Saturday, May 31, 2008

And then the sun came out

We had a toad-strangler! It rained buckets almost all day yesterday, but then the clouds cleared and here is what I found.

It's always so fresh and clean after the rain!

Friday, May 30, 2008


Did you know that Texan is a language in and of itself? Take the verb "fixin'" for instance. It means I'm getting ready as in, "I'm fixin' to go to the store" or "I'm fixin' to make dinner." This is what I'm fixin' to get for my anniversary:

You can get one for yourself here.

Some other Texan terms you might want to know: (I gathered these from various places, but I only included the ones I knew first hand.)

aggravated: used to describe everything from mild annoyance to dangerous, murderous rage. Usually pronounced "agger-vated."
all swole up: an alternative to aggravated, but sometimes carries connotations of being obstinate, proud and self-abosorbed, in addition to being aggravated.
all choked up: upset, overcome with emotions (other than aggravation). A person is usually "all choked up" when they are deeply moved by sadness or by the thoughtfulness of others.
all worked up: in a state of aggravation, arousal of some type, in a state of deeply offended pride, offended sensibilities, in a state of anxiety, etc. Agitated.
blue norther: storm that comes up as a giant, blue-black cloud of cold air comes over the warm gulf air and "just about freezes us to death!" Rain and wind may accompany the black cloud.
catty whompus: used to describe something that doesn't fit properly or is out of line.
come hell or high water: shows determination to proceed, regardless of the problems, obstacles, etc.
conniptions: to have conniptions is to get upset and raise a ruckus.
crusty: tough and/or bad tempered man, woman or horse.
dad blame it, dad gum it, dag nab it: euphamisms coined to allow expressive speech without swearing.
eat up: eaten up, destroyed, oxidized. You can also be eat up with bug bites.
fess up: admit.
fit to be tied: really upset.
fixins: food; the rest of the meal, excluding the main dish. You might say you were having chicken and fixins for dinner.
frog-strangler: an extraordinary amount of rain.
go ahead on: "You go ahead on, I'll catch up later."
gully-washer: an extraordinary amount of rain, not quite as much as a frog-strangler.
hissy fit: a state of extreme agitation and not a pretty thing to see
howdy: How do you do?
I'll swan or I'll swanny: used instead of "I swear."
lit out: took off, started out, or absconded across some terrain.
looker: a pretty girl.
norther: a storm; not as bad as a blue norther.
nu-uh: no.
ole cuss: and old rascal (or galoot) who is tough and/or bad-tempered.
over yonder: a directional phrase meaning "over there."
over in through there, also: you go up in through there: Directional phrase; one I'm told foreigners (read: anybody except a Texan) have trouble understanding.
post oak: wood that is hard and resistant to rot and can be used for fenceposts.
ridin' high: doin' aw'right
shoot: an expletive (should be used with an exclamation point).
sorry: a particularly important Texas adjective meaning worthless, no-count, useless, bad. sweet milk: regular milk (not buttermilk)
taken to: began, adapted, started liking. Use #l: He's taken to drinking." Use #2: She's taken to that new job of hers right off."
tump: to spill or dump
walkin' in tall cotton: doin' aw'right (see ridin' high)
whole nuther thing: something else entirely
whomperjawed: when something is not fitting properly, e.g., "You'll never get that wine open, the corscrew is all whomperjawed!"
wore out: fatigued, exhausted

You don't want to hear a Texan say you're:

  • ugly as a mud fence
  • ugly as homemade sin
  • ugly as homemade soap
  • dumber than dirt
  • older than two trees
  • like ugly on an ape
  • dumb as a box of rocks
  • crooked as a dog's hind leg
  • crooked as a barrel of snakes
  • dumb as a box of hammers

These are good things to hear a Texan say:

  • You're cute as a possum.
  • You're tough as a boot.

Other Texan similes:

  • He beat him like a red-headed stepchild. (Ouch!)
  • Hidden in the basement like a crazy aunt.
  • Fine as frog's hair.
  • Cold as a well digger's lunch pail. (or belt buckle, or some anatomical part)
  • Look at somebody/something like a calf looks at a new gate. (With either confusion or dismay, maybe?)

