Sunday, April 27, 2008

Finding Old Journal Entries

I've been going through pictures again. This time I was looking through pictures and journals from my trip to the Ukraine in 1995. In the middle of the spiral notebook I used as a daily journal on the trip, I found a random writing from May 21, 1992. (Don't ask!?!?)

We've made it through the first year of junior high! Jenni adjusted to junior high life much better than I expected. I think Sara's extrovert personality helped. Last week was Jenni's awards program. She has received straight A's all year. Tonight she had a choir concert. I know you shouldn't compare, but I can't help it. Jenni is one of the more mature seventh graders. And one of the prettiest! Of course, she doesn't think so, and what do I know? Also, she sings better than most. She has certainly enjoyed being in choir this year. She made All-City Choir, and she received a "1" on her solo at UIL Solo & Ensemble. She will go far with her voice.

Thank you, Lord, for Jenni...for her voice & musical talent, for her being herself, for her love for you.

Now, sixteen years later, Jenni teaches at the very same school she attended when I wrote this. She did go far with her voice, but she went even further in being herself. She discovered a love for teaching...teaching English...teaching English to seventh graders. Wow! God has given her the opportunity to influence young lives in a positive way at a very crucial time in their lives. She has also discovered the joy of being a mommy. God blessed her with a precious little boy who is cute, smart, funny...and she is a wonderful mommy! She sometimes struggles to find the balance between finding the time to be the parent she needs to be to Tater and being the teacher she needs to be for her students. But all working mothers have struggled with this, and she will find her balance.

I thank God for Jenni and for her love for Him. And I pray that He continues to show her His plan for her life and guide her toward hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Three Years of Blessings

Three years ago today I experienced one of the most priceless moments in my life...I witnessed Jordan's first moments of life. I cannot even express how I felt as I saw that tiny life emerge and heard that first precious cry as the doctors and nurses scurried to check him over and whisk him off to the NICU. Little did I know that day that we would not hear him cry again for a very long time. He went through so much in those first few days, including major surgery when he was 5 days old to insert a tracheostomy tube and a feeding tube. Daily we learned more about Stickler Syndrome and Pierre Robin Sequence and how they were affecting Jordan. There were people all across our country who were praying for him, and God answered those prayers in every way possible. As days moved into weeks, and weeks into months, Jordan went home and daily life for Melynda and Eric took on a whole new dimension. But God was there for them and gave them the strength both physically and mentally to care for a baby with special needs.

Jordan's first year was filled with doctor visits and medical procedures, home health nurses and strict schedules, trach changes and tube feedings, and all sorts of medical supplies & machines. But eventually little improvements became bigger improvements. I remember when Melynda and Jordan came for a visit when he was about 14 or 15 months old. He had just gotten a little cap which Melynda put on his trach for a few minutes at a time. This made it possible to hear his little baby noises. While most babies this age would be saying their first words, Jordan was a year behind in talking. We rejoiced in his little sounds and grunts and occasional squeal. But then one evening, he tripped over a toy and fell. And he cried. And we heard him...for the first time since Melynda and I had heard him cry in the delivery room, we heard him cry. And the two of us sat and cried with him!

Today Jordan turned 3 years old! And he is one of the brightest little kids I know. [The other bright kids I know are my other grandchildren ;)] He is right on track in every area except physical development, such as jumping with both feet in the air. He still has a couple of physical limitations that affect his speech, but in time, that, too, will correct itself...I truly believe it will. More than that, he is a sweet little guy who will melt your heart. He loves animals and can name more animals than most kids twice his age. He loves books and will sit and "read" for the longest time. He loves to play with his toys and role play through his wonderful imagination. He is a special little guy. He is a miracle.

Thank you, God, for Jordan; for every little glorious moment of his life; for showing us your mighty power and loving care in his little life.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Eyes Tell the Story

I feel a need to write about my experience this past week in serving the young mothers and children of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS). I won't bore you with the's been in the news for over two weeks now and our little hometown has become known around the country and around the world. But I want to express a personal view from me...a wife, mother, and grandmother.

Our church has had the privilege of serving meals to one of the two groups being housed at the coliseum. It is the smaller of the two groups and seems to be made up of the younger mothers and children. Actually, they are all one in this group is over 17, yet they have babies and small children. Kerry and I helped serve the evening meal last Thursday, and then I went again on Friday morning to serve breakfast. Most of them had been there since Monday, so I think they were beginning to get used to the routine. I smiled and spoke to them gently as they filed through for their dinner. The younger ones, especially the boys, were a little more open with their return smiles and questions about what we were serving. The young mothers were polite and smiled, but you could tell that their focus was on getting plates filled for their little ones.

