A Letter to My Uncle and Cousin

Prologue: I wrote this letter to my uncle, Paul Blessing, for his 96th birthday, which turned out to be the last one we got to celebrate with him. When I was a child, Uncle Paul scared me a little. He had a quick temper, and he was ready with his belt as my cousins and I were growing up to punish them (and occasionally me) for wrongdoing.

Once when my cousin Joe and I were washing the car and I accidentally (for real) squirted him with the hose, Joe responded by socking me in the jaw. I started crying, and Uncle Paul came outside. He figured neither party was innocent, and he got a meter stick (quite a bit thicker than a yardstick, which I was used to my mother spanking me on the bottom with) and gave both Joe and me a whipping on the backs of our legs. I was frightened, shocked, and the thought occurred to me that we were being abused. But Joe and I wound up consoling each other by comparing the red marks on our hamstrings. Soon we were back to laughing and finished washing the car.

As Uncle Paul grew older, he mellowed a lot. He was quite affectionate with his grandchildren, and he and my aunt Myrt both took on our children as honorary grandchildren. (My dad was involved with Daniel and Julie as much as he could be, but he remarried in 1994 and didn’t have as much time to devote to his grandchildren as he did before he remarried.)

Uncle Paul was my dad’s first cousin, meaning he was my second cousin, I think.* The “once removed” label for cousins has always caused me confusion, so even after reading about the topic I can’t remember the exact relationships of my uncle and cousins to me. Uncle Paul and my dad (first cousins) married sisters, thereby making him my cousin and uncle and my cousins double cousins. Don’t ask me whether Bill, Sue, and Joe were second cousins once removed or third cousins; I think it was the former, but since we were also related on our moms’ side, it was easier to remember them as first cousins.

Uncle Paul woke up in pain early one Sunday morning in July 2018. He called his friend Mack, who worked at the funeral home where Uncle Paul volunteered a lot of his time. (Always the minister.) Mack drove Uncle Paul to the hospital, where they discovered he had gallstones. He had to have surgery, and his health quickly declined after surgery. My cousin Bill (the oldest of Uncle Paul’s and Aunt Myrt’s three children) realized that if they did not act soon, Uncle Paul might not make it. After consulting with a liver transplant surgeon he knows, Bill arranged for Uncle Paul to be transferred to a hospital in Cincinnati.

They took Uncle Paul by ambulance but didn’t seem in too much of a hurry, as it was around 5:00-5:30 p.m. the day they finally left for Cincinnati. Uncle Paul had another surgery when he got to Cincinnati. Afterward, he entertained the nurses and family visitors right up to a few minutes before he died. He had a heart attack, I believe, or it may have been a stroke. Anyway, he was kidding around with the nurse and one minute he was here, and the next minute he was gone.

I couldn’t believe it when my cousin Joe called to tell me the sad news of Uncle Paul’s death. He had not slowed down much as he got older…he was still driving and often went to the nursing home near his home to visit people and lead Bible studies with the “old people” (this is humorous, coming from a 96-year-old).

Here is the letter I wrote for Uncle Paul’s 96th birthday. I’m so glad we celebrated his 96th birthday, even though we’d had a big to-do for his 95th birthday.

February 15, 2018

Dear Uncle Paul,

Happy 96th birthday! I am so happy we are able to celebrate with you. When I think of you, here’s what I remember about you:

• A keen and curious mind, always striving to prepare the best material to present, whether through a sermon or teaching a Sunday school class

• A rolling stone that gathered no moss—when I recall my childhood memories of you, you were always busy doing something. If not out in the community ministering to someone’s need, you were busy at home with yardwork or at Reb’s fixing something in her house or helping her in the garden.

• An outgoing, friendly personality who obviously enjoyed being around people and never knew a stranger. I also remember your laughing a lot and saying “You see… you see.”

• A faithful spouse, cousin, in-law, and friend—I remember how lovingly you cared for Aunt Myrt and how you looked out for Reb in her latter years.

• A kind and caring presence to people at the nursing home and a comforting presence to people at the funeral home

• Your life was never dull. It seemed that something was always hopping with you, whether it was a mission trip to West Virginia or something going on in the Clinch Valley Baptist Association.

• You took your calling as a minister seriously and remain faithful to that call even now. How many 96-year-olds can say they preached a funeral in the past year? How many can say they officiated at their grandson’s wedding on the beach just 4½ years ago?

• You have meant so much to me and my family, stepping in as a grandfatherly substitute for our children when Daddy was consumed with caring for my mom. You and Aunt Myrt brought Reb down to Nashville at a time when I badly needed some coaching in mothering a newborn. I will never forget how relieved I felt when you three showed up at our house.

