." (Planning to leave it upstairs before I went downstairs).

But I forgot. So the cat sits on my desk at work right now. I brought it with me to share the story because I think it is so cute. I don't know what her reasoning is for telling me that when I wanted a baby to look at the glass cat. Maybe she thinks I'm so good with Owen that I need a baby. Or maybe she figures my life is incomplete without one.

Little does she know that I really don't want a baby. Especially not at this season in my life.

I think a few of my co-workers are a bit leery of the little animal. One of them calls it a "fertility cat."

I think I will leave it there for a few days just to make 'em a bit more nervous!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Like a prodigal son

I love a good story. And I come from a long line of good storytellers.

I don’t mean my family members are liars since that’s the mental image that often comes to mind when you use the word “storyteller.” I simply mean that many members of my family have been good at taking words and crafting them into pictures in your head you can almost physically see.

Growing up, I would often enjoy listening to my parents, grandmother and several other members of my family as they would sit around the living room or kitchen table and weave tales about life when they were younger. I was often mesmerized by the things they had done, the places they had been and the tough times they had survived.

That’s probably why I began writing poems and stories at such an early age. I wanted to record things they had told me or things that just seemed to be floating around in my head. It most likely had an impact on the career path I chose in the early part of my life. The newspaper business gave me lots of experiences. Being able to listen to someone talk and then make a creative news story (aka a “feature”) out of it was one of my favorite parts.

The Bible is filled with a lot of stories, too, and many of them are crafted in some of the most beautiful language. There are numerous stories on those pages – or web pages since I use Bible Gateway online a lot these days – I have grown to love for one reason of another.

While doing some of the tasks at home today that I’ve been putting off, I began thinking about the story of the prodigal son. It is probably one of my favorite stories found in the Bible. I’m certain most everyone is familiar with it – younger son gets restless and is drawn to the bright lights and opportunities of the big city, demands his inheritance from his father, moves to said big city, quickly goes through his inheritance and finds himself doing menial labor and eating out of the pigs’ trough.

After awhile, the son realizes that being at home with his father wasn’t so bad and he swallows his pride – which was probably all he had left by that time. The son makes the decision to go back home and beg his father to allow him to become a worker on their family farm.

Although the story in the Bible doesn’t give us a true account of what the father was doing during the time his son was living it up in the city, it would be fairly easy to imagine what the father was doing. Especially since we know the father was probably a good man. Most likely the father was at home spending a whole lot more time on his knees praying for his son and asking God to not only protect him but to bring him back home. I’m certain, too, during his day-to-day tasks, the father would find himself gazing in the direction of the city wishing his son would leave there. There were probably times when the father would think, “I’m just gonna get in my truck and go bring that boy home!” But he didn’t because the father knew the son was learning life changing lessons that he could never teach the son at home.

One of the most beautiful parts of the story to me happens toward the end of it where the son is on his way back to his home and the father catches a glimpse of him walking up the road. Instead of sitting down on the porch and waiting for the young man to get there, the father instructs those around him to call everyone together and get a huge celebration supper ready because his boy is heading home.

Not content to wait for the young man to get to the house to greet him, the father runs - not saunters or walks - toward him. Thinking about the story I can see one of the best examples of what I’ve heard called a “man embrace” ever written. The father doesn’t just pat his son on the back or shake his hand, but he takes the young man fully into his arms and hugs him as he has never hugged him before.

He didn't care where the boy had been, what he had done or even what his motives were for his return. The father was just purely glad the boy was finally home.

I guess I like the story of the prodigal son because I see a lot of myself in the characteristics and actions of the young man. I never packed up everything I owned and left my parents’ home for a large metropolitan destination. Although there was a period of my life that I did want to seek fame, fortune and other things in New York City, I never got enough courage up to go.

Although I hate to admit it, there have been numerous times when I have packed up my life and moved it away from the will of God for one reason or another. Sadly, some of the reasoning behind these decisions seemed perfectly right to me at the time, too.

But just as the father in this story, my Heavenly Father was patient with me each and every time I strayed. I’m certain He didn’t like my actions and didn’t agree with my thought process at the time, but He allowed me to go. I’m almost certain that He watched me as I walked away and shook His head at the ignorance of my decisions. And I think there were probably times when He wanted to rush in and make me change my mind.

He didn’t, though. Instead He waited patiently for me to realize that life outside of Him is really not where I am destined to live. That even though it might seem easier to me to do things my way, He knew I had to come to the realization that His way was the best – and only – way for me to live.

I’ve recently returned from a period of being a prodigal. Just as with every other time, it was difficult and sometimes even dark. But just like every other time, I learned great lessons about grace, mercy and the true character of God.

I have even learned more about freedom.

Although I’d like to say I won’t wander again and that this determination to live my life wholly and fully for Him won’t fade this time, I know myself. I’ve been excellent at failing. But this time seems a bit different.

With all the shifting and change – some that has been so painful I didn’t think I could bear it – I have told several people that I truly believe God is getting me ready for a man, a mission or a ministry.

God does give us direction, yet faith is sometimes like walking with a map written in an ancient language you can't read or translate too easily. You can’t always see the places you’re heading because you can't read them, but you can see the trail to follow marked clearly to your destination.

That’s what life has been for me – I’ve known much of my life that God truly had a plan, I just couldn’t seem to see it much of the time. I have often used the analogy that my life was like a 1000 piece puzzle that was stored in an old shoe box. I knew there was a picture there to be completed, I just had difficulty putting the pieces together since I wasn’t able to see that big picture.

God has recently revealed to me a larger portion of the picture for my life. And it is good. Even armed with that information, though, I still don’t know the timeframe when it will come to pass. He has told me time and time again recently, though, that it’s all temporary. I’ve had to laugh each time I’ve heard Him say it because temporary is one of those words that can’t easily be plotted on a time chart. Temporary can mean an hour, a week, three months, five years or almost a lifetime. Temporary can sometimes feel like forever.

I’ve pretty much decided, though, that temporary in this case simply means soon.

Growing up, my mother would often tell me “we’ll see” when I would ask her about doing something. I learned quickly as a child that “we’ll see” was just her way of nicely telling me it was never, ever gonna happen. I hated that because it seemed to build a feeling of false hope in my life. I grew to despise that phrase so much that I have gotten angry with friends who have responded with it when I’d ask about something we had planned to do or something I really wanted to do.