Texas Sayings
What's a Texas Saying? Why, it's something they say in Texas, a course! Some of these "sayings" might be considered adages, and some are just ... well, sayings, I guess. Judge for yourself:

  • "Never ask a man if he's from Texas. If he is, he'll tell you on his own. If he ain't, no need to embarrass him."
  • "The Lord never closes one door without opening another one."
  • "Evil thoughts are like chickens--they come home to roost."
  • "You can always tell a Texan, but you can't tell him much."
  • "I want you to jump when I say frog."
  • "If you've done it, it ain't braggin'."
  • "That's tellin' him how the cow ate the cabbage."
  • "You done stopped preachin' and gone to meddlin'." (You're sticking your nose into my business, here, pal.)
So when you read my blog and I say "I'm fixin to work on a whole nuther thing" you'll know what I mean.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My New Neighbors

Meet my new neighbors! I saw him in the neighborhood earlier this week and wondered if he was just visiting or if they had moved in nearby. I knew if I saw his woman, that they were probably here to stay. Yesterday, I saw him again and he was chasing some unwanted visitors away. I knew then she couldn't be very far away.

This morning, there they were.

She's a little harder to spot, but she was only a couple of feet away from him.

Welcome to my neighborhood!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back Door Visitor

I've been thinking about all of my friends and family that I keep in touch with primarily through the Internet. Many, if not most of them, I've met in person and we have real-time relationships. But almost all of them live too far away to visit often.

I wish that were not true. I wish each one of you could make your way up my back steps and knock on this door. I'd welcome you in and laughingly apologize for the few dishes in the sink. I'd move my quilt materials to one side on the kitchen table so we could sit down and enjoy a big glass of iced sweet tea, or we could make our way into the living room and sit down and chat.

I know we'd laugh. We could talk about our families and our lives without worrying about spell-check. All too soon, it would be time to part again, but both of us would treasure the memory of an afternoon spent with a friend.

Back door friends are best.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Wonder of Being Four

I have waited almost a week in anticipation of Wordless Wednesday just to post this photo!!! This is my grandson on the swing in the backyard.

A Grandmother's Hope

"And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim;" 2 Chronicles 17:3

Do you see this little boy?

If you read my blog very often, you will know this is my grandson Elisha. I have another grandson named Ethan, but he was placed at birth for adoption with another family and I have never known him, though I pray for him daily. I have a granddaughter, Emma, who will be here any time between now and July 1. I'll post pictures of her, too, I'm sure.

As I've researched the genealogy of my family and my Hero's family, I have marveled at how many ancestors I have come across who were Bible-believer's who stood for their faith. Many of them were preachers of the gospel. Several of them suffered for their beliefs.

I believe they prayed for their children and their children's children. They prayed for us.

Jehoshaphat was the great-great-great grandson of David. He never knew David, but the Bible says he walked in the ways of his father, David.

I never knew Thomas Dungan. My Hero never knew John Dupree or John Thomas Longino. Yet these men have grandchildren who walk in their ways.

This is my hope for Elisha, for Ethan, for Emma and for the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren to follow. First, I want to seek the Lord's face myself. Then, I want them to walk in my ways.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fight or Flight

This is probably WAY too true!

Your Response is: Flight

You rather leave then deal with a dangerous or uncomfortable situation.

You can't deal with too much drama or stress. It's really hard for you to cope.

You are easily scared, freaked out, or intimidated.

And while it's good to be prudent, not everything may be as freaky as it seems!

After the rain

When I was a little girl, and the rain came, I would stand in the window and sing, "Rain, Rain, go away! Come again another day!" But, through time, I have learned to welcome the rain. I know what's coming. After the rain, the air is fresh and the world is clean. The flowers stand high having sipped the goodness.

Yesterday afternoon, the clouds cleared and I grabbed my camera and headed out with my grandson and the dog in tow. Here is what we found:

I hope that when my grandson is grown, and it rains, he remembers walking in the freshness with me.

Friday, May 23, 2008

No Walk Today

We are in the midst of a beautiful, soaking Spring rain.

I awoke early this morning to the soothing sounds of the splashing water and the fresh smell of the cleansing shower. I opened my home office door and took these shots from the stoop.

I have plenty to keep me busy. I'm sewing some fancy stitches on some burp towels for my coming granddaughter, Emma. And, of course, I have the nursery quilt to work on.

