Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas is for stopping. It's the time when all around the world, people get quiet in that late hour. Some are at church singing by candlelight. Some are at home with decaf coffee. Some are at home with wine:) Some may still be traveling. But Christmas Eve seems quieter to me than any other night of the year. It's one of my favorite times. After all the rushing (which I personally do not mind. You know Mary was feeling rushed 9 months preggo on a d*mn donkey looking for a place to get down and start birthing the SAVIOR! Hello!), the wrapping, the frantically finishing work early for family time, the partying, the cooking, after all that, comes the quiet. I welcome this quiet. If I don't get to adequately experience it, Christmas doesn't feel fulfilled. It's the time when I look at all the material gifts under the tree and I think about how I don't need them. I like them; I just don't need them. I think about how I am so incredibly blessed already, and how I have every day what I particularly cherish on Christmas Eve. And I think of those that are alone, or cold, or hungry, or both. And I wonder how they feel. Those without Christ and those with Christ. How do they feel? Those of us with battle scars already experience a bit of the melancholy on holidays. It is what it is. But do those with no one, with nothing, realize they also get an invitation to the gift? The biggest gift? Do they feel it could make a difference? Really make a difference? And do I, as one who feels blessed, who feels that He does make a difference, do my part to make those without feel that difference too? Do those that are hurting in a physical way that I cannot understand feel the quiet the way I feel the quiet? How do I give someone that gift? That gift of quiet on Christmas Eve that feels, yes, heavy in some ways, but hopeful? Quiet hope. How do I give that? Because if we are to give and be an example for Christ, wouldn't that be a good start? Quiet hope. Quiet. Hope.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


When we moved to Columbia five years ago, we had lived in Aiken for five years and had made friends and found a church and a house we loved and and and... We had our babies in Aiken- well, technically at the Augusta hospital because that was where my doctor was waiting for me. Anyway, we were attached for many sentimental firsts in life to a beautiful place called Aiken. But we left for the hope of moving forward with Michael's career. We ended up in a five year detour for his career, and a five year lesson in patience for our future. However, again we made friends and found a church and the kids grew and started school and they made friends and like their teachers and and and...

Now we are moving to Rock Hill. And I feel sad, and excited for our future. I feel more wisely confident in this move. I felt confident in the move to Columbia because I had lived in Columbia before and I was naive enough to think I had it all under control. This time I don't know anything about Rock Hill, though I've heard lots of good things. This time I am cautious in my statements, though I am positive as well. This time, because Michael and I are both nervous about the upheaval a move can put on a family and because we are nervous about making the wrong gamble career wise all over again, God let us know we are in his hands. He showed us our decision is the right decision. He calmed my worry. He didn't make moving easier, but He did make my confidence in moving and in Him stronger.

Michael and I had to decide whether for him to take this new job opportunity or wait for something else. We prayed about it and talked about it for months leading up to an offer. My emotions had already been on a roller coaster ride, and by the time the offer finally came I felt at peace with the decision to move forward to Rock Hill in faith. Sometimes God just wants you to make a decision. He'll work with you no matter, just darn decide! Other times there is a clear path He is leading you towards, but again, if you get it wrong, He's still there for you. Rock Hill felt right. But ultimately, we were moving on in faith. So, Michael gave notice at his job here in Columbia. And guess what? They were relieved. Not upset. They were getting ready to announce another round of lay offs. That would be the third round in a year. Rock Hill suddenly sounded a whole lot prettier.

Here's the thing. I am grateful for the clarity that our decision was right. We needed encouragement after so many unclear decisions and detours. I am thankful Michael and I were saved from a painful job loss. And I sat down and wept in relief and in great sadness for those we know both at his current job and friends in the community who are having to take that road. Who have lost their jobs. And in that weeping, it made me wonder, why did we get saved? Because we'd already been there and done that? What are God's plans? I don't understand. Not in the least. But I am grateful to Him. He's been there for us when we did walk that road, and He's with us now on our new adventure. I do at least know that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


(This entry is in honor of Ministry Appreciation Month on incourage.me)

Norman is this man at my church who wears a suit and tie every week. He hands out bulletins and helps with snacks. He smiles at you when you walk by, but he's quiet. And Norman is one of the big reasons lots of families all over Columbia have ended up staying at our church. Turns out Norman is not only a helper in snack organization; he is also the weekly provider. Norman goes out every week and he buys chips, and trail mix, and cookies (lots and lots of cookies), and sweet rolls, and brownies, and other delicate pastries, and coffee creamer, and sugar, and juice, and all the pieces that make up Sunday morning fellowship. He doesn't get reimbursed. He just does it. The spread is amazing, and the kids are happy. We visited lots of churches. Some had pretzels, some had cookies, some had juice, but none had it all. Except our church. And it's OUR church because the first Sunday we visited, my kids didn't want to leave. And they didn't want to visit anywhere else again. And we haven't.

We did go to church out of town once. They didn't have any snacks at all. The kids almost cried. The sermon? Well, now, how can you hear that when your kids keep looking for the juice? They missed Norman. They missed their double chocolate gourmet sandwich consisting of two double chocolate cookies held together with a pound of icing and rolled in sprinkles.

Talk about gathering the flock. Norman has gathered several. And none of us ever want to leave.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Miracles (and sillybands)

The past five or six days have been a whirlwind of activity. We went to the beach, played at the pool, visited with family, came home, got up and went to three soccer games - two were 100 miles away - came home, got up again and went to church, a birthday party, and a marriage class to round out the weekend. Exhausting. But it isn't always like this. There are weekends with quiet and house work and raking and pot roasts and afternoon naps. And I like having both types of weekends; the change keeps me on my toes. And in the middle of this very busy weekend, I realized miracles had been occurring and I had been too busy to see them. So God made it very clear that he was there in a cute and whimsical way. I was walking on the beach with my boys when Kelly asked for his silly band animal bracelets that I had been carrying in my pocket. I pulled them out and gave them to him. I inadvertently dropped a yellow one in the water as we had this exchange and it washed away. Kelly was upset that now he was one silly band less, and that it was gone forever. A little while later we stopped, the boys played in the sand and the surf, and I went to sit in dry sand to pray. I needed quiet time to spill out my thoughts with God, and in the midst of my prayers, I asked for miracles. I asked for miracles big and small that those of us busy and overwhelmed may feel Him. I asked for miracles big and small for those that didn't know He existed that they may feel Him. I asked for miracles because people simply like miracles. They are fun and wonderment. When all of us had had our time on the beach, we walked home. And as we were turning to walk up to the boardwalk, Kelly's yellow sillyband washed up in the surf and stopped in the wet sand right at our feet. And I told my boys about my prayer for miracles and asked them what they thought about that. And we all giggled in delight at God's sweet gesture. And that gesture has made me see Him all around me in the midst of busyness. We are not alone. And it feels good.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Michael and I have been morosely fascinated the last few nights by a tv show called, "Hoarders: Buried Alive" on TLC. It is quite disturbing, and each of these people is visibly mentally ill in some way. Essentially these people were already shoppers and a bit cluttery when something traumatic happened in their lives. Daily living became overwhelming, and when they finally woke up from their grief and their walking coma, they didn't know how to move forward. Most of these people are so attached to their things they get downright nasty towards the loved ones and the special crews brought in to help them.

So last night on the couch, Michael turns to me and says, "These people need Jesus. I mean, what would he say to them if he walked into their mess? He'd say you need me. Just me. This stuff, this mess, is just stuff. I am what matters. Me, and your faith in me, and the people here on this Earth that make up your community. That is all you need." My sweet, sweet husband. He's thinking about Jesus, saying intelligent thoughts, while I'm still trying to get over the extent of these people's environment.

Well, the point to all this is, do I hoard? I mean, I started to make comments, when Michael stopped me to say that just because their mental illness was clearly more visible, it didn't mean the rest of us were model citizens of mental health. He did agree he wouldn't be as sweet about it all as the counselors on tv were acting. Michael also said that's why he's not a counselor. He would have just brought a hose and a commercial size broom. And that would not have worked.