Ironically enough, God has recently given me the “we’ll see” connected to the big picture He is leading me toward. But I don’t bristle as much now when He says it because I understand that He actually defines the phrase as "wait and see."

For now, that’s what I’m doing - somewhat patiently waiting. Not sitting back in a recliner with a remote control flipping through my life. But actively getting to know Him better and learning to serve Him more while I wait to see the next chapter that He is writing in that epic novel called my life.

All I know for certain is: it’s gonna be good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

'Here's to the uniforms of blue ...'

Next spring, I will mark a significant passage of time on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. My classmates – or rather those who actually show up for Homecoming – and I will have made it halfway to Golden Girl status. Hard to believe since it sometimes seems like only last year we rambled that historic campus tucked in an area of land near downtown Columbus.

And then sometimes, given the passage of time and the distance time has thrown some of us away, it seems that the years we spent there was just a nighttime dream and never really existed at all. I know it happened, though, because I have the memories – and a few photographs (as well as a few literal and emotional scars) – to prove it.

It’s funny and probably really odd to some folks that I’m already preparing for an event that doesn’t even occur for eight months. I’ve already begun emailing, texting, Facebook messaging and harassing many of my friends and acquaintances from that era of my life insisting they attend Homecoming in April 2010.

Few have committed already to attending homecoming. Some of them have simply replied that they're disinterested in being a time traveler for a weekend, content to live in the present and remaining in contact with those “W Girls” they want to keep in touch with. Others haven’t even responded at all leading me to believe they’re quite happy not spending time reminiscing with old friends they used to sing songs in the CafĂ© Olay with.

I’m not exactly certain why I am more excited about this Homecoming than any others I’ve attended in the past. I’ve been pretty faithful to make the pilgrimage to Columbus – having only missed three or four of the events since the year after my graduation. I don’t really have any bragging to do, per se. Although I’m proud of the work I do and absolutely love my job, I probably wouldn’t be in the Top 10 percent of the most accomplished among my classmates. I opted for the safer route for work and took few risks in life. I feel like I’ve done some awesome work and made some differences through what I’ve done, but I don’t feel what I consider career success measures up to what others might term it.

And that’s really OK.

The thing that makes me most proud is where my life has grown since my junior and senior years at The W. During that time period I made some of the same stupid choices that most college kids make. I didn’t by any means leave Columbus even slightly unscathed – and my GPA reflected my party-loving attitude. I made friends fairly easily for a junior college transfer and seemed to fit in well on campus despite the fact that I never earned any of the accolades those students who spent all four years of their college careers there.

But I don’t feel less of a person today because I wasn’t a Hottentot or named Miss MUW.

It’s a hard analogy to put into exact words, honestly. But singer/songwriter Brandon Heath has a little ditty getting lots of airplay right now that makes me think of the upcoming Homecoming activities at MUW. Although I’ve not looked up the background of this song, I can pretty much guess he is directing it to at least one certain person and trying to drive home a point about how his life has changed. I’m hoping those who see me at The W in April note a similar thing about me.

Here are the lyrics:

I wish you could see me now

I wish I could show you how

I'm not who I was

I used to be mad at you

A little on the hurt side too

But I'm not who I was

I found my way around

To forgiving you

Some time ago

But I never got to tell you so

I found us in a photograph

I saw me and I had to laugh

You know, I'm not who I was

You were there, you were right above me

And I wonder if you ever loved me

Just for who I was

When the pain came back again

Like a bitter friend

It was all that I could do

To keep myself from blaming you

I reckon it's a funny thing

I figured out I can sing

Now I'm not who I was

I write about love and such

Maybe 'cause I want it so much

I'm not who I was

I was thinking maybe I should let you know

I am not the same

But I never did forget your name

Hello

Well the thing I find most amazing

In amazing grace

Is the chance to give it out

Maybe that's what love is all about

I wish you could see me now

I wish I could show you how

I'm not who I was

Although my experience was a bit different than his song (and I think there are a few folks who have been mad at me for quite some time rather than me made at them – although hurt would be a more appropriate term to use in my case), I’m hoping that I have some time in April to prove that I am truly not the same person who strolled the MUW campus with an infallible and almost arrogant attitude at times.

I am not who I was because God has been working on me for many years to transform me into the potential that He created. To bring me to a point where I want to be simply me. I’ve not arrived yet and His work probably won’t be completed by April 16. But I’m hoping that enough of it will have been done by then that people will see I have changed.

My prayer is that they will see Him reflected in my face, in my attitude, in my speech … basically in all of me.

I’m hoping that they will realize I’ve matured and in that growth I’ve become more comfortable within my own skin. I’m hoping they see that the arrogance of youth has been replaced by the wisdom of the Word of God and a life of learning from the mistakes I’ve made despite the fact I keep making some of them over and over again.

But I’m guessing that’s where grace fits into Kim Jobe’s life most.

Most of all, I’m hoping for a time to make amends and renew old bonds.

Perhaps my “W Girl” friend Janet Boozer Butts stated it best when we were discussing this blog post recently and I hope she doesn’t mind that I borrowed a few of her thoughts:

“There is just something about it (Homecoming) that draws us … love, sentimentality, memories … plus I think that era of our lives we were just dealing with life the best way we knew how to and now that we are older, we look back and say, 'What was I thinking?' and can’t believe we were that silly and immature (at least that’s what I think and I keep hoping that I’ll find some kind of sense that I might have left up there in my closet or something).

“I want a do-over. I know that I can never go back to the times I spent there, but, for the most part, I want to really experience it all again now that I am more cognitive.

“I wish I had paid attention …”

Me, too, Janet me, too.

And given the chance to share some time in April, 2010, with some of those people who played such significant roles in my MUW years, I’m already planning to pay lots of attention.

Meet ya in Columbus?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Great message from The Message

My lifelong friend, Jamey, encouraged me to read a very familiar scripture passage in The Message. It's a translation I don't read very often and after reading Matthew 5 from it, I'm asking myself why I don't consider it more. I shared most of the chapter as a note on my Facebook page, but wanted to post it here as well. Much of it literally speaks to me! I especially like the part of verse 3 that states with less of us, there is more of God - that's truly how I am trying to live my life!
Anyway, please consider reading this translation of Matthew 5 - and let it speak to you as well!