However, before I do any of that, much to my shame, I have several days of dishes awaiting me in the sink. Don't tell, okay?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I wish you could have joined me

I took a walk this morning. The weather was just perfect. It was sunny, a slight breeze and about 65°. There were literally hundreds of birds serenading me as I walked. The scent of spring flowers filled the air. And the sights were magnificent.

I'll leave out the part about the swarm of gnats that were particularly enamored with my hair gel. (Oh, well, it can't be perfect.)

Looking for my Blogging Voice

As I've worked over the past several months to hone my blogging skills, I've struggled with my "blogging voice." I mean, what is it I want to concentrate on. In thinking about this I decided to start a sister blog: Grace & Salt. Grace & Salt is actually the name of our Ladies Fellowship at our church. On the sister blog, I will blog all of my devotional thoughts. On Nana's Faith (this blog), I will blog more about my crafts, my photography, and funny things I think about. I will probably post things about my family and our family history here, too. (I'm still considering starting a third blog, just for my genealogy stuff.)

I hope these changes work.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What My Fridge Says (Talking appliances are scary!)

What Your Fridge Says About You

You like to be surrounded by things you love. You aren't exactly greedy, but you can be materialistic at times.

You tend to be a fairly thrifty person. You splurge occasionally, but you're mostly a saver.

You are a very adventurous person. You love to try new things, and you get bored very easily.

You are responsible, together, and mature. You act like an adult, even when you don't feel like it.

You are likely to be married - and very busy.

What Fun!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Goodly Heritage

"The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage." Psalms 16:6

I've already told you my husband is a church planter. Throughout his ministry (which marked 19 years Sunday), he has either taken struggling churches trying to reestablish them, or he started one church from scratch in an area that needed a church.

In my spare time, I sometimes research our genealogy. I have found some amazing things. The man in the photo is the Reverend John Dupree. He is my husband's great-great-great grandfather. He was a church planter in Louisiana in the 1800's.

The following is the information I have collected about him:

Rev. John Dupree

Brother Dupree was born near Macon, Georgia in 1806. He married Mary Ann Taylor in early manhood. To this union were born nine children: 3 sons, Daniel Ivy, Stewart and Newton, and 6 daughters: Missouri, Sally, Nancy, Polly, Martha, and Ann.

Reverend John Dupree was ordained to preach the gospel of our Lord in 1842, at Big Sandy Missionary Baptist Church, Wilkinson County, Georgia. He was born the 26th of March 1806 and preached for 50 years. He died May 16, 1898. From Thigpen Tribe we learn where he was ordained and that in 1862 he moved to Louisiana. Also from this we learn that in 1881 he moved back to Georgia where he died and was buried.

Brother Dupree was ordained as a Baptist Minister in 1841 and did faithful service in his native state until 1862, when he came with his family to Louisiana, and settled in very near wild country, about eight miles north east of the present town of Coushatta. He probably purchased as much as a section of land there for $.50 an acre in that part of the present Parish of Red River. The greater portion of the land is still owned by his descendents (as of 2001).

After moving to Louisiana he began at once, as a preacher, to administer to the spiritual needs of the few people in that section of the county. He was instrumental in organizing Liberty church soon after coming to the state, and was its pastor for several years.

Soon after coming to the state he was appointed as a missionary, with his field of service in the Black Lake, Grand Bayou, and Lake Bisteneau territory. The results of his work in this section is the organization of Ebinezar Church, north of the present town of Ashland, though it is in the lower edge of Bienville Parish, then on West to what is now known as the Methvin Community, there organizing Bethel Church in Red River Parish then on northwest to the Spring Hill Community and organized a church there, and was its pastor for a period of years, then on northeast into Webster Parish where he organized Bisteneau church, about three miles west of the present town of Heflin. Then crossing Lake Bisteneau at Port Boliver he went up on the west side of the Gum Springs Community and organized Gum Springs Church about a mile and a half south of the present village of McIntyre Church, now extinct. This church was in the reservation of what is now (1968) the Louisiana Ordinance plant. Due to the changes taking place during the reconstruction period after the civil, the Gum Spring church became disorganized, and the surviving members moved out on to -what is as of 1968- Highway 80, four miles west of the city of Minden and took the name Antioch. Brother Dupree was a leader in this organization. Brother Dupree's period of service was long and faithful.