Kerry and I went back this evening (Sunday) to serve dinner. I had wondered if there would be a change in their attitude after the judge's ruling on Friday. What I found for the most part was that there was little difference. In fact, if there was much difference at all, it was in a positive light. The children were more talkative, the boys more boisterous, their attitudes more accepting. But then I realized that this was really only a surface attitude when I began looking in their eyes.

I remember last week there was a certain curiousness in their eyes...they are as curious about us as we are about them! That was still there tonight…a couple of them asked about my earrings. I also saw a hint of wonder still in the eyes of the younger ones. I suspect they feel like all of this is a grand adventure, not really knowing the importance nor the possible outcome of it all. The babies still clung to their young mothers, but it was the eyes of these young mothers that were the saddest of all. While I saw a smile on their face, and a politeness in their demeanor, the eyes held the real story. While too young by law to be mothers, they were not too young to know what was going on. And not too young to remember what they had been taught about the outside world. There was almost a sense of defiance in their eyes, a look of contempt, an expression of scorn.

There was one girl in particular that I can’t seem to shake from my memory. She was probably 17, one of the oldest ones in this group. She was beautiful…dark, silky hair styled perfectly…beautiful, clear complexion without needing help from cosmetics…tall and slender. She carried a baby on her hip and a little one (about 2 or 3) clung to her skirt. When I asked her tonight how many hotdogs she would like, she smiled and answered politely. Yet I will never forget her eyes. They were deep, and it seemed I could see a whole world in there. A world that said, “Leave us alone; we don’t need you.” My heart breaks as I realize that she doesn’t even understand that the world she knows is not only an abusive world, but it is a dark world…a world where men have placed themselves as gods…a world that has no room for the one true God, the God who created them and who loves them and who sent His Son to die for them. All I can do is pray for her and for the other 415 children and their mothers. I can pray that somehow, somewhere they will understand.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

7 - 3 - 1

I've been going through old photographs....see what I found?
This picture was made in 1963, the year I started to school. First grade, that is...that was before they had kindergarten! This is one of the rare times in my life that I had short hair. Here's the aunt, a professional beautician, was cutting my hair...reached down to pick up the thinning shears...grabbed the regular scissors by mistake...and you guessed it...cut right across the back of my hair at the neckline.

As you can see, we had a big family...Seven! Five kids! I remember a couple of years after Dana was born, Jenni decided we needed another baby in the house. "Oh, I think I would go crazy if I had any more kids!" I said. "But Grannie had five!" she replied. "See there! That's my point!"
I'm not sure my mother really saw the humor in that one!

The house we lived in was built by my daddy and my granddaddy. We thought it was great; we had everything we ever needed. Lots of room inside, a big backyard with a swingset, a sandbox and a tetherball pole, and a carpenter's shop out back if we got bored in the house! And it was right next door to my twin cousins, and two doors down from my granddaddy! Let me tell you about our house.

It was probably about 1500 sq feet...that's a really wild guess. We had three (3) bedrooms for our family of seven (7) for Momma and for Ray & Donald...and one for Marie, Lucy, and me. Marie and I shared a full-size bed; in fact we had an honest-to-goodness bedroom suite...white with gold trim...french provincial or something like that. Lucy stayed in her crib till she was almost three, I think, then she slept on a little child's cot (like they use in daycares now, only it was made out of wood and green canvas like a miniature army cot). After she outgrew that, she slept on a little loveseat that Momma moved into our room. But she never complained (about her bed, anyway!)

In addition to our three (3) bedrooms and our kitchen and living room, we had one (1) bathroom. Now think about that! A family of seven (7) and only one (1) bathroom! And it was small! No double sinks or jacuzzi tub! I can remember before eating a meal, we kids had to line up in the hallway to wash up. And afterward, line up again, with that forever-etched-phrase-ringing-in-your-head, "Keep your hands off the walls!" On Saturday night, we had to start the bath routine about 3:00 in the afternoon just to get everybody through! Well, maybe that's stretching it, but it did take quite a bit of time! Needless to say, we didn't all take a bath every night. During the week I think we kind of took turns. But on Saturday night...everyone took a bath! Whether they needed it or not! The main thing was that you ONLY used the bathroom for bathing, brushing teeth, washing hands & faces, and doing your business! Momma did her hair and makeup in her bedroom. Luckily, we girls weren't into the makeup drill at that point, and our hair was done in our bedroom. (I do remember that the butch wax that the boys used on their hair was kept in the medicine cabinet above the bathroom sink.)