• I appreciate all the family stories you have shared with me. You made me feel like a real grownup the first time you came to our house (while you were attending a conference at what used to be the Baptist Sunday School Board). I learned the real truth about why Mamaw and Papaw slept in separate rooms, and I still chuckle when I think about that.

• I remember getting many cards and letters from you signed “With all my love.” That made me feel special.

• You excelled at grandparenthood. I am really thankful that you and Aunt Myrt took our family under your wing, treating Daniel and Julie as if they were your own grandchildren. They have pleasant memories of trips to Kingsport and SW Virginia because you made them feel loved.

• I have always enjoyed our parries about what was going on in the Southern Baptist Convention and debates about women in ministry. I know you were a little disappointed when I became a Methodist, but hey—at least I’m still faithfully attending church and growing in my spiritual life. I did what I had to do!

Here is perhaps my highest compliment to you: I hope I will be like you when I grow old. I hope I can remain positive in the face of grief and bravely continue on. Should my dear spouse die before I do, I hope I have the courage to pick myself up, dust off my feet, and continue living, as you have done. That doesn’t mean you don’t grieve—you did, but you faced your grief and worked through it. And always you kept in mind that God still had work for you to do. You have lived a life full of purpose and meaning.

In short (well not really—for an editor, I’m pretty verbose), I have been blessed and privileged to get to know you as an adult, and I am forever grateful to you. I hope we get to celebrate your 100th birthday in four short years!

Love you (John joins me in that sentiment),

Your niece and second cousin,


*Oops, I think I was wrong about my cousin relationship to Uncle Paul. He is my second cousin once removed because we do not share grandparents. He was my father’s first cousin. Cousin Paul’s dad was my great uncle, so figure that one out—his being the child of my great grandparent would make him my second cousin, wouldn’t it? So I figured out my relationship to the children of cousins Bill and Joe: They are my first cousins once removed. We’ll just simplify things by calling each other cousins. For more information, see https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/cousin-chart/.

One interesting thing I remember from the visitation at my mother’s funeral back in 1991: I stood next to my dad, and so many people came through the line, and Daddy would say, “This is my cousin _______.” All I could think of was that everyone who lived in his little holler (hollow) must’ve been related! I got tickled after a while. I asked Daddy how many cousins he had, and he didn’t know. His mother had 5 siblings, I think. Beyond that, I have not traced all my cousins. I do well enough to keep up with the cousins on my mom’s side of the family. I know my first cousins from my dad’s side of the family but not as well.

Sometimes I Picture God That Way*

“[God] will cover you with his feathers,

And under his wings you can hide.”

—Psalm 91:4 (NCV)

Though the imagery in Psalm 91:4 reminds me of a mother hen, it calls to mind my dad, my protector as I grew up. He and I shared a joyous, close relationship as far back as I can remember. When I was 7, Daddy was plowing the garden, and I delightedly ran behind him, tramping down the soil he’d just tilled. Unfortunately, he plowed up a nest of yellow jackets (wasps), and they swarmed around us. Daddy said, “Anne, go to the house NOW!” If I had obeyed him, I might have been better off, but instead I replied, “Ah, Daddy, they’re just flies.”

So the yellow jackets swarmed all over us. We ran up the hill toward our house as Daddy tried to keep the wasps off me. (To a college student pastor who was living with us that summer and was looking out the window, it appeared that Daddy was beating me on my back.) My mom knew something was wrong, because Daddy never punished me physically. She told the college student, “Ted, get the car keys!” She met us at the corner of the house, carrying a wash cloth and ice. We jumped into the car and Ted drove, and off we rushed to the local hospital’s emergency room.

In the blur of activity that followed, I remember my mom putting ice on my stings and using the wash cloth to pull yellow jackets from my hair. (Yes, she was protective too.) Sitting in the car’s front seat, Daddy he turned around and asked with concern, “How’s she doing?” By the time our car reached the bottom of our hilly street, his voice sounded funny. His throat and tongue were swelling in an anaphylactic reaction to the stings he’d gotten.

When we reached the emergency room, a nurse quickly assessed us. She decided I was okay, but Daddy needed quick treatment. Medical personnel rushed him back to an examination room and gave him an injection to stop his life-threatening reaction. Later we counted the number of stings we had received—I had 39, while Daddy had only 11. Over the next few days, Dad and I comforted each other as we recovered from the venom of the wasp stings.

My dad was already my hero, but this incident served to make him a superhero in my eyes. He was my mentor in faith, my protector, my first picture of what God is like. I was fortunate to have him in my life until I was 58 years old; he was almost 94 when he died.

In my mind’s eye I sometimes picture God looking at us, checking in just as a parent looks in on a child to see that all is well. When we spend time with God, we can sometimes sense moments when God feels so close that we can almost reach out and touch God’s face. These are the times that make life worthwhile.

