Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shooting star offers sign of hope, peace

I wrote this several years ago in my other life as one of my weekly Impatience of Jobe columns for the Daily Corinthian. While looking for a copy of another column I wrote, I stumbled upon it tonight and thought how timely it was for how I was feeling. So I opted to share it here and as a note on my Facebook page.

Tomorrow is an unusually hard day for me. Eighteen years ago my mama died and eighteen years later, I still miss her. Hopefully I will see a sign tomorrow that will provide some peace - and hope and maybe, even, joy - for me on a day that is generally difficult ...


From time to time, we all look for them as answers
that Someone is listening to us from above. Or simply
as hope personified in an animate object.

Different people have different signs that are
significant to them. Some are simple ones while others
tend to need the more complex signs to let them know
everything is really gonna be OK.

A rainbow, specific cloud formation or unusually
colored sunset are signs for some people that things
are going to turn around. Certain songs showing up on
a radio station play list, a bell ringing or the voice
of a friend on the other end of a phone signal peace
for others.

Still others find hope in the eyes of a baby or the
reassuring hug of a small child.

My sister and nephew rely on the feathered kind of
sign. A cardinal flying by or perched on a tree branch
speaks volumes to both of them during difficult or
confusing situations.

Whatever the method, you tend to look for these signs
in times of greatest need or distress. Or just times
when you need encouragement.

I’m no skeptic, mind you, when it comes to faith. I
just sometimes have a difficult time putting my trust
into it wholeheartedly. With this in mind, it would
come as no surprise that I don’t have a specific
object that I tend to look for as a sign of
reassurance. For me, it has to be unusual things
showing up in common places to get my attention.

Take a recent Sunday night for example.

Unable to make myself go to bed at a decent time, I
decided at around 11:30 p.m. that I needed to take the
trash outside. Some folks might think that time of
night is an unusual time to traipse outside,
sockfooted and trash bag in hand. Forcing the plastic
bag into the already stuffed receptacle, I noticed
some nearby neighbors had put up new holiday lights.
Taking a brief moment to enjoy the flickering bulbs, I
suddenly realized how brightly the natural lights were
shining in the clear, crisp sky.

Scanning the stars, I attempted to locate the few
constellations that I knew when suddenly, and without
any warning, a light streaked across the sky toward
the west.

Stunned, I held my breath for a split second. Finally
coming to my senses, I quickly made a wish. I won’t
give away the contents of my wish, just in case that
might really jinx its ability to come true, but it was
pretty much an open-ended one.

Trying to not be selfish in the midst of the season of
giving, and sensing there might not be another
shooting star pass my way anytime soon, I made sure my
wish included some of those I consider near and dear.

One part of the wish I will share, though, because it
has already come true in a sense. In the season where
the hustle and bustle tries to overtake the real
meaning of the celebration, I stood on my driveway and
wished for peace on Earth.

Granted that wish hasn’t totally come true around the
globe as wars still rage in distant lands.

But I will take that one shooting star as a sign of
the possibility of peace.

Just as the lyrics to a song I learned as a small
child goes, peace has begun with me for it has sprung
eternal within my heart. I determined that clear, calm
night that no matter how bleak things seemed around
me, I was going to look for a sign of light within the
situation and focus on that positive source.

From now on, too, I will look for those shooting stars
at unusual times to indicate the continuation of the
process of peace throughout the world. I don’t think
it’s impossible to achieve at all. Especially if we
start from within.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Listening ...

Unbroken wings are free to fly.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Seeking real redemption

True redemption.

Humans make it hard for me to really believe in that.

Why? Well, for me – with no apologies to Frank Sinatra – I’ve had more than just a few regrets.

I’m the first to admit it. You don’t have to remind me. I’m not perfect. I do make mistakes. And, sadly, sometimes I make the same mistakes over and over again.

There have been times in my life when I’ve made decisions that I thought at the time were in the best interest for others and myself only to discover later that, well, maybe the original choice wasn’t the best one I could’ve made. Especially when involving those closest to me.

There have been times when geography, circumstances beyond my control, or just straight up life has separated me from some of the folks I’ve loved the most. Sometimes it was in my ability to keep it from happening. Other times, well, it was something I probably could have controlled. And yet it still happened.

There have been a handful of times, though, when I made a conscious decision to simply walk away. For one reason or another, through lots of soul searching on my part, I felt it was in the best interest of those involved to go for the greater good of the situation.

Intelligent people don’t do that, you’re probably sitting there thinking while reading this blog post. Smart people who find themselves in difficult situations do exactly that hoping that, in time, circumstances will become a little better and possibly your paths might cross again when they are.

Or maybe I should call it what it possibly was – a gutless move by an immature kid.
Years later, I look in the mirror and see that I’m no longer who I was. And I find it hard to live with the remorse I have about some of the decisions I made. And find it even harder to live with the fallout from them.

I honestly never knew there was an expiration dates for apologies, but I’m learning the hard way there are. I realize I can’t really expect people to welcome me back into their lives with open arms decades after I left. But I’d like to at least believe in true redemption. I’d like to see a couple of second chances. I’d like to believe lives are big enough to encompass lots of people in them.

Yes, those are very selfish sentences, but I’d like to prove that I am a much better human being today than I was a few decades ago and that trust could be regained.

Is that being too unrealistic?

In no means to I believe our friendships could ever be exactly as they once were. Honestly? I wouldn’t want them to be for had they been that ideal, I would have never felt the need to slip away in the first place.

And in all honesty, one friendship I’m seeking to repair became a victim of simply time and circumstances. I never meant for it to disappear. It’s like, well, life became busy, I thought she was still by my side and when I turned to look, I’d gone one way and she had gone another.

And I could never seem to do enough to fix it, no matter how hard I tried. I’ve found silence at every attempt. And I’ve taken the silence as a sign of rejection. Which has led me to the conclusion that possibly forgiveness IS a lot to expect.

But I can’t stop hoping and praying one day it will happen.

Life is a vapor. It’s brief and it’s, well, unsteady at best. And I’m tired of living with regrets. I can’t quit trying to make amends. I can’t give up. I realize that I probably don’t deserve a second chance, but I’m still hoping that I will be granted what I don’t deserve.

After all, isn’t that what redemption is truly all about?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"What we got here is a failure to communicate ..."

Voices. They’re distinct.

Many people in my life I can recognize purely by their voice. Although I’ve not heard my mama’s voice since December 13, 1992, I still remember how it sounds. That’s comforting at the times when I miss her most.

With other family members and close friends, I can hear their voices and I know who each one is without even seeing their faces. Even some of my newer friends like Robbie and Misty.

Voice recognition is just another way of identifying people. There are even times when you can recognize people you don’t even know just by hearing their voices. Take James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman for example. I don’t know either one of them – although I had a brief encounter with Mr. Freeman on the Oxford Square several years ago – yet I can recognize their voices in the many voice-overs they do for commercials and documentaries. They begin to speak and I instantly know it’s them.

I find it really funny when people call me on the phone and say, “Hey, it’s _____________!” Why do I find that funny? Well, #1, if they call my cell phone, I know who is on the other end of the phone before I answer it. Odds are, if I answer it at all they should feel fairly special because I often use the caller ID as a filter of sorts to determine whether or not I even answer the phone to start with.

But that’s another blog post within itself, I guess.

The other thing that makes me laugh when they say, “Hey, this is __________!” is simply, well, I know their voice. I’ve heard it enough that I’d recognize it at “hello.”

I have friends who our main source of communication is text messaging. It’s a decent way to “talk” – it’s instant and you can choose when it’s convenient for you to respond (although I try to respond ASAP because I can sometimes forget someone even sent a text).

Text messaging is often limiting, though. It’s really hard to put emotions in those little characters even using LOL or JK and such. When reading texts from someone one, you truly can’t get inflections in voices or even sarcasm (unless you really know the person writing the text message). Sometimes people totally misunderstand the intent of the emotion behind most text messages and can either get their feelings hurt or become really angry by something typed in a text.

For the most part, I’m quite content to communicate via texts. But there are times, I admit, when I simply need to hear certain people’s voices. Some of them I’ve gotten to understand that need; others still don’t quite “get” it. I can read encouragement, but there are times when I honestly need to hear some folks say, “You can do this!” “You can make it!” or “Hey, this won’t last forever!” Even “I can’t do much from here, but I really do care” translates really well in my heart when I actually hear someone physically say it.