Anyway, I don't think I hoard, but I do know if I was told to throw it all away, I would struggle. And I do have a few issues. We all do. And I am more thankful than ever for the disciples...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Josh and Jennifer

I am the youngest. By, oh, about twenty years. I am the, "Oh My God, I thought we had taken care of that, there's no way, I'm.... what!!!" Which means that by the time I came along and started my life, I had four older siblings, the oldest two being 18 and 20. I have never lived with them, since they were off at college by the time I learned to smile, much less sit up or talk. The other two siblings had the distinct pleasure of helping raise me in those early years, since they were 16 and 12.

Leaving lots unspoken about this entire situation, by the time I was seven, my oldest brother was getting married. And he married Donna, a woman who already had two children. Josh and Jennifer. From the age of seven on, I was an aunt with a nephew one year younger and a niece two years younger. We grew up together, acting out roles more like cousins than anything. As we ventured out into the big wide world, we went in different directions. They have both pursued art careers in New York and have succeeded. I pursued teaching and then, in family tradition, a surprise case of motherhood. And while we are all grown up and on our own paths I have to say I am quite proud to be related to them. It's fun watching them mature as artists, and their works are just beautiful. And I'm not just saying that so if I ever get to NY I have two places to stay!

For those of you interested in painting and photography, give them a looksee. It will be well worth your time.

Joshua Brown - photographer

Jenna Gribbon - painter

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Miracle for St. Cecelia's

I am reading a book, A Miracle for St. Cecelia's, by Katherine Valentine. For those that loved the Mitford series by Jan Karon, this is the Catholic version. It's wonderful. I am telling you this because in these sweet books comes some of the best advice.

"Nonsense. God will not abandon His people, or you or Father Keene. As with all great trials, there is a powerful lesson hidden in this seemingly rocky path. But to discover it, you must walk it. You can't go around it, or pray your way out of it."

"God has not turned His face away from your needs, Jimmy. Neither has He refused to provide for those needs. His silence is simply the backdrop used to highlight the gifts He will surely bring."

We all have our stuff going on, and it is easy to center the world around our issues. I have enjoyed taking a break from my daily naggings in my head to read about Father James. These lines spoke to me, and I wanted to share them with you. Hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Moving Forward: The Wedding Dress Project

The missionaries went to Rwanda this summer. They delivered our dresses. They came back - with more to do. I know their trip was deeply meaningful. You could see it on their faces, and feel it in their lack of words. But now, the dust has settled, and there is more - more to do.

Cookie brought back several projects that need her attention, and so, I am taking over the wedding dress project. It's exciting to think that brides have already worn some of our dresses; that some other women have also said, "I do," in the very same clothes that we wore when we uttered those same words.

I smile to think of them growing in love with their spouse as I have had the privilege of doing with mine. I pray for them and wonder about them often.

Here are some photos from the original delivery of the dresses. They are pictured in a room at the local Anglican Church. A shop was being rented in town as our missionaries left to come home, and as I stated before, the business is operating.

Since this business is an ongoing project, we are continuing to collect all sorts of items:

wedding dresses
bridesmaid dresses
flower girl dresses
pieces of lace, head dress, notions
monetary donations
PRAYER - lots and lots of prayer

Thanks and blessings!

Friday, August 27, 2010


I had a revelation while I watched the children (especially the boys) in my two's class where I work. Picture the scene with me. One child has a toy, a pair of yellow plastic glasses from a Mr. Potato Head set, and the glasses themselves are bent and worn. The child puts the glasses on his face, and dances around in front of the mirror with the way too small toy shoved just so on his face. He is so, so happy. And so, he shows his new found happiness to his friend - who promptly grabs the old, bent yellow frames off the child's face. Because the friend suddenly wants what another has. And the friend wants that used, beat up toy, more than anything. And out of an uncontrollable urge, the friend takes them, no matter who gets hurt. And the first child cries.

And as a teacher, I intervene. We talk about sharing and asking politely and accepting "no" as an answer. Sometimes one person just isn't quite ready to share. Maybe the item in question is new, or it is newly rediscovered, or it is just an all time favorite. But for whatever reason the child can't share - just yet. And the other child has to accept this disappointing fact and find another toy. Soon, both children are happy again. Friends again. Until another toy becomes envied; and the cycle continues.

As a parent, I tend to scold and act as though I just can't imagine what has gotten into my boy. He's not usually like that. Except that we are really all like that. We all envy what others have. We all want something new, or rediscovered, or familiar, as long as it is more than we have right now. It is in our human nature. It seems against our nature to just be genuinely happy for another in their good fortune. So often the envy is there, somewhere, even if we've grown to hide it well. And so, for me, that would be where Jesus comes in. Where the Spirit within me rises up. Where God becomes needed. Because when I am centered around God, with Jesus holding my hand, rather than God centered around me, and Jesus doing my bidding, I find that I can go against nature. I can find joy in others' good fortune. I can think outside of myself. And I can dwell in the Spirit, content despite my circumstances. Aware that actually, my circumstances are quite good. And for that I can only say, "Praise God."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Third grade: First day

I just took my oldest to his first day of third grade and I am weepy this morning. I used to teach third grade. Now I am home, unshowered, getting ready to play Wii Sports with my four year old, and I have one more year before there is a shift. There are probably going to be other shifts in preparation for the big shift, but I really would be fine if they all went away for a bit longer. Third grade is a wonderful year in school. It's a biggie. Kids grow up, become independent in many, many ways, grow deeper in friendships, and move from still little and needy to no longer kissing their mommas in public and fixing their own breakfast toast. They also tackle cursive, multiplication tables, and writing pages of thought. Space gets introduced in science because third graders are getting mature enough to comprehend outside what they can see. Good stuff. But if I could, I'd pause right here for just awhile. I am okay with him kissing me in public, and I am okay with him believing me for better lack of understanding. I am okay with second grade. I am okay with standing still - no shifting - for just a little bit. I am aware it is inevitable, and I am excited about future experiences, but just for today I am ignoring that summer is over.

He's having a great time as I write this, by the way. His two best friends are in his class, and the teacher naively put them all at the same table. Luckily he's still young enough, for a awhile longer, that he tells me everything, and I can't wait to hear all about it!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tabouli and the 4th of July

Yesterday we went to the mountains. It was beautiful, blue skies, warm breeze, cold, cold water, and lots of rocks to climb. The adults got ourselves situated while the kids played, and once we all settled down, we could fully enjoy our surroundings. Our surroundings. Which included numerous other family groups in similar situations, save one minor detail. The picnic area was beginning to smell delicious - cooked red meat delicious. And that heavenly scent was not coming from our little picnic area. No. Because I grew up in a tabouli family. The kids took about five minutes of all this before asking when dinner would be served, and what exactly had we packed in our picnic basket? Indeed, what had we packed? Well, I graciously informed them that we had luscious strawberries, carrot sticks, and...couscous and fresh parsley salad. Yeah! Oh, yes, we were all thrilled with our yummy organic vegetarian meal amidst a constant breeze filled with the fumes of charcoal and barbecued beef. For my children, it was torture. They asked if someday soon we could go to Chick fil A. My father thought the whole situation hilarious - he was the maker of our gourmet organic vegetarian couscous salad. For me, well, it felt just like the fourth of July back when I was around sixteen. Because I distinctly remember those wonderful summer holidays where we would pack up a cooler, pop a squat in an ampitheater somewhere nearby, listen to a patriotic concert, and eat....tabouli salad. My best friend, Christie, will most certainly have the same memories, since I dragged her along. Tomorrow, we will have salami sandwiches. In the mountains. It's a compromise. But I have finally insisted that once we come home, we will eat hamburgers and roast marshmallows. Maybe we'll even go all out and make smores. I mean, seriously, a girl can only take so much.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

VBS Homework: Jesus take two

For the past several blog entries I have been answering questions that will be discussed during my children's VBS in August. In the last entry I discussed feelings I have towards Jesus. I would like to elaborate after coming back to that entry and rereading it.