*I got the title for this blog from a song by Kyle Matthews, whose music I love. It is Christian music but has much deeper lyrics than most contemporary Christian music. For more info about Kyle, visit his website: kylematthews.com/music

“Sometimes I Picture God That Way” is on his Sing Down album. Give his music a listen…it is beautiful.

Anne Trudel is a writer and editor living in Nashville, Tennessee. She enjoys the outdoors, reminiscing about her parents, and learning more about the natural world, where she feels closest to God.

Road Trips and Time Off

So wow, a whole year has gone by, and I haven’t written a single blog. Shows how busy my life is. Or that maybe I want to do something besides blog in my spare time.

I went road tripping in May with a college friend, my freshman roommate, Sally. Since then I have felt more energetic than I have in years. I think it was like pressing the Reset button on an electronic device. Why do we have the tendency to not listen to our bodies and spirits when they are crying out for rest? That’s sort of a rhetorical question, but my life post-road trip has made me think about the value of “sharpening the saw,” as Stephen Covey described taking time off in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

When I press the Pause button on my life and take a couple of weeks off back-to-back, I think about all sorts of things. I thought about retirement and when I want to retire. Not sure I have a clear answer on that one yet. I came back to work reenergized and rarin’ to go. Since the road trip, I have decided I want to pursue a certificate in spiritual formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Further education at this juncture in my life, on the surface, doesn’t make sense. I’m not doing it for the sake of advancing in my career. I’m doing it because I love a challenge, and I want to keep my gray matter functioning, and because I love thinking about spiritual stuff.

Taking time away from my family made me appreciate the unique gifts of my husband, son, and daughter. My son broke up with his girlfriend of almost two years while I was away. My daughter got another job than the one she had planned to start this fall. (It’s good…she just realized that she couldn’t teach Spanish at a high school level because her licensure covers only middle school). We are excited that she will be teaching at a great middle school, John Trotwood Moore…and she won’t be the only Spanish teacher at her school. I think JT Moore takes Spanish seriously, so none of this “Well, we’re not going to offer Spanish next year, so we need you to teach 5th grade science and social studies” stuff like she endured at her last school.

And John, well, let’s say I got a little frustrated trying to get in touch with him while on the road trip (I kept getting a busy signal when I called), but there was a reason I was able to reach our children and not him for a few days. We finally got connected, and all was well. Since the trip, he says I’ve changed, that I act more like Sally. Well, that’s a good thing. Sally is an assertive woman who knows her own mind and is practically a genius. She taught me much about laundry, wovens and knits, and lots of other things on the trip. I realized how much I didn’t know about her job as a professor at Texas Christian University, even though we have corresponded about our work and personal lives for years. Sally and her husband, Jim, have been married about 1 1/2 months longer than John and me. It’s fun to see the different ways we interact with our spouses.

I came home appreciating my spouse for allowing me to be who I am..an extravert who has introvert tendencies and needs solitude at times to figure out what the heck is going on in her life. Spending time with a longtime friend is a precious gift. Sally and I never turned the radio or any music on during the trip. We kept a conversation going most of the time. She also introduced me to a new author: Louise Penny, who writes murder mysteries. I didn’t start with the first book in the series but now will have to go back and read that one after I finish A Rule Against Murder.

I am grateful for time away and look forward to another road trip sometime! John and I took a brief one over the 4th of July weekend and caught up with several relatives and one lifelong friend. More road trips to come!

Anne and Dad 1

I also thought about my sweet dad a lot during the road trip. I miss him every day. This pic was taken at The Upper Room Agape Garden when he was nearly 90 (so I think it was around 2011 or 2012). He lived to age 93 (one month short of turning 94). Daddy was a very kind, humble, Christian man, and I am privileged to have had him for 25 years after my mom’s death.






Rainy Day After a Holiday

It’s the Tuesday after Memorial Day, or Tuesday/Monday, and maybe a double whammy: I took a vacation day on Friday. Didn’t sleep well last night. That seems to happen a lot the night before I return to work each week.

My husband and I were talking about Mondays yesterday. He commented, “It’s Monday. I can hardly drag myself out of bed.” I know the feeling. We talked about this a little more, and I suggested that maybe he feels down (really, a little more than just down) because Monday is a letdown after Sunday. Meaning that we experience a sort of high in our lives on Sundays because we attend worship, and we feel like part of a community, and we take a nap on Sunday afternoon whenever possible, and BAM…then Monday hits.

I usually dress up a bit more than usual on Mondays just so I feel a little perkier. And I drink more coffee on Mondays than on other days of the week. And my neck and shoulders feel a little tighter. Wait. Today’s not Monday; it’s Tuesday. And that means only 3 more days to work this week, and then it’s the weekend again. Even if it’s supposed to rain several inches today and tomorrow (thanks to leftovers from a tropical storm). We won’t see the sun until Thursday at least. I did see the sun peek through the clouds for a brief time while outside for a walk at lunch. I’m going to yoga in about 20 minutes, so maybe this day isn’t so bad after all.