He would ride from two to three thousand miles on horseback, preaching two to three hundred sermons each year. Through a part of this period he served as many as twelve churches, and preaching stations. His work was of a permanent nature, as proven by the fact that all of these churches are still functioning except Gum Springs, which became extinct shortly after the Civil War.

From the Federal Census 1880 in Red River Parish we learn where he and his wife, Mary Ann were living and also that his trade was listed as Doctor of Divinity.
History of Louisiana Baptist tells of a meeting of Baptists on September 24, 1864, and among the new ministers who had come into this region may be noted, John Dupree. Red River Parish Association, La. stated the churches represented by John Dupree were Pleasant Grove and Mt. Carmel.

A report by the churches in 1867 noted that Pleasant Grove and Liberty Churches were under the care of Elder John Dupree - they were called Elder in those days. Under same report Bethel Church was under his care and had a total of 15 members.
In 1871, Elder John Dupree constituted a church near Campto with 7 members, baptized four. He had also baptized about 24 people near Buckhorn. The church near Campto united with Bisteneau Church. Brother John Dupree -in 1871- supplied about 12 churches and as many stations with regular preaching, where there would have been none but for his labors.

From all reports, John Dupree baptized from 40 to 50 people a year. It was estimated that he traveled from two to three thousand miles each year. The record also states that he preached from two to three hundred sermons each year. In 1869 the State Board of the Louisiana Convention secured the services of the Rev. John Dupree to labor as a missionary, east of Red River.

Brother Dupree's period of service closed in Louisiana about 1881. His wife died and he went back to Georgia. Then he married a second time to a widow named Mrs. Lila Thomas. She already had a son named Henry L. Thomas and a grandson named Guy Thomas of Milan, Georgia. Guy and Henry both were still living in March of 1961. Guy Thomas had written to Dr. Daniel Edward Dupree and told him that his step-grandpa Dupree was buried near the line of Laurens and Wilkerson counties, Georgia, which was about 72 miles from Milan, Georgia. Guy's father, Henry was 94 years old in 1961.

John Dupree came back to Louisiana in 1893 and visited several of the churches which he had organized carrying a bed roll with him, and lying on a pallet on the platform till the preliminaries were over to conserve his strength. Then he would rise and preach with fervor for his Master and Lord. He died in 1894 at the age of 88, near Macon, Georgia.
The historical marker in Red River Parish Louisiana says:
Reverend John Dupree
(1806-1899) Pioneer Baptist preacher and missionary. He organized many churches in Georgia as well as sixteen in Louisiana east of Red River, where his labors began in 1862. Traveled great distances on horseback. Baptized hundreds of converts.
Located in Martin, District 4, Red River Parish. Red River Parish.

We thought it was fascinating that his ancestor did exactly what he does. Then, this week, I was doing a little bit more research on my family and found a direct connection to Thomas "Dunkin" Dungan. He is my great- (x10) grandfather. He started the first Baptist church in Pennsylvania and was instrumental in the founding of the Pennepack Baptist Church which is the second oldest Baptist Church in the United States.

Last year, The Baptist History Preservation Society erected a memorial at Pennepack Baptist Church. It reads as follows:

In the latter half of the seventeenth century, Baptist from England and Wales settled in the County of Philadelphia. Their gathering as baptized believers led to the formation of the Pennepack Baptist Church.

In 1686, Elias Keach, son of the famed English Pastor, Benjamin Keach, arrived in America. Though unconverted, he presented himself as a minister of the gospel. His name secured for him the opportunity to preach and the aforementioned group of believers, in need of a pastor, were among those who gave ear to his message.

Baptist historian Morgan Edwards records the details of this event: "He performed well enough till he had advanced pretty far in the sermon. Then stopping short, looked like a man astonished. The audience concluded he had been seized with a sudden disorder: but, on asking what the matter was, received from him the confession of the imposture with tears in his eyes and much trembling."

The deceiver became the first convert of his own preaching and from this time he dated his conversion. Keach repaired to Elder Thomas Dungan who, at Cold Springs in 1684, founded the first Baptist Church in the colony of Pennsylvania. Dungan administered the ordinance of baptism to Keach and the young preacher returned to Pennepack.