Matthew 5
You're Blessed

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
6"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
7"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.
8"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
10"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
11-12"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Salt and Light

13"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14-16"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Completing God's Law

17-18"Don't suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures— either God's Law or the Prophets. I'm not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God's Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God's Law will be alive and working.
19-20"Trivialize even the smallest item in God's Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won't know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
Murder

21-22"You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother 'idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
23-24"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
25-26"Or say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you're likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won't get out without a stiff fine.
Adultery and Divorce

27-28"You know the next commandment pretty well, too: 'Don't go to bed with another's spouse.' But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.
29-30"Let's not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here's what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.
31-32"Remember the Scripture that says, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights'? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are 'legal.' Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you're responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you're automatically an adulterer yourself. You can't use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
Empty Promises

33-37"And don't say anything you don't mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, 'I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, 'God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say 'yes' and 'no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
Love Your Enemies

38-42"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43-47"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Undo

I keep the radio station KLOVE playing at my house 24/7. It's unbelievable how much more peaceful my home has become even though I'm the only one who experiences that peace much of the time.

Often, a song I hear on KLOVE gets stuck in my head and I, well, meditate on it pretty much all day long. That's what has happened with Rush of Fools' "Undo" today. So much so, that I have opted to share the lyrics here with you who read my blog. Search for the song on YouTube when you get a chance and listen to it for yourself. You won't regret it!

Undo
I've been here before
Now, here I am again
Standing at the door
Praying You'll let me back in
To label me
A prodigal would be
Only scratching the surface
Of who I've been known to be

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I've become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can't do this myself
You're the only one
Who can undo what I've become

I focused on the score
But I could never win
Trying to ignore
A life of hiding my sin
To label me
A hypocrite would be
Only scratching the surface
Of who I've been known to be

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I've become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can't do this myself
You're the only one

Who can undo what I've become
Make every step lead me back to
The sovereign way that You

Turn me around, pick me up
Undo what I've become
Bring me back to the place
Of forgiveness and grace
I need You, I need Your help
I can't do this myself
You're the only one who can undo
You are the only one who can undo
You're the only one who can undo
What I've become

Monday, July 27, 2009

If you do nothing else I suggest ....


Read this book.

Period.

It's one of the best examples of the outcome of outreach that I've read thus far. So what if it's probably the first outreach related book I've read. It's still worth your time. I promise!
It starts out a little slow, but hang on until the end. I sobbed so hard through the last three or four chapters that I had a headache once I was done.
But it was worth it!
I don't wanna say too much more about it and ruin it for anyone.
Once you've finished the book, make sure you come back and comment here and tell me how very right I was to suggest it!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bleeding red, white & blue

Patriotism is in my DNA.

I know that sounds weird, but I believe it’s true. I was born to be red, white and blue.

One of my earliest, most vivid memories is standing and watching my mama wipe tears away after listening to a song on TV. I was about three or four, probably. I knew all the words to the song. It was one of the first ones I learned after “Jesus Loves Me,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “Happy Birthday.”

Although I didn’t know why Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” made my mama cry that day, I somehow understood the emotion behind those tears and wasn’t frightened. I guess the same emotion behind Mama’s tears was why a small child would memorize that song. I think it was because I loved geography and especially liked the part that states, “from the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam …” (Oddly enough, that’s a good percentage of the 40 word tune, too!).

I grew up in a small town that, even though it has progressed a lot since my childhood, is still a small town. But that small town helped instill values in me that I’m very grateful for.

My parents and grandparents can be credited (or blamed, in some cases) for a lot of the person I am today. I learned from them early in life to honor, obey, love and serve God and to respect America. My daddy served a stint in the United States Air Force during the Korean Conflict. Although he never saw battle outside of a barroom brawl on Saturday nights in Seoul, he had an important task during that time to train men how to use the radios in order to keep communication open on the battlefield. Although he never flew a flag outside his home, Daddy certainly could have been defined as a flag-waving American by the way he lived.

I’m not certain what really spawned Mama’s deep-seeded patriotism. Maybe it was having living through the Great Depression and World War II that marked her heart with such a love for her country. Or maybe it was having parents who also had a deep and abiding love for America.

Whatever it was, I can remember watching Mama place her hand over her heart whenever she heard strains of the national anthem and can recall viewing many tears trickle down her face as she would sit at the kitchen table in the mornings and pray for her family and her country.

My parents were both wonderful storytellers. There were nights when we would turn the TV off and one or both of them would begin weaving tales about their childhood. Often the stories would involve where they were or what they were doing during significant times in history. I heard Daddy tell his recollection of the day President Kennedy was shot in Dallas so often I can almost repeat it verbatim.

Although I have lived through some pretty significant historical events and can tell you where I was when I heard some of them happen, none truly changed my life as much as September 11, 2001. I had worked later than usual the night of September 10, 2001. I had planned a trip to Atlantic City, N.J., the next week to attend the Miss America Pageant for the fourth time and had some tasks that needed to be completed before my time off rolled around.

It was a phone call from my sister, Jindra, that first alerted me to the attack on American soil. Even though I had heard the phone ringing, I couldn’t seem to wake up enough to get up to answer it. Through the answering machine, I could hear her telling me to wake up and turn on the TV.

Wondering what was of such epic proportion that she would call me from work to tell me to watch TV, I fumbled for the remote control and turned the TV on in my bedroom. Through sleep-glazed eyes I quickly noticed that the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the World Trade Center in New York City were featured in a split-screen shot on TV. And smoke was billowing from both.
Confused, I turned up the volume in order to make some sense out of what I was viewing. That’s when I first learned of the hijackings of the commercial airliners and how the hijackers had flown the airplanes into both buildings. At the time I turned on my television, only one plane had hit the WTC, but soon after I began watching the news coverage, the second plane hit.

Watching this catastrophe unfold from my bed, I was numb. Although I realized it was a live news report from NBC, it just didn’t seem real. And when the towers began to fall, tears started to cascade down my face. Although I prayed that the thousands of people who worked in those two buildings had time to safely evacuate the area, I knew in my heart that many of them were being thrust into eternity at very moment. And my heart literally broke from that realization and the realization that even though the events were going on in Washington, DC and New York, every American was being attacked at that very moment. I took it personally because it was personal.

