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Sweet 16

Today is my granddaughter’s 16th birthday. I was blessed beyond measure to celebrate with her last weekend.

Sweet William and I traveled the long road to where our precious ones live, the one and only son and his family. The drive was worth the hours on the road to see smiling faces and be received with such warm welcomes.

I’ve missed some birthdays since they moved from the house next door. Thankfully, I did not miss this important milestone in my precious Grand Girl’s life.

She is the middle child. At times she is the quiet, introspective one. At other times she is the comedian, actress, goof-ball who makes us laugh.

the-3-grandsShe was born without me being at the hospital. Her older sister was brought to our house early one morning in November when time came for her parents to rush to the hospital. I supposed we had plenty of time to shower and dress since her sister took her time coming into the world.

I was wrong. Before many hours had passed, I listened to the message on my phone, “You have another granddaughter.” Elation and disappointment mingled, but I was thankful for her birth. We hurriedly made our way to the hospital where mother, dad, and new baby girl were contentedly waiting for us.

It was a day to remember.

Memories surface today as I think of my Grand Girl, us miles apart and in different states but joined at our hearts.061-2

She was the queen of dress-up. She loved the costumes and cast-offs kept in a box in the back room. She emerged as a character of some sort and took on the persona and accents with ease. One of my favorite personalities was Dr. Bendova, dressed in a white shirt, silly glasses and top hat. She made us laugh a lot.

Being the second child, she was often the companion and follower of her big sister. Once when she was allowed  to spend “alone time” with us, all by herself, she climbed up on the stool next to the kitchen counter where I spend a lot of time, and commenced to talk up a storm. I was surprised at all the words coming from this child who was usually so quiet. It was as if she finally had a captive audience to hear what she had to say.

She loved to cook with me, sitting on that same kitchen stool, us sharing tasks of making meals. Her consistent game began with, “Let’s pretend we’re on a cooking show.”

100_1062-2A few days ago we made pumpkin pie together in her kitchen. It was as special as it always was.

She was a girl of many faces, most of them silly. For years we could not seem to get a serious picture of her. With everyone posed for a snapshot, she invariably make a goofy face just at the moment of the shutter’s opening. While it was frustrating at the time, it has given us myriad photos of this girl’s special way of bringing comic relief to us all.

This past weekend, we celebrated that special girl.

She has grown tall and beautiful, graceful and distinctly herself, studious and artistic, bright and cheerful. She is thrifty with her money and has an entrepreneurial spirit.

She brings gladness to this Grammy’s heart. I love spending time with her.

As Sweet William and I drove home after our three-day weekend celebration, I thought of the trip, the memories we had made, the joy of being with our precious ones, the fun and laughter, the shared table of fellowship where hearts are content just to be together.

Time slowed for me those few days. I forgot what day of the week it was, living in the moment with each sweet soul.

Good-byes are never easy, no matter how often we practice them. But good-byes are as much a part of life as the welcome homes are. We must receive them both if we are to be loved and to love in return.

As we headed east to our old Kentucky home, the sunset glowed brilliantly. A song came to mind:

I think of my Grand Girl on her special day. My eyes mist and there’s a lump in my throat as I remember the child and watch her blossom into a young woman.

Her life is a gift to all of us who know and love her. Her gifts and talents are from the Father above who planned for her life. My prayers seem unceasing for her, that she will know the way the Father leads her, that she will follow Him with all her heart, that she will understand how great the Father’s love is for her.

I pray that her heart is open to receive all He has in store for her. It’s her birthday today. I’m so thankful she was born.

celeste3

The gift

airplane ride

I was out of town last weekend, flying by myself on an airplane and finding my way through Houston International Airport for a connecting flight.  I felt like a grown up and a child at the same time, navigating signs, regulations, and my own insecurity.  I did it, a bit nervously, with purpose.  I went to get my granddaughter who lives-too-far-away and bring her home to stay with us for a month.

And that is a gift.

She’s the eldest of my three wonderful grands, and the one who first made me a grandmother with that bursting wide open of my heart.  I had no idea that love could just break me right apart as I scooped up this tiny being who would take the heart of me and change me forever.

Love does that.  It transposes the song of life and we are never the same.

Love gaps us open, open for joy but also open for pain.  Pain is often the price of loving deeply.

I’ve felt the contradicting emotions, the loving and the losing, the holding close and the giving up.  The loss comes in different forms, whether by moving, misunderstanding, divorce, or death.  It happens to all of us sooner or later.

But the risk of loosing is more than worth the joy of loving and being loved. “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is so true.