The Pennepack Baptist Church was constituted in 1688. It is recorded that "by the advice of Elias Keach and with the consent of the following named persons viz: John Eatton, George Eaton and Jane, his wife, Samuel Jones, Sarah Eatton, John Baker, Samual Vaus, Joseph Ashton and Jane, his wife, William Fisher, John Watts, and Elias Keach, a day was set apart to seek God by fasting and prayer in order to form ourselves into a church. Whereupon Elias Keach was accepted and received as our pastor and we sat down in communion at the Lord's table."

The same year, 1688, Elder Dungan died, and in 1702, the Church at Cold Springs was absorbed into the Pennepack Church. Though not the first established, to "Ye Olde Pennepak" belongs the distinction of being the oldest Baptist Church in Pennsylvania. It is also one of the oldest Baptist Churches in America.

Yes, we have a goodly heritage.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Nursery Sheep Quilt

I got one block done on the quilt for the church nursery!

I'm not real thrilled with the way the top left corner doesn't line up, but I'm not about to redo it. I'm going to alternate the pink and blue material with some yellow and green that I got, too.

This is a closeup of the sheep.

I really debated back and forth between this furry material and chenille. I think the chenille would have been much easier to work with, but I like the look of this furry stuff.

Only eleven more blocks to go!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Am I The Only Idiot?

I was getting out my supplies to start working on a quilt for the church nursery (there will be photos soon) and I wondered if I am the only one who has to find all these great gadgets that she owns when she wants to use them. I knew I had a rotary cutter and I thought it was in my sewing box. Nope. So I looked in the next logical place — my nifty craft box with the special compartments and everything. Wasn't there either.

At this point, I was calling myself all kinds of names because I spend money to get the good tools and then I can never remember where I put them the last time I used them. I even have a designated sewing box. (It is getting a little frayed around the edges, but my mom bought it for me a couple of years before she died and I really don't want to replace it.) My Sweetie bought me one of those really cool craft boxes and some of the organizers that go in it, and I even have a great big craft box that is supposed to go under my bed, but my bed isn't tall enough and …

Oh, wait! The big box! Maybe just maybe … so I dug it out of the closet under the staircase. This is a much bigger deal than it seems. I live in a tiny little house and storage is at a premium so every square inch of storage space is designated and of, course, the great big craft box is on the bottom because, well, because it's big.

Anyway, I finally got it out, and foraged through it. (There is some really neat stuff in there.) And sure, enough, there was my rotary cutter. I didn't put the box back. My Sweetie did it for me.

The moral of the story is this: It doesn't do you any good to have great organizational skills and great organizational boxes if you don't use them!! Grrrrrrrrrr.

How Independent Are You?

Your Independence Level: High

You are extremely self reliant and autonomous.

You are definitely into doing your own thing.

But you also wouldn't turn down help if you needed it.

You follow your own path, but you don't do so blindly.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Journey, Not A Trip

Here you go — you take it from here. These are the words I need to say to Renee, but I don’t know how to say them. I’ve spent years dreaming, teaching, lecturing, worrying, leading, pushing, loving and nagging to reach this moment. It is time to watch her back as she moves down the road of life. I will continue dreaming, worrying, and loving. I still want to tell. Now I will have to listen. I still want to lecture. Now I will have to suggest. Everything is changing and I’m not ready.

I know other mothers go through this. It’s August and all over the country, millions of mothers are saying goodbye to their freshmen children. But this is my Renee and she hasn’t been mine long enough.

It was a lot cooler that day in April when she and her little sister came through the front door the first time. She already knew our adopted brood of four from school, but she latched onto the oldest, Michelle, and declared her the best friend. She gallantly stacked her few clothes in the drawers I showed her and arranged the stuffed koala we gave her on her new bed all the while bathing the room with non-stop chatter. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone talk that fast.

She thought she was hiding her fear. But, I could see it in the slight quake of her fingers as she brushed her hair from her face. I could hear it in the accelerating pitch of her voice and the too-loud laugh. Thirteen is a terrible age to get a new family. So much of her childhood already belonged to one of the four mothers before me. I only had five years to make her mine. That day my hand probably quaked a bit, too.

Today, the heat of August beats down as we prepare to pack the van. Michelle has come over and brought her son Mark with her to help Renee and to say goodbye. None of the other kids are going with us. We are driving all the way from Iowa to California by way of Oregon, and the thought of thousands of miles of captive summer in a car full of teenagers makes me shudder. No, this is our time with Renee alone.