I really appreciate it when some of my friends randomly text me and write “I love you, Kim Jobe” in the text, but there are times when I need to hear the people I care most about in this world actually tell me that.

And sometimes there are just those rare times when I just need to hear certain people talk. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask from a friend.

Tusha has been my friend since we were children. She is one of my most consistent friends – we have been so close for so long that she is truly more like family to me than a friend, to be quite honest. We started out as pen pals and wrote letters fairly faithfully through our early 20s. We have also spent quite a bit of time talking on the phone and I have visited her in New York three times. We, too, have adapted with technology and we often send emails to one another. To be honest, though, she is one of the few people I will sit down and actually pen a letter to because it’s that important to me.

Although we try not to do so, there have been times over the past 35 years (yes, we have been friends that long!) when we haven’t kept in touch as closely as we should. She is a second grade teacher, is married and has two young and very active children who enjoy dance, cheerleading and various sports. Spare time is a rarity with her. And I understand that. There have been a couple of times recently when I have sent her emails concerned about the distance between us.

A few weeks ago she called and we got the chance to talk almost uninterrupted for half an hour. It was during that conversation that we decided we were going to make a more concerted effort to communicate more often. We are going to take turns calling one another about every six weeks – if for no other reason than to check in for five minutes or so and hear one another’s voice.

It’s that important to the both of us.

Time is a high-dollar commodity. I’m going to quit wasting so much of mine and start investing it.

Good intentions are not a valid argument when friendships drift away. Life is busy, true, but we make time for things that aren’t even as close in importance as the people we hold near and dear. I plan to quit saying I’m going to get better about communication and simply put my good intentions where my mouth is – and either call the folks I love from time to time or at least send them a card to let them know I’m thinking of them.

I have a feeling it will be something that will not only bless the lives of others, but will bless mine in return.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What I'm [Stealing]

“Borrowed” this from another person’s blog I read who “borrowed” it from one they read …

What I’m [reading] = Fearless – Max Lucado

What I’m [also reading] = Crazy Love – Francis Chan and one of the 25 or so ghost and folklore books I bought from Spice of Life’s going out of business sale. I normally collect them as souvenirs when I travel various places in the U.S., but I just couldn’t pass these bargains up!

What I’m [eating] = Every single thing in my sight, sadly! I’ve got to exercise more and eat better! UGH!! Currently, I’m waiting on breakfast so I can have a little pb/banana action today (even though one of my bananas looks like it has a black eye).

What I’m [hearing] = Right now? “Love Has Come” and “Your Love is a Song” on WRBQHD2 on iTunes radio. Normally I listen to Xmusiconline.com, but it seemed redundant today so I switched to this station from Tampa (I wouldn’t mind being in Tampa right now listening to some awesome Paula White preaching, to be honest!!)

What I’m [writing] = At work? Copy for the website which includes feature stories on new administrators and such. On a personal level, not much to be honest (and I should be writing more; I’m … hold it, hold it, you’re gonna be shocked by this admission … LAZY right now. Wishing I were doing more to feel more inspired, really).

What I’m [missing] = Hmmmmm … this could be a long list. Wish it stated what I’m NOT missing; that might be easier to compile and keep me out of some trouble, too. In a condensed version, I’m missing my friends Michelle and Janet – I wish we could all be in one place hanging out for about a week or six. ☺ I’m missing my Emmaus Walk #59 Team and Pilgrims – what a blessed weekend we had and I miss sharing the glow and love and praise and worship with all them.

What I’m [loving] = My life to a certain degree. Granted, it’s not as complete as I’d like it to be. I’m still looking for that special person to totally share it with and say “I do,” too. I truly believe he exists; He just hasn’t perfected the timing yet. I’m loving my job very much. I have some of the best co-workers (who have become some of the best friends and truest friends ever) and know some of the best kids in the world.

What I’m [googling] = Honestly? Wide width walking shoes. My friend, Robyn, wants me to walk with her and I NEED to walk (my diabetes NEEDS me to walk) but I have no comfortable shoes for this process. So I’m trying to find some. And definitions of certain phrases I’ve been hearing that I want to expound on as posts for my blogs. I’m working on two different posts right now – maybe three – thanks to Toy Story 3 and the recent CHS Band reunion!

What I’m [watching] = Way too much instant viewing stuff on Netflix! LOL Although it took me several weeks to view the DVD I had from them at home, I’ve managed to sort through the 200+ titles I have in my instant que and have watched quite a few movies and complete TV series on there. I was hooked on Hulu, but I think Netflix has a better lineup. Last night, though, I started a “Fearless” series on Lifechurch.tv. Pastor John got me hooked on Craig Groeschel several months ago, and I’m enjoying his messages so much.

What I’m [surprised about] = Well, not that my friends, Webb and Bubba, are getting married. I knew that was bound to happen eventually and I’m ecstatic. I was surprised about the flowers that the Dorans sent me earlier today. They’re gorgeous. I was pleasantly surprised how many people showed up at the CHS Band reunion last Saturday night! I was afraid folks just wouldn’t turn out, but I guess I forgot that they love Mr. E and Mr. Smith as much as I do.

What I’m [wondering] = How much longer this feeling of living in a state of limbo will prevail?!?! I know without a doubt that God has a plan for my life and He keeps telling me over and over again that it will be worth the wait. I just, well, sometimes get weary waiting. I’m trying to remember that wait is definitely an active verb and I’m not just being idle about it all. But there are still some areas of my life that I truly believe need some action and it’s getting really frustrating waiting for that to happen.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who is He to you?

Matthew 16 (The Message)
13 When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
"What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?"
14 They replied, "Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah
or one of the other prophets."
15 He pressed them, "And how about you? Who do you say I am?"
16 Simon Peter said, "You're the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
17-18 Jesus came back, "God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn't get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church,
a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.
19"And that's not all. You will have complete and free access to God's kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven."

Who is He to you?

That question was posed at the end of a powerful video I ran across on a website recently. The video contained several people from obviously different backgrounds in life eloquently describing who God was to them.

Some of their answers included:
* a consuming fire
* light and big
* infinite
* eternal hope
* my redeemer and my sustainer in trouble
* light that pierces darkness
* the rim on every cloud
* unchanging
* He is love and He loves me
* He is indescribable and yet He loves me

Honestly, I had to watch the video twice to allow it to all sink in. And watching it brought to mind the passages in the gospels where Jesus asked his disciples a similar question.

For some reason, the version in Matthew is the one I chose to look up this morning. And to be honest, this passage of scripture frustrates me whenever I read it. You will probably find my explanation of that statement very funny, but read on nonetheless.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those 12 men to have been hand-picked by Jesus to follow that closely with Him and serve His ministry. I wonder how much they really thought about what they were doing during the process or if they were just following out of faith. That is not really explained within the texts.

What frustrates me about Matthew 16, though, is Jesus posed this question and they obviously gave the correct answers. They answered the question directly, but the answers lack, well, eloquence. It’s as if I wanted them to suddenly become poets and offer words of fluent and beautiful alliteration. It was their moment to shine - and they were more dully straight forward.

This morning it hit me, though. These men most likely didn’t have the vocabulary to offer flowery speech. Many of them were laborers or simple fishermen. I’m not picking on them and I’m certainly not saying they’re ignorant, but how many times have you watched “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel and heard any of those guys spout

The other thing I’ve missed in the other times I’ve read these verses is: this transpired early in Jesus’ ministry. Although they had witnessed some of the miracles of Jesus and had an inkling into what He was capable of doing, they hadn’t really gotten a grasp of exactly how Jesus was going to literally transform the world as they knew it in that time and all of the eons to come.

They hadn’t “arrived” yet.

Nor have I.

Although I have known about God for more than 40 years, I have only recently begun to truly know who He is and what He is capable of doing. Had I been asked that question 20 years ago or even as soon as a decade ago, my answers would have been vastly simple compared to what I would reply today.

Who is He to me?

Maybe I shouldn’t be so frustrated with that passage of scripture after all. I can come up with some fluid, beautiful and poignant adjectives to describe God and His infinite roles in my life. But I’d like to believe, despite the times I waffle in my faith and despite the times I fail to honor Him and serve Him as consistently and deeply as I should, that my answer would come down to two simple words: my all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Believing what seems impossible

I’m not one to give up dreams very easily. Even the ones that seem almost impossible to attain, I still keep hoping they will eventually come true!

