Friday, September 6, 2013

Grief - lesson one

My nephew died.  He was only 19.

Through the past two weeks, I have been learning the lessons of grief.  Our family has been walking the paths of sorrow through the valley of the shadow of death.  My nephew's mother is my sister and we are walking through the valley together, along with many other people. 

I know that other lessons and insights will come in the next weeks, months and years, but I am most struck today with how grief reveals our true self.

I have heard it said many times that as we grow older we become more of what we really are.  We lose either the ability or the desire to cover up our flaws.  We don't care what people think.  We let the world see who we really are on the inside.  This concept has often challenged me to be better and more led by the presence of the Spirit.  When the time comes that I am no longer capable of covering up my raw, true insides, I want peace and love and joy and self-control and patience to come through.  Not the selfish, insecure, prideful person who tries to reign in me.  The process is taking me an entire lifetime -- it is terribly difficult.

So, when I notice other people, I am also noticing myself.  Making observations of others, making corrections in me.

I say all of that to say this:  Grieving makes us raw and revealed.  In the past two weeks it has looked like this:

Servants serve.
Cooks cook the most delicious of meals.
Artists make art that inspires and comforts.
Gift givers give gifts that become treasures.
Talkers talk.
Angry people become angry.
Listeners listen attentively.
Runners run long distances.
Problem solvers solve problems that others can't begin to figure out.
Writers write beautiful notes and essays.
Withdrawn people withdraw even more.
Wise people share wisdom that gets us through a tough hour or day.

And all of it, the good and the bad, is okay.  We're on a journey to become more and more like Jesus and none of us is there, yet.  Our journey has taken a very sharp and painful turn, and in this turn we have lost our cover-up.  The grief has taken away our desire and ability to 'look good' around other people.  We are exposed.  We have become real.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The streak

 Here is a little phone conversation I had yesterday:
Me:  I've got a little running streak going.
Jackie:  Great!  What kind of streak?
Me:  A running streak.
....silence across the phone lines....
Jackie:  Oh!  You mean running!
Okay.  This may be confusing.  But, I have a little running streak going.  I have run for 35 days in a row!  I have a friend who has a big running streak going.  She has run for 386 days in a row.  So, mine is just little. 
It's a big deal, though, because I'm not good at it, I don't like it, and I sweat terribly.  Running is good for me.  Period.  That is why I do it.
My running began almost two years ago and besides the physical benefits, there are some blessings that go along with my little jogs.  I get to run along wooded dirt roads and on smooth paved roads past loved ones' homes.  I have seen the sun rise and seen the sun set.  I have heard birds singing songs I would never hear from inside the house.  I have smelled freshly tilled earth, newly planted with wheat seeds.  I have nearly stumbled over big rocks, mud puddles, and dead snakes.  I have worshiped and prayed.   Many times I am alone, but I have also been joined by my sister, my husband, and my dog.
Yesterday, I had planned a fairly short outing and half-way through I did something I had never done before.  I took a detour.  To my left was a pond that I rarely visit.
On that pond is a small deck.

On that deck is a swing. 
And I sat down.  Right in the middle of my run.
I think that peaceful, quiet time did as much for my heart as the run that took me there and back home.  And, I think I will do that again.  Maybe on a Saturday next time, too.  Maybe I'll get a streak of how many Saturdays I have taken a detour!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Some of my guys

One of my guys likes to learn,
two of my guys like to smile, 
one of my guys likes to swing, 
 and one of my guys likes to just hang out.
 I love my guys.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cake flop

 Last month I was looking through the Southern Living magazine and saw an article about one of their most requested recipes in the history of the magazine.  The recipe is for Hummingbird Cake and I knew I had to make it -- Sarah's birthday was coming up soon, my grandmother used to make Hummingbird Cake, and the cake has cream cheese icing!  I had no choice, but to try it.

The cake has simple ingredients, and this version has 4 layers with a custard filling between the layers.  I made the custard the day before so it could spend the night in the refrigerator.  My layers came out of the pan cleanly and the custard tasted delicious.  I stacked the cake together:  cake, custard, cake, custard, etc.  Everything looked great.  Then, I turned to whip up the cream cheese icing.  It was delicious, too! 

I was creating a masterpiece!

When I turned back to wrap the cake in cream cheese deliciousness, this is what I found:

 It was funny, I tell you!  I got the camera to capture such a beautiful swan dive, then got back to work salvaging the remains.  It is more fun than you may know to have your hands covered up to your wrists in cake and custard!  I slapped the cake back in its place, anchored layers together with toothpicks, and quickly sealed the whole disaster in a thick coat of cream cheese icing.
The result was still a little sketchy so I topped the whole thing off with flowers.

