Day 28–The best he could

I’m very thankful to the guest writers who participated in the “28 days of love” project this month. It’s been inspiring to read about the various ways love and gratitude coincide in so many very different people’s lives. I had guest writers lined up every day, but a few people weren’t able to write their posts, and it left me wondering what to do about today’s post, the last of the series.

I have a nice generic piece about gratitude sitting in front of me on my desk that I thought about posting. It’s very well-written , but when I sat down to post it, something gave me pause. It was that same nagging feeling I get when I know something isn’t right or when God is trying to get my attention in that mysterious, silent way of His. So I took my hands off the keyboard, folded them in my lap for a moment, and said a very short prayer.

“God, if there’s something else you want me to write about, let me know right now.”

He answered.

With my dad, probably taken the year my parents got divorced

With my dad, probably taken the year my parents got divorced

“Your dad.”

Then I wished I hadn’t asked.

It’s not easy to write about. It never has been.

Once I attended a poetry workshop at Lyon College by my former professor, Andrea Hollander Budy, and a visiting writer, Peter Abbs, whose beautiful, smooth recitations still echo in my ears when I read his poetry seven years later.

One of our assignments was to write a poem, in similar fashion to one of his, about gifts we’d received from someone significant in our lives. I wrote about my mom and all the ways she’d impacted me. I know the poem hides in the recesses of a maroon binder in the bottom of a storage box in our quilting house next door, but I don’t have the time to find it today. Each stanza begins, “From my mother” and then lists a gift I’ve received from her, namely lessons and principles she has passed on to me.

The last stanza, which has haunted me since writing it, is about my father.

“From my father,

nothing

worth having

or wanting.”

When I read the poem aloud after listening to beautiful odes to wonderful people by the other aspiring poets at the workshop, Peter Abbs had the reaction I always shoot for when writing last lines to poems.

“Hmmmm.”

What heavy words I’d written.

Sadly, they were true.

My father has nine biological children. He is currently raising one of them. The others were raised by their mothers or other generous people without financial support. He was consumed with other things. Drugs, namely.

Favorite softball season ever, with my dad as assistant coach

Favorite softball season ever, with my dad as assistant coach

My father is an addict. His addiction has led him to make countless poor decisions, hurtful decisions, which have cost him his relationships with almost all of his children and most of his grandchildren, not to mention the mothers of his children, his friends, and his other family members. During his periods of sobriety, he is brilliant, hilarious, animated, inspiring, loving, and thoughtful. During the periods when he is ravaged by addiction, he is not.

About five years ago, my father faced legal consequences for his addiction-related actions. He began attending 12-step meetings, and it changed his life. At the same time, I was working the steps in my own 12-step program for family members and loved ones of alcoholics. I reached the point of making a list of people I needed to make amends to. My father fell into the category of “maybe never,” meaning I knew I owed him an amends, but I was not ready yet, and I might never be.

God decided to move my dad up on the list, though. I began to feel that nagging feeling about making amends to my father. I called him on my way home from a meeting one night and managed to choke out the words.

“Dad, I need to make an amends to you. I have hated you my whole life for what you have done and haven’t done for me and my sisters. I hated you for the way you treated my mom. I want you to know I forgive you, and I know you have an addiction, and please let me know if there’s something I can do to make it up to you.”

Silence.

Then words wet with tears came through.

“You don’t need to do anything for me. I owe you an amends.”

So that day, in 2008, we made mutual amends to one another. For the first time in my life, I felt completely at peace with my father. Well into my late 20s, I had no desire to attempt to form some warm and fuzzy father-daughter bond with him. That seemed unrealistic. But I felt good knowing that we’d cleared the air between us, and we occasionally talked on the phone, and it wasn’t as awkward as it had been my whole life. When I said “I love you,” I meant it. I no longer felt forced to say “I love you” to someone who I felt had not demonstrated real love to me.

Things changed. My dad’s addiction got the best of him again. He served a prison sentence. He willingly placed his two youngest children in the care of other people. And the little girl in me felt her head drop in disappointment. It seemed the same old story just picked up where it had left off.

Today, I choose to refrain from contacting my father, and he knows why. But I see things a little differently today than I used to.

In my heart, thanks to my own spiritual growth and work in my recovery program, I’ve written a new closing stanza to that heavy poem.