Recently, I have believed really diligently for a couple of things to happen in my personal life. Some of them are fairly simple and just seem a bit beyond my fingertips right now. Some of them I have in my grasp, I’m just waiting for them to completely be mine. And, well, there are a couple that if I dwelt really hard on them, I’d cry because they seem so impossible to obtain.

Nothing is impossible with God, though. I learned that as a child because our choir at South Corinth Baptist Church sang a song that had lyrics which stated, “Nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God; Nothing is impossible when you’re trusting in His word. Hearken to the voice of God to thee; ‘Is there anything too hard for Me?’ Then put your trust in God alone and rest upon His Word; For ev’rything, oh, ev’rything, yes ev’rything is possible with God.”

All these years later, I can still hear the choir singing that song and all these years later, I still believe that nothing is too hard for the God I serve.

It just seems like sometimes His delivery is a bit slow, you know?

Saturday morning I was driving to Tupelo to meet some friends for a fun day of shopping and eating – two of my favorite hobbies lately. Surprisingly, I was running a little late. Generally my route to Tupelo includes going down South Harper Road and hitting U.S. 45 right past the Mississippi Welcome Center. And that’s the route I took Saturday morning. When I got in front of the Northeast @ Corinth center, though, a train started to slowly cross the tracks right before World Color. I didn’t have time to wait so I turned around and drove up the road past the Alcorn School District offices. Preparing to turn left, I noticed a road closed sign on that roadway. So, I took a right and decided to go out Fulton Drive, a route I rarely take.

The sign at Shady Grove Methodist Church, my parents’ old place of worship, caught my attention as I started to drive past it. “The best is yet to come” it stated. Honestly, I wanted to stop right there and shout. But I was already running late so I just kept moving and shouted in the car.

The next morning, I drove to Kentucky to spend the day with my nephew and his family and my sister. Wednesday is Owen’s first birthday and we wanted to celebrate it in grand style. We decided to include a trip to church for our immediate family in the festivities.

Midway through his sermon, the Baptist preacher stopped, looked out into the audience and said six critical words. Yep, you guessed it: the best is yet to come.

That kind, longtime preacher man almost knew he had a Holy Ghost-filled person in his midst at that moment. Sistergirl wanted to shout! I remained in order, though, but my heart pounded harder than it has in months. It was all further confirmation to me that I am finally on the right track in my life.

And I think if I remain steadfast and unshakeable, I honestly believe the best IS truly yet to come!

Friday, July 9, 2010

He set me free

"Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
I just wanna praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you

Been through the fire and the rain
Bound in every kind of way
But God has broken every chain
So let me go right now."

Warryn Campbell, Erica Atkins-Campbell and Trecina Atkins-Campbell

Standing on the platform with the Real Life Church praise & worship team one recent Sunday morning, I had a moment that might be defined as an epiphany (well, the second definition of the word; not the “feast” one): You never know how bound you have been in life until you are finally free.

That moment was truly a defining one for me and set off a process that will most likely be a continual one for the rest of my life.

It has been no great secret that I have been going through something for the past year. Although I still don’t want to talk about the entire particulars of it, I will admit that it totally changed my life as I knew it. Thankfully, it didn’t end my life since I’m much stronger than I give myself credit for being. But it did change me drastically.

Prior to this, I’d been hurt numerous times, but never at such a cataclysmic level. I was devastated. I literally felt as if someone had taken a surgically-sharpened machete, cut my legs off at the knees and then - almost gleefully - stood over where I lay and cut my heart out of my chest while staring directly into my eyes.

Dramatic? Maybe. True? Abundantly.

My heart was not just broken. It felt shattered beyond repair and felt as if the pieces were sitting heavy and almost vilely at the bottom of my torso. I guess the best way to describe how it looked to me in my mind is how one of those glass balls that hangs on Christmas trees would look on the pavement when dropped from the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.


Worse than my heart being broken, though, I felt my spirit had been broken. Although I certainly didn’t want to harm myself, I simply couldn’t manage to care anymore. I was just numb, but painfully numb. That probably doesn’t make much sense but it seemed that I felt nothing yet I still hurt.

People closest to me reached out and tried to help. I didn’t resist, but I didn’t really receive either. I couldn’t. Oddly enough, a handful of folks who aren’t that close to me offered some words that later became very encouraging to me. And I’m honestly not certain if they even realized what they were saying or if God was just using them to messengers for Him since I wasn’t really listening closely to Him at the time.

I didn’t exactly give up on my faith, I just didn’t, well, have much faith in it. If God truly loved me, I couldn’t believe that He would allow this pain to continue. I begged Him to stop it, to fix it, to remove it and even, at times, to remove me.

In either a psychology class or sociology class at Northeast, I can remember learning about the stages of grief. I never truly believed they existed. With me, I generally lost, cried and attempted to move on. This time I experienced almost every single one of the Kubler-Ross model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Until I started writing this paragraph, I didn’t realize I experienced them in that order, too, but I honestly believe I did although it seemed I kept revisiting the anger stage often.

Although I finally worked through four of the stages, I never could seem to settled on the fifth one: acceptance. It wasn’t that I didn’t want the pain to be over and to move on with my life. I’d prayed for that since the very beginning. I just couldn’t seem to walk there. It was like I’d almost get to what I deemed the “end,” and something would happen to propel me backwards. To say it was frustrating for me is an understatement. There were nights when I would cry out to God to remove the hurt, that I just couldn’t take it anymore. And then there were times when I would just scream because I couldn’t find the vocabulary to match my cries.

Then one Sunday morning we were singing Darlene Zschech’s song “Freedom.” Although I was “faking it until I make it,” I certainly wasn’t feeling the words until we got to the line in the lyrics which states “It is for freedom You’ve set us free.” And something within me moved. Standing there, I literally felt as if heavy, iron shackles were falling from my wrists and ankles. I really believe I saw them drop and heard them clank against the platform floor.

The final process was finally beginning.

I began delving more into the Word than ever before and it became alive to me. It was like a salve for my wounds. I learned that there truly is power in praising God, in my case, healing power. I really listened to the lyrics of “How Great Is Our God” and “Come As You Are” and began to sing them honestly and live them fully.

John 8:36 became my lifestyle.

Despite feeling free, though, I couldn’t seem to let go. I felt as if my immediate past was glued to me and I couldn’t release it. I’d pray for it to go away - for total restoration - but it seemed to me as if God wasn’t interested in completing the process.

Although I love Mercy Me, I didn’t want to continue living “Bring the Rain”:

"Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain."

I was ready for the sun - and the Son - to completely and fully shine in my life again.

But God doesn’t always do everything instantly. Sometimes He works by process and, well, apparently I was still a work in progress.

In January, I was invited to become a member of a team for a Walk to Emmaus. Although I didn’t feel worthy to do it, I found myself accepting anyway. Believing that God is come-as-you-are, I knew He would either get me ready or move the opportunity.

Standing in one of the team meetings, I sucked back tears as I looked around that room. We were truly a team in every sense of the word despite the fact that many of us had come into the Walk as strangers. We all had baggage. We all, it seemed, were going through something. We all were instantly bonded. We all became cohesive and undeniably close knit.

We all were at various levels of truly becoming overcomers.

The Walk weekend elevated me to a relationship level with God that I had never experienced before - not even on my own Walk. Still spiritually high, for lack of a better term, I went to Clinton for the Fourth of July weekend to visit Janet, a fellow W Girl who attended the Columbus college at the same time I had. Although I knew we would have fun, I never really dreamed it would be a weekend that was almost as spiritual for me as the one before.

I’m thankful God has provided me friends who aren’t ashamed to take my hand and approach the Throne of God with me often. I’m thankful for friends who aren’t so scared of me that they will get in my face and tell me I’m wrong. I’m thankful for friends who aren’t afraid to put on their waders and step out into the muck and gunk surrounding my life and offer to help pull me out of it. I’m thankful for friends who see value in me and deem me worthy to love even when I feel so unloveable. I’m thankful for friends who believe in me when I am unable to believe in myself. And I’m thankful for friends who are ultra persistent and refuse to give up on me even after I’ve long given up.

Bottom line, I’m just thankful ...

Monday morning came and it was time to head north to Corinth. Although I didn’t want to go, I really had no choice. Starting the car, I popped a CD in the player and Third Day’s “Mountain of God” began playing.

"Thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me

And I didn't even know
That I had lost my way
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me

'Til You opened up my eyes
I never knew
That I couldn't ever make it
Without You

Even though the journey's long
And I know the road is hard
Well, the One who's gone before me
He will help me carry on
After all that I've been through
Now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley
To stand upon the mountain of God

As I travel on the road
That You have lead me down
You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me
I have need for nothing more
Oh, now that I have found
That You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me

I confess from time to time
I lose my way
But You are always there
To bring me back again

Sometimes I think of where it is I've come from
And the things I've left behind
But of all I've had, what I possessed
Nothing can quite compare
With what's in front of me
With what's in front of me

I thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But, You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me."

Midway through the song, I began to feel a warmth start at my feet and slowly move up through my body. By the time it hit my shoulders, I was shouting and crying and praising God all at the same time.

I was finally healed.

There in the driveway of Janet’s home, the almost yearlong process was completed.

I wanted to do like the folks of the Old Testament variety and get out of the car and build a tabernacle. I didn’t literally, but figuratively, I did. And I will never, ever look at her driveway the same way again.

Stopping by Janet’s office, I had a such a huge smile on my face she asked me what was going on. Although I couldn’t fully find the words to describe it all, somehow she understood and she rejoiced with me.

Now I am looking at the world literally through different eyes and a different heart beats within my chest. Although I said I’d never trust anyone again, I’m cautiously and slowly relearning how to do that. I know I will begin to trust again soon, I will just be more careful in choosing who I allow into my life and how much of my heart I will give to those around me. I’ve hardly “arrived” yet and perfection is not even a word in my vocabulary. I’m still flawed, but I’m improved.

I’ve grown up a lot over the past few months and I honestly believe that’s a good thing. I told someone recently that I felt as if I had been to a rehab center of sorts and much of the junk that was once weighing down my life had been detoxed. I am more me today and more real than I have ever been.

And I like that feeling.

Please forgive me for sharing so many song lyrics, but music has always had the ability to speak to me more than any other form of written communication. Natalie Grant has a song that somewhat sums up where I am today. It’s called “I Will Be” and the lyrics are indicative of where I hope I am in my life - where I truly want to be.

"One heart, one voice
Living out love in this world of noise
My dream and my joy
Giving you all I have made a choice
Desperately I'm waiting
To answer your calling

I will be a candle in the darkness
I will be the hand of heaven above
I will be a mirror that reflects your
Endless love
I will be the hope among the hopeless
Where there is conflict I will be peace
Only by the power of your spirit that's living in me
I will be

Your heart, your plan
Give me your eyes help me understand
My feet, my hands
Holding out living hope to every man
Knowing what you've made me
With every single heartbeat

Gracious, Gentle and Kind
Knowing that your love will shine
Through mine."

Please be patient with me as I continue through this process we call “life.” I’m evolving every day and I like most of it. Change has never been something I enjoyed, but I now can say change was necessary.

I’m looking forward to the future and returning to look back and revisiting the pain of the past. In the present, I’m attempting to figure out just what it is that God has in store for me. I know He has a plan and I’m ready to walk in it now more than ever. I have dreams and desires that I am hoping He will see fit to fulfill soon.

Most of all, I am grateful - and so very blessed.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cleaning house

Last weekend, I was blessed to be among the team members for the Koinonia Walk to Emmaus #59. This was my first time to work a Walk since I went on my own in June 2007.

Working a Walk is equally as life-changing and amazing as going on your own. Seriously.

In 2007, I wrote a column for my then-job at the Daily Corinthian and referred to my Walk. I'd like to repeat (ole') it here just for good measure:

If you could be religious about housework, my mother
should’ve been considered a saint. She kept the kind
of home that you could literally eat off the floors at
most any given time.

Mama had no set day to do housework. She believed in
doing a little bit of it every day and would often
remark she was simply “keeping up” with it.

Although she would never admit to it, I almost believe
that Mama enjoyed housework.
A stay-at-home mom, housework wasn’t just a part of
her job. She truly seemed to consider it a way to give
back to her family by providing an orderly and clean
environment in which to live. What we lacked in means
she truly made up for in aesthetics.

My sister apparently inherited that clean gene from
Mama. I wish she would’ve passed on a little of it to
me. It’s not that I don’t have any pride and want to
live in a messy place, I simply don’t have the skill
to do the housework well.

As I was growing up, Mama would try her best to teach
me the simplest of housework tasks. I would eventually
frustrate Mama so much she would end up sending me to
watch TV or read a book rather than wear her patience
thinner with mopping or other household tasks.

She did manage to turn me into a certified dish
washer, though. Mama often remarked that my stacks of
dishes in the drainer should be photographed because
they were regular works of art.

Some folks do spring or fall cleaning in their homes.
Not my mother. As the seasons would begin to change,
she would get the fever to start cleaning out drawers,
tossing out what she deemed unneeded and unuseful
items. This was almost too much for her packrat
husband and packrat youngest child to handle. If I
didn’t meet her time constraints, I knew Mama would
toss out my precious treasures while I was away at
school or away from home so I often tried to oblige.

I could understand the necessity of the events, I just
couldn’t bear to part with some of the things Mama
would classify as junk needing to be tossed. Now
living in the age of eBay, I often wish she hadn’t
been so insistent.

That’s why I thought it funny the other night when a
friend of mine from Tupelo sent an email asking me for
ideas to get out of housework. Little does she know, I
could write a book filled with excuses and other
inventive ways to not mop the kitchen floor or vacuum
the hallway.

All this housework thought didn’t inspire me to shake
out my own humble abode, though. Instead it made me
think about how our lives are very similar. How we
often get so filled with junk that we need to be
cleaned out from time to time. I don’t mean literally,
mind you, though there are times when that probably
should take place. But I mean figuratively.

Sometimes the junk in our lives is obvious. It’s like
the sales receipts I have strewn on my dresser or that
drawer that my computer keyboard sits on. It’s obvious
on a day-to-day basis that I need to clean it up and
throw some of the stuff out. But I just keep looking
at it as I pass it by to do something else.

Some of that junk is like the stuff that is stored up
in my attic. It’s been there so long that I don’t
quite remember what is there. Or it’s been there so
long, like the 8-track tapes in the cardboard box
upstairs, that it no longer has a usefulness in my

Yet I hang on to those tapes for fear I might someday
need them just like I have tried to hang on to the
junk in my life that I thought would eventually have a

Several weekends ago, I got the opportunity to do some
real internal housework during a Walk to Emmaus (#45). For
the first time in a long time, my life feels bright,
shiny and cleaned up. And instead of finding a purpose
for the junk stuffed inside of me, I have begun to
realize more of a purpose for my life and faith in

Now if I can just get as inspired with my housework.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I am done apologizing

(But with apologies to Hootenannie for swiping this idea from her blog!)

-For being tall.

-For not being “girly” enough. 

-For being messy.

-For attempting to get people who once were integral parts of my life back there.

-For offending people with my statements of faith and that my faith may not measure up to their conventional definition.

-For not liking every person I meet.

-For not putting up a Christmas tree.

-For still crying when I miss my mama.

-For staying on Facebook often.

-For being lazy quite often.

-For having such a huge heart.

-For not being “sweet.”

-For not really understanding when people waffle on plans for no real good reason.

-For life being sometimes so frustrating I often need help figuring it out (or just someone to listen to me rant about my frustration).

-For not being perfect and failing often.

-For being somewhat anal and very OCD about many things.

-For loving fiercely and loyally and telling people exactly how I feel and what’s on my heart very often.

-For being honest.
-For things that really aren't my fault.
-For being loud and somewhat abrasive at times (even when I don’t mean to be).
-For taking my time to sometimes be “done” with certain things (and people) and for being slow to give up and give in.

Where's your list? (It's honestly quite liberating to make one!!)

Friday, April 30, 2010

No longer strangers


Dear Lynda,

Hey! You have been on my mind so much for the past few months as I’ve gotten ready to celebrate Homecoming at The W this year. It was a big Homecoming for me and my friends from the Class of 1985. And wow, did we have a LARGE time! Such a large time that it's taken me a couple of weeks to put into words some of my recollections from that incredible weekend.

It would’ve been an even bigger time had more of my classmates been there. But Penny, Michelle, Judy, Gay, Sandra, Tina, Lynne, Laronda, and a few dozen others who were there took full advantage of the opportunity to gather back on that campus that means so much to all of us.