The flowers helped, but the sparkler birthday candles saved the day. 
That, and the smile of the birthday girl!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wild hog run

Picture from
I went out for a jog this morning. 
Usually, I go to an exercise class at 5:30 on Tuesday mornings, but my shoulder has been giving me some trouble so I decided to give it a rest for a few weeks.  I still need my exercise, though, so I got out and ran.  The weather has been beautiful this spring and I love being outside as the sun comes up.   I am a slow jogger, but speed has never been my goal.  Running is difficult for me and I am always proud of myself just for keeping at a trot instead of slowing to a walk. 
When I left home I wasn't sure how far I would go.  I just headed out, one foot in front of the other.  As I got on the main road, a little more than a mile from home, I started to think about how much farther I would go.  Up to the next driveway would give me about a 2.75 mile round trip, a little more and I would get in a 5K.  So, head down, calculating how many more steps to run, I was in my own little jogging world.
Just then, I heard a sound like a loud growl.  My head jerked up and I saw what looked like 2 or 3 wild dogs crossing the road in front of me.  I gave a silly little scream and realized that I was seeing a family of wild hogs run from the wheat field on one side of the road into the woods on the other side.  They ran in a straight line -- big hog, baby hog, bigger hog, big hog, baby hog -- until 10-15 of them crossed the road.  Wild hogs are known to be vicious and I had no idea what they thought of me being so close. It was a growling sound that had woken me from my reverie.  Not a happy-muddy-pig-in-the-sunshine sound.
I stopped dead in my tracks, stood still just long enough to gather my wits, turned around and ran back towards home.  My total distance this morning was 2.69 miles, not as far as I had planned, but I made it back alive.  And that seems like a major accomplishment for today!
I use Endomondo to track my workouts.  The program uses GPS to map my runs so I can see my speed, distance, and altitude.  When I got home this morning I was curious to see what my adventure looked like as pure fact on a graph. I could see that at the halfway point I stopped and then there was a spike in my speed as I ran faster than I had the whole time.  I remember thinking that I didn't want to run too fast so that the hogs wouldn't sense my fear and come after me :) 
Next time I get out to run -- tomorrow -- I think I will bring some protection from the wild varmints lurking in the wheat.
 Ahhh.... country living at its best!

Monday, April 29, 2013

A new place to lay

For all of the years we have had chickens, they have laid their eggs in an ancient laying box.  Well, maybe not ancient, but really old.  More than fifty years ago Daryl's family had laying hens and this was one of the boxes from way back then.  But, those boxes were made for big egg production and the spaces were cramped and dark.

Our chickens deserve better.
So, with some help from Jonathan and Daniel,
Daryl built an egg-laying spa retreat.  I love it!  Ollie loves it!

Judging by the number of eggs we are getting, it is a big hit with the girls, too.  We are getting between 18 and 21 eggs every day now!  We are having eggs for breakfast and quiche for dinner.  And sharing with our friends.

That is my favorite part.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

One of those days

Last Saturday was one of those perfect days.  The weather was breezy and warm so we spent a lot of the day outside.
Jonathan was with us.  He gathered eggs and then delivered the eggs to his great-grandparents.  Scout went with him.
Later in the day I took a few  pictures of Jonathan.  Usually, I don't let the grass get this tall and crazy, but this year, I just don't seem to care as much.  In past years, the tall grass has been like noise in my head.  This year, though, I am enjoying the red and white flowers on the clover, and I like to see the new spring grass swaying in the breeze.  Maybe I'm just lazy and don't want to spend hours on a lawnmower.   Maybe I'm just loosening up.  Either way, it made a good backdrop.

The chickens hadn't spent any time out of their pen, but Saturday just seemed like the right day for a taste of clover.
This is a Buff Orpington hen.  She looks just like a chicken out of a children's story book.  This breed is gentle, big, fluffy, and they lay lots of eggs.

This chicken is one of the Aracaunas.  They all look a little different, but I don't think I have ever had one with such a funny beard.  This bearded lady lays either a blue or a green egg.

This hen is another Aracauna.  See how different her coloring is?  And how small her brain must be to fit in her head?

This is Scout's I-don't-like-chickens face.

The icing on this cupcake of a day was that we put together an impromptu supper (mostly Sarah did), and all of the grandkids and their parents ate dinner here.

These are the good old days...

Friday, April 19, 2013


Insignificant News Alert:  Having a new puppy in the house is almost like having a new baby in the house. 