I often think on rainy Mondays or a rainy day after a holiday (which was also rainy), “Rainy days and Mondays get me down…” The old Carpenters song from the 1970s. “What I feel they used to call the blues, nothing is really wrong, feeling like I don’t belong…”

Yeah, that’s the way I feel sometimes on Mondays or on the day after a holiday. Nothing is really wrong. I don’t feel like I don’t belong … today. But often I do. Oh well. At least I am relatively healthy, At least I have a job to get me out of bed in the mornings even if I didn’t sleep well the night before. At least I have a friend to walk with at lunchtime (who admitted that she didn’t feel like she accomplished much over the holiday weekend). I had posted one day on Facebook all that I had done that day, and it was quite a few chores/activities. I then told her the truth: When I get out of bed in the mornings, I have a certain amount of energy and I’m tempted to accomplish everything on my to-do list (which is endless). But then as the day progresses and my energy wanes, I feel the need for a nap. When I was younger, I used to push on through that feeling. I don’t do that any more. Now that I have two autoimmune diseases, I know I must listen to my body. When it tells me I need to nap, I try to lie down for at least 30 to 45 minutes. If I have nothing scheduled for the evening, then I just allow myself to nap for as long as I stay asleep. Sometimes I wake up thinking it’s morning when it’s really about 6:00 p.m. But that’s okay. At least I woke up!

M. Scott Peck said in his book The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.” Indeed it is. Some days things happen that just break your heart. If you listen to the news, you don’t hear much good news. John and I often fast forward to the end of the evening news (NBC news with Lester Holt) to the “Making a Difference” segment. Sometimes that may be the only good news we’ve heard that day. It’s easy to let yourself get dragged down by sadness, disappointment, pain, just the everydayness of living. But each day is full of opportunities. Every morning when I wake up, even if my feet or joints are hurting, I think, “I’m alive. Check.” And thank the Lord for that. I have another day where I can enjoy a cup of coffee, linger over a handwritten note, slow down time a little by reading for pleasure and/or inspiration. And I don’t really have to worry because deep down, all is well, and as Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” I believe that with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.



When I Was 10

I belong to a group at work called Bagelmasters (our version of Toastmasters). We are practicing public speaking. For the last meeting, I volunteered to give a speech on when I was 10. The time limit was three minutes. I can’t say anything in three minutes! I had whittled my speech down to the following, and then I had to add a sentence. I went over the time limit but nearly finished.

When I was 10 years old, the highlight of that year was getting glasses. Suddenly I could see buds, twigs, and branches on the trees for the first time. Before that, the whole world had looked like an Impressionist painting to me.

My favorite pastime was (no surprise) reading. I was really into the Misty of Chincoteague novels by Marguerite Henry. I was a member of her fan club and received her newsletter. Marguerite Henry wrote personal notes on my newsletter because of course I had written letters to her. Thus began my lifelong infatuation with authors.

The book that made the biggest impression on me that year was Anne of Green Gables. I identified with the sassy, cheerful character. I loved the way Anne of Green Gables spelled her name: Ann with an e. It just looked so much better than my plain A-N-N. So I latched on to that spelling and I persisted, even though my given name was Anna.

I was a shy kid, the tallest in my class, and I was fat. I went to the same elementary school where my mother taught, and I felt like no one liked me because she was a strict teacher. So I had a few friends and mostly just watched the popular girls. I remember talking with them about the pop song “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells.

I was in my third year of taking piano lessons. My teacher kept bugging me to practice at least 45 minutes a day. My mom, a wise woman, gave me a choice of practicing piano or washing the dishes. I chose to practice piano. I was the pianist at our little country church where about 15-20 people attended.

I belonged to Girl Scouts. I loved going to the meetings and working on merit badges. Girl Scouts was where I learned to sing in harmony. It was also where I developed a love for the outdoors.

In the wider world, there was a lot of turmoil. 1968 was the year that Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy got assassinated. It was also a time of many protests against the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was president.*

When I was 10 my favorite subject was Social Studies. I liked school and went to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. I was an only child and didn’t have any kids in my neighborhood to play with, so I was thrilled whenever my cousins came over. I had a pet dog named Wilhelmina…she was a stray. I’m sure I probably had a cat at the time, but I don’t remember. I do remember being 10 as a fun, rather carefree, daydreamy time.


* Richard Nixon was not president. See how inaccurate the memory can be? Nixon was elected president in 1968. Lyndon Johnson was president until January 1969.

I may come back and add pictures to this post, sometime when I have time to fool with my computer and actually want to. So it may not happen.