I grew up in a liturgical church that talked a lot about the Trinity, but I feel it also spent more time educating me on God, the divine being, and the Holy Spirit that dwells in and amongst us. By no fault of others, I did not have as close of an understanding of Christ, the third link to the Trinity. In my opinion as a teenager, openly talking about a relationship with Jesus sounded very Baptist to me. And I was not Baptist. As I have grown older, I have often talked to God, and have gradually melded into talking to Jesus, but I still did not have a clear image of this relationship in my mind. I use imagery to help me comprehend intangible things, and I have been able to imagine God and the Spirit. Now, after having the book, The Shack, shake up stereotypes of the Trinity, I have started having an easier time in understanding the three parts as a whole. In my mind's image, Jesus now rides in the car with me, and he wears Levis bootcut jeans, a Target t shirt, Keens on his feet, and hippie jewelry. He's much more approachable to me in this image. Call me crazy. My point is, I think I came across earlier as not liking Jesus. It has never been that. It has just been not feeling as connected with him as with the other branches of the Trinity. And now that I've cleared that up, I feel better. Don't you?:)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

VBS Homework: Five loaves and two fish

Read John 6:1-14

Make a list of seven things about yourself.

1. I have grown more appreciative of pink since having two boys. A little girliness helps me feel balanced in my testosterone world.

2. I love kids; I love working with kids; I love having kids; I love observing kids; I love kids.

3. I have lots of hobbies because I have a short attention span and must mix it up regularly.

4. Flip flops should be our state shoe. I mean, really.

5. I used to want to be African American so that I could have an afro. I am not kidding. I am pale with freckles and straight average brown hair. When I was younger I wanted dark chocolate skin and big hair that held headbands in all day without pins. I even permed my hair twice in one month to try to get this look. It didn't work. And I think my kids have the same dream because they made their Miis brown skinned. With afros.

6. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I don't have to buy anybody presents or feel guilty about not writing thank you notes, I get to see people I love dearly - both families are great - and I get to cook and eat fabulous food. All day.

7. I am leaving this one open, because I have lots of things I could say, but I have an indecisive personality and could not decide what to share:)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

VBS Homework: Hearing Jesus

Read Matthew 4:18-22

Following Jesus - We all have different experiences when it first comes to "hearing" about/ from Jesus. What's yours?

I have something to admit. I have avoided talking directly to Jesus for most of my life. It's not that I didn't believe in him. When I get down to it, I have always believed in Him. It's that he didn't make sense to me. Most people have trouble understanding the Trinity because they don't get the Holy Spirit, or they don't like the idea of God as the Father. But I'm different. I have a great dad, so God as Father is comforting. Always has been. And the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in me, flows through me, bounces around in the world, and infuses our lives makes perfect sense to me. His presence natural. His absence scary.

Yet I have struggled with getting Jesus. I decided early on in my prayer life that God loved me enough that he wouldn't hold it against me when I didn't pray, ".....in Jesus' name, amen." My reason for refusing to pray in this manner was also my confusion as to how he even worked. If he is God and man, why can I not just go ahead and talk to God, like talking to the CEO instead of the vice CEO? In my maturing of faith over the years, I have settled into including Jesus in the mix, but when I read The Shack, I finally had an analogy that worked for me. A friend in Jesus - cheesy, corny, just plain embarrassing - until I had permission to make him an old guy friend I could shoot the breeze with and talk to whenever I wanted. Now he's not so cheesy anymore; he's also not wearing long robes either, which helps.

I guess the reason I finally, openly, admit this difficulty with understanding Jesus all the while considering myself Christian is because I am guessing I am not alone. But doubting for me is also a form of curiosity which spurs me into a deeper, seeking faith with God. I don't want pity because I am a Christian that is at times uncomfortable with pieces of my faith. In the end, I am Christian, and I have always been Christian. I have had times where I have doubted, where I have felt confused, where I have wondered if I'd ever feel comfortable with the idea of three in one, where I believed and yet felt frustrated in choosing to believe in something I didn't understand. I have had times where I have told myself it's better to agree with Jesus just to be safe eternally, only to lecture myself that only admitting his existence on the surface as a form of self preservation was still doubt - not true belief. I have then soulfully gone back to the point of, okay, this isn't it; this struggle, this life, is not over at death. I cannot accept a fate so dire. And so, out of desperate need I choose to believe. Maybe this too is another form of self preservation, but it comes not from caring about covering my rear, but surviving while I drag my rear around in it's current condition.

When I was little, it was easy to be Christian; I sang songs, went to church, and played the heck out of some hand bells. As I became a teenager, I took pride in being Episcopalian, linking myself with the Catholics, and continuing along fairly easily. In college, I partied, and in late night deep philosophical discussions debated the existence of a divine being. In adulthood, I come back to where I started, minus the hand bells; only this time it's harder, the responsibility for my faith on my shoulders instead of my parents. And yet, it is where I do belong through all my searching, back to the place where I was raised, ultimately believing in Jesus, and a curious mind to continue learning more.

Monday, July 12, 2010

VBS Homework: Money issues

Read Mark 12:41-44

What do you spend your money on? Go through your material belongings; Choose one thing that you could give away. Find one person or charity that needs that item. Give it to them, then write about it.

I actually give away lots of stuff. I gave lots of old glasses and glasscases to the Lion's Club. (America's Best is a collection site.) We take car loads of old outgrown clothes and home items to Goodwill several times a year. When we renovated our house we gave furniture to Habitat. When I clean out my closets I give found items to friends. And yet to count all that seems like cheating. Those are all merely examples of leftovers. Things I don't miss; that I am glad to get out of my house. So here's the rub, if I give something I love away, I will miss it, and yet that is what I am feeling called to do. Also, I actually am willing to give up something, but what? What do I have that another would find useful? I am still pondering this one. I will say that as I continue to think on this assignment, more and more spaces in my house are getting cleaned out and more stuff donated in my search for a precious item I feel good about letting go.

On another note, the widow in the passage gave away all that she had, while the rich only gave a portion of their earnings. Yes, we are to give, as other passages also state. This passage tells us to give all we have. And so, in all we do, in all we go through, we are to give all of ourselves to God. I am still working on this as well. Maybe my devotion is with the item I am meant to give away. Hmm...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

VBS homework: Gratitude

This year for Church of the Apostles VBS, our children's director is asking the volunteers to do weekly homework relating to the various lessons. Our youth run our VBS, so this is an exercise for them to get familiar with individual themes. My niece, Joyce, is coming to stay with us and volunteer, and I have decided to also do the homework for fun. It is fun stuff, as you'll see.

Read Luke 17:11-19
Think of a favorite gift. Why was it so special, and how did you show gratitude?

This is a hard question. I've gotten lots of favorite gifts over the years, and as I think of the ones that stand out, I realize I suck at thank you notes. Shameful, though in my defense, I will say I received each gift face to face and thanked the giver personally.

There is one gift I want to share with you.

I taught at Rosewood Elementary School for three years, from 1998-2001. The kids in every third grade class rocked, though I did have those difficult days, and I was a newbie. Let me also explain that I was twenty-two when I started teaching, and quite naive about the world, especially the world right here in Columbia. When I interviewed for my first job, Ted Wachter asked me why I was interested, and I was honest. He must have hired me for entertainment because of my sheer stupidity for interviewing skills, and because, as he told the other teachers, I was perky. He asked me why I wanted to work in Columbia. I told him I really had wanted to move up north, but I had fallen in love with this guy in law school in Columbia and figured I could find some inner city elements here as well. For those that don't know, I graduated from a school nicknamed the country club of the south, and I grew up in small town Tennessee. Needless to say, he smirked, told me I had the job, and that Rosewood would be good practice before I moved on to more inner city environments. See? Naive or stupid? It's a toss up.

But I digress. One year I got this kid, Kerry Dunlap, in my homeroom class. His grandmother lived in an apartment across the street from the playground, and oftentimes we'd see her sitting at the fence watching her grandchildren play. She breathed with an oxygen pump, and was physically frail. And yet she cared for her many grandchildren. I knew of four and a mother that stayed with her. The mother had drug addictions, and so there was also an aunt, and between the family they survived somehow. As Kerry's teacher, when I needed to talk with Miss Winola, I walked across the street and visited in person. And so that is how I know how they lived - Her on oxygen, one bedroom for six? people, cardboard covering rotten holes in the floor. The place was always clean, and I never felt unwelcome or awkward, but the conditions tugged at me. One Christmas, all the kids in my class brought me Christmas presents, and Kerry did as well. Wrapped in newspaper in a recycled box were two ceramic angels. I knew those angels. They had previously sat on a shelf in the apartment where Kerry spent his evenings. They had been his grandmother's. And so, from a student and his grandmother, I received one of my most memorable blessings to date. They obviously gave from their heart when they had so little, and it is the one gift from all my years of teaching that stands out above them all.