Except that when the puppy cries at night and you need some sleep, you can put a puppy in a crate in another room.  And close the door.  And put earplugs in your ears.  And turn on a loud fan.

We named our new little guy Scout.  We have had a very broad pet-naming scheme of choosing Southern names: Scarlet (O'Hara), Twinkle (a southern beauty queen and politician), Shiloh (a Civil War battlefield), and now Scout (from To Kill a Mockingbird - set in an Alabama town).  He wears his name well and answers to it as well as he does any other word said in a sing-song tune.
For the first few days Scout has wanted to be right at my feet.  Literally.
There are a few things I have learned this week about puppy ownership.
  • House breaking a puppy is an exhausting job.  You have to always be on your guard, trying to be the dog whisperer, trying to notice any signs that he might need to "go".  Add in two or three rainy days and a day spent at the emergency room and....well, it is exhausting.
  • The ER visit was because of a fainting spell Daryl had on Tuesday morning.  He had been feeling bad with a slight fever and no energy, but quickly got much worse and passed out Tuesday morning.  It took quite a while for him to come back around -- thus the trip to the hospital.  People who love me know that I love Scout and quickly asked what they could do to help with him.  They came to get him and let him have a field trip at their house all day.  More than one person offered and I was so grateful.  And Daryl is doing fine.  The thing I learned about having a puppy is that when you add someone to your family, canine or human, your family loves them, too.  Because they love you.  That is just heartwarming.
  • Scout has been very good at walking on the leash and I have taken him for several long walks.  And a walk has never been so much fun.  He runs, jumps, wipes out, gets low to run through the clover, splashes in the puddles, and laughs.  I'm sure he is laughing!
I totally understand puppy love!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A puppy!

I have been lonely since Shiloh died.  At first I just missed her terribly.  Over the past few months, though, I have missed her company out here on our little farm. 

She was always with me when I was outside.  I never walked to the chicken house alone.  I never went for a jog by myself.  Even while I cut the grass, she was close by.  While I absolutely love my home place and being away from the busyness of the city, I need a friend to share it with me.

Today, I am meeting my new friend.

He is an 11 week old miniature Australian Shepherd and I will meet him in a couple of hours.
I'm so happy!

First eggs in the claw

We got baby chicks about 6 months ago.  They have grown into beautiful chickens, but up until now they have been too young to lay eggs.  I always begin looking for their first eggs when they are about 6 months old or when the rooster in the mix begins to crow. 

The 'rooster crowing' sign was not a good indicator with this batch of chickens because he has been crowing for a couple of months.  (sigh) 

When I went to feed the girls this evening, though, they had a little gift waiting for me. 

Five little eggs!

I'm such a proud mama and wanted to take a picture of their achievement.  Unfortunately, I was not born to be a hand model.

We have the Dirty Glove Picture...

The Crooked Claw...

The Gnarly Claw...
And the Spread Finger Claw...
Not one egg was dropped in the chronicling of this event, though.  Claws do come with benefits!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

One of my favorites

This is one of my favorite pictures I took last year.

In September, Daryl and I were in Honolulu.  We went to Ala Moana Park to watch the sunset and definitely weren't disappointed.

There were people everywhere, some on the beach with us, others in the water.  But, just after the sun fell below the horizon this lone paddle-boarder drifted in front of me.

I have wondered since that day about the man in the picture.  I don't have any idea about him except that he looked to be native Hawaiian and that he was comfortable on the water.  I have looked at the picture many times since I was there and this guy has become a part of my consciousness.  He has no idea.

Two people connected by a picture only one of us knows about.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

The praise of birds

The birds and I had a little sunrise Easter service this morning.

They sang.  I listened.

We were both worshiping the God who made us.

Thanking him for springtime and new beginnings.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Our spoiled bunny

Ollie only likes clover flowers.  He will eat the green part of the clover, but he really only likes the flowers. 

I thought that he loved all of the clover.  Every time I go out to see him I pick a big bunch of the green goodness and feed it to him.  He always seemed happy enough.  But, last week Daniel and Bella picked some clover for him.  Daniel did like me and picked bunches of the whole plant.  Bella, on the other hand, picked only the flowers.  When they went in with Ollie to feed him, he went straight for the flowers and actually growled at Daniel for trying to feed him the green parts.  

I did a little experiment with the silly rabbit and gave him a mixture of flowers and green tops.  He ate the flowers and hopped away, leaving a big bunch of fresh clover.

Just on the other side of the fence, watching this whole escapade were some chickens who had not been given any clover, yet.  They would have been thrilled with Ollie's leftovers.