The granddaughter and I flew home together, our heads bent in conversation, laughter, taking selfies (with a photo bomber), stories, tears, and hugs.  She is a kindred spirit and we feel the connection deeply.

selfies of me and E

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A melancholy musing

Two almost-sisters were blessed with new grandbabies last week.  One is a cousin by marriage who has been family a long time  The other is a life-long friend who calls me her “forever friend.”

I am so happy for both of them.  There is nothing like holding a new baby in your arms, and when that baby is your very own grandchild, well you just have to experience it and you know what I mean.

I was blessed beyond measure to be at the birth of my first grandchild, a girl.  Our one and only son and his beautiful wife lived close to us then, and her parents were driving from out of state to be here when she entered the hospital.  So it was my great priviledge to be in the birthing room when that tiny little creature breathed her first and squalled like a baby.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,   Because birth itself is simply breathtaking.  But when the son of my heart gives life to his own child, that is a mountain’s high peak.

My melancholy comes when I wish for and long for that grandgirl to be closer to my house.  She, along with her two siblings (my other equally precious grandchildren), and her parents moved far away three years ago.

So when I get a Facebook message from that first grandgirl saying, “Dreamt that I arrived at your house after a long trip. I miss your face!!!!!”, I weep.  I just can’t help it. Because I. Miss. Her. Face. So.Very. Much!

Elyse older

I know I’m not the only one.  I have friends whose grandchildren live across country, and we often share our joys and heartaches at short bursts of togetherness and long stretches of being apart.  We understand each other.

So I rejoice with those almost-sisters who have new babies to hold and snuggle.  They will cherish these days.  And I weep with those who wish their grands were right next door, like mine were for twelve years.

I thank God for those twelve wonderful years.  I was given time to invest in relationships with three that are still precious and dear to this Grammy’s heart.  Those years were a gift, an important and valuable gift that I don’t take for granted.

In my tears, I will remember the hugs, the smiles, the cups of hot cocoa, the snuggles with a thousand Disney movies, the tucking into bed, the reading of books, the telling of stories, the prayers.  Ah, the prayers.  They never stop.  They go wherever the grandchild goes because that is my connection with her and with God.

And I trust God to hold her.

Grand-motherhood

Fourteen years ago today, I became a grandmother.  My oldest granddaughter, Elyse, celebrates her 14th birthday today.

Becoming a grandmother has been one of God’s best blessings. He is so creative to plan that as we get older, along come these little people to bring back the kid in us.

When I was pregnant with my own child, some 30 plus years ago, there were no machines to picture the embryo in the womb.  I barely got to hear the heartbeat in the last month.  For the entire nine months, we had no idea what we were having.  Several people told me I must be having a girl by the way I carried the baby.  Someone else told me she could not imagine me with anything other than a girl.  Did she mean that I was way too prissy to raise a son to be manly? I still don’t know.

When the doctor announced, “It’s a boy,” the surprise was wonderful.  I was thrilled, delighted, overwhelmed and humbled to have been chosen by God to be mother to this wee baby boy.  I loved every minute of him. 

After a number of years and a few heartaches, we realized our son would be an only child.  I put away some of the things from my childhood, my doll furniture and dolls.  The hope of giving them to a daughter were gone.

Instead my days were filled with being mom to a boy, and not a dull one was among them.  I picked out boy clothes and made a Spider Man cape. I bought little cars and trucks and yes, even fake guns, boy toys, for him to play with. I made his room look masculine and cut his hair to look like his dad’s. I was a den mother for a batch of his Cub Scout friends. I dealt with a caged gerbil that was bound and determined to escape. I even shared his affection with any number of the fairer sex, until I finally took second fiddle to the one woman who truly captured his heart.  All the stuff boys are made of became our experiences, Sweet William and I.

Can you even imagine, then, the excitement I felt when my son and sweet daughter-in-love announced they were having a girl.  Visions of pink ribbons, frilly dresses, tea parties and baby dolls danced in my head.  I was going to have a girl-child to snuggle and cuddle, to share girl playtime and chit chat, to experience female moments that can drive a guy to distraction. A girl would understand that giggles and tears are just an emotion away.

Since that day 14 years ago, I’ve been blessed with two more grandchildren, a loves-to-dress-up girl named Celeste and our all-boy Ethan.  Let no one try to argue with me, there is a difference in boys and girls.   And I am loving every single minute of experiencing their uniquness.

Want to know the amazing thing about these grandchildren? They are equally delightful, they bring equal but different joy, and they have burst my heart wide open with love.

Being a grandparent is like getting a do-over, a rewind, a second chance. The things I would have done differently with my son, I get to do differently with my grandchildren. Things I thought so importance during my son’s boyhood, really don’t seem to matter that much now.