I am blessed to have friends who live in various areas across America and I quickly began to go through my mental Rolodex to determine who, if any of them, lived near or worked in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. Although my brain was still a bit fuzzy from sleep, I decided that I didn’t really know anyone who worked there. Then I remembered an email I’d received from my friend Stacey Kunnari a few weeks before describing her daily trek from their apartment in New Jersey to New York University. I recalled something about a train and a station at the World Trade Center site and I wondered what time she would have gone to class on that Tuesday morning. How grateful I was later that evening when she was able to get a blanket email out to tell all her friends that she had opted not to go to class that morning.

Although Corinth is located far away from the site of the attacks, reporting the events became front page news. I even managed to get Stacy’s husband, Brian, to send me some digital photos of the New York skyline from their vantage point across the river. From where he stood, he could see the smoke billowing from the WTC rubble and his photos reflected that.

With Miss America competition beginning the next week, the contestants had been in Atlantic City for rehearsals and other events prior to September 11. Discussions began immediately about what to do with the contestants and about the pageant itself. Some of the contestants, naturally, wanted to go home. But with air travel suspended, that was almost impossible. Since the contestants were already there as a group and virtually safe, a decision was made early on to keep them in Atlantic City. After national leaders encouraged Americans to attempt to go on with life as usual as best they could, pageant officials decided to continue with plans to host the competition on a slightly scaled-down level.

My trip itinerary had me flying out of Memphis the following Tuesday and flying into Washington Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC, by way of Atlanta. Since air travel had been suspended indefinitely on September 11, I wondered at first if I would even be allowed to take the trip. By the end of the week, travel had slowly been started back up and flights were leaving Memphis International Airport.

With family members and friends questioning my sanity, I left Corinth early that next Tuesday morning. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about getting on that airplane one week after the September 11 attacks. Oddly enough, that wasn’t the first time I’d been to Atlantic City under a threat of sorts. The first one as in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd (or as I affectionately call it, Hurricane Elmer Fudd) was predicted to hit the shore. I opted to take that trip as well – adding a flashlight, transistor radio and plenty of snacks to my suitcase in the event we were forced out of the hotels and into some sort of emergency shelter during the duration.

During the drive to Memphis that September Tuesday, I kept asking God to give me a peace about the trip. The sun was just rising as I sped down Nonconnah Parkway toward I-240. Rounding a curve, I saw a flash of color on the horizon. It was the largest American flag I think I had ever seen.
The slight breeze was making the flag flap in the wind and the rising sun cast a light behind it that made the stars and stripes seem to glow in the early morning sky. In my head, I could hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s version of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and I suddenly found my peace.

There were only 27 people on board the 727 that I rode from Memphis to Atlanta that morning. The flight attendants were trying to calm nerves as much as possible and told us we could feel free to choose any seat we wanted for the short journey.

Changing planes in Atlanta revealed to me that air travel was not as sparse there. Although there were still a good many vacant seats, there were more passengers on the plane from Atlanta to Dulles.

My friend, Michelle Blake, picked me up at the airport. We had already had the “are we sure we want to do this” conversation the night before on the telephone. It was obvious I was committed to going on to Atlantic City since I was in Virginia. She wasn’t quite as convinced yet. But the next morning, as we drove toward the Jersey shore she would look at me every few miles and just shake her head.

Security around the Miss America Pageant was tighter that week than I had ever noticed it. I knew security was around during the three previous trips to Atlantic City, but they weren’t as obvious. All our bags were checked before we could enter Convention Hall, the site where the pageant had been held for decades, and we were even “wanded” by a security guard.

Although we were trying to get into a pageant sort of mode, we couldn’t overlook the proverbial elephant in the room. Many of us shared recollections of where we were and what we were doing when we heard the Pentagon and the World Trade Center had been attack. Since not all travel routes were up and running even a week after the event, some of our friends weren’t able to make the trip to Atlantic City so we talked about how we missed them, too. And some of our friends simply didn’t want to either deal with the heightened security or couldn’t make themselves travel so they opted out of the pageant for that year.

One morning I traipsed over to Convention Hall to watch rehearsals and found a group of people standing around tables near the stage. They were taking small dowels and stapling cardboard American flags to them. The idea was for everyone in attendance for the televised pageant on Saturday night to have a small American flag to wave in support of the country. Since, not surprisingly, the sales of American flags of all sizes had skyrocketed post-9/11, pageant officials couldn’t get a couple thousand small flags. Someone came up with the idea of getting a pattern from the Internet and making them with the help of the volunteers.

Instead of watching rehearsals that morning, I stood with my friend from New Hampshire and four women from Washington state and Massachusetts and stapled flags. For hours we did this. My back hurt and my thumbs hurt but I didn’t complain. It was a small contribution, but it was something I could actually do to give back a little.

The contestants noticed what we were doing and would cheer us on as they walked past the tables. My buddy Allison Hatcher, who was Miss Indiana that year, would either hug me or offer words of encouragement each time she walked by.

And remember my friend, Stacey, who I was worried about the morning of 9/11? She and her husband, Brian, came down for the pageant that weekend and I was able to hug my former Miss Arizona and tell her how grateful I was she was still around.

A rumor began to circulate on Friday morning that there had been a threat made on the Saturday night pageant. Some folks wanted to go home – even my friend, Michelle. I calmly told her to do what she felt was best, but I had been there all week and I wasn’t leaving. If it was my time to go, I told her, I might as well be doing something I enjoy. And if it was my time, there wasn’t much I could do about it anyway. Somewhat reluctantly, she agreed to stay.

Despite the fighter planes flying off the beach near the Convention Hall and the huge military helicopters flying over the building, the pageant went on without a hitch and Miss Oregon Katie Harman became the first contestant from her state to capture the national crown.

Although I am no longer a Miss America volunteer, I still remain close to many of the friends I made during that time. Looking back, do I regret boarding that plane a week after 9/11 and flying to the East Coast? Not one bit. I’m certain I would have eventually had to face the hesitancy of air travel eventually. I guess it was just as good a time as any to get back in that old saddle again. And I have such good memories of that week to show for it, too.

I don’t know why that particular event in my life came to mind today as I was beginning my personal celebration of Independence Day. I am so very grateful to live in a country that, despite all its imperfections, still allows me the freedom to choose, the freedom to be but most of all the freedom to worship God openly and freely. I often take my American citizenship and the rights and privileges that come with it so much for granted. It’s on days like this that I try to stop and realize just how truly blessed we are as Americans.