Holding Mark and standing to one side, I smile as she and Michelle rearrange the boxes and baskets and suitcases and bags again. Renee has poured over supply lists for weeks. She has searched the Internet for dorm ideas. She has talked to everyone she knew who had ever been to college. She’s made lists of must-haves, like-to-haves, and wishes. Then there were lists of her lists. She has even called the college to find out how much square footage of space she would have in her dorm room and then measured her stuff. So like her. I remember the day I found her folding the dirty laundry. “It looks neater that way, Mom,” she said.

She’s asking Michelle if she is forgetting anything. I so want to tell her it this isn’t a big deal. They have Wal-Mart in California. She knows what it takes to maintain her daily existence. But there is more to it than that. This is her leap to independence and she wants to make sure she has everything she needs before she leaps. Once while she was fretting, I opened my mouth to tell her that “you never have everything you need,” but some things are only learned by experience so I coughed and cleared my throat instead.

I sit down on the stairs to wait and watch the packing, smiling. The conversations these past few weeks have become comical. One day she asked me, “How many sets of sheets should I have?”

“Well, you have two. That way, you have a fresh set whenever you need to do laundry,” I answered.

“Well, but what if I don’t have money to do laundry? I’m going to get a job right away, but what if I don’t get paid for three weeks or whatever?” she asked.

“Then I guess your sheets have to go a little longer between washings,” I answered.

“But what if I don’t have quarters?” she asked and I noted the accelerated pitch.

At this point, I entered the mother mode indicated by a huge sigh. There is no answer sufficient for the panic that is growing. My answers became simple and logical. “Renee, I’m sure there’s a change machine.”

“What if there’s not?”

“They have banks in California.” My tone has now reached an almost monotone calmness. There is no purpose for conflict.

“Mom, I know THAT!” she retorted.

“So, how many sets of sheets do you think you need?” I asked.

“Well, I think two is enough,” she answered.

I poked my head into the pantry and feigned looking for a spice so she wouldn’t see me laugh.

Too soon all the questions will stop — or at least most of them will. When I went away to college, I would have asked the counter boy at the pizza joint for advice before I called home to ask my mom. I was a college student after all.

I think she’s just about finished arranging everything. I was beginning to wonder if she was going to leave room for her dad’s suitcase and mine. Michelle reminded her of it right at the last minute.

Now it’s time for all the last minute hugs and kisses and goodbyes. Renee holds little Mark for more than a minute. She is going to miss her little nephew more than she even realizes. I have the map. My husband, Tim, has his coffee. Renee has her cell phone. We are ready.

Years of traveling with kids had formed habits. We start in the evening and drive into the night. Tim always drives first. Then he gets tired so I drive until I can’t anymore and we pull over in a rest stop and sleep for a while. We’ve never sprung for a hotel for the first night. A hot shower and a soft bed would be nice, but we do have a hotel waiting for us in Montana the second night. Oh, well, this trip we will let Renee drive some. Usually, the kids don’t drive on family trips. I can’t stand the bickering over whose turn it is. What were we thinking adopting six kids so close together in age? Only four years top to bottom! We must have been crazy.

As we pull into the drive-thru at the burger joint for our dinner, Renee’s not hungry. Tim buys her a meal anyway. I almost tell him not to, but it won’t do any good. As I sip my drink, my mother heart wants to jump in the back seat and hug her and tell her she’s going to be fine. She is starting the adventure of a lifetime. It would just make her mad. She wants to pretend she is grown and doesn’t need a mom anymore. It took her forever to even trust me as her mom — we are just getting started and she wants to be grown up. We ride in silence for almost two hundred miles.

Why is it that sometimes no matter how fiercely you love someone, there can be that unbridgeable gap? Though she wasn’t born of my body, Renee was born in my heart. That first night, I stepped into the girls’ room and watched her and Steph sleeping. I don’t know what mothers feel when they look at the children they give birth to, but my heart swamps me when I watch mine sleep. So many nights since, I slipped into the stillness and tried to picture her little. I’ve had to find time apart and alone so I could rant at the woman who walked away from this girl when she was only a toddler. How can crack mean more to you than a child? I’ve listened to her stories of her grandmother, then her aunt, then a foster mother and wished that it had been me that shared her giggles, her hurts, her temper. The only reality has been the aloofness and detachment of adolescence. She bristled if I even asked if she needed tampons. So independent. Someone once said that raising children is like being pecked to death by chickens. On of my chicks is flying the coop and I sense impending relief.