“From my father,

four sisters and four brothers.

A shining memory of gifts

wrapped in aluminum foil

under a miniature Christmas tree.

A moment of complete

safety on the back of his Harley,

eyes closed, hugging him close

at five years old.

The most fun I’ve ever had

playing softball.

A dozen roses at 29,

the card reading, ‘Daddy loves you.’

From my father,

the best love

he could give

at the time

with what he had.”

The most meaningful bouquet I've ever received

The most meaningful bouquet I’ve ever received

 

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Day 27–Instant love

*Thank you, LaDonna Busby, for writing today’s post and for being a daily blessing in so many lives.*

Many people have told of meeting someone and having that “love at first sight” feeling.  Not that I doubted them, but I just never thought it would happen to me – but it did. Glen and I had been married a few years and wanted to start our family, but were having no success.  We tried everything we could, including years of fertility treatments and still no baby.  It seemed to me that everyone I knew was either pregnant or had just had a baby.

I do not remember who suggested adoption, but we came to the conclusion this was the way for us to try.  Not having the money for private adoption, we decided to try through the state agency.  There was so much paperwork, references to find, home visits – it took well over a year to get everything completed, but one wonderful day came notice in the mail we had been approved and were now on the waiting list.  We had not asked for a newborn, as we knew there were few available.  Didn’t think it would take another year and 3 months before anything would happen, but it did.

I have to admit, I cried a lot and prayed a lot – especially when my sister became pregnant.  It was following this crying, praying spell that I felt a deep peace come over me, and I really heard the words, “Don’t worry, there is a child out there for you.  Just wait.”

Susan Naomi

Susan Naomi

I tried to be patient, but it was so hard.  Finally in March 1979, we got the call, and the social worker would be at our house on March 15 to see if we would like to talk about a 6 month old little girl who was available.  Was she kidding? Of course we wanted to talk – we really had no doubts, we wanted this baby, sight unseen.  My feelings were so intense, even today I cannot quite explain them.

Glen and I traveled to Jonesboro on March 20, 1979, a cold, foggy, icy day.  We were led to a room to wait.  It seemed forever before the door opened. Zap! We both fell in love – instant, deep, holy.  We all locked eyes and that was that – she was ours, and no one would even dare try to take her from us. We knew our family was complete.  We would protect her with every fiber of our being, provide for her, encourage her and give thanks to God for her.  Susan Naomi became our world instantly.

Gratitude? I am grateful to the young woman, scared and alone, who made the decision to put her baby up for adoption.  Grateful to God for loving me and Glen so much that he had this beautiful child out there waiting for us.  So, yes – there is love at first sight, and it brings happiness, hope and gratitude.

Day 26–Expect good things

*Thanks to my friend and former fellow volunteer, LaTresha Woodruff, for serving as today’s guest contributor. LaTresha wrote this piece for her co-workers on her two-year anniversary at her current job as a public information officer for a local police department. Hope we will all learn to expect good things in our lives, just like LaTresha!*

GOOD MORNING!!!!  HAPPY THURSDAY.  Hope last night went well and that you are expecting good things today.  Patrol worked very diligently last night as they do each night to keep you safe.  Continue to support the men and women who protect and serve us each day.

Please allow me to tell you all a little story.  I wake up each morning and tell myself and those around me to “expect good things” and I often tell you guys.  I just believe a great attitude of expectancy lends itself to a great day.  If “not so good” things happen, with your great attitude you are able to overcome them.  Well this morning I woke up and told myself and my running buddies to “expect good things.”

latreshaWhile getting dressed I was just bound and determined to wear a flower, I had no idea why, since I don’t do it often; last time it was for a church event.  But I listened to that voice and wore my flower.  I got to work and a co-worker in my morning inspiration group asked,”What’s today?  January 31st?” and I answered, “Yes, oh my gosh, this is my 2 year anniversary with the Police Department!”  He said, “and you have made a great impact.”  I proceeded to recite something I say to people all the time, especially those who start to get anxious about their jobs and may have low morale… “Bloom where you are planted right now.”