One month after Michael and I got married and moved to Aiken, a fellow teacher called. Miss Winola had passed away. The kids went on to live with family. However, this family had such an impact on our lives that when I told Michael Miss Winola was gone, he asked me if we needed to adopt Kerry and his siblings. We were newlyweds, living in another town, and yet she had been such an example of the Holy Spirit that Michael was willing to take her four grandchildren without having ever met any of them and without hesitancy. I have kept those angels close all these years. So, to Kerry and Miss Winola, thank you. For more than words express.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wedding Dress Project: New Update

Cookie went to Rwanda. The mission team carried the dresses in suitcases to their recipients. Did I mention how they carried them? In spacebags. Some readers already knew that. What nobody thought to consider until Cookie started worrying two days before their flight was customs. Customs like to open bags. Spacebags explode. Wedding dresses sucked into a tiny suitcase released. The entire scenario made me laugh tearfully and just put the whole endeavor into God's hands. After all, I just helped collect and bag the dresses. Cookie was one of the ones going to stand in the customs line.

God intervened. The whole mission team arrived. Suitcases arrived. Loaded down spacebags arrived. Many days later, the mission team came home. I haven't talked with anyone in detail except Cookie, but between arriving and departing, God and those missionaries worked their tails off. From my understanding, it is quite a bit to process the sight and the experience of a whole new culture. I am guessing the mission team is still pondering parts from the trip. I cannot wait to hear the stories that flow out from them.

What I do know is that the mission is not over; in some ways it has been going on since the beginning of time, and in new ways it is just getting started. The women in Rwanda loved the dresses. They were overjoyed with our response in collecting dresses, and they are making arrangements to get their business off the ground. Right now the dresses are housed in an extra room at the Anglican center in Kibungo. Mother's Union, the momma non-profit group overseeing this project, is looking for a storefront in town. They have purchased some equipment for sewing, but they need to purchase cleaning equipment. They are saving up for a large wash basin and steam press. Dry cleaning can burn or damage the delicate fabrics and beadwork on many of the dresses, so they will wash them each by hand. As this rental business gets established, it will be used to train more women for other areas within the Kibungo Diocese. A neighboring large town, Rwamagana, is where my church's sister parish is located, and women from that parish will be the next to receive training for a similar enterprise.

So, what next? Here we will continue to collect dresses - wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, flower girl dresses. We will accept monetary donations for cleaning equipment. We would love any knowledge on other economic shipping methods. We adore prayer. If you want to talk further, please feel free to email me at phatch@sc.rr.com and I can either answer your questions or get you in touch with Cookie.

One last tidbit of exciting news. Author Catherine Claire Larson, As We Forgive, has written a one minute radio script about our project. It will air on The Point with Mark Earley sometime in July. I'll let you know more as I receive information.

**And, finally, as soon as I get copies of pictures, I'll post them. I know many people are excited to see where our dresses have ended up!**

Monday, June 21, 2010


We just got back from Kiawah Island Resort, and the kids and I decided to live there. Unfortunately, Michael kept playing the part of the realist and reminding us that the next family booked in the house would not appreciate our presence come Monday. Then I reminded him that if he would win the lottery as previously agreed, then there would be no other family moving in come Monday. Again, just a shrug...

This brings me to a harsh and brutal reality. Perhaps we as a family are where we are supposed to be. I enjoy my life. I enjoy my children. I enjoy my days of routine. All that is good. What I don't enjoy is the feeling of instability. It is stressful and aging. It causes me to worry. So I have prayed for that part of our lives to go away.

And it hasn't.

I have asked others to pray for us.

Still no answers.

I have forgotten to pray completely and instead gotten on the phone to complain to family and friends.

Still here.

I am not a patient person that is trying desperately to practice patience. I am trying to "live in the moment." I am trying to follow my own advice and be grateful for my daily bread and not worry about tomorrow's bread. And honestly, most of the time, I'm good.

Michael said he thinks God's silence means...we are where we are supposed to be.

That was not the answer I have been praying for.

But vacation, it was wonderful. It was the first full week we've had together in over five years. So I am going grocery shopping later, and I think I might have to pick up a lottery ticket...

Dear Lord, please let the numbers on my ticket miraculously match the numbers in the newspaper. I'll let you know how it goes...

Sunday, June 6, 2010


When I was a girl growing up in the mountains, I went hiking. It was a regular activity. There was this woman that was even famous for hiking Mt. LeConte over 100 times. She was eighty something when my family talked with her on that very same trail. We were hiking to a lodge on the top of the mountain to spend the night and have a delicious dinner. When I was a teenager, my sister, Carol, would take me back country camping where we'd hike in, set up a tent, and hike back out with everything on our backs. We loved watching other hikers that would load down their packs with pillows and pots and pans dangling off the side. They looked miserable lugging around so much stuff! Our last sister hike I sprained my ankle, and Carol had to tie my pack to hers and carry both out while helping me walk on one foot. As I grew older, we would go for Christmas hikes when all us kids came home. I remember our guide, Mike (my SIL's bro) decided it would be fun to track deer off trail, and we got lost in the woods. We finally heard cars, found the road, and walked back, but that made for a long day. I think that was actually my last family hike. But, truth of it all is, I love the woods. I really like venturing off down a trail to find what's at the end. Beautiful views and interesting structures are off in those woods, but one has to hike a few miles to get the pleasure of seeing them.

Yet the last few years we haven't been doing many nature walks. Most trails aren't stroller friendly, and naps have been just too important. So yesterday we packed a picnic and drove to Congaree National Park. It's a swamp with a boardwalk leading out into marsh. There are trails to also follow if the ground isn't flooded, though it floods about ten times a year. It's supposed to. Those plants clean the pollutants out of the flood waters before they recede back to their home. Yesterday we went exploring, without a stroller, and walked almost four miles checking out points of interest on our handy dandy park map. It was fabulous! Every single one of us loved the whole experience, and I had an epiphany. My family is no longer in that stage. We didn't take the stroller because we don't own one anymore! We can go exploring much more often. I walked through that swamp thinking about how I should start a family friendly hiking club....how my girlfriends and I should go hiking on Saturdays....how Michael could grab a friend and go bird watching like he used to do before children. I felt renewed, and I wanted to know I could have it again. The woods embrace me in a way that lets me feel God's presence.

I still want to do all my plans, but one baby step at a time. Monday's coming. So right now, during the week, I will find His presence here, in the city, til I can get to the woods once more.


I didn't take pictures and I need some because the camera forgot to get out of the car. Darn camera!!

Anyone want to start a family hiking club?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Grace Flows Down

The song that comes on when you clicked on my blog was one that actually helped me in a mental block a few days before I gave up Simon's bag for display. It aptly fits with another piece of art I made last fall, and the song I used as inspiration was Laura Story's Grace.

Ladder of Grace

Ladder = accomplishments, the next step, progression of life and progression towards sanctification

Starting at bottom rung

1st feet = birth, physically and spiritually; boy and girl

2nd feet = early childhood; paisley and apples - growth

3rd feet = childhood and adolescence; stripes - pathways; black and white - conflict between innocence and rebellion

4th feet = providers; plaid and dress shirt - dependable provider; flowers and many patterns - busyness and nurturer

5th feet = empty nest; embroidered tapestry and deep satin purple - richness, wisdom

6th feet = death and release of spirit; Irish linen – dust; red, streaked, raw silk – Spirit

Ribbons = relationship between male and female counterparts

1st set = conception

2nd set = growth

3rd set = clear black and white ideals; hot pink for passion

4th set = provider and nurturer; gray for blurred lines

5th set = deep connection

6th set = connected by the Spirit

Cheesecloth that provides the main support for the entire piece = Grace

It runs all through our phases of spiritual and physical lives, and flows endlessly in one continual piece. The flowing cheesecloth that runs down behind the piece shows us that we are always covered in grace and the knots and silver buttons (nails) at the bottom are God’s hands to lift us up and to catch us when we fall.