On September 11, 2001, and the days following, I saw a great revival of sorts beginning in this country. Out of frustration, desperation and deep-seeded pain, people began to truly seek Him with all their hearts.

My prayer is that those who have yet to find Him, will continue to look.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When might is right

I’m very attracted to strength.

No, I’m not looking for a body builder type of man in my life. Although I wouldn’t turn that type of guy away if he happens to be the “one.”

What I really mean by that statement is I appreciate people who are strong emotionally. You know, the folks with intestinal fortitude who aren’t afraid to let said intestinal fortitude show most of the time.

If someone were to track my friendships through the years, they would find that the majority of the people I have intimately connected myself with possess that one characteristic in common. They’re all fairly strong in spirit.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, I always thought we were pretty good friends, but I’m really not that strong …” then odds are one of us was and/or is “fronting” the other one. (And you’re probably a lot stronger than you realize you are!).

Growing up, I never considered myself that strong really. I guess that statement is pretty funny coming from someone who was over six feet tall by the time they were 12 years old. Even though we equate strength and size, though, that’s not always how it generally works in reality. I’ve known some pretty big people who were, well, pretty much weak internally. And I’ve known some folks who are pretty small in stature that I hope literally have my back.

So in my immature mind, I decided that if I connected myself to strong people I would somehow become stronger by association or osmosis or some biological process that I didn’t quite get but believed or hoped could happen. And, retrospectively, I had a pretty good idea. I mean, what better way to become stronger than to plant yourself around strong people?

I could start naming names and telling tales, but I won’t. But I did have some great examples of courage and perseverance to follow growing up. In all honesty, I still do today. And I truly need you people around because, contrary to some belief (I can’t call it popular belief because I’m certain few folks would really agree), I have yet to arrive to that proverbial destination of being a card-carrying, full-fledged adult. Although I have already obtained some of the rights and privileges of said adult – like debt, sporadic hot flashes and being forced to make life-altering decisions alone.

There were times in my life when I wouldn’t have called myself strong. In all honesty, I wasn’t really. I wasn’t a parasite of sorts, but I was more like a barnacle. I seemed to find attaching myself to others and feeding off their lives and experiences was easier than attempting to live it on my own.

But situations came, as situations often do in life, where I found myself backed against a wall and forced to choose might or weakness. It was at those times I had to dig deep within me and determine exactly what I was made of. I had to, without much of a choice actually, stand on my own two feet and take care of myself.

I HAD to be strong.

And I did it. I became Beyonce (that’s a slight I was a SURVIVOR reference for those of you who totally missed it – with apologies to Michelle and Kelly, but it really made even less sense to state I became the three women of Destiny’s Child!) and grew even stronger from the experience.

Even today I’m still working on the strength area of my life – and still attempting to surround myself with positive examples of it as well. I’m becoming more comfortable with letting my strength show, too – as well as my weaknesses. I’m learning to step up more often when others need to lean on the strength I possess rather than wait on someone else to take the role instead. And, in turn, I’m learning to be weak and allow others to be stronger during the appropriate times of my life.

Why?

I’m gradually becoming more and more comfortable in my own skin because I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the source of my strength.

Nope, I’ve not yet arrived, but I’m not beating myself up about it either. I’m growing and growth is a truly positive and blessed thing. Hopefully it looks good on me, too!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waiting for the rain

“I will bless my people and their homes around my holy hill. And in the proper season I will send the showers they need. There will be showers of blessing.” Ez. 34:26 NLT

Remember when you were a small child and the anticipation of Christmas you would begin to feel as the season approached?


For me, it would begin not long after the last bits of trick-or-treat candy had been eaten. I would begin talking about Christmas on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until Thanksgiving. Once that holiday was celebrated and December started, the thought of Christmas would begin to consume me. I could not wait to see what Santa would bring me Christmas Eve and was so excited about spending the holiday with my loved ones there were nights when I could hardly sleep at night.


Christmas was all I thought about.

The other day I filled in for our receptionist at work. While seated at her desk, I noticed a calendar that contains a daily Bible verse. The verse for the particular day was Ez. 34:26. Reading it, I literally wanted to shout in the lobby of the Corinth School District Administrative Office building.

For months I have felt a real stirring of the Holy Spirit within me. It’s as if I knew He was working on my life although I couldn’t cite specific areas that were receiving His touch.

I had prayed months before that God would make my heart more pliable and teachable. As the old adage states, be careful what you pray for cause you just might get it. Well, I have gotten it in large doses. My heart has literally felt like it has been made of modeling clay lately. I have found myself crying at times for no seemingly particular reason. I have felt a longing in my heart for something yet I can’t put into words what exactly that “something” really is. And I’ve felt a literal shift going on within my life.

Is it complete? No. Has all this activity going on within me been frustrating to me? Yes. Do I totally understand what changes I may have to face in the future? No. But can I see God working on my life? Without a doubt!

God has been strategically placing people and situations in my life over the course of the past year or so. Some of them I have literally struggled with understanding their role in this ever changing canvas. A couple of them I have even tried to physically remove from my life. Thankfully they are wiser and a little more mature than I am and have patiently stood firm and refused to move – no matter how hard I have pushed.

Not only has God placed new people in my path to take my hand and guide me along or just to cheer me on, He has reunited me with people who haven’t had an active part in my life for decades. Some haven’t been around for like, well, eons. But they’re here now and filling important roles in my life.

Just llike we used to anticipate Christmas time’s arrival as a small child, we will now together await the proper season when God will send the shower we need.

I know it will truly be a shower of blessings.



Monday, June 22, 2009

Task clears mind, cleans dishes

Washing dishes it therapeutic.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy sticking my hands into yucky water to scrub food particles and day-old Keurig brewed coffee off my dishes. But it has to be done from time to time.

I don’t think Mama thought it was therapeutic for me. It was just one thing that she found her youngest child could do domestically without messing it up too badly. Nevermind that her youngest child HATED washing dishes. But I hated sweeping and mopping more – and I could REALLY mess that up – so I opted to keep peace at least in this little corner of the world and wash the dishes after most every meal.

Weekday breakfast dishes during the school year bought me a reprieve. I’m glad cause she mighta made me check out and come home to wash dishes like she did that morning she called and made them send me home to make my bed. Talk about shame – yeah, shame on the school secretaries for calling over the intercom and announcing to my class that my mama wanted me to go home for that particular chore.

But I survived that day of high school just as I had survived many other similarly trying ones.