Wait a sec . . . That highway sign . . . I don’t think this is the right way. Sure enough, we’re lost. Oh, crap! Tim is going to stop and ask some stranger for directions and I’m going to be mortified. It’s supposed to be men who won’t ask, but I’m the one who hates asking for directions. Good, there’s a convenience store. We can go to the bathroom and stretch and figure out where we are.

We are only two blocks off course. How in the world did he do that? It’s time to change drivers. Tim is getting sleepy already. The air is stifling hot as I slide into the driver’s seat welcoming the cool interior. Thank goodness we weren’t here long enough for the interior to warm up.

I plop my soda in the drink holder, my box of candy in the change caddy, and adjust the mirror. I smell something stale, even though we just threw the trash away. I look around to see if we missed something. The yellow glow from the lights of the convenience store isn’t bright enough so I reach down and snap on the dome light. I am blinded momentarily by the brightness but my eyes quickly adjust. There between the backseats sits Renee’s uneaten dinner, still in the sack. When she’s nervous, she either eats like a linebacker or doesn’t eat at all. I climb out of the van once last time to throw the pungent, hours-old food away. I sure don’t want to smell that for the next thousand miles.

The mechanism of the back seat clanks and thumps several times as Tim adjusts it backward so he can sleep. Renee rustles around next to me, arranging her purse and snacks just so for the ride ahead. Always the perfectionist. She’s the only girl I know who makes her bed so perfect that she can tell if one of her sisters sits on it.

I sigh and turn the key. The engine purrs to life and I reach for the gearshift. The smooth plastic is freezing cold. The air-conditioning vent must be blowing right on it. Renee hates the cold. She said that’s why she chose a college in California. I still think she just wants to get as far from home as she can. Adjusting the vents, I shift the van into gear and jostle and maneuver through the bumpy parking lot onto the dark highway stretching before us. This road is smooth, and as I reach highway speed, the tires settle into a soft hum.

Here we are. Iowa is behind us and Minnesota and several other states lay in the hours ahead. Only three hours in the van, and a pain is piercing my right shoulder. I stretch my arm to relive the cramp. I should have slept when I had the chance. I try to squint though the darkness and glimpse the landscape, but there is no moon and the blackness envelopes all but the asphalt in my headlights.

So many thoughts jumble in my head. I can feel my heart quicken slightly in my chest with my maternal fears for this girl. All the bickering with a teenage daughter is ending and a new adventure beginning. Have I told her everything I needed to tell her? Can you really tell a child all they need to know? I don’t really know how to advise her on the best way to break away from me. It seems like I worked forever for this moment and I’m not ready. Will we grow apart like the distance that separates us, or will we grow together as adult friends?

Renee must be struggling with her own thoughts, because she is doing what she always does when she is nervous. Talking. Above the hum of the tires and the soft snores from Tim in the backseat, my ears are full of Renee’s nervous chatter. “Do you think I brought everything, or do you think I brought too much?” She is trying to be quiet but her voice is tinny with apprehension. “If I forgot something, will you and Dad send it to me? How much do you think it costs to mail me a package? Maybe you could make me some cookies and send those, too.”

“Well, did you go through the checklist they gave you? Did you have everything on the list?” I ask, being careful to use the smooth, calm tone that mothers use when they comfort a fearful child. It is really a strange circumstance to have this kind of conversation. This is weird. Though she is an adult, she needs the confidence of her mother’s approval.

“Yes, but I probably have too much. I think I’m going to have to send half my stuff home with you and Dad. Will that be okay? Will you put it away for me so the girls don’t mess with it? What if . . .” Soon her words fade into the background noise. She isn’t really talking to me anyway. She is working through her own fears. We settle into the mother-daughter role we perfected through her teenage years. The sound of her voice rises and falls with her emotions in scattered thoughts, and I nod sympathetically and mumble and occasional “mm, hmm.”

The drone of the tires is vibrating up my spine. Night has fallen. My sweet daughter’s voice fills my ears with her fearful monologue and the road stretches out in the darkness before us. An occasional flash of a roadside reflector snaps in my eyes.