Michelle Byars Gray and I decided we needed some quality time back on campus so we took off work and ended up there around noon on Thursday. After eating lunch at The Little Dooey, we traipsed to The W to visit some people and places near and dear to us. During one of our adventures, I happened upon an old banner that had been signed by students and faculty in celebration of an athletic victory. You can’t imagine how excited I became when I unfolded it and saw your signature toward the top of it. I was somewhat surprised that mine wasn’t close by since we were fairly inseparable that year of our lives. Although it wasn’t nearby, I did find my autograph – not surprisingly written in D’Belle green Magic Marker – toward the middle of the cloth. Nisa and Michelle probably jumped six feet when I spotted my name because I squealed so loudly. And the squeal got higher pitched when I noticed that my good friend, Betty “Boop” Vick, had signed her name right next to mine.

That may seem like a simple discovery to you, but it was just a small concrete evidence for me that I – that WE – had truly once belonged there.

Oddly enough, Michelle and I hung out with students on Thursday who weren’t even born when we were coeds in Columbus. But that didn’t matter one bit. You see, we are connected and could relate to one another because of that thin, blue thread that binds the hearts of W Girls no matter if they attended classes in the same decade or not. And though we know that fact, it’s always fun to see it played out.

We were very excited that we happened to be on campus for the two-year Interclub March. Seeing those Blacklisters, Jesters and Maskers march toward that group of juniors lined up outside of the Café Olay brought back so many memories for us.

Although I didn’t let it show, I am still a little scared of one of those groups and watching them march toward me did make me a little nervous. It was awesome, though, to see a tradition that we consider somewhat sacred still taking place – even though their swaggers were a little different from the swaggers we were used to seeing. It was OK, though, cause it IS their school now and their two-year clubs.

After the march was over, I popped around the corner of the cafeteria with Michelle and snapped some group shots for my friends who weren’t able to be there that afternoon. Course it was funny watching the club members attempting to figure out which group I belonged to and what number I might have been in that particular group. A couple of people just outright asked me and I smiled and recalled the story of the late night that Penny, Jane Allen and a couple of others bestowed that sacred honorary 12 upon me. Although I’m certain there are others with similar experiences, I’m not certain many of them ended up in the group graduation photos at Mag Chain like I did.

I definitely thought of you as I looked in the faces of those girls wearing the red Xs and black eye patches. I really don’t think I ever told you how proud I was of you when you pledged Blacklist. We both know I had hoped you’d get a call from another two-year club, but that didn’t happen. Although I got to see you wear your white sweater a couple of times, I never got to see you function with the other girls in your line. That’s something I honestly still regret 25 years later.

I thought of you, too, as we ate dinner at The Goose with Michelle, Nisa, Amber and the rest of the crew. I wondered just how many Diet Cokes and Zero candy bars we had consumed from that place. Although the interior looks a lot different than it did when we spent so much time there, I could close my eyes and be transported back in time to that corner booth where we would sometimes sit and talk.

I especially thought of you later that evening when we were on front campus and I stepped up on the famous Jesus Bench. Just how many nights did we find ourselves having long conversations there? Much of the time you would sit on one end of that half-moon shaped concrete bench while I would stand – or pace – on the other end. I can still remember the specifics of some of those conversations all these years later. I found myself standing there sucking back tears because we were never able to maintain the bond we formed there. And I didn’t understand why and regretted it deeply.

Even though you weren’t at Homecoming physically, I saw you almost everywhere that weekend. I saw you in the faces of some of the students we met. I saw you sitting on the front steps of Stovall and recalled that last conversation we had there on the night of my graduation May 11, 1985. I felt your arm around my shoulder each time we sang “Friends.” I heard you helping me sing harmony on “Hail to Thee.” Our friendship was nestled very prevalently between the lines the characters spoke in “The Long Blue Line” theatre production Friday night.

You were the first person I wanted to call to tell how much fun the D’Belle party was this year (despite the fact that you were a Reveler, you always were supportive and loyal to D'Belles, too). I wanted to share with you how, for the first time in many years I felt a real bond with the D’Belles on campus and how much fun I had getting to know them. I wanted to excitedly tell you how I can’t wait to take the opportunity in the future to get to know them better despite the fact I won’t wear a green dress for them!

I thought of you while singing “Desperado” at karaoke and wondered what crazy song you and I might have chosen to sing as a duet.

There were so many times during that weekend that I thought of you that it made me miss you even more. And missing you made me miss others who weren’t there as well.

The past few years have been filled with challenges and changes for me on a personal level. And our alma mater seems to have been somewhat inundated with challenges and changes in her own right. There’s been a fight over the alumni association and a battle over changing the name of our beloved university. And there’s even been talk of merging with Mississippi State. Although I’ve had an opinion on every issue that has faced The W, I’ve been unusually quiet which is, well, unusually uncharacteristic for me. I can’t explain why, really, other than I’m just weary of all the bickering. I have opted to let someone else battle in the ring while I chose to do my fighting down on my knees. I still believe in the power of prayer and have entrusted God to work on behalf of our beloved Mississippi University for Women.

He truly knows best anyway.

Although I don’t know what the future holds for The W, I can’t help but believe that whatever does happen, those of us who have become connected by the heart there will remain that way. And I’ve got to believe that somehow the world will see the value of The W just as we did as students and as some of us still do. All of us chose that quaint little campus nestled near the heart of Columbus because we had a desire to belong somewhere. And it seems those of us who return there frequently do so because we have the desire to make sure our connections to one another remain intact and sure. Just as we want our university to remain intact and sure.

As quirky as it may sound, I need The W active in my life because it keeps me grounded. And that’s why I’ve remained so loyal to her for all these years. I’ve never really had much else to give, but I’ve tried to keep that intact. There’s a song we used to sing in D’Belles called “Mansions.” Oddly enough, I was discussing the lyrics to it with another D’Belle earlier tonight and explaining that although I didn’t have a lot financially to share with my club – or my alma mater, either – I certainly have lots of intangible things to give. The song pretty much says it better than I can: “We may not have a mansion, we haven’t any land, but we can give you sisterhood just come and take our hand …”

Sisterhood. That’s what I found 26 years ago when I became a “W Girl.” And that’s what I still have with those who I went to school there with and those who I have met since then. We may not keep in touch as often as I’d like or as often as we should, but that doesn’t mean I care any less about you. Or that my support of you has waned either.

You don’t find those kinds of connections many other places and I’m so grateful we have them at Mississippi University for Women.

As another D’Belle song states, “We were different worlds apart, we’re now the same. We laughed and played, and loved together like in a game. You could have stayed outside my heart, but in you came. And may our club just grow in love forevermore. This love for you has no beginning, it has no end. To you may all, my all and more, it’s always there. Though I’ve never given much to you before. God help our club just grow in love forevermore.”

Ditto for our alma mater.

Your former “bestest buddy,”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seeking Those Familiar Places When Times Are Tough

In my former life in journalism, I wrote a personal column that was printed in the newspaper each Friday. I tried not to skip too many weeks. Some of my columns were worth reading. Some, well, not so much.

Although I often dreamed of my columns being considered good enough to be compiled into a book, that never happened. But I did attempt to keep a collection of all my columns. I have a blue binder containing most of the ones I wrote during those more than two decades buying ink by the bucket.

Someone asked if I would share an old column here from time to time. Since some of them are like old friends and I enjoy "visiting" them, I will honor that request. This column ran in December 2002.

Human nature is a funny thing.

When life gets too intense, we tend to seek out

Whether it’s a mother’s shoulder to cry on, a
grandparents’ home to visit or just a plot of land in
the middle of nowhere, we can often find solace in

Whenever life seems at its worst for me, I have
familiar places where I gravitate.

When times got toughest as a student at Mississippi
University for Women, I’d find myself at the “Jesus

Looking on a campus map, you’d never locate this spot.
It’s not officially marked as the “Jesus bench” at
all. It’s a simple, concrete bench - a gift from an
earlier graduating class at The W - that was positioned
on front campus almost directly across from the school’s Baptist
Student Union house.

Seeking direction often during that period in my life,
I tended to walk around the beautiful campus.
Sometimes the walks came during the day while other
times I chose to walk at night. Many of the walks were
solitary ones, but often friends would join me as I
traipsed around that campus in the heart of downtown Columbus.

One of the more frequent co-walkers was Lynda Harris,
my best friend at the time. Many times we ended up on
front campus with Lynda sitting at one end of the
“Jesus bench” and me standing and/or pacing on what
was left of the other. We’d debate theology, talk
about dreams and goals or discuss future plans we had
for our lives. Since I was a senior and Lynda was a
sophomore, some of our talks centered on how we
intended to remain in close contact after my

Odd how some things don’t happen as you plan them.