Although I let some chores go around my house, I don’t allow many days to pass by with a sink full of dirty dishes. I can’t stand the bugs they might breed and the stench radiating from the dishes eventually drags me into the kitchen to wash.

After fixing breakfast for dinner tonight, I decided nothing smells worse than a skillet with old sausage grease drying on it so I washed dishes. And contemplated life’s little dilemmas. Like Jon & Kate’s marriage problems. And Mary Winkler being in court again. You know, the things you want to think about when you don’t want to think about your things!

I did contemplate a few serious things. Thought about other topics I’d like to take time sometime in the near future to attempt to give my opinions about. Also thought about all the places I’d like to go – like the beach (OCRACOKE Beach, to be exact) – and things I’d like to do. Thought about things I need to say, things I should have said and a lot of the things I wish I hadn’t said.

Mostly I just thought – something I don’t often take a lot of time to do in my life. And it was honestly a nice period of mental exercise for me.

I didn’t solve any of the world’s problems Monday evening and honestly didn’t solve any of my dilemmas. But I made a concerted effort.

And now I have clean dishes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Seizing the day


Missed opportunities.

In my life, I’ve had a few.

Some I missed were intentional – things I decided I just didn’t want to do or couldn’t bear to do. Others weren't missed on purpose at all. I either waited too long and the window for the opportunity closed. Or someone else beat me to it.

Whatever the reason, it still kinda stings when reality sets in and you realize what you could’ve done or could’ve had. Or, even worse sometimes, both.

For months I have been talking about taking a certain photo in Corinth. It wasn’t a plan to capture a specific Kodak moment of time or even preserve some landmark that has meant a great deal to me growing up. It could have been, mind you. See, that’s the cool thing about growing up in a small Southern town where things rarely change or often change very slowly. You have personal landmarks – or tabernacles, as I call some of them – that remind you of where you’ve been or where you have evolved from. Hopefully most of them show the positive growth and maturity in your life.

This specific landmark I have talked about for months stood across from the city park for decades. The park plays a very significant role in my life. No, it isn’t a place of a “first” for me as some of my peers could probably claim. But the park marks a place where my family and I enjoyed years of outdoor fun. From playing on the swings to climbing on the old Air Force jet that once sat at the bottom of the playground hill to picnicking under the old oak trees, I have thousands of memories tucked away in my heart of that plot of city land.

My grandfather died when I was a small child and most of my memories of him are focused on the moments we would spend at the park looking at birds and chasing the squirrels. I never pass there that I don’t think about George Harlan Hughes.

I also have memories of summers spent in the dirt of the softball fields at the back of the park. That’s where I made some lifelong friends and learned various life lessons.

It was partly because of these memories that I kept stating I needed to take some photos of the water tank that stood across the street. I never tried to climb it to spray paint my name on it nor did I ever receive (or steal, for that matter) a kiss in the shadow of that metal monster. But the structure has long been a part of the fabric of the canvas of that block. I’ve seen rainbows behind it when I didn’t have a camera in my car. I’ve seen some of the bluest skies and puffiest clouds perched behind that tank that looked as if a large hand had literally painted there.

About three weeks ago, I was heading somewhere else to take some photos and almost stopped to snap a few pictures of the water tank. But there was an 18-wheeler parked in front of it and, being in a lazy mood, I didn’t want to have to Photoshop it out.

This morning I checked the Daily Corinthian website as I sometimes do and saw I’d missed yet another opportunity in my life. A company pulled the old water tank down about noon yesterday. Had I known that was happening, I would’ve gone over there on my lunch break and documented the event for myself instead of eaten a barbecue sandwich alone.

Some folks are probably glad to see the rusted dinosaur pulled down. I will kinda miss it being part of the area’s landscape.

But I’ve learned a lesson from this missed opportunity. From now on, when I have even the slightest urge to take a photo of something I will take the time to do just that.

Carpe diem, most definitely.

I think I need to adopt the philosophy with personal issues as well. Sometimes in life you get “do overs.” But most of the time, like the removal of the old rusted tank, the chance is forever gone.
Note: The photo above belongs to the Daily Corinthian and was posted on their website at www.dailycorinthian.com. It was taken by Jebb Johnston.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fixing your focus

How’s your focus?

Prior to being diagnosed with diabetes, I first knew something was physically wrong with me when my eyesight – which had been normally good – began to fail. It wasn’t a gradual thing, but literally overnight I went from being able to read fine print on labels and other items to not being able to see the words at all.

I laughed and chalked it up to yet another thing that happens once you turn 40. Nevermind I had been 40 for several months (OK, a couple of years, but what is age, really!?).

One of the first things Dr. Glisson asked me during my initial visit with him was about changes in my vision. I told him my focus had been off and that had really bothered me. Later he explained that one of the side effects of diabetes is blurry vision. Fortunately, I’ve visited Dr. Jennifer and she says that although I don’t have 20/20 vision, the diabetes hasn’t gotten into my eyes yet.

Reading glasses (which tend to stay on my face probably more than they should at work) have helped to rectify the problems I’ve been having with focus lately. But they haven’t totally fixed it. Even with glasses, I’ve found when my blood sugar levels are too low or too high, I have a problem focusing on what it is I am trying to see.

And it’s not just diabetes that causes me to lose focus in my life.

Just this morning as I was driving to work, a black cat crossed my path. There was a time in my life when I might have made a cross on my windshield or done some other activity associated with superstition to negate that cat’s movement. I laughed at myself for not being superstitious as I decided to turn left rather than continue through the intersection where I had been stopped at a stop sign.

Because I was more focused on that silly black cat and stupid superstitions, I almost pulled out in front of an SUV whose driver was turning left in front of me – and, for the record, had the right-of-way.

Taking my focus off the task at hand – driving safely – almost put me into a car crash that I really didn’t want to have on a beautiful Friday morning.

Once upon a time, there was someone who wanted something with all their heart. The entire focus of their being was fixed on this one thing and it was literally almost all that they could think about.

When it finally became part of their life, they were overjoyed. Here was the thing they had waited for, and it was good.

But in a short time, they realized - like a garment that was too small or a square peg trying to drop into a round hole - the thing simply didn’t fit into their life. It wasn’t as magical as they thought it would be and, instead, was a bit superficial.

The person realized their focus had been wrong and they had wasted precious time – time they would never regain – focusing on something they really didn’t need after all.