Then it hit me!!!!  I wore the flower unknowingly because of my anniversary, and I believe that I have been able to bloom where I am planted.  I love working here at CPD, and I put everything into my work and will continue to come up with better ways, new ideas to get this wonderful department, it’s officers and programs more grounded in the community; after all that’s why CPD is here, to protect and serve you.  So on my 2nd year anniversary, I pledge to do all I can for the department and this community.  Thanks for welcoming me 2 years ago and for the support you give to me and this department!  I look forward to many more anniversaries.

 

Day 25–A second chance

*Thank you to my friend Samantha Hogan for sharing her story and her husband’s story of how a selfless act by someone else gave him a second chance at life and love. Check out the video that documents this miracle.*

Photo by Bethany Wallace

Photo by Bethany Wallace

I am thankful for so many things in my life.  My God has given me so many blessings, so many do-overs, so many second chances at life.  One of my most prized second chances wasn’t exactly MY second chance, but rather, my husbands.  You see, my husband Curtis, was diagnosed at age 14 with something called Steroid Responsive Chronic Hepatitis Auto-Immune.  He went in to the doctor for a simple sinus infection and, a few weeks later, was having liver biopsies performed and multiple blood tests ran.

He was on medications off and on throughout his life.  He was healthy for a while and then got sick.  Very sick. Things that would make you and I need to miss a day of work and stay in bed hospitalized him for days or weeks at a time.  After several surgeries, procedures and medications, his disease had developed into cirrhosis of the liver.  So in May of 2008 he was put on the transplant list for a new liver.  We were told that even though he was sick, he wasn’t sick enough to quite need a new liver just yet, but he’d be at the bottom of the list- unless he got sicker.  Talk about not knowing how to pray! Do you pray for a new liver, which means your spouse gets sicker?

We waited, and time passed, and Curtis got sicker, then better, then a little sicker.  It was a roller coaster.  One week he’d spend in the hospital, one week at home. Back and forth. Then we got the call. June 21, 2009.  Father’s Day weekend.  We hurried and rushed to Memphis.  We had been told in our counseling and training classes that the first time we were called he would most likely be the back-up for the person who ACTUALLY received the organ.  For us, God had other plans.  The surgeon told us when we got there that he had called three other people who were higher on the transplant list before calling Curtis and all three had turned down the organ.  In case you’re wondering, you don’t turn down an organ if you’re on a transplant list.  The doctor told us in his entire career he’d never seen anyone say no, but three people did.  I believe it was divinely appointed to my husband.  For his second chance at life.

His surgery went better than expected with no complications.  We were told his hospital stay would most likely be 2-4 weeks.  He was there seven days from start to finish.  Now, three and a half years later, he is healthier than he has ever been.  He is able to work full time.  He plays out in the yard with the kids. He doesn’t get as tired.  He still has to be careful when the flu and illnesses come around, but overall, he’s as healthy (or more so) than I am.  What a faithful God we serve!  My most prized second chance was the second chance he gave to my husband.  The second chance to be a husband, son, and father.  Thank you God for your blessings!

I would like to note that it does not go unnoticed to my family that another family lost a loved one so that my husband could have his second chance.  They chose to turn their tragedy into hope for someone else.  I could never thank that family enough.  Although we do not know all of the details surrounding the donor, we know she was female, close to my husband’s age (32-33 at the time), and had a family of her own.  I am forever grateful to that selfless family who chose to give life in their time of sorrow.

 

Day 24–Platitudes

*Special thanks to my friend Emily Baker for writing today’s post and also for writing inspiring music.*

I write songs sometimes.  Usually they take a long time to germinate, but this one came quickly over the course of a low-lit afternoon in my old, airy living room in Mississippi.

 

love’s a gentle wind that draws me home

love’s a gentle wind that draws me home

love is a gentle wind; it draws me home again

 

free is what I feel when I’m with you

free is what I feel when I’m with you

freedom is what I feel; when I’m with you I can just sit still

 

the mountains and the seas will pass away

mountains and the sees will pass away

mountains, seas will pass away; one thing true is here to stay

 

love’s a gentle wind that draws me home

love’s a gentle wind that draws me home

love is a gentle wind; it draws me home again

 

I considered throwing it out.