Growing up in Corinth, I could always find complete
solace on the front porch of Granny Hughes’ Franklin
Street home. No matter what mood I was in when I got
there, life got better perched on the top step of that

One of my earliest tastes of freedom came when I
learned to ride a bicycle. I started out with a small
blue bike that almost every one of my cousins and my
sister used to perfect the bike-riding skill. Being
the youngest, I got the bicycle when it was far from
its prime. But I loved it all the same.

One Christmas, I got a green three-speed bicycle that
upped my freedom greatly. The next summer, some of my
neighbors and I began riding our bicycles around town.
One of them owned a bicycle that had an odometer attached to his front
wheel and we found it was not unusual for us to cover
60 or more miles in a day.

Much of my rides included trips across town to Granny
Hughes’ house. Most of the time, I’d arrive at her
house, store my bike under her side porch and let
myself in because she was always talking on the phone
when I got there. It wasn’t until years later that I
realized Granny had stood at the door and watched
until she saw me peddling down the street and would
then phone Mama to let her know that her youngest had
safely completed her journey.

My bike riding ended about the same time I got my
driver’s license - which upped my freedom of mobility
a great deal. Even though I could get further in the
Gremlin (aka Jose the Wonder Car) than I could on my
bicycle, I’d find myself frequenting the same places.

Especially Granny’s front porch.

Mama, Aunt Peggy and Aunt Millie put Granny’s house on
the market shortly after her death in 1979. My parents
considered buying the house themselves, but I think my
negative reaction - given out of a heart broken from
grief - was one of the deciding factors in not
purchasing it.

And though my home is filled to the brim with
memories, there are times today when I wish we’d made
that move across town.

In 1992, life as I knew it changed forever when Mama
died. A few Christmases later, I deeply missed the
tradition of gathering on Franklin Street that our
family had followed for years. Depressed and dejected,
I found myself once again being drawn to that front
porch. Knowing the owners, I felt quite confident that
they wouldn’t mind if I spent some time on the stoop
in an attempt to relieve my holiday blues.

As I sat there wishing I could have just one more
Christmas in the house, I didn’t realize that the
owners were actually inside. Seeing me on the front
porch, and knowing what memories that home held for
me, they came to the door and asked if I wanted to
come in for a visit.

It was probably the best Christmas present I’ve ever

Even today, I find myself drawn to that home on
Franklin Street when life deals its hardest blows. I
don’t stop and sit on the front porch as often as I
once did. I’m trying to learn to suck it up and work
it out on my own. Thankfully, though, I know the
couple who call the house their home today.

And I honestly think they will understand if, one day,
they look out the window and see me sitting there.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Forever connected by those long blue ties that bind

An offense almost changed the course of my educational journey – and quite honestly my life.

Those who know me well know that I’ve never been all that feminine. I’ve worn a dress or 100 in my lifetime, but it’s never an article of clothing I’ve ever enjoyed putting on my body. I’ve always said my material of choice has always been denim. And I’m glad that I attend a church that blue jeans fit so well into the dress code.

Because of many things I can't control and some that I can - my size, my heighth my short hair and my affinity for blue jeans - people have sometimes referred to me as “sir” or just outright called me a boy. Very little makes me as mad as someone doing that and, since I consider it very derogatory, I often return a similar remark by switching up their gender or just saying something like "I’m a girl, ugly!"

It may not be the nicest comeback for me to offer, but it gets my point across that they made a crucial error in judgment. Cause I am definitely a girl – have been since birth and always will be.

As a junior in high school, we would often have college recruiters come to our classrooms to talk to us about the colleges or universities they represented. One sunny spring day (yeah, all these years later, I still remember the time of year and the weather outside – it made that much of an impact on me), a recruiter from Mississippi University for Women came to our math classroom. After going through the spiel about the Columbus school, she began passing out information packets to the girls in the classroom. When I held out my hand to take a packet, the recruiter took it upon herself to quickly remind me that it was a “single-sex university” and men were not admitted there. I narrowed my gaze, looked her directly in the face, and explained in a not-so-nice tone that I WAS qualified by gender to attend her university. You could say that she had certainly sealed the deal for me ever wanting to go there.

Of course, she attempted to rectify her mistake and offered me not only the information packet, but some stickers and a MUW T-shirt as well. I never said a word to her, but the glare I was giving her finally sunk into her brunette head and she moved on.

Since I had known pretty much since birth that I was destined to attend Northeast Mississippi Junior College (what it was named back in the “dark ages” when I was a child), I never worried much about where I would attend school after high school graduation. And the fact that NEMJC had the best band program in the state at that time somewhat sealed the deal for where I would spend the first two years of my college career.

Oddly enough, I never really could get peace about where I would spend the remaining two and what college or university name would be on my diploma once I earned it. I dreamed of far off campuses like Rutgers University in New Jersey, New York University in the Big Apple or the University of Missouri at Columbia, the premiere journalism school in the country at that time.

My parents, who held the most control over this decision since they held the bank account at that juncture in my life, were not so keen about any of those choices. My father, who was one of the most over-educated people I knew and had attended at least 16 different colleges and universities at that point in his life, was quite convinced that a higher education experience in Mississippi was the best path for his younger daughter.

So convinced, in fact, that he could not stop touting how much I would get out an education from Ole Miss. No offense to my friends who have enjoyed going to school in Oxford, but nothing made me well, want to throw up more than to think about having to commit to two years there. I had visited the campus several times and knew that I did not belong there. It was too large and, in my mind at that time, way too preppy.

Still not certain where I would be transferring to in the fall, my friend Sandra and I decided to go to Mississippi State and visit a couple of our friends from high school one weekend so I could determine of Starkville could be the “right fit” for me. As we were leaving Booneville, though, Sandra asked me if I minded stopping in Columbus for her to complete some paperwork for enrollment at, yep, you guessed it, Mississippi University for Women.

Although I wasn’t happy about it, I agreed since she was driving and I still wanted to spend the weekend in Starkville.

Arriving on campus, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful The W was. It literally looked like something out of Southern Living magazine or some other coffee table periodical. The architecture of the buildings on front campus was amazing and the grounds were so well-kept it seemed you could literally eat a picnic dinner from them without a gingham blanket.

Stopping at the admissions office, Sandra was signing some paperwork when someone asked me the magical question: so where are YOU attending college next year? “I don’t know,” I quietly replied. And before I knew it, that someone had arranged for a student to take me on a tour of the campus.

Walking down the street, the student began to point out nearby buildings of interest and spouted of the history of them. I heard the first few sentences, but half a block into the tour it seemed as if the heavens has parted and God Himself spoke, “This is where you belong.”


Seriously … I heard it – first with my heart and then, seemingly, with my ears.

I choked back tears and thanked the student for the tour after it was completed. She smiled and said, almost knowingly, “See you soon.” Convinced that I might decide to go to school there, the admissions officer we were dealing with sent home a packet of information with me.

It was a very silent ride to Starkville. For the first five or so miles, I looked out the passenger window trying to sort out in my mind what had just happened. “I think …” I began, breaking the silence in Sandra’s car.

“You think what?” she replied.

“I think I might belong at The W with you,” I said, as a tear starting to trickle down my cheek. The offending comment made by the college recruiter years prior, oddly enough, never really entered my mind for longer than a millisecond and definitely never played a role in my sudden desire to go to school there.

All weekend I worried how I was going to tell my parents I wanted to go to school in Columbus. I wanted to call them and just get it over with, but I knew that kind of discussion really needed to be done face to face. So I waited until we got home on Sunday.

Gathering my parents together around the kitchen table – where so many other family conferences had been held before – I slowly described how The W looked and how I felt on campus there. “I just feel like I belong there,” I ended my tale. “And that’s where I would like to transfer this fall.”

My mother never said a word. She had never been too convinced that Ole Miss was the place for me either and worried her youngest child would spend more time conducting extra-curricular activities rather than finding herself in the classroom. It was my father who spoke up and said, “But I really think Ole Miss is the better choice for you academically.” I gathered my thoughts for a second and replied, “Daddy, it’s either The W or McDonalds – you make the decision.”

Knowing he had very little to argue with, Daddy said that he trusted my judgment and agreed to let me go to The W. We filled out the proper paperwork and got the financial part settled. I went to orientation that summer, met with my advisor and got a schedule filled out that I could live with.