Instead the person began to set their sites, like Philippians 4:8 encourages, on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute.”

And life suddenly seemed to have a bit more clarity when their focus returned to normal.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” – Phillipians 4:8

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A dream is a wish your heart makes ...

Dreams … we all have ‘em.

According to Erwin McManus, pastor of the Mosaic in Los Angeles, way too many of us dream better lives than we actually live.

There’s a black and white photo of me tucked in a frame in one of my bedrooms. When I worked at The Baldwyn News and later the Daily Corinthian, the photo sat on my desk. Why? Because the photo was one of a three-year-old me sitting in a small, rocking chair (even though the photo is black and white, I know it’s red cause I have the rocking chair in my living room today). My feet were propped up in another child-sized chair and in my tiny hands was a newspaper. Probably a Jackson Sun since we lived in Jackson, Tenn., at that time. It’s hard to decipher much about the newspaper from the photo since I’m holding it upside down. But I’m holding a newspaper as a newspaper should be held. In that photo, I’m looking away from the newspaper.

The pose makes it look as if I’m making some sort of editorial statement. From the look on my face, it was a positive one cause, well, because it was a look of sheer glee.

Of all the childhood photos I possess, that one has to be my favorite. Why? Because it is proof that the dream I carried into adulthood was birthed within me not long after I arrived on this planet. My mama used to tell me that while some children carried around security blankets, I almost always had a newspaper in my hand when I as a toddler. Some nights after I fell asleep, she would have to literally rip it from my grip often having to scrub my palm to get the black ink off the newspaper had imprinted there.

Although I think Daddy would have preferred I follow in his footsteps and become an educator, I never gave up the dream to become a writer. And not just any writer, though. The dream to be a newspaper journalist was always with me. In fact, I possessed that dream for so long that I don’t even know where it originated. It was as if it was instilled in me at conception and grew as I grew.

I wasn’t always totally faithful to my dream. There were times, as most children do, that I would explore other career opportunities in my mind and literally. Because my cousin Clara Lynn was a missionary in Brazil, I seriously thought about doing that. Being the biggest kid in my class (sometimes the biggest of the boys AND the girls), I was often took on the role of defending the underdog. From that experience, I considered becoming a social worker (even changed my major to social work one semester at Northeast until my advisor told me that even though my heart was in the right place, I needed to go back to journalism and right wrongs that way).

At one time in my life I really thought photography might become my profession of choice. I loved looking through the viewfinder of a camera – even if it was a 110 instamatic – and capturing a Kodak moment. Possessing the knack for getting just the right shot seemed inert to me even back then.

And since I spent a lot of time with Daddy at the various schools he was principal of throughout my lifetime, it was only natural for me to consider education as a career from time to time. I tended to play school more than I took it seriously, though.

Granny Hughes got me hooked on her “stories” at an early age and I seriously tossed around the idea of becoming a writer of a different sort when I was in high school. Soap operas were a huge passion of mine – somewhat funny now that I think about it all these decades later – and when I was a junior in high school, I began seriously talking about moving to New York and becoming a soap opera writer. I think my mama would have rather I joined the Sandanistas than move to New York. For some reason the big city scared her and Mama would discourage that plan every time I mentioned it.

Despite considering other career options, I never really totally lost sight of my dream to become a journalist. I’d like to say I worked hard in college to obtain a journalism degree. I did work hard in college but it wasn’t academically. I got by in the classroom, but I worked hard at being a “social butterfly.” Despite that, I graduated with a little over a 3.0 from Mississippi University for Women and hit the world wide open. My plan was to take what I considered a “learning job” in a small newspaper for a few years before hitting the streets of a big metropolitan area to become a paragraph producer.

I spent 3 ½ years in Baldwyn learning the newspaper business inside and out (as well as the business of life, but that’s another blog post I’m certain) before taking a job at the Daily Corinthian. That was literally part of my dream come true, in all honesty. In addition to stating I wanted to be a journalist, I would always add that I wanted to be editor of the DC. Funny that I would state that since I would also state I wanted to graduate from Corinth High School and never live in Corinth again (guess I thought I would live in the metropolitan meccas of Iuka, Kossuth or Walnut while I fulfilled that part of the dream, huh!?!?).

One year became five and five years became 10 while I worked at the DC as news editor. Although we were a small newspaper, I sometimes got to deal with some big city issues from my cubicle at work. I was able to meet a British prince, meet Hollywood celebrities and Washington, DC movers and shakers. I did stories on common people who did uncommon things and took hundreds of thousands of photographs. Eight days short of my 19th anniversary at the DC, I got to work early and sensed something was just not right. Of course, I’d kinda felt that for several months but this day seemed a bit lower on the “not right” spectrum. After I’d been there about 20 minutes, my boss called me into his office. I knew it wasn’t positive when I saw the publisher and the financial officer sitting in there as well.

Long story short, one of them read me a letter that thanked me for my service to the DC but informed me that because my position had been eliminated from the newspaper, my employment there was terminated immediately.

They could have shot me in the heart with a .357 magnum and it wouldn’t have hurt any less.
It was similar to those moments you see on movies, too. I temporarily went deaf – it was as if the world was void of sound for a moment. And a wave of shock coursed through my system. I almost hate to sound so dramatic, but it was that for me at that moment. For almost 19 years, I had lived and breathed the DC. I had often joked that I had BECOME the DC in a lot of ways – I didn’t know where my work life ended and my real life began. I think I had thrown myself into that job so much that it had become my world.

And my world was stripped away from me in those few minutes.

I quickly came to my senses and remembered that I was Betty Jane Hughes Jobe’s child. Where some folks might have caused a scene, I slowly stood up, attempted to smile and told them I would pack my own belongings. I felt they owed me that much respect as a faithful employee who had been a team player and a “company” person.

It took several hours to weed through almost 19 years of clippings and career souvenirs. Coworkers would come by my desk from time to time and attempt words of encouragement and support. Although I appreciated them, they didn’t really work as salve to heal the hurt.
Boxes packed, my best friend – who had left work in Oxford to be there for me at that moment – helped me carry them out to my car.

Although I’d forced back the tears at the DC, I couldn’t hold them in any longer. I felt huge, hot tears slowly drip off my chin as I headed for home.