**This piece was created specifically to hang during a weekend retreat on sanctification and grace. While the piece may seem a bit pieced together and busy when looking at a picture, part of the fun of working with fabric is that the viewer can walk up and touch each element. This sense of touch is lost when viewing through a photo.**

Monday, May 31, 2010

Music and Art

Oftentimes when I am asked or feel called to sew a piece of artwork, I pick a song to represent that particular project. My classic favorite artist is Robin Mark. Maybe it is his voice, maybe the music and lyrics, or maybe the connection I feel to him since my family has met him twice now. Michael had the opportunity to play drums in two of his concerts the last two summers. There's something about seeing your husband rocking out on stage and singing along to Jesus music - children, friends, and parents at your side - with an Irishman as your guide. The memory alone wells up and overflows in my heart. Music stirs my soul, and I am going to make the assumption that it has the ability to stir most anybody's. My children jump around the house to the slightest hint of a beat. It is innate in us; it is strong and powerful and inspirational; it is motivating. And for me, it weaves visions I need to make the art that I am asked to make.

Please stay awhile, read, and enjoy my playlist. It's varied - some spiritual, some fun, some memorable of stages in life!

Travel Bag for Simon of Cyrene

The bag itself holds rocks, and was originally set at the base of a cross. There's lots of meaning here. Simon had to set down his own priorities for the day to help Christ carry the cross. For us, when looking at a bag loaded with rocks, we would be crazy to go and take on that burden. We would be crazy to pick up Simon's bag and follow in his example...unless you look inside. Written on the rocks are verses from the bible. God's words, God's power are contained in that bag. Others have written blessings on rocks and added them to the bag. Accepting the bag is not a burden after all. The strap looped around the bag is actually three strands of white gauze fabric braided and tied into an Anglican rosary. The gauze is white for purity and braided to represent the three pieces of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The red knots represent fruits of the Spirit - love, peace, joy, kindness, self control, gentleness, patience, faithfulness, and goodness.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Insecurities - I have had a lot of those lately. My life is in transition. All around me events are whirring and I don't always know which way to turn, to look, to go. The bible study I have attended for two years ended. I was using it as a buffer so as not to get involved in other activities. While the study has been a deep blessing, I have also used it as an excuse not to try other things or make friends in other places, and now it is done. My older child is going through his own transitions and needs guidance, love, and stability. My husband is working through internal questions of his own. Friends that I cherish are moving, others have rejoined the workforce and aren't calling nearly so often, and other friendships are changing. None of these transitions are wrong or negative, yet when they all get thrown together they make me very nervous. Truth be told, the changes have the potential to be wonderful in many ways. I have a stable set of Godly women as a support system while I venture out to connect with new women. Friendships are maturing, and there are opportunities to serve old friends as they go through their own life changes. My husband can consider new directions in career and calling that would draw him closer to God and to his true self. Many wonderful blessings are born out of transition. Yet I start to question my footing and then my support system and then all the other insecurities I've developed over my lifetime start pushing to the front of my mind. They start interrupting my day.

And this is when I remind myself that the world does not revolve around me. Thank God. I mean it. Thank you Lord. This is the part where I remember I am not that great, but I am loved. And then I calm down, and I notice the beautiful four year old boy playing next to me. And all those insecurities scurry back into the darkness while my blessings shine forth. My day can once again resume. Grace can replace fear of rejection. Love can laugh in the face of judgment. Those insecurities will come back; they are still there. To reference C.S. Lewis, they are a few of the rats in my cellar. And the cleaning of a cellar takes time... But in the meantime, my four year old and I are singing....

Let your light shine!! Whoa, Whoa!! Let your light shine!! (VBS song)

and in the car, thanks to my friend, Melanie W.

Garbage in, Garbage out, What goes in is found out... (Christian cd)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Explaining Jesus

Have you heard of Jesus? If you have heard of him, have you ever met someone who genuinely has not? For those that may stumble across this blog, let me explain that I live in the south. The south eastern section of the United States is stereotyped as the "bible belt". I grew up around the buckle. Right now I am raising my family in one of the thickest sections where the tongue overlaps. So, as my priest pointed out in one of his sermons, you could tackle a thief carrying a gun and running from a jewelry heist, ask him if he knows about Jesus, and he could tell you who his pastor is on Sundays. "Church" is a way of life down south. Lots of southerners don't actually attend, but from our blue laws to our little league scheduling, church is most always considered. Which is why I have been taken off guard to meet more than one family lately that genuinely does not know anything about Jesus. I'm talking no preconceived ideas other than what one may take away from American movies. That's it.

Guess what. So far I have been the one explaining Jesus to my friends. This is a unique position for me. Though I grew up in the south, I also grew up Episcopalian, and evangelizing was almost a sin. Which is why explaining Jesus is odd to me. It feels like I'm being evangelical. What I'm learning is that most people are interested in religion. Humans want to know about different spiritual beliefs. Another Sunday school teacher said that and it stuck. So when I meet families from other cultures that ask me about Jesus, it is okay for me to answer them. And what I mean by answer is a real response that isn't watered down with rationalizing and prefaces to statements - just simple, sweet, and honest. It's even okay to say, "I believe..." Most others won't laugh or poke fun; they are actually curious. I realize some people do this all the time. For me, it's a new thing. Not the beliefs parts - the talking out loud parts without all the prefaces. It's a bit intimidating putting yourself out there; but now that I have dipped my toes in the process, it's not so bad.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Wedding Dress Project - Update

Robinella and the CC Stringband played. We all took turns spinning to the music. Flowers stood literally ten feet in the air... and the view! Walls of windows overlooking the river. Huge three story ceilings with artwork strikingly hung just so along the walls. The cake - a basketweave, of course. It was in back then. And,seriously, did I mention the flowers? Not just ten feet tall, but exotic at that, all brightly colored and dramatic in their beauty. And me in my dress. And Michael in his tux. And all our family. Together for that one moment to celebrate the vows we had just taken. All there to enthusiastically send us on our way. It was memorable, and it was only the beginning...

Almost nine years ago Michael and I got married and started our life together. It has been one heck of a ride. I wouldn't wish a marriage on anyone unless they wanted it with all their heart, and I wouldn't trade mine for anything in the world.

That said, I am sharing all of this with you, because these past couple of months I have been feeling incredibly blessed. I have been helping collect these wedding dresses for The Wedding Dress Project, and I cannot tell you how much love I have felt poured out from people in the response we have gotten. Just to let y'all know, to date, we have received around 50 dresses. Cookie originally said she prayed we could get 20 wedding dresses. God more than doubled our goal, and through you, provided not just wedding dresses, but bridesmaid dresses as well. Bishop Sendagaya and his wife, Dorothy, are so pleased with the response that we are figuring out how to start collecting dresses to start other businesses in other dioceses of Rwanda. The child survivors of the genocide in the Kibungo Diocese, and possibly in other parts of Rwanda, will have wedding attire for their day, for the celebration of their marriage and their life together. I just can't wait to see the pictures! Can you?

Cookie leaves in 9 days!! I will keep all of you posted on any progress...

And just so you know, since we are now expanding this ministry, we will continue to accept dresses. We will send them over as people travel back and forth between our two countries. Thank you for all of your donations and for your thoughts and prayers!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Additional motherly tidbits

1. When I was a teenager, I got caught reeking of cigarettes. Of course my parents did not approve. Their responses, individually:

Mom: I am going to tell you what my mother told me (so from my grandmother) - You're a young woman over the age of eighteen in the south; You have the prerogative to make your own decisions. Notice that she didn't say she agreed with my decisions!

Dad: While we are all sitting in the den having family discussions on various topics, "You know I don't believe anyone who smokes deserves health insurance."

2. "Now, Patrish, I am not saying that you HAVE to do ________; just remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But it's up to you. "

3. After I would spend what I considered to be good quality time ironing, I would get dressed, walk to the kitchen, and my mother would almost always ask, "Do you want me to iron that? It's awfully wrinkled."

4. (A childhood favorite that I use on my own kids..) "I will be happy to take you to ________, I just have to make one stop on the way".....five stops later....

And one I actually did use once or twice, "You can always call us if you get in a situation (teenage party) and don't feel safe getting home." They honored that one, and I did not get yelled at; just tortured with chores and very noisy pots and pans. For that, I can only say thank you!