I think it is due to growing older and wiser, seeing life with mature eyes, and knowing we parents made a lot of mistakes and in spite of us, our children turned out OK.

I think I’ve become more fun as a grandparent, less particular, open to new experiences. I count the moments precious.

One day, I will pass on to my heavenly home. While I have this day, I want to build a house of memories for my grandchildren. I hope they remember laughter, funny stories, hugs and kisses, good-night prayers and blessings, unconditional love, complete acceptance.

I am depositing love into their hearts and I am storing up prayers. Sometime in the future when they hit a snag in the road or when something almost crushes the life out of them, I hope they will remember how much their Grammy loved them, believed in them, and talked to God about them.

Being a Grandmother is one of God’s best blessings.

Driving Incognito

Just a couple of months ago, late October, I said good-bye to an old friend, my 1993 Blue Cadillac Deville.  Sweet William and I had purchased it used in 2001 from a couple who only drove to Southeast Christian Church on Sundays.  Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly like that.  We did, however, feel like we got a great used car that had been cared for and had low mileage for its age.  It was big and roomy, had leather seats and a few bells and whistles, luxurious compared to what I was used to.  And it had horsepower!

At the time of purchase, my two granddaughters fit comfortably in the back seat.  When the grandson came along, there was plenty of room for all three of them.  People who rode with me often said, “This car sure rides nice.”  And it did.  I loved driving that big blue car.  We became friends.

I was fairly recognizable driving around my home town.  Not very many people drive light blue Cadis, so I was spotted easily. 

As the years and the mileage crept up on the Cadi, more repairs were needed.  It was in the shop so many times our auto repair guy at Chuck’s Automotive came to expect us regularly.  The last time the Cadi broke down on the side of the road this summer, I didn’t know whether to call Chuck or the county coroner. 

Bill and I began to think about looking for another car.   After trying out several makes, models, and sizes, we found a pretty little black Honda Accord, 2007 with low mileage.  It was another gently used car that we hoped would serve us for many years.

Now I’m driving incognito, no longer easily recognized as people pass me on the street.  Have you noticed how many black cars are on the road?  Do you know how many black cars are in the parking lots?  A bunch, let me tell you.  I stood beside one, pressing the key’s remote unlock button over and over while nothing happened.  “Is the battery already dead in this thing?”  I thought, quite exasperated.  Then I discovered it was not my car. 

Recently I was walking through the church parking lot looking for my black car in the dark of night, pressing the button over and over hoping the lights would flash where I could see them.  Several cars looked promising until I realized people were in them with their lights on ready to exit.

It’s embarrassing.

I’ve been reading Matthew and Luke, reliving the story of the first Christmas. I find it so fascinating that God concealed Himself in the womb of a young virgin. His birth, though miraculous for certain, was still quite ordinary in most respects. Think of it – God Incognito!  The glory of the Almighty God was hidden, disguised, and undetected by most. 

Scripture tells us God revealed Himself to a choice few in the days surrounding his birth:  Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, Simeon, and Anna.  After that, Jesus lived an undetected life for about 30 years, walking the earth disguised and hidden.  Do you know how many Jewish boys ran along the paths around Galilee, how many were budding carpenters, hammering out wooden creations? 

People watched him grow up, become a teenager, take on his manhood, and yet they didn’t recognize that He was God incognito. John 1:10 tells us He was in the world, and though the world was made by God through Him, it did not recognize Him.

Just a few verses down, however, John says, “We beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” (verse 14b).

Ah yes, God is still willing to reveal Himself to those who have eyes to see.

There is a funny thing about my little black Honda. It recognizes me when I push the unlock button. It flashes its lights at me even though I may not always see it.

God recognizes those who are searchng, those looking for something they think they need, somthing they hope will satisfy.  And all the time God is flashing His Light at them as if to say, “I’m right here!” 

Over and over in the Bible God says, “Call unto me and I will answer . . . ”  It is His assurance that He does not want to remain incognito any more.  He wants to be found, to be recognized as the Savior who came in mystery, only to reveal His glory and His love on the cross.  

Christmas fun – December 8

After an early morning appointment, I went to Little Flock to help set up chairs, music stands, and lights for the orchestra.  The music department and media are gearing up for the annual  Christmas Choir concert.  This year’s “Gloria” promises to be glorious.  I can’t wait to hear the drum line march in and play during “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Afterward, I picked up the three grandchildren to help me with a little Christmas decorating.  Pulling the multiple boxes from their storage area, I was amazed again at how much there is.  The children and I looked at some of the items and remembered them from years before.  I told them the story of the ceramic carolers I painted before I was married and the small village their daddy gave me to go with the carolers when he was old enough to buy a gift himself.  They carefully placed them on the piano.