Losing a job right before the holiday season is tough on many levels. It’s really tough on a person who wants to dive in and find another one. Most employers are trying to finish the year out and are more worried about getting in all the vacation time and personal time off that folks have saved up more than they are filling empty positions. So I spent the holidays with my family – something I’d not gotten to do consistently as a member of the media.

I applied for several positions at newspapers throughout North Mississippi and had some serious “bites” at a few of them. But it literally made me sick to think about walking in another newsroom and attempting to put my byline on a story in another publication. It wasn’t that I was that loyal to the DC. That wasn’t the case. It was as if losing my job was more than losing a paycheck – something during the event killed that dream within me that I’d carried since childhood.

For the longest, I didn’t want to write anything. Even filing out job applications and signing my name became too much of a chore.

Long story shortened, I found out about the project director’s position at the Corinth School District and applied for it. Dr. Childress saw enough potential in me to give me a chance and I began working there on January 16, 2008. A little over a year later, I still love what I’m doing. I’m becoming more confident in the depth of knowledge that I have about education and have learned more about it than I ever knew I could absorb. I have an even heightened respect for the teaching profession and honestly care about every staff member of the CSD.

A lot of people will tell you that you should keep work relationships and personal relationships separate, but that’s almost impossible in education. It’s a team effort to make sure children are learning all they should be at the rate they should be. And you can’t work that hard on something that closely with people and not care about them.

My dream career-wise had changed now. Although I never say never, I don’t envision myself returning to a newsroom anytime soon. I’m not certain that I will retire with the CSD, either, but I’m in no hurry to leave there. I think I’m doing a good job and believe I am making a positive impact on the lives of those who work with and attend our district. And I know they’re making a positive impact on mine.

Oddly enough, when I was news editor of the DC, I was often asked to speak to students about the newspaper business. Almost every time during the question and answer portion, some student would always ask – what would you be if you couldn’t work in the newspaper business? I’d always laugh and utter something about never thinking I wouldn’t be a journalist and then I’d always pause (not for dramatics but to honestly think about my answer) and state I would be a history teacher. Although my answer was always that – even though I wanted to be witty and say a ballerina or something ridiculous like that – and it would almost surprise me every time I said it. Looking back now, I wonder if maybe God wasn’t somewhat asking my heart to stretch a little and consider another possibility for my life.

There are other possibilities He is working on within me. Some are what I call “Oprah-sized” dreams – the kinds I would have to have an Oprah-sized bank account to see happen. And others are small dreams that I see coming true on a daily basis as special people have begun to come into my life.

Erwin McManus also stated, on the video we watched at church Wednesday night, that “you can miss those moments in life never knowing what you missed or you can seize those moments.”

I’ve missed enough moments in my life, it seems, so I’m picking the latter choice.

I don’t have a clue what my future is exactly, but I’ve always known who holds my future. And I’m content with that. Just as I am content to continue to dare to dream.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Simply stated

Simple.

That’s pretty much me. I don’t mean simple minded, now. I don’t know anything about quantum physics, can’t tell you much about what the old philosophers thought back in the day and can’t even balance my checkbook to save my life, but none of those things are really that important to me.

Even though those who know and love me best sometimes declare that I am very high-maintenance, I don’t think I am at all.

I’m basically … well, simple.

I prefer my cheeseburgers plain although I will sometimes add the pickles, mustard and onion to the meal. I could be content with a whole wardrobe of khaki pants, denim slacks and red, pink or Carolina blue solid colored shirts. I sometimes wear shirts with stuff printed on it, but I truthfully don’t feel comfortable in them.

My shoes aren’t Prada by any means. I may have a few name brands in my closet at home, but that’s only cause Shoe Carnival deeply discounted ‘em. I go more for comfort than designer name.

There’s no polish on my fingernails when I allow them to grow. I’m picky about my hair even if I just really wash it on a daily basis and allow the blow dryer to determine which measure of messy it looks. I wouldn’t get a frequent pedicure even if someone paid for it. I hate for anyone to touch my feet much less look at them.

I’m simple.

I don’t own a diamond. Much of the jewelry I have carries more sentimental value than monetary value. The necklace I never remove was a gift from my best friend shortly after I came to know her. I sometimes wear the ring I bought my mother the first Christmas I had my first job. She returned it to me the last Sunday of her life, uttering how she had always been proud of me and how much she loved me shortly before slipping into a coma from which she never returned.

I have simple dreams, hopes and desires. Some of them – like the fire engine red Mustang GTO, the 70-300mm Canon zoom lens or Tag Heuer watch – could be a little more easily obtained than others. Although I attempt to keep my life simple and worry-free, I sometimes have to think during the loneliest moments that there really has to be more to life than this and believe that eventually my shot at happiness and complete contentment will come my way.

Simple goals, yeah, but honorable ones.

I didn’t become simple on my own, really. My parents had a simple belief system that if you worked hard and remained honest that you would be respected. They also thought that a good name was more important than vast riches and instilled that in me as a child. They believed every person had good within them, that it was up to us to find it sometimes. They truly judged people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin and sought friends from literally all walks of life. True friendship was measured by them not in what people could provide for them but how people could make their lives more enjoyable and, in some instances, simpler.

Growing up, my parents simply insisted that I attend church and went with me. They didn’t indoctrinate me with lots of religion, but wanted to make sure that, instead, I was filled with lots of God. They truly believed the Word and lived the Micah 6:8 principle of life by doing justly, loving kindness and walking humbly with God. Not ignoring the New Testament, my parents loved God with all their heart, soul and mind and truly loved their neighbor as themselves.

I simply want to carry out that legacy above anything else.

For years, I found myself trying to be the complex person I thought the world wanted me to be. And I attempted to do various things to get God’s attention in an effort to become one of His favorites.

Often, I’d find myself frustrated with my attempts. And I felt my simpleness made me so unworthy of His love.

Several years ago, I began to become a bit more comfortable in my own skin. It was at a weekend women’s retreat when I finally figured out that God could – no, DID – love someone as simple as me. And that I truly am one of his favorites, as simple as I am.

I was no longer ashamed to be simple or to possess little when measured against the wealth of this world. Because of my simple faith in Him, that no longer mattered.

Nope, I haven’t “arrived” yet, though. I still struggle with acceptance and worth. I’m still attempting to surround myself with others who can accept someone who is simple – who maybe are even simple themselves.

Simply stated, I am who I am and what I am because of Who created me. Like it or not, simple enough.