Our church had a Boar's Head Festival every year, and I danced in it. One year I didn't want to participate, so I declared I had decided to be agnostic. My parents agreed that I could be agnostic, but I was still dancing in the festival. Since it didn't benefit me to be agnostic, I decided to stay Christian instead.

"It's our duty to raise you to eighteen, and after that, pray we taught you to make good decsions."

Hope you enjoyed. These were just a few more little memories I thought some of you might have fun reading!

Strength in Parenting

When strangers look at my mom, I wonder if the words that come to them include strength. Possibly not. She walks slowly, anxiously, with a look of confusion often written on her face. A person could probably tell she is, at times, uncomfortable in her own skin. She does not fit a physical definition of strength. Yet I have to guess in God's eyes she is the shining example.

My mom lost her memory almost seven years ago. It happened the day before my oldest son's first birthday, and my good ole parental units were visiting their precious youngest (me) and their newest grandchild (Key) on his very special day. My mom had been experiencing anxiety for a few weeks and had even gone to the emergency room fearing a heart attack. It had, in fact, been a panic attack. After they arrived, she went to go take a nap. When she woke up, she didn't know where she was. My dad found her, terrified, in the bedroom. We went to the emergency room, we scheduled tests, we canceled Key's party. I called my sister, who then called my brothers. Key, my parents, and I met my sis, Carol, in TN. And so was the beginning of the last seven years. In this time, my mom has suffered the initial significant memory loss, two hospitalizations for dehydration caused by ulcerative colitis, a heart attack, numerous ugly bruises from falls, anxiety, treatment for depression, and continued loss of memory. Other than the physical symptoms for the medical conditions mentioned, the doctors cannot find the ultimate cause of her progressing dementia. They can't call it Alzheimer's , because they gave her an IQ test in the midst of all this, and the woman scored a 140. Yes, a 140 - in the middle of bouts of dementia. That's the quick history of her recent past. Now, let's think about the reality of all this. What does dehydration do? It makes you confused. She was already confused before the dehydration, so she was extremely confused when all of it was combined. And ulcerative colitis is just yucky; it is not very easy to feel dignified with that disease. But my mom is a survivor. She survived it twice. She then survived a heart attack and she's still going. She still gets up every day and goes to bed every night. She goes to ride in the car and to church on Sundays. She wants to crawl into bed and not get out. Who can blame her? Yet she chooses each morning to trust my Dad. And he trusts God. It can't be easy, but together they do it. Day in. Day out. It's truly inside out beautiful. Their love is one people envy even when just looking in from a distance. I know because I see it and I hear about it from others every time I go home. It's an example in how to love a spouse. In how to trust in God. In how to get up even when you don't want to. My mom - she's one strong lady. Together my parents are one darn strong example in how to embrace life. It may not have been what they planned, but they don't give up. Her journey, their journey, has been a gorgeous and tangible example to their children in how to grow up. In how to live in faith and trust. Even when all of us children have moved away, when we have all embarked on our own marriages and our own spiritual journeys, my parents continue to parent by the example they set for each of us. Day in. Day out. It's their lifetime of days. And it is powerful and strong and real. One day at a time.

So to my mom, and to both of my parents, I love you.

Happy Mother's Day. May, 2010.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cox's Bazaar

My mom owned a gift shop for 25 years called Cox's Bazaar. It sold lots of cards, gifts, collectibles, and it was THE place for invitations in town. Big party, graduation, wedding, birth, baptism? Everyone in town went through Cox's Bazaar for something. It was also in a large way my childhood playground. I was born quite a bit later than my siblings. I like to call myself my parents' special surprise. I was late enough in their lives that my mom had switched her mode of thinking from how can I raise my children to what comes next? What came next for her was a business AND another child to raise. Rather than give up her opportunity to do something outside the home, she brought me up alongside her. I spent many afternoons terrorizing the ladies of the Hallmark shop by running up and down the aisles, reading all the cards in the funny section and scavenging for snacks from the store room. And the store room - it was one big dusty jungle gym. Boxes were stacked into rows and my mom literally had to climb over rows to get to her desk in the back of the room. I would sit on boxes while I ate my snacks, or I would sit at a table in the back of the actual store and look at wedding invitations. That was one of my favorite activities. Wedding invitations were displayed in GIANT books with big thick pages. I would pick out my favorites, and I would decide how I would word it just right. My mom was also a prime source in town for manners and etiquette. She had books on all the ways of appropriateness as well. As I grew older, my best friend, her younger sister(also my friend), and I worked at Cox's. My sister put in hours there as well. I have to say the McClanahan girls were much more appreciative and responsible employees than I was.

So many of life's little and yet incredibly important lessons were taught to me by my mother and by the women who worked there. Together they all helped to raise me and instill in me values I hold dear today. I had a group of women doting and loving and correcting me when I got stubborn or bossy or just plain out of line. I could have spent a lot more time in daycare or the women could have just treated me as the boss's kid, but neither of those things happened. And for this little girl, the love my mom showed me by including me in her busy life and the life of Cox's Bazaar meant the world.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Afternoon snacks

My mom has a sweet tooth. A big one. And I am her fifth child. Which meant that by the time I came along, she got to have fun with me rather than fret over my every move. She was a more relaxed mom than the ones my friends had. Therefore, I got stuff other kids didn't. While other kids went home to carrot sticks and fresh fruit, we went to the mini mart. My mom allowed each of us (her and me) to pick out one drink and one candy bar every afternoon after school. She would get a Diet Coke and a Mr. Goodbar. I would get a Sprite and Reese's cups or a Mr. Goodbar or a Payday. I had a list of favorites. My dad must have thought this was a delicious idea, because he got a Snickers out of the vending machine at work every afternoon. He told us so. Eventually my dad's candy bar habit caught up to him when his doctor told him his cholesterol and blood pressure were less than ideal. He started eating more salad and skipping the candy bars. My MOM, though, was born with good genetics when it comes to cholesterol, so our daily ritual remained safe for years to come. On weekends, I could ride my bike down the this same mini mart for hot dog lunches, as long as I brought back enough for the family. Nowadays, there aren't many mini marts with a grill directly behind the cash register, and nutritionists deeply frown upon candy bar snacks every afternoon. But the truth is, it was a special little thing just between Mom and me. And I still smile while thinking of her every time I see a Mr. Goodbar.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Armpit of South Carolina

Lovely title for my entry, I realize. I figure I have earned a certain right to call Columbia names since I have been here awhile. I also profess to love this town, so it is with love that I call it an armpit. But really, this week is about my mom, so let me get on with it.

When I was growing up, each summer my family rented an old clapboard beach house with sandy floors and ceiling fans in every room. The house changed each year, but it was usually on the beach with nice breezes, it never had air conditioning, and it was almost always at North Myrtle Beach. There were no hotels at the time - just old houses. In order to get to North Myrtle Beach from Maryville, TN we had to drive over the river and through the woods to SC, eventually going through Columbia and then on to the beach. Our family car was a big green Buick with bench seats and premium vinyl upholstery. The other siblings and I drew imaginary lines down the back seat and I asked "How much longer?" the whole way there. My favorite spot in the family car was in front between my parents, and if I got tired, I would lie down with my head in my dad's lap and my feet in my mom's. Great stuff. Except when we were driving through one of the hottest, humid, energy zapping areas in the whole world. Air came to Columbia and got so tired of blowing it just stopped and took a nap. It still does this every July through September. It was and is stifling in Columbia in the summer. And this is where our family car overheated one year. The fix - turn on the heater at full blast to pull heat away from the engine. The entire family was sweaty, sticky, and literally stuck to the vinyl in the big green Buick. The temperature outside was well over 100 degrees. It was memorable, that's for sure. We all remember that trip. That memory is why when I heard Columbia referred to as the armpit of SC, it stuck with me. What I don't remember is my mom ever complaining. Me, oh definitely. But my mom is a trooper - she always has been. It's one of many qualities in her that I admire.

To Mom and Dad - Thank you for all those vacations. They are still treasured; even the hot parts!