It was too easy, too simple.  It didn’t come from any kind of current urgency or gut feeling.  If anything at that point in life, I was dealing with a keener heartbreak than I had ever felt before.  I didn’t really know what “home” meant to me anymore, and I wasn’t feeling particularly drawn anywhere.  But as they do sometimes, the song persisted.  I decided to keep it, but I’d add my twinge of sarcasm by calling it “Platitudes.”

platitude –a trite, meaningless, biased, or prosaic statement, often presented as if it were significant and original

Ooooo, burn!  Take that, my own subconscious, from which this song sprang!  Take that, everyone who thinks I’m a simple-minded girl singing a sweet little song about love.  I will show you that nothing is so simple.  That you all just enjoy being manipulated into feeling something.  That these words are meaningless.

But no one really ever got the sarcasm.  They took the song seriously.  They were moved.  I started to realize that I couldn’t really tell them that their honest reactions were meaningless.  The song resonated with people because it recalled in them something that was very real.  Something in them I’d never really have access to was being touched through the combination of words and sound.

And as time went on, I noticed that the song was gaining meaning for me too.  I sang it in my grandmother’s hospital room when we thought she might not make it much longer.  I sang it for my parents and friends just before I moved to the other side of the world.  I sent a recording of it too a guy I’d cared about, after things between us didn’t work out.  I sang it to my own melancholy heart, when I was alone with a weight of sadness.  It was like the song absorbed the significance of the moments, and it became more than a few words in a melody.

I’ve always had a bit of disdain for things I saw as inauthentic or cheap gestures—the platitudes in verbal or physical form, like the little grocery store boxes of candy that people give on Valentine’s Day—things that seem to be beneath the significance they try to carry.  But I’m learning to appreciate the little gestures and to be open to all the forms that love might take.

 

All Is Full of Love –Bjork

True Love Will Find You in the End –Daniel Johnston

Love’s a Gentle Wind –me

 

Day 23–Creativity

*Thank you, Crystal Sharp, for sharing your joy and love for serving others through your talents and abilities and business! Be sure to check out Crystal’s Facebook Page.*

Lord,

Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents You so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from You and remain Yours. Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of Your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others. Help me also to use Your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to Your world, living out my call to be an integral part of Your creative force. Amen.

Crystal Kat Creations

Crystal Kat Creations

This prayer is one that I say often.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have created art.  I have always enjoyed giving my art to others whether it was a little drawing, painting, or poem.  But just over three years ago, God blessed me with a talent that I never expected to be blessed with.

In October 2009, my oldest daughter (who was then my only daughter) wanted to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween.  I found the cutest red with white polka dot dress at a thrift store.  So I went looking for the infamous Minnie Mouse ears and bow.  I looked everywhere I could locally and online.  I just never was able to find a pair that met my standards or my budget.   So after searching online for how to make Minnie Mouse ears, I made a pair out of a black headband, felt, and a piece of red with white polka dot ribbon.  And that is when God blessed me with the gift of bow making.minnie collage

I then started creating bows for my daughter for Christmas.  That led to several family members and friends asking for me to create bows for the lovely young ladies in their lives.  And that is how my small at-home bow business began.

Every time I create a new bow, I pray over the bow and the child receiving it.  I pray that the love I put into each creation can be felt by those who wear the bows I make.  For me, bow making isn’t about making money while being a stay-at-home mama of four wonderful kids.  It is about sharing love with others and praising God in all that I do.

Crystal's children

Crystal’s children

I have had several blessings since I started making bows from the many wonderful friends I have made, have been able to donate bows to many different fundraisers, and had the opportunity to do something I love.  But my biggest blessing is being able to share the love of God with others with a simple piece of ribbon.  Because sometimes actions show God’s love more than words.   And that is my goal–to show God’s love in all that I do. He blessed me with the talent.  So I give the glory to Him.

 

Day 22–Ur-ine love

*Thanks to my college buddy, Shannon Dickerson, for writing today’s post as part of the 28 days of love project. Check out her personal blog as well.*

little dogToday I had an appointment with the carpet cleaning people.  I came home from school and waited patiently on the representative to come in and provide an estimate and/or clean the carpet.  Finally, the door bell rang.  I looked through the glass and immediately thought, “This must be the owner’s son.  He can’t be more than 18 years old.”  Regardless of his youthful appearance, he came in and began to walk through the house and ask questions about my expectations and concerns with the carpet.  I kindly answered his questions.  He inquired about a “black light inspection”.  I kind of hesitated because of my knowledge of black lights and the fact that they reveal all of your dirty secrets…literally.  I agreed to the inspection after warning him about the reality of finding dog urine in the carpet.  Yes, I know it is gross, but several months ago I had a moment of temporary insanity that you can read about here.