Everybody’s Got Something

I thought it was Gilda Radner who said, “Everybody’s got something,” but after a quick look at Google, I discovered that this saying is the title of Robin Roberts’s latest memoir.

“Regardless of how much money you have, your race, where you live, what religion you follow, you are going through something. Or you already have or you will. As momma always said, “Everybody’s got something.” ~Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts’s momma, Lucimarian Roberts, was right, and she was a wise woman. None of us is immune to the trials of being human.

If your life is going swimmingly and you feel on top of the world, rest assured, that will change eventually. You may have to deal with the loss of someone dear to you, depression, financial struggles, job insecurities, substance abuse, after-effects of trauma, a shattered relationship…the list is endless. But the converse is also true: if you are going through a really awful period in your life right now, tie a knot and hang on tight: things will eventually change.

I am taking time to reflect on some experiences I’ve gone through in the past couple of years. When I look back at my private journals, I see evidence of God’s fingerprints all over my life. I have journaled about prayer concerns. Many of them have been resolved, some in ways I would not have chosen, but they have turned out okay. I keep a card in my daily devotional magazine that I received from the alumni director at my dad’s college when I wrote her to inform her of his death. It says,

“God is our REFUGE and strength,

an ever-present

help in trouble.”

~Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

I have found that to be true.

I am also reminded of some verses I read in the Gospel of Mark (chapter 9) just this morning, in a passage where a man brings his son to Jesus.  He says, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.” (Sounds like symptoms of epilepsy to me.) I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

To which Jesus replies, with a hint of exasperation in his voice, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

Scripture records that “they” brought the boy to Jesus. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at he mouth.

Jesus, I sense speaking with compassion, asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

The father replies, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“IF I can?” Jesus responds. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly exclaims, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-24)

I will leave it to you to read the rest of this story. Yesterday in a Skype session with an author who is writing a book for us, the author pointed to this scripture passage as one that spoke to him deeply as a teenager. Maybe that’s a prayer we all need to pray:
“Lord, I believe. Help the parts of me that don’t believe.”

Here are some situations I’ve been praying about in the past 3 months. God has answered some of my prayers; other situations remain the same. As I’ve heard it said, waiting is the hardest part. But it’s also encouraging to see how many prayers were answered.

January 13

Friend of a friend–Cousin’s child was having seizures and was life-flighted to Vanderbilt. (Update 2/15: Friend reported the child had recovered.)

Same friend’s mom and dad–Both are having serious health problems. The mom was diagnosed with several new health conditions, including diabetes, and the doctor said there was basically nothing he/she could do for her. The dad had much pain in his spine and arthritis in his lower back. Pain management and epidural shots weren’t working. A bad knee was preventing him from driving. As of the first week of March, he has improved and is more mobile. The mom’s situation is not good and probably won’t ever be.

Prayers for my friend as she provides care for her mom and dad. She has had to quit her job, and she has three children. Also dealing with a relative with a brain injury who is undergoing occupational therapy for life skills. I pray for strength for this friend. She gets overwhelmed at times but keeps her faith. Once a week she is able to get out and go to a Bible study.

Prayers for my husband as he awaits surgery on Jan. 20 (and as the doctor’s office ran into snags trying to get his surgery approved by insurance). Update: The surgery was approved, and John came through it well.

February 15

God, help John to continue to heal from his surgery. Thanks for the progress he’s made so far.

Lord, help my high school friend who has a rare form of skin cancer. She’s miserable. Give her some relief and reassurance of your presence.

Prayers for safe travels and comfort as my yoga teacher and her boyfriend travel to Indiana for her boyfriend’s cousins funeral.

Prayers for safe travels for us and all family members going to Weber City, VA, for my uncle’s 95th birthday celebration. Thanks for his long life and how he has touched others!

Special comfort for a dear friend who has just lost her mother…be present with her during visitation with family and friends and as her mother is buried tomorrow. Prayers for her comfort and a sense of your love and peace surrounding her.

February 22

Lord, be with our next-door neighbors. He was just diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and doctor said he has about 5 years to live. She has a 99-year-old mom who is still in good health and lives alone, but that situation weighs on her. She also has a tough relationship with her brother and is caring for two grandkids. God, please sustain this woman and give her encouragement. Show us how we can help.

Other next-door neighbor: We’ve had a difficult relationship with her over the years. Help us to be sweet and kind to her when we see her. She must be lonely.

A young couple on our street who have a new baby.

One of my friend’s sister’s family…her sister had a baby in January who was born with retinal cancer. Praying for successful treatment for this tiny baby who is already on chemo. What a tough way to start out in life. God, surround her parents with peace, strength, and love.

Our children–help them make wise decisions about their love lives, finances, close friendships, and jobs.

John–Continued healing. Please help his pain. Give us discernment about what to do regarding retirement and building apartments on our house. Help me to be cooperative with him and refrain from criticism.