Being the last one of our little group from Northeast to decide to go to The W, I was the odd one out when it came to a roommate and I had to take the luck of the draw. And boy was that not so lucky! I survived that semester, though, and convinced my parents prior to Christmas that I would function better in a private room. Since I’d obtained – on my own initiative – a scholarship from The W, they allowed me to try the next semester without a roommate. It worked so well that I didn’t have one my senior year, either, except for the first few weeks a girl I knew from Northeast was on campus before she went home to Ripley to student teach.

There have been numerous decisions that I’ve made in my lifetime that, in retrospect, weren’t the best decisions I’d ever made. But my two choices of where to further my college education don’t fall in that category. I’ve never, ever regretted going to Northeast for the first two years of college. I loved being a part of the Show Band from Tiger Land so much! I made some of the best friends ever and have managed to maintain contact with many of them over the years. A few of us have taken a short hiatus in our lives, but not totally in our friendships and we have managed, after time, to reconnect. But even still, regrets – yeah, Frank Sinatra – I have a few …

I enjoyed being elected Northeast Student Government Vice President and taking over the office from someone I literally idolized at the time, Cathy McCommon. I enjoyed the somewhat popular on campus at Northeast. I knew lots of people and felt as if I had lots of friends there in Booneville. I never really felt that way in high school and it was a truly nice feeling.

Transferring to The W where I literally knew six or seven people on campus, I really wasn’t scared because I totally felt it was where I belonged. Even though people in my junior class pretty much had their established groups of friends, I did manage to break into a few of them. And I also managed to make friends with the underclassmen – especially some of the freshmen who were newbies on campus just like me.

Oddly enough, there was never a time that I felt like I didn’t belong at The W which was something that was one of my biggest fears about going to the University of Mississippi. I pledged the Dixie Belle Social Club and found a place not only in that group, but made friends with members of the other social clubs on campus. I sang alto for two years in the Baptist Student Union Girls’ Ensemble and became close to the other singers. I even became “bestest buddies” with another member of the group during my senior year – a friendship I regret not cultivating on into adulthood.

The campus newspaper gave me plenty of experience with feature writing and photography. And I was asked by the editor to put my photography talents to work with the yearbook as well during my senior year. A good percentage of the photographs in that book were taken with my old Minolta XGA.

Throughout the years I have remained as connected to my alma mater as life would allow me. It’s helped that I’ve never lived too far away from the quaint little campus in Columbus that I couldn’t get back for a day trip or a weekend visit.

The W is one of those places that is hard to explain to those who have never experienced it – and often misconstrued by them. But, for the most part, the loyalty of W Girls to our alma mater – and to one another, truthfully - is fierce. And we are all knit together by a thin blue thread that connects all our hearts – whether or not we attended classes on campus at the same time. And we might not always agree with one another, but you let our university or one of us become threatened in some way and well, you really don’t want to see the fury of a W Girl who thinks she or her fellow W Girl has been scorned.

Some of my closest friends throughout my life have been people I either attended The W with or have met since then. I’ve sought advice from many of them and obtained the sagest. At the more difficult times in my life, it’s my fellow W Girls who have been the first at my side whether literally or just a phone call away.

This week as I anticipate celebrating my “Halfway to Golden Girl Status” Homecoming, there are a handful of women who are going to be in Columbus who I literally cannot wait to see. Lots of time has passed since we shared late night dreams of our future sitting on half beds in our dorm rooms, sang class songs in the cafeteria together, pledged our loyalties to our social clubs and walked down the sidewalk in front of Callaway Hall, sidestepping to that old tune and holding tightly to the traditional chain of magnolias we carried on that sultry May 11 morning. We have all had heartbreak and successes, goals achieved and plans shattered. We’ve loved and lost. Yet, just as our alma mater has withstood the sometimes meaningless and often merciless attacks throughout the past 25 years, we, too, have survived.

And, for the most part, we all are stronger because of the challenges we have faced.

Although some folks may argue that who I am was formed within the first few years of my lifetime, I think that who I am – and who I am becoming – should be credited to a hodgepodge of variables. Whether you think those from The W who have influenced me the most and helped me to become the person I am today should be chastised or praised is up to you.

What’s my supposition? The best parts of me are because you loved me, you believed in me and you even – unashamedly and fiercely - supported me. You even protected me when I needed it and were unafraid to reprimand me at the times when I needed that, too.

And for that I am eternally grateful.

I’ve struggled today to find the exact words to tell you how much. Although this is a good try, I don’t think it quite captures or defines what a difference you have made in my life. And, once again, I’ve turned to the written word to express myself. Although some people think I hide behind written communication, I’ve just always felt it was the best way I could express what is truly in my mind and definitely in my heart.

So, if our paths cross this weekend and I look at you as if I want to say something profound and, instead, hug you a little tighter and hold the hug a bit longer than normal, please remember what I’ve written here.

And know you’re one of those whose influence has developed me into me.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lost in "Lost"

I fell in love with "Lost" from the very first episode.

With that said, I have understood little about the show since the first episode. But I still love it. And I've seen every single episode to date - some of them twice.

Now that I don't have cable in the 'hood, I have to watch it a day - sometimes two or three - later. But even that arrangement is OK.

I'd hoped more of my Facebook friends would discuss the episodes from week to week. I've decided they are about as as confused about the final season as I am.

Sawyer is probably my favorite character. I cried when Juliet died and I'm not ashamed to admit that. I thought her character was awesome. Many people think Jin and Sun are boring - I don't. Jack and Kate get on my last nerve. Ben and Locke just annoy me but I understand how integral they are to the storyline so I don't complain too much about them. I'd date Hurley in real life if he existed - and lived in the Crossroads area.

Because of "Lost," I've managed to break out and watch some other shows I might not otherwise have even given a shot - "Firefly," "Fringe," "Flash Forward" to name a few. Maybe I just like odd shows whose names begin with an F, I dunno,

I could go on and on about "Lost" but I won't. I may write more toward the end of the season.

Or I might not.

Please feel free to post your comments about the show! I'd love to read them - and know I'm not alone on the island!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Keeping it together

Really heard this song this a.m. as I was getting ready for work and just had to share the lyrics with you guys!! It's by a fairly new artist named Matt Maher and the name of the song is "Hold Us Together."

It don't have a job, don't pay your bills
Won't buy you a home in Beverly Hills
Won't fix your life in five easy steps
Ain't the law of the land or the government?
But it's all you need

And love will hold us together
Make us a shelter to weather the storm
And I'll be my brother's keeper
So the whole world would know that we're not alone

It's waiting for you knocking at your door
In the moment of truth when your heart hits the floor
And you're on your knees

And love will hold us together
Make us a shelter to weather the storm
And I'll be my brother's keeper
So the whole world would know that we're not alone

This is the first day of the rest of your life
This is the first day of the rest of your life
'Cause even in the dark you can still see the light
It's gonna be alright, it's gonna be alright

This is the first day of the rest of your life
This is the first day of the rest of your life
'Cause even in the dark you can still see the light
It's gonna be alright, it's gonna be alright

Love will hold us together
Make us a shelter to weather the storm
And I'll be my brother's keeper
So the whole world would know that we're not alone

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Look of Love

Back in the 80s during an unusual era of music, ABC had a hit song - “The Look of Love” – that I thought of recently. Even though the examples don’t fit the lyrics of the song, I still could hear the tune as I penned this blog post.

Throughout my life, I have had a slight misconception about love. I thought it was purely a feeling and I often found myself frustrated when the “warm, fuzzies” weren’t a part of my life.

Years later, though, I finally “get” that love is way more complex and cannot possibly be totally contained in feelings alone. And often love is easier to comprehend when you actually see it in action.

Love truly is a verb.

Although I’ve most likely had the ability to actually see love before, it has only been recently that I’ve truly noticed that love does have a look. And that look takes on different forms.

I am blessed with a myriad of people who are literally caretakers in my life. I sometimes think when Hilary Clinton gave her “It takes a village to raise a child” speech, she had me in mind as well. Being a single adult with no really close family members living in the greater Corinth area, I am pretty much on my own. So I rely on the kindness of strangers close friends to fill in the gaps when I simply can’t do it myself any longer.

Visual love shows up in friends bringing food to my home during the times I’ve been sick recently. Love has taken the form of the shoulders I have cried on during some of the more difficult, heart-wrenching times of my life. The looks of love have reassured me that the old adage really is true – what doesn’t kill me really does make me stronger.