Turning off the lights and walking through the house with his black light, he said, “Is all this from the same dog?”  I immediately wanted to lie and tell him I had no idea because I was really the neighbor instead of the owner.  Humbled, I decided that I should grow up and address the question.  Using my best teacher voice and attitude, I did answer his question with a question of my own. I said, “Why? Looking at the carpet, would you assume otherwise?”  He kindly responded, “Well, most of the urine spots are tiny.  But, over here I found a large spot.”  I cringed and said, “Most of the urine spots sounds like a lot.  Is it really that bad?”  He recognized my look of panic and explained that he didn’t find as many spots as he has seen in some homes.  However, the ones he found were all quarter size and then he found one spot that was more like basketball size.  Immediately putting the pieces of the puzzle together, I kind of grinned.  I and said, “Oh. Well. We, uh, do only have one tiny dog in the house, but we also potty trained a toddler last summer.”  I truly thought the poor kid was going to choke.  I later found out that he is old enough to be married and has a three month old baby girl.  I assume he hasn’t considered the fact that all the urine he has cleaned in houses might not belong to the four-legged animals.  Now he knows what he has to look forward to as well.

I’m sure by now you are wondering how this relates to gratitude.  It eventually does.

While the living area was drying and waiting for the furniture to be returned to the normal position, I was truly challenged as a mother.  All three girls thought it was incredibly awesome to have the couch in the middle of the kitchen/dining floor.  They actually squealed as they sat on the couch by the table and said, “We really get to eat on the couch today?”  They were into everything.  Blake was insistent that I paint her toenails purple and fingernails pink while Taylor was attempting to eat everything she could get into her mouth.  Kennedy was wandering around in a state of hormonal bliss, anticipating her “date” to church within the hour.  The phone rang about 1.4 million times while that sweet little dog barked and scratched at the back door because she was cold and wet.  If you have a child or have ever been within 10 square miles of one, you know the kind of day I was having.  Oh, and to make it all better, this Diet Coke addict was on hour number 48 without caffeine.  It was a conglomeration of unfortunate events.

Finally, it was bed time for the girls.  As Taylor was saying her prayers (after I yelled at her again for stopping in the kitchen for another bite of food), she prayed, “Dear God, thank you for today and all the things you have given me.  Please help me make better choices tomorrow.  I know I did not make good choices today so please, please help me tomorrow…amen.”

big famWow.  I felt like I had been picked up and shaken.  Although it’s not pleasant to think about, or broadcast online, I realized that my life, especially my mothering, is a lot like our nasty carpet.  On the surface it appears relatively clean, but careful scrutiny reveals some urine spots.  And, all of those spots didn’t necessarily come from the most obvious source.   I am impatient and quick to judge my children’s behavior.  I probably have unrealistic expectations.  I certainly get frustrated at times and say “those things” that only “those parents” might say.  And in typical mom fashion, after a day like today, I begin to doubt my ability to shape emotionally-healthy, responsible young ladies.

Tonight, Taylor’s precious prayer reminded me that just like the kid came in with a special light and saw the spots on our carpet, when I asked him to, he essentially erased them.  I am incredibly grateful that my God can look at me, see my spots, hear my words and erase my blemishes.  I have been a believer for a long time.  However, I’ve struggled with the reality of God erasing and forgetting my sin because I personally have such a hard time with “forgetting”.  Today, God opened my eyes and my heart.  Within minutes of getting the last child to sleep, I read Lysa TerKeurst’s Facebook status.  She said, “You have the exact qualities God knew your kids would need in a mother.  So, each day, hold up your willingness and ask God to make you the best version of you that you can possibly be.”

I never imagined that urine would be involved in my daily walk as a Christian.  I appreciate that my God can use the most unusual circumstances to get my attention.  I am working on feeling at peace with my shortcomings as a mother, and I do cherish those timely words by Lysa TerKeurst.  This daily walk with kids, dogs, jobs, expectations is certainly not always pretty; however, I can now say that I am grateful for what I learned from the stains left behind.