Our country. Show me how to respectfully resist when the current president seems bent on destroying US relationships with other countries, bans immigrants from particular countries, when some cabinet members and other agency heads seem to directly oppose the areas/agencies which they are responsible (education, environment, for example). And healthcare. Oy vey. We need divine intervention there. The current Affordable Healthcare Act has many problems, but what I hear about the replacement plan/repeal sounds even worse. God help President Trump. I could start by praying that you’d give him a heart. (Guess I’m being critical here. Help me to live with heart.)

February 27

Prayers for my friend Jim as he heals from a recent procedure that left him very weak. He is having a liver biopsy on Mon., March 13.

Prayer of the name: I lift up to you Donald J. Trump.

Prayers for my high school friend’s son, who has serious GI problems. Help them to find relief. He is only 21 and is unable to work or go to school because of this condition.

March 15

President Trump is coming to Nashville today. Prayers for our city. Prayers for safety for all involved in the Trump rally and for the protesters (my son included) who show up to peacefully demonstrate.

March 17

Prayers for my friends Kent & Penny

My friend Linda (3/16 birthday) and her daddy, who has cancer

Praise you, God, for Jim’s good report from his liver biopsy. Praise you for his 80th birthday and the celebration we are having tonight. Continue to sustain him & his family as they live with his wife’s dementia.

Healing prayers for my friend Marti’s partner, who broke her ankle recently and has broken her back and compressed vertebrae several times. They are going on vacation next week. May this be a time of rest and healing for all involved…and give them patience with teenage twins!

Doug, that he will be happy with new job.

Doug and his partner Frank…and all the gay couples I know. Legislation is before the Tennessee assembly to ban same-sex marriage, or at least not recognize it as valid marriage. The legislation defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Lord, I don’t understand why we are revisiting this territory after the Supreme Court ruling a couple of years ago.

Prayers for those affected by the U.S. House Resolution on education, especially its implication for special education and the many areas where we will go backwards…I pray this bill will not pass. Show me how I can respond effectively. Jim Cooper, our representative from the 5th district, will vote against it.

Well, those are just a few of my prayer concerns from the past 3 months. I believe in the saying “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” I also believe in putting feet to my prayers, so I ask God to show me how he would have me respond to various situations. Still pondering a lot of this.

I am going on a silent retreat (overnight) next week. I hope to gain clarity and hear God’s voice about several situations in my life.




















Parting Words

I sent my love out the door
with a kiss and the words
“I love you. Be careful today.”

Some would say I fret too much.
I prefer to think that I am aware of
all the things that could happen…
and I want to leave my love with
words of blessing
instead of fussiness.

Too often I have rushed by him
barely brushing my lips against his
and casually saying, “See you later,”
or sometimes in anger,
“Have a NICE day” (if we have exchanged
some heated words that morning).

Later I think,
“What if these were the last words
I ever said to my spouse?”
None of us knows what could happen
during the day
to those we love.

I’ve had that truth brought home
to me too often.
One of my daughter’s friends
succumbed to depression
and took her own life.
A colleague fell ill about a year ago
and died.
The husband of one of my coworkers
was struck by a 30-foot limb of a tree
and was seriously injured.
Three people at my church have
had biking accidents in recent weeks.

So as my love goes out the door
and returns two or three times
to pick up a forgotten item
I smile and think,
“Yes, have a good day…
and be safe.”

The Secret to a Long and Happy Marriage

A couple of weeks ago I attended the bridal shower of a friend who is the same age as my son. (My motto is “Make younger friends in case all of your older ones die off.” Just kidding.) At the shower one of the planners asked everyone to ponder a question: What advice did someone give you before your marriage that has been helpful, or what advice would you offer Angela from your own experience?

I mentally gulped as I considered what words of wisdom I would offer. First, I felt a little insecure offering advice. My mother always used to say, “Unasked-for advice is half scandal.” Well, this advice wasn’t unasked for, but mercy, advising someone about marriage is such a dangerous thing. What would I say to any young bride-to-be?

I decided to be honest. When John and I were engaged, I really wondered whether we would make it as a couple. You see, we used to fight every Thursday night. Every. Single. Week. So I told this story, not quite as long as I make it here:

I used to worry about John and me. When we were engaged, we had a fight every Thursday night. (At this point I saw a few people at the shower squirm a bit, like they were thinking, “Oh no. What is she going to say?”)

John belonged to a square dance club, and he took me square dancing on Thursdays. Being a sweet, innocent, young thang of only 23 years, I went along with his wishes and grudgingly went square dancing. I’m not sure I disguised my lack of enthusiasm very well, especially after I got a STUPID yellow dress to wear square dancing. I’m sure John loved the dress because it showed off my long legs, but I hated, hated, hated it. I felt conspicuous every time we danced. I have always felt klutzy, and on Thursday nights during our engagement, probably never felt more klutzy at any other time of my life.