Celeste found one small box and exclaimed, “The Snow Man Tea Set!  I love the Snow Man Tea Set.”  She took it immediately and set it up in their room.  Later, Celeste took a thow-away box and created a stable.  She set up a manger scene in it.    

Ethan pretended to be a puppy, dressed up like an egyptian sheik, then became Robin Hood with a mask I made him from an old Christmas card.

Elyse got on line to search for a Christmas tree for our house.  No, I don’t have a tall tree this year for all the beautiful ornaments I’ve collected through the years.  But Elyse and I are still looking for the perfect one.

All of us decorated the Jesus tree.  Only two feet tall, it holds small ornaments like a lamb wrapped in a red ribbon, a star, a heart, a tiny Bible, a cross, and other things that remind us of Jesus and tell his life’s story.

We took a break with hot Tazo Apple Red tea steeped in a pretty new green teapot given to me by one of my piano students.

I unpacked the Candy Cane mugs my mother gave me the last Christmas she was with us.  The children already know that story.  The mugs are treasures to me, and I think of her when I look at them.  It just isn’t Christmas until those mugs are hung on the little rack and sitting on the kitchen counter.

After the children left, there were boxes and greenery strewn about.  Dishes needed washing.  Stuff was in stacks here and there.  The house was rather a shambles.  I had to rush off to church for work, piano lessons, and choir practice.  No time to pick up and put things in order.

Back home, I looked at the mess that still waited for me.  I thought about the good time we had today, the memories we had made, the food and laughter we had shared.  This mess represents a little Christmas joy.   And I am so glad for it.

Legacy

Sunday morning finds me at Little Flock Baptist Church where my Sweet William and I are members.  I love the worship, Pastor Rodney’s sermons, our Sunday School class, and getting to see so many precious Christian brothers and sister.

This Sunday, however, I went to first service at 9 am, then slipped out to visit Shepherdsville First Baptist Church, where my son and his family are attending and serving.  Travis plays percussion, and my two granddaughters, Elyse and Celeste, occasionally sing with the praise team. 

Elyse, the elder granddaughter, was going to play the keyboard for the worship songs, then sing a solo for the first time.  I did not want to miss it.  She was delighted to see that I had come to hear and support her efforts.  The day before, I told Elyse that I was her age, 13-years old, when I began to play regularly in our small church.  It was that experience as a young girl that set the course of a life of music ministry for me.

When it was time for the special song, Worship Minister, Sheila Lamonte, went to the keyboard, and Elyse stood close by at the microphone.  After a melodious introduction, Elyse began to sing My Everything.  If you will bear with this Grandmother and give me bragging rights for a moment, I will tell you it was beautiful!  Her voice was true and clear.  She sang with confidence and feeling.  I was moved to tears.

Do you know the feeling of being part of an experience while your mind goes to another time and place?  That happened during Elyse’s song.  I thought of my mother who died in 1983.  She had an astounding alto voice that bellowed and lifted the rafters.  She was anointed to sing, and hearts were touched when she did.

I’m not one who speaks to the dead or goes to the cemetery to talk to those who have gone on.  They aren’t there anyway.    But this morning in the pew at First Baptist, I spoke silently to my mother.  You see, I believe the saints in Heaven, that great cloud of witnesses, are aware of some things on earth, especially those involving their families.  So my mind said, “Mother, do you hear your great-granddaughter?  This is your legacy.”

Legacy.  It is what we leave behind when life is all said and done.  

My mother blessed others with her gift of music.  She traveled to little country churches to sing, and she faithfully served her own church for years. 

Mother wanted music to be part of my life.  She was determined I would have piano lessons and made me (yes, she made me) practice.  She encouraged me to play for others though I was a shy, backward child. 

It was only natural that I took that same path with Travis.  He took piano lessons which turned him toward a snare drum in fifth-grade band.  It eventually led to his high school’s marching band and the amazing percussionist he is today.

The beauty of my legacy is not just God’s gift of music to my family but that by His mercy we have come under the shadow and refuge of the Almighty, the saving grace of a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The legacy goes on.  Gifts from God are honed into skills that are then used to worship the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. 

The Lord has given us great and precious promises.  His Word is filled with them.  One of my promises is in Isaiah 44:3b and 4.  I believe it and trust God will fulfill it in my family.

 . . . I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.  

Legacy can be a beautiful thing.  No matter your background or heritage, a new legacy begins with one individual who choses to follow Jesus and surrenders his life to the glory to God.