There are times when so much has been going on that I feel like Goliath, honestly.

I see love when I go to visit friends and their four-year-old son tells me to sit down on the couch because “you’re never going home.” It’s amazing how good it makes you feel knowing you’re so accepted by someone that they never want you to leave even if it isn’t realistic. His older brother often plops down beside me on the couch and uses my shoulder as a headrest. Whenever I’m in another room and he doesn’t hear me talking, he always asks if I’m still there making sure I’ve not left without telling him goodbye. Like I’d leave there without a hug from him!

And watching the two of them skitter around whenever I come to their house literally warms the inner most regions of my heart. Children are very honest; when they show you they love you, they truly mean it! I believe in those two little boys so much that if they told me they could fly, I’d go outside and look up.

I saw love Saturday as I watched Alicia wash my filthy car. It was a beautiful day to do anything outside, but I never dreamed the spring like day would include manual labor. I’m fairly certain Archer, Tripp and I didn’t help knock off the dirt that much – what little we spent actually working - even though I was the only one of the quartet who could easily wash the top of the car.

I’m quite certain I’d never mentioned to her how slightly embarrassed I’d become driving a filthy vehicle. I would’ve already washed it myself, but someone misplaced the handle to the outdoor faucet. Because she saw a need in my life and met it, though, Alicia allowed me to see love in action.

A look of love can even be seen from long distance. I see it often when “Carry On My Wayward Son” (yeah, I roll old school on my tones) alerts me to a text message and I see “I love you, Kim Jobe” on the screen of my cell phone. Ninety-nine.nine percent of the time the message is from one of my closest friends, Janet. Although we are geographically challenged with her living in Clinton and me living in Corinth, we take advantage of technology to keep tabs on one another. Our friendship has spanned decades and even though we have sometimes gone years without communication, there is not a doubt in my mind that Janet loves me. I’ve seen a look of love from her numerous times.

I’ve seen other “looks of love” from long distance – my friend, Michelle, who has remained one of my fiercest supporters and close confidants for decades. Although there have been times I have doubted and questioned almost everything in my life and reevaluated every single relationship I had, I’ve never once questioned her loyalty or friendship. Not once. That’s huge!

Michelle is always among the first phone calls I make in times of crisis, sadness or rejoicing. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to spend the biggest part of a week with her in DC recently.

Today, I even saw the “look of love” in action on my way to church. It came from a couple I didn’t even know. As I stopped by my office to pick up the weekend newspapers, I noticed two people walking down the hiking/biking trail. I tend to notice when someone uses it because, well, it gets less usage then was projected during the construction phase of the project.

Bibles in hand, I had no doubt where the elderly couple was headed (I use that term “elderly” lightly because they were walking more spryly than I ever world be) toward Tate Baptist Church. That in itself was special enough to observe, but two other details made the observation special. The man lovingly held the woman’s left hand in his right in such a manner that you knew it was a natural – and regular – occurrence. But the looks on their faces were priceless. Although they weren’t looking directly at each other as they chatted while taking a leisurely stroll to church, the countenance on their faces betrayed their hearts. They had the look of love and it showed.

Sitting in my car, watching from a distance I longed for that look. And quickly reminded God of what I believe He will deliver one day. Someone I can walk hand-in-hand with along a pathway while those around me see a specific look of love.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My point ... and I have one!

I was invited to speak to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Corinth Junior High School. I had my friend, Alicia, read this over for me and give it her seal of approval. My friend, Marea, came to support me which was loads of fun. Of course, this is just the outline of what I said - I added some here and there!

What’s the point?

You have probably asked yourself or your friends or your family members or even your teachers that very question – or one similar to it – numerous times thus far in your life. Sometimes you have asked it out of frustration. Other times you have asked it out of desperation. And yet other times you have simply asked that question in an effort to avoid answering other questions.

And I’d wager that much of the time you haven’t received a very good response in return for your question have you?

Everything in life has a purpose. And much of the time you have a role to play in that purpose.

There’s a familiar passage of scripture in the Old Testament that discusses purpose fairly thoroughly and states that everything has a purpose. It’s found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and I’d like to read it to you from The Message translation of the Bible:

1 There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

With that in mind, you can see there’s a purpose for algebra, and politics, for curfews and being grounded, MCT2 tests and even for, well, Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers, I guess.

But seriously, even knowing that everything in life has a purpose, you sometimes don’t always know what it is all the time. Or at the time you REALLY want to know what the purpose is for you to be in the middle of various circumstances in your life.

I’d like to stand here as an adult and tell you that there comes a time in life when you know the purpose for everything. I wish that were the case, but it isn’t. But as you get older, the purpose of some things that once seemed so very important to you either make a whole lot of sense to you finally. Or their importance in your life diminishes to a point that it’s not such a major thing for you.

Take heart and be encouraged, though. You have a purpose in life and a destiny to fulfill although it’s not always that clear to see. How do I know this? Because Jeremiah 29:11 states that God has a definite purpose for your life – “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

That’s the same God who created and controls the universe – and He has a plan just for you. So take heart, and don’t give up but look to Him to show you the purpose for your life. You have a special one that only you can fulfill. Ask Him to show you what He wants you to do now and in the future. And then be obedient to Him and walk in the purpose He has for you.

That, most likely, is your point.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Following the lead

We want various things out of life: success, love, acceptance, the list can go on and on.

As humans, we seek these things in various ways. Yet sometimes we find them – or good examples of them - in the most unexpected places.

Recently I learned a great lesson in acceptance from a four year old boy.

My friends, Michael and Alicia, have two sons. Though both are definitely children – and both are definitely boys – I don’t know two other brothers who are quite the opposites as these two. But the harmony seems to work well in the Doran household.

Both of the Doran boys are precious and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to get to know them and to watch them grow up. Tripp is so quiet you often forget he is around. Archer, the younger of the two, is … hmmm … well … wide open. He never does anything in first gear and seems to have a comment for everything going on around him. Although he is only four, Archer is right on target with his observations much of the time. Sometimes he simply amazes you with his insight.

On New Year’s Eve, I realized that I was a part of his world when we got ready to leave the church and Archer looked up, took my hand and said, “Come on, Kim, let’s go!” making certain I didn’t get left behind.

But it was another encounter where I really knew I was “in.”

After church at Crosswind Sunday night, a group of us decided to go out to eat. Archer soon became the event coordinator showing everyone where they were to be seated. “You sit there and I’m going to sit there,” Archer said to me, pointing at two side-by-side seats.

Table banter quickly started and from time to time I would tease Archer about something. Noticing his brother had a pickle spear and Archer didn’t, he piped up and said, “Mama, I need a pickle!”

Alicia picked up the pickle spear from her plate and was just about to reach across the table to hand it to Archer when he spotted a pickle spear on my plate, grabbed it and said, “I found one!”

Not fazed at all by his action, I picked up my sandwich and took a bite of it as Alicia began apologizing for Archer nabbing my pickle. I quickly told her not to worry about it at all since people eating from my plate had never bothered me in the least.

In reality, though, Archer’s actions spoke volumes to me. Why? Because he has accepted me as part of his life, he felt comfortable enough to take my pickle from my plate. Even at four. Some folks would say he might have exhibited better manners had he actually asked if he could have the pickle. I don’t agree. The action of Archer simply getting the pickle showed me that he had accepted me to a point that he knew I wouldn’t mind sharing my pickle with him and that he was so comfortable with that thought process that he didn’t even have to ask for it.

OK, OK, I know … I’m reading way too much pop psychology into the reaction of a four-year-old who, more than likely, just wanted a pickle and mine was the nearest available one. So he nabbed it. But maybe I’m not. Maybe the four-year-old is exhibiting the kind of humanity we all need to learn even as adults. That’s what I’m going with in this scenario. Because he has accepted me into his life, he is comfortable with me enough to know what my response would be to any of his actions.

That’s probably very heavy expectations for a child, but not so much for an adult.
Archer’s action was a good example of the lesson Bobby Capps had just attempted to show us in his sermon just minutes before. In his talk, Bobby explained that people often feel shame because of something they’ve done, something they perceive themselves to be, something they are (ie a little different or strange) or basically because they feel unaccepted.

Because of a simple gesture, a four-year-old made me feel as if I had the seal of approval in his little world. And it felt good.

It also challenged me to make certain I allow those folks around me who I deem important to feel the same. And that I’m careful to not make them feel unaccepted and unwanted.

Funny how children can lead, huh?