The reason we fought was twofold: I was immature, and I was tired. I am by nature an introvert, though many people see me as an extravert. At that time, I had not yet learned to limit my activities and take care of myself. I undertook too many responsibilities at church, and by Thursdays I was just plum tuckered out, to use a good, old-fashioned Southern idiom. On Wednesday nights, I worked with children in choir, teenagers in missions, and attended adult choir practice. So by Thursday I was ready to stay home for the night.

I tried to be a good sport, but I really disliked square dancing. I felt stupid doing it, trying to make my body twirl and remember all the things I was supposed to do as the caller instructed, “Do si do, turn your partner, promenade now!”

The first thing I did after John and I were married was say, “Now I don’t have to square dance any more.” And we didn’t. Perhaps this was selfish on my part (John still wistfully remembers our square dancing days, and I still have his name tag from Flat Rock Square Dance club in my memory box), but I just call it realistic.

My next piece of advice? Well, I thought that since I was attending a shower where everyone present was connected by the common bond of being Christian, it might be good to offer some scriptural advice. Again I was my usual frank self.

“We tried to follow the scriptural admonition, ‘Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.’ But I found that sometimes we did go to bed mad at each other. There were some things we just couldn’t work out by staying up and talking about them.” (More squirming by shower attendees.) An aside to the reader: I believe in and trust the power of scripture and try to obey as much of God’s Word as possible, but I also think God gave us brains for a reason. God knows that I can’t reason very well when I’m tired. My sweet, wise, and very patient husband also knows that sometimes it’s just best to keep your trap shut.

So John and I have had conflict, but somehow we’ve always managed to resolve our conflicts, even if it took awhile. One thing I wish we had done differently is arguing in front of our children. I grew up in a home where my parents never fought in front of me, but boy could I feel the freeze-out if they’d had a disagreement. John grew up in a home where his parents let it all hang out. You can see which parental pattern we chose to follow. I wish I’d had enough self-restraint and maturity to whisper, “Let’s talk about this later” when John and I were having a “discussion.” But at least our children saw us engage in conflict and then resolve it. I hope they have learned a thing or two from watching us. I hope they will be a little less public with their disagreement than we were.

One thing I’ve learned over the years (now I’m not recalling what I said at the shower but just writing my thoughts) is that there is no ideal couple. The couples I have watched whom I thought were “the perfect couple”…well, some of them have divorced.

God only knows how my and John’s marriage has survived for nearly 33 years. Well, I do know how it has survived: by God’s grace and a little fairy dust sprinkled in. Sometimes I have been the strong one; sometimes John has been the strong one. We have certainly had our  hard times…raising children, dealing with the deaths of three of our parents, financial struggles, depression. There were times when I had to act as if I loved John. (I read somewhere that if you act like you love someone, even if you don’t feel like you love the person at that moment, the feeling will follow.) When the chips have been down, we were a team. I think some of the toughest times in our marriage have also been the times when our love has kept us together.

So what’s the secret to a long and happy marriage? I wouldn’t presume to tell you. It’s essential to be able to trust each other and to forgive. But as I said previously, it’s all quite mysterious to me…and it all depends on God’s grace, plus a little fairy dust.

Adventures in Caregiving

I entered 2015 with the idea that I will not make New Year’s resolutions because I didn’t keep mine last year…one of which was to write something, whether it be a note or blog, every day. I’ve since read why New Year’s resolutions don’t really work. We are creatures of habit, we have good intentions, but life often gets in the way, and that certainly proved true last year for me.

On November 24, 2013 my dad came to live with us after being diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a common disease in elderly people. John and I had to do a good bit of talking to convince him to move in with us, but he finally agreed. We had no idea what the future held when Daddy came here. I told him to pack enough clothes for the winter at least, and a few things for spring. He brought mostly winter clothes; I think he had in his mind all along that he would return to North Carolina.

Dad’s treatment began on December 3 with an infusion of rituxan (rituximab?). John and I took turns sitting with him during his first treatment. I didn’t have much vacation left at work, so I needed to be there as much as possible, but I knew it was important to be with Daddy too (more so than being at work). Daddy did fairly well except he began shivering uncontrollably after he got up to go to the bathroom. The nurses were attentive and gave him something to stop the shivering. He was a real trouper and didn’t have any ill side effects other than fatigue from the treatment. We were blessed to have a nurse practitioner from our church who worked at the doctor’s office; she did the initial assessment of my dad and was supportive through the whole time he was undergoing treatment.

Daddy took two chemo pills daily along with the infusions, which were once a month in the beginning. As his body started responding to the treatment, the infusions were cut back to once every two months, and the chlorambucil tablets were reduced to one a day. In his last PET scan, there was no evidence of leukemia, and I was gratified to see that Daddy had gained nearly 20 pounds since coming to Nashville. (He was practically skin and bones when he came here.)