Saturday, May 1, 2010


To start off all the things that I have to be thankful to my momma for, I will share a family recipe. We've all eaten these cookies (school cafeterias make sheets of this stuff, but my mom's is better), and all women in my family have it memorized. These cookies make me think of my childhood, my mom in the kitchen, and me getting to scrape the bowl. Yumm!!! I also distinctly remember my brother and me shoving as many in our mouths at one time to make sure we got more than the other. He's twelve years older - he always won. EXCEPT when I screamed, "MOM, John's eating all the cookies and not sharing!!! Come quick!!!"

Okay, so I did win sometimes, after all.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Drops

Bring to a boil:

1 stick butter (there is no substituting; cookies will not harden with a substitute)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk

Remove from heat. Stir in:

3 tablespoons cocoa
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter (needs the crunchy)
2 1/4 cups quick one minute oatmeal

Drop by teaspoonful on waxed paper.

They take about 30 minutes to harden. Lift sections of wax paper off the counter and peel them off the paper one at a time. A very humid environment can mess this up and they may take a little longer to harden. I grew up in TN, which I thought was humid, until I moved to the armpit of SC, which I discovered is way more humid! If you accidentally use margarine in TN, you MIGHT be okay. If you accidentally use margarine in SC, the cookies take more than a day to harden. (And by the way, I truly love living in Columbia, but I have other family memories to explain my nickname for the place.)

Or just forget about dropping them and letting them harden and eat the whole pot of ooey gooey deliciousness. Just make sure you share with your kids. It's tradition that the kids get to scrape the pot - it makes memories!

To be continued...

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I have been thinking about Mother's Day quite a bit this year. To be honest, I think about Mother's Day every year because my birthday, my MIL's birthday, and Mother's Day are always together on the same weekend. It's a big weekend, and people from my husband's family start asking early about my wish list. Usually I am ready to provide a litany of "I wannas" because there are always material things that catch my eye or would be fun to own. Yet this year I am feeling the lull of satisfaction. This year I don't have a list nor do I have something expensive I am saving up for that could be accomplished through a collection of birthday cash. So, I don't really know what I want. My own mother has been at this stage for years. She became even more deeply entrenched in the "I don't need a thing" stage once her dementia set in. She isn't into clothes, and my dad makes sure she wears appropriate outfits. She has never been a woman that enjoyed potions and makeup. She can't read very well because she can't remember from one reading session to the next. Plus she always went to the library because back in her reading prime she could devour numerous mystery novels at a time. She no longer knits or watches tv or socializes. She really wants for nothing because her life has become limited. She needs my father (and her medicine) and honestly she's satisfied. She'd probably love a bottle of wine and a large bag of chocolate, but besides that, there's nothing. (I am my mother's daughter as I just figured out my wish list - wine and chocolate!) So I have started thinking, what can I give her besides the predictable phone call? And then it came to me - some memories. This is a woman of great strength, beauty, compassion, and stubbornness, and she can't remember. She feels so grateful and blessed to have us as her children. She doesn't remember her part in molding us into who we have become. I need tell her we (her children) were the ones God blessed when He gave us the parents He did. Therefore, for Mother's Day, I want to share some of my mother's wisdom, recipes, and humor with you as I prepare it to give back to her.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

History of Whiskers

Three years ago, for Key's fifth birthday, we got him pet firebelly frogs. They hated our house, refused to eat, and one eventually starved to death. Before our second frog could commit suicide, we took him back to the pet store so that they could "make him all better". Needless to say, Key felt as though his birthday present had gone badly, and he wanted a do over. So, a year ago, we went and got Whiskers, our pet rabbit. She was a sweet, precious, little baby rabbit when we brought her home. However, over a course of several months she turned aggressive and mean, especially towards the boys. Kelly, Key's little brother, was not very gentle with Whiskers, and would run by the cage growling, so he didn't help the entire situation. We had given her lots of room in our laundry room, but she was still quite frantic. Eventually we went to talk with the manager of the pet store to get some advice on dear ole' Whiskers. Well, it turned out we had accidentally been sold a male bunny instead of a female bunny and "she" (he) was in heat and locked in our laundry room. What would probably help would be for Whiskers to have a "friend". The manager suggested we find a stuffed "friend" about the same size as Whiskers, and Whiskers could then calm himself down by having a companion. Goodwill was right next door, and in the front window, lo and behold, was a stuffed rabbit about the same size as our precious Whiskers. They boys were SOOO excited. They each had a stuffed friend they slept with at night, so why shouldn't Whiskers have one too? I must let you know that their friends are used a bit differently than our rabbit's friend is used. When we got home, the boys promptly gave Whiskers his new friend, and sat down outside the laundry room to watch "her" play. Oh. My. We wash Whiskers' friend once a week. That's all I have to say. Anyway, now that the weather is warmer, we have been able to take Whiskers in his cage outside to enjoy some fresh air. One night recently, we left him outside and he escaped his cage. He is now living in our backyard, particularly loves our shed, and still comes back to the cage to eat and poop. We must have done a good job with the potty training! He likes his new life, and we have enjoyed watching him run free. He even likes us more now, and will come up to us even though he doesn't have to. It's working out for the here and now.

So, now that you have the background information, you must also know that my boys love Frog and Toad. With all this in mind, the whole family has had fun imagining up stories for Whiskers. And that is why we are publishing Adventures With Whiskers, here on my blog, for all of you to enjoy!

Adventures with Whiskers: A Game of Dragons and Giants

One day Frog and Toad came for a cup of tea and a rousing game of Dragons and Giants. Whiskers had invited them for quite awhile, but had only recently escaped to a home large enough for visitors. After sipping a strong cup of tea, the three friends were prepared to conquer the backyard. It takes special tea for such an adventure!

First they hopped out of the shed o' brambles into the wild,and saw a strange looking rope. It was scaly and had many colors and patterns. This rope seemed to be saying, "Ssssssss!" Oh, My! Quickly, Frog threw a boomerang at the SNAKE, and all three friends escaped.

The next obstacle they came upon looked like some sort of jail. It was made of green bars on all sides, but there was an open door. Whiskers vaguely thought this jail looked familiar, but could not quite remember why. Slowly, Whiskers, Frog, and Toad all hopped in to have a look around. They were so interested in a large bowl in the corner that was filled with brown pellets, they did not hear the two giant cream colored monsters approach. Suddenly, the big open door closed, and a huge clip slid through the bars. The three friends were trapped! Frantically, Whiskers, Frog, and Toad searched for an escape. Whiskers found another way out of this jailhouse through a top trapdoor. The two monsters were so surprised they reached out to grab the three friends, but were much too slow for these quick hoppers. Whiskers thought all of this felt a bit like deja vu!

All of this excitement had made the three friends tired, so they decided to hop back to the shed o' brambles for another sweet treat. Along the way, a large group of rabbits blocked their path. These rabbits were furious! They had found this land first and needed to protect it from the likes of well dressed Frog and Toad. No strangers could be allowed. Luckily, Whiskers had just recently befriended a few members of this rabbit family. After explaining Frog and Toad were his visitors, and they were going home for sweet treats, the other rabbits welcomed the visitors to the neighborhood. All three friends and Whiskers' neighbors went back to the shed o' brambles for cookies and strong tea.

Meanwhile, Turtle was just arriving with a special housewarming gift....

by Key Hatch and Patty Hatch

(To be continued)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wedding Dress Project: Entry #2

As many of you know, my church is collecting wedding dresses for Rwandan women. Women in Rwanda rent their dresses, and there simply aren't enough rental companies. Therefore, by us donating dresses to our sister province, women in the Kibungo Diocese will be able to start a business which can help provide living wages to other women and further connects us with those that have given us so much of themselves in many, many ways.

You may wonder, "What have they given us? In what ways?"

Testament like no other I have ever heard. Testament of love, faith, forgiveness, and joy born out of torture, terrorizing agony, loss, gross unfairness - genocide. A thought struck me while driving. The women that will be wearing the dresses we give were children during the 100 day genocide in 1994 that took the lives of almost one million people.

One day = 10,000 deaths : Rwandan genocide = 4 Haitian earthquakes or 4 Indonesian tsunamis : 100 days = 1 year of Hitler's reign

I am estimating these figures, but they help us grab a piece of perspective.