Renee’s chatter calms. Her sentences grow shorter, and the space of time between them grows longer. Eventually, the even breathing of her sleep joins that of her dad in the back seat. For the first time since we left home, I am completely alone with my thoughts.

I don’t know if there is a task as difficult as that of being the mother of a teenage daughter, especially one you didn’t even meet until she was half grown. There isn’t an easy stage, but so far, the most awkward stage has been this space between childhood and adulthood. Of my three girls older than Renee, Michelle married Eddie right out of high school and had Mark, Kay went to school near her grandparents, and Lisa got a job and still lives at home. Renee is going far away and is going to be away from all of our family. I’d tried to fill a lifetime with memories of home and family in five short years. We had some good ones. We’d gone camping at the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan and in the Rockies. There was the one day when I kept all the girls out of school and took them shopping in Chicago. So many times, we spent hours, just Renee and I, looking through books in Barnes and Nobles.

We had some bad memories. There was the time that I walked in on her proudly showing all her friends the pictures of her birth-mom and I burst into tears I felt so stupid. But I really hate that woman. Then there was the big blow up when she “fired” me as her mother. I still don’t know for sure whether or not she ever officially hired me again. She thinks she has it all figured out.

Driving in the darkness, I ponder the failures. She still hesitates to come to me when she is pain. I wasn’t there when she was little and fell on the playground. Nobody really was and she hadn’t learned trust in those early years. But I do know the shadow of pain in her eyes. Now, I’m going to have to listen for that shadow in her long-distance voice. I hope I hear it. I hope she doesn’t guard it too closely. When I do hear it, I’ll have to decide when to rescue her and when to let her learn.

My eyelashes are pulling like weights on my eyelids. The green-glow numbers on the radio flash 2:30 a.m. Somewhere here I have a map marked with rest stops. The best I can decipher from the map and the mile markers, I only have about twenty miles or so before the next one. With a quick glance of my daughter sleeping beside me, I sigh. Love crashes through my soul. Even though she thinks she’s grown, she’s my baby — my baby I never I never knew as a baby. She’s so beautiful.

Just a moment passes, and I turn the car into the parking lot, cut the engine, recline my seat, and sink into long-needed sleep, making sure all the doors are locked.

This is anohter fiction piece that isn't really fiction. The names and some of the details have been changed, but for me, this is as real as the day it happened.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

She is 22 Today

The little girl on the right is our daughter, Marcy. (The girl on the left is our daughter Wendy who was adopted at birth.) This was taken the weekend in April 1996 that we met her. Marcy was nine, almost ten. We traveled to South Texas to meet her, her sister and brother. It was a whirlwind weekend. We met with untold numbers of committees filled with teachers, counselors, and social workers. The prognosis for Marcy was not good, but we were willing to commit.

We watched the children play. At one point, Marcy was being chased and came running towards us shouting, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Mr. Cannon!"

Marcy was born almost 3 months premature. She was addicted to cocaine and legally drunk at birth. Her heart stopped twice during the delivery and she had congenital syphilis. She's a fighter, though (Wow! That's an understatement!) and she pushed on.

Because of prenatal exposure to alcohol, Marcy struggled with some real problems in school, but again she pushed on. She graduated and actually went on and did a year in college.

She's now living with a relative in another state. She is working successfully which is so much more than anyone thought she could ever do.

And today, she is twenty-two. I love you, Marcy. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Church Nursery

I know a few people who have left a church over doctrine. However, for every one person I know who left over doctrine, I know five who left over the church nursery. Let's face it, we want to know that our babies are cared for in a pleasant environment if we are going to leave them. (This post isn't about the pros and cons of having a nursery at all. I know some people would rather keep their babies in the service with them. For those who choose to leave their little ones in the nursery, though, a church needs to have a nice place.)
As a church-planter's wife, I've had to learn to be innovative in sprucing up the nursery and making it a welcoming place. Our current nursery is in desperate need of a makeover and so that is my summer project. I like sheep and so that is my themes.

I started this week with this hanging peg for jackets and diaper bags.

I went to Hobby Lobby and got the bare wood and the little wooden sheep for less than $9.00 total.

This is a lifetime collection of paintbrushes. Aren't they wonderful? I love my paintbrushes.

So, I painted.

And glued on the sheep.


Next week, I'm starting a new quilt for the crib.