Along the way I began to appreciate my husband more each day. Self-employed, his schedule is a little more flexible than mine, so he assumed most of the responsibility of taking Daddy to doctor visits, which became quite frequent, especially after Daddy complained of back and leg pain, had a scan, and the oncologist determined that his pain had nothing to do with his leukemia. We set up a primary care physician for Dad, and monthly visits ensued.

I would like to say that the year (13 months) Daddy stayed with us were a breeze, but they weren’t. He was a good patient and usually was pleasant to be around (a real blessing). John and I had added responsibilities, like picking up medications and buying certain grocery items for Dad, and I undertook the weekly bath routine. Daddy took care of daily sponge baths, but the all-over bath on Saturdays required assistance. Some weeks I nearly forgot, or I was exhausted by the time Saturday night rolled around.

There were time I had to go into “bossy daughter” mode, and Daddy usually accepted what I said. He got a little depressed from being housebound and isolated. We tried early on taking him to church with us on Sundays, but that proved to be too taxing. Daddy’s back and legs hurt after sitting for a couple of hours, and moving him from our Sunday school class to the sanctuary was quite a feat.

John was my support and reality check throughout the year. Around September he started pushing me to start looking for assisted living. I was reluctant, feeling a bit guilty about leaving my dad’s care (or the brunt of it) up to others, but really the whole situation was starting to take a toll on my mental and physical health. Not to mention the pressures on John’s and my relationship.

Then when my dad took a couple of spills at our house in November 2014, we got serious about looking for assisted living. Daddy had been on the waiting list for assisted living in Canton, NC, where he had lived for the past 20 years, but it looked like we might be waiting a while on that. So the week of Thanksgiving I started looking around Nashville for a place for Dad (using, ironically, a website called A Place for Mom). I had a helpful representative there who immediately called me as soon as I registered on the website, and she suggested some places near our home to check out as possibilities. The search began the week after Thanksgiving, and we soon narrowed it down to two places, one 2 miles from our home and the other about a mile from my workplace.

On December 16 John took my dad to eat at the assisted living place two miles from our home. We were about to decide on that facility for him, but fate (or providence) intervened. As I was going into Google mail to get to my Google documents that day, I saw an e-mail from Silver Bluff Village, the facility where Dad had put down a deposit in November 2013 to get on the waiting list. My heart sank. I thought, “Well, I must tell him about this,” and I knew what he would decide. So that night I asked him carefully about his impressions of the senior living facility he’d visited. He said, “It was okay. The food was pretty good.” Then I asked about the atmosphere of the assisted living place. He said, sounding like an obedient child, “It seemed like a nice place.”

Then I told him about the e-mail I’d received from the admissions director at Silver Bluff. Immediately his eyes lit up, and I knew what the outcome would be. That night I e-mailed her back and told her Daddy was interested in the available apartment.

So on December 26 we left Nashville, spent the weekend in his wife’s house in Canton, and then we moved him to Silver Bluff on December 29. He was so excited to see the mountains of North Carolina once again, and our visit to his church on Sunday showed me what a community he has there. All these women were hugging him, and I thought, “Hey, there’s nothing better for a 92-year-old man than to be hugged by younger women!”

Daddy’s last words to John and me as we left about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday were, “I’ll miss you and John waiting on me!” He also said he loved us, and he told John for the first time in our 32 years of marriage, “I love you. You’re a good son-in-law.” That is undoubtedly true.

Now the adventure continues…keeping in touch with him and trying not to worry. He is happy with the food at his assisted living. He’s having to walk more (with his trusty walker) to get to the dining room and activities room. He has accepted his new situation with grace and a positive attitude, despite the stress of having to march to someone else’s routine. I am happy that he is back with people his age and that my stepsister and stepbrother are nearby. We will have our challenges, I expect, but for now life is very, very good.

Gratitude for Strong Women

Strong women inspire me,

Cause me to look at my humdrum routine

And see how I might shake it up:

Live a little,

Do something daring,

Work less at my daily roles,

Paint and draw and write and dance more!

Breathe …

Break free from the bonds of my ordinary life, yet appreciate the holy moments found in the everyday —

Rise above the clamor of many demands pulling me in various directions,

Look deep inside and realize the potential waiting within.


These thoughts were inspired by attending a writers workshop over the weekend. I was honored to be invited, then awed as I heard the women around me read beautiful, insightful, pain-filled yet victorious words they’d written on the spot. I’ll admit I was intimidated by sharing my paltry thoughts and beginnings of ideas. But a seed was planted, and I look forward to what comes from that. I have a voice and I have something to say. Now begins the journey of discovery to find out exactly what form that voice will take and where it will lead me.