While I watched this happening, I thought about myself.  I wondered how many times God has given me a gift that I didn't appreciate.  Probably daily.  Just watching Ollie, and seeing the chickens' reaction to his arrogance convicted me to do better.

And Ollie had better straighten up, too.  This rooster looks to be in a mood to teach him a lesson!

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's a good Friday

you know that
any day
with these two girls
is a 
good day.

these three guys

and throw in
a big smile
for Minnie,

it is a very 
good day.

Thursday, March 28, 2013



What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass, 
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight, 
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can 
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

                                                                                                        W. H. Davies

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A pleasant oak sunset

The sunsets from Mom and Dad's deck are famous.  

I captured this one looking between the limbs of one of their gnarled oak trees.


Thursday, March 21, 2013


I woke up this morning with a feeling of solidarity with my mom and sisters.  We are all, in our own ways, fighting against cancer.

Mom's fight is an actual battle and she is waging war against ovarian cancer.  Cancer is an enemy that came, not unexpectedly, but as a surprise none the less.  At least two generations of women before her had fought the disease.  Brave, strong, courageous women.  Those traits are in Mom, and since we take the bad with the good, the cancer was in her, too.  She is fighting with the strength that comes from God, with chemotherapy, and with an indomitable spirit.

We had all hoped that since Mom had made it so long without facing cancer that maybe the cycle was broken.  When that hope wasn't realized, a very obvious thought came to our minds:  my sisters and I are next in line.  We asked for advice from the oncologist and her opinion was that we have a complete hysterectomy to remove the possibility for cancer to get us there.  She advised us to make an offensive strike in our fight.

And that is what we have done.  In order, oldest to youngest, in our own time.  My surgery was first while Mom was still undergoing a round of chemo.  Cathy next, and yesterday was Cheryl's turn.

Will this radically proactive step prevent cancer from attacking a fourth generation of women?  I don't know.  But, I'm not afraid.  Not one bit.

We are brave.  We are strong.  We are courageous.

And the God who is in the four of us is strong enough to save us from cancer or save us through it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The flying snake

I hate snakes and I don't need anyone to tell me how beneficial they can be around the farm.  I have cats to kill rats and cats don't slither in the grass.

When I walked outside today I saw this "little fella" in my path.  The weather was warm yesterday, today is cooler, and I think he was caught out and unable to move very well.  He doesn't appear to be poisonous, he is mostly paralyzed, and in an extremely rare act of mercy, I decided to move him.  Not kill him.  I had planned to take him to the edge of the woods, explain to him the grace that had just been extended, and leave him there.  I found a stick and picked him up.

Just then, I had a brilliant thought of taking his picture.  As I put the stick down with my mind focused on getting the camera, I totally disregarded the springyness of the stick.

The stick bumped the ground, bounced, and the snake flew in the air.  Oh, not so high.  Only about eye level.  And only about 6 inches from my face.  I am certain that hidden cameras could have caught me doing my oh-there-had-better-not-be-a-snake-on-me dance.

I refuse to be undone by a baby snake, however, so I still took his picture.  I did not, however, take him to the edge of the woods.  He is back in the grass where I found him.  I have noticed that, for me, one clumsy act is usually followed by others and I'm not risking him landing in my hair next time.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

In or out

On this beautiful, sunny, warm Saturday I have decided to... crochet.

Inside.  In my den.

There is so much sun to enjoy!  So much warmth to soak in!

But, I am in my cozy den, curled up with my yarn.

It is a choice I made in a very deliberate way.  After all, everything I do is a choice between many options.  Most of them very good options.

I have slowly come to realize that I feel a little overwhelmed by all of the things I would like to do well.  So, I did what I do best:  I made a list.

I made a list of everything I could quickly think of that, 1)is my responsibility to do, or 2)I am passionate about doing and doing well.  In about 60 seconds I thought of 25 things.  Twenty-five!

My project this year may be to pare down the list.  To go deeper instead of wider.  I can already feel the grieving begin for things I may not accomplish in this life.

Those thoughts are for another day, though.

Crocheting is a peaceful, relaxing, productive thing to do.  I love to do it.

Being outside and working in the yard on a warm day after so many cold days is revitalizing.  The birds are singing and brown is changing into green.  I love to be out there.

Today, I choose crochet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


After nearly seven inches of rain in 3 days, we have water where, usually, there is  none.

 A pecan orchard, beautiful enough for a wedding, now has white-water rapids.

We always wonder what is happening with the water levels while we sleep.  Will the water be over the road when it is time to go to work?  We take one vehicle "to the other side".  One boat here, one boat there.

We are leaving the rising waters today and driving to New Orleans to get on a cruise boat.

Just going with the flow.