The point is, the women wearing our dresses were little when their country, their province, their village, their homes, their parents, brothers, sisters, and cousins were thrown into chaos, burned, murdered or forced to be murderers. They went into hiding. They witnessed it up close and survived, maybe at the sacrifice of a family member's life. They will never, ever, ever, be the same. Some of these young people are the children of victims. Some are the children of murderers. They live side by side, literally next door to each other. The government, local leaders, and people have made it so. Assassins that have confessed and asked forgiveness are to live in the town they ravaged. Next to the families they ravaged. They are all to learn to live together so that this never, ever, ever happens again. And because of this unprecedented movement of forgiveness among people both Christian and Nonchristian, there is hope. There are weddings to be had. Vows to be taken. Bonds to be created under God's many blessings. And we may learn by the Rwandans' humbling and powerful example.

The other gift we have received from the Rwandans affects those now connected with the Anglican Church of North America, but is a lesson for us all. There have been many issues among Anglicans worldwide, and within the Episcopal branch here in the United States, mediation was sought from the larger communion by those upset with lots of stuff. Leaders wrote a letter back in 1998 to the world leaders of the Anglican communion asking for help in mediation, since the Episcopalians could not resolve issues on their own. The only person in the entire worldwide communion that offered to help was the Rwandan bishop. The reason he answered the call - Four years earlier, in 1994, during the 100 day genocide, he had sent out a call for help to the world. Not one person answered his call. Not one. Not you. Not me. Not anyone. And he never wanted anyone to feel how hopeless he felt. Not one. So despite his country's poverty stricken, grieving, war torn status, he offered to help if he could. He offered his heart so that the priests asking for mediation in the US would not feel ignored and alone. That's all. And it, to them, was everything. Missional churches have been planted in lots of places. The Africans have come to minister to the Americans. And it is a beautiful relationship.

So now y'all know why I am so passionate about this project. I am learning to listen to my heart about balance in my life while still honoring God. I can't help everyone. I'm not supposed to. But this project, it pulls at me. If you also feel called to help, just keep reading.

Ways you can still help:

Donations of wedding, bridesmaids, and flower girl dresses are still being taken for a few more weeks.

Monetary donations are also accepted. We are collecting funds to help cover shipping costs, the purchase of a sewing machine, and start up funds to add a dry cleaning business to the dress rental company.

If you would like information about this project, I would be happy to put you in touch with Cookie Richardson, who's leading up our church's part in it. Just let me know!

Also, if you want to know more about the genocide and the acts of forgiveness, look up As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson, and the movie also titled As We Forgive by Laura Waters Hinson. The book and movie use different stories to tell about the same event. I have read the book, and will someday soon get up the courage to watch the movie.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bury me

Bury me in the river. Let my ashes drift down with the icy waters. Dust to dust, I want to return to the Earth to travel the currents through the mountain river stream.

I love going to the mountains. It's where I was raised, and the very air makes my lungs feel cleaner. My body responds as though it knows it's home. I just simply feel alive in the mountains. Maybe it is the feeling of being small in such a big space, but I fit there. When the boys and I were rock hopping, I had a thought that I allowed to linger, and I found joy in the idea. It might be the first time I can say I have seen joy in thinking about my own death. I hate thinking about death in relation to anyone I know - me, my husband, our families, and especially my children. I could easily send myself into a panic attack as we speak if I surrendered my mind to that rabbit trail of thoughts and "what if" fears of mine. However, despite all that, I found a joyful thought standing on the rocks barefoot in the middle of the river in Tennessee. I pictured my family sprinkling ashes in the water. My soul would be safe, and my body back where it feels at home.

Now, I am not saying one should take this as my final plans, but what I realized that moment in thought, is that there can be comfort in being insignificant. There is comfort in imagining your soul resting in God's hands with those that passed before. And there was even for one moment a little comfort with the idea of death as not painful, but natural and graceful like the running mountain stream.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Feeling Him

I finally felt Him. Praise Jesus! (Do a dance right here!) See, I have been making "my" station since the beginning of Lent. I felt inspired to make it and felt a "vision" of it last Easter Sunday. I was thrilled to know I would get to participate again after such a deeply spiritual experience last year. Then I went back to work and in chapel with the munchkins the entire lesson was on what I had planned to do for my station. See, my station is all about Simon of Cyrene, and I had a vision of his travel bag. I just didn't know what to put in it. (Toothbrush and an extra pair of underwear didn't seem appropriate.) Then, at chapel (at St. Martin's where I work), the whole lesson for the kiddos was about Simon coming in from the country with a basket of eggs. They turned to beautifully decorated eggs by the end of the story. What a sign! I was meant to make the bag - and fill it with eggs.

Fast forward to 2010 Lenten season. Bag - definitely. Eggs - ? Then I went to my bible study, and we talked about Ebenezer rocks. The women from my group inspire me just about every time they talk, and I was not disappointed this time either. Bag - Yes. Eggs - no. Rocks - Definitely! At the moment I realized what God wanted me to make, things got a little easier. Still, I had not had the feeling that the Spirit stirred in me. The entire Lenten season I have procrastinated and dragged my feet on this project. I have not obsessed about it. I have not been excited about it. I have certainly not been motivated. Yet today the Lord saved me - from embarrassment, worry, pride, apathy, myself essentially. He inspired me; He let me feel His presence. I am no longer worried whether I got it just right or whether people will feel Him through me. I no longer feel the responsibility to do this on my own. I feel Him, and I cannot tell you how relieved I am. And all I have to say, is once again, I may have been gifted the physical skills needed to make station #5, but it is His creation. I have been saved, and I cannot take credit. Oh thank you, sweet Jesus!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Embracing the Detours

There are detours that are minor bumps, hiccups, cute little side trips, and then there are those which change our lives. I know of 2 detours that have had a bearing on the path which I am currently taking.

Detour #1: I went to Furman University. I wanted to go to a school that had some opportunity for me to continue dancing, and possibly a dance conservatory. However, I injured my ankles my senior year of high school, and was told by my doctor that if I continued dancing as strenuously as I was currently, I would be wheel chair bound within three years. OR I could give it up. At that point I had been dancing for 13 years and was averaging 20 hours a week after school in rehearsals. I gave it up, and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It was like cutting out part of my soul. I can still, as a mother of two and adult woman far removed from that world, go see a show, and silently cry in yearning to be up there with those that can. That is those that can dance - at that level. It's a gift, and I got to taste it.

The other part of college was that wherever I went, it would be north, since I had grown up in small town Tennessee. I worked my tail off to get accepted to some phenomenal schools, and then I had to accept that my parents couldn't afford them. They could afford more than lots, but even then, the schools I had aimed for were more, and I had no scholarship to them. An acceptance letter wasn't enough. So. I went to Furman, which is in South Carolina, where I received a scholarship for viola and I played in the orchestra, and I was EXACTLY where I needed to be. It was a beautiful school, and I was greatly challenged, and I had to grow up to survive, and my professors noticed me, and they cared about me, and I cannot describe how grateful I am to my parents. Furman wasn't (isn't) cheap, and they sacrificed to give me that experience, and to me, at the time, it was just a detour. I grew there. By the end, I got it. Or should I say, I got him (smile). In fact, my college roommate introduced me to my husband shortly after we graduated. It's actually all his fault I even took detour number two.

Detour #2: Since I had not had the opportunity to go north for school, I decided I would go north for work. I wanted to be an inner city middle school teacher in Boston. Yes, middle school. Yes, Boston. My parents had taken me to Boston on a business trip back in high school, and I had gotten to stay in the ritzy section, ride the train alone, and be pampered at some of the boutiques. I naively thought Boston would be a great place to go teach inner city kids. After all, I had read the book, Dangerous Minds, before seeing the movie. All joking aside, it was my dream to go teach in an inner city environment, and I took the coursework to prepare myself. But Michael came along right as I started my student teaching. He was just too cute, and pretty quickly my job applications started moving south. I had three offers, but only one was near him, and I took it. I lived with his aunt and uncle while I looked for an apartment, and I changed my life's purpose to include him. He gave me the life I have now - a marriage - two precious boys - a home in the south - a life better than I had planned. It's funny, they say, the best joke you can tell God is your five year plan. I told God that joke twelve years ago, and he has rewarded me ever since.