Not until we moved to San Angelo, and Momma and I came to look at houses, did I realize how small a house we had when I was young and how little we had. Momma could write a recipe book on 101 Ways to Make Wienees that Your Family Will Love (Hey, calm down...that's what we called them back then!) The Wienee Entree was nearly always accompanied by pork & beans...which I cannot seem to be able to put in my mouth now. But she was truly amazing at cooking low-cost meals for a family of seven (7). She is going to get several extra stars in her crown for that!

Momma and Daddy did the best they could do, and the best things they gave us didn't cost a penny. They gave us unconditional love and a Christian foundation. They gave us a strong sense of family and loyalty and acceptance and sharing and giving. They taught us life skills...physical skills, emotional skills, spiritual skills...that have helped us get to where we are today. They taught us that seven (7) really is a lucky number; seven (7) really is the number that symbolizes completeness. They taught us that three (3) is a pretty good number, too, cause Christ rose on the third (3rd) day, and the Trinity is 3-in-1, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And they taught us about the number one (1)...there is only one (1) way to the one (1) God (the Father) and that is through Christ (the Son).

See what happens when you start going through old photographs? You get caught heading straight down memory lane...thanks for tagging along!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Empty Nest?

One year ago this week, my baby got married and moved to the Houston area. So finally it is time to write about that bittersweet time.

Dana wasn't my first child to leave home. I had been through the process twice before. Jenni moved out when she started college. She went to school here in San Angelo, but she moved into an apartment with a friend. Melynda left when she started college and moved into the dorm at Hardin-Simmons University. But Dana stayed home during college. Why not? She pretty much had her side of the house to herself, didn't have to share a bathroom with two sisters anymore, and Mom was there to feed her. And I think that is part of what made the difference. She was home during a time when the parent/child roles begin to change.

It is during the college years that moms cease being so much the disciplinarian/teacher/authority figure and start becoming more of a friend/confidant/sounding board. I experienced this with all three of my girls, but with Dana it was a little more. Probably it was because we had more opportunity to do things together. We went shopping (at the mall, online, it didn't matter), we watched chick flicks together (and talked about all sorts of issues), we got hooked on the same books (Christian fiction by Karen Kingsbury). We shared so many more experiences together, life experiences that pull you close.

So as wedding plans became reality, and Dana's room became stacked with moving boxes, the emotion began to mount. Kerry and I talked about it alot, how excited we were for Dana, how nice it would be to have the house to ourselves, all the familiar "empty nest" talk. We also talked about how hard it would be to adjust to having the house to ourselves, to not having Dana there to banter opinions back and forth, to not having someone around to double-check our fashion conscience!

As April 14, 2007, dawned, it was a bittersweet day. I was so excited for Dana & Levi. They had been together for a long time...much of that time he was at Oklahoma State and later flying for the airlines, and she was here at home finishing up her education. Finally they were going to be more 9pm phone calls, no more waiting for those weekends when he could come home, no more having to say good-bye. They would be able to be together, to build a home together, and meld their two lives into one.

But my baby was leaving home! Who was I going to watch One Tree Hill and Gilmore Girls with? Who was I going to share Christmas and birthday secrets with? Who was I going to carry on long conversations with in the afternoon while the grandkids napped and she had the afternoon off? I was really going to miss her! And she was moving seven hours away! I couldn't just hop in the car and go see her; and she couldn't just hop in the car and come home. Thank goodness for e-mails and unlimited minutes on the cell phone!

It took several months for me to adjust. Sometimes we would be driving home from church and decide to go eat...I would have the strongest urge to call Dana and see if she wanted to meet us or if she wanted us to bring her something. I would often stand in the doorway of her room and sigh. Shopping trips to Target and Hobby Lobby were boring. It's not that I didn't have anything to do...I had plenty to do. I just didn't have someone around to share that part of my life with anymore. (Kerry isn't too keen on watching chick flicks or going to Hobby Lobby to look at scrapbooking supplies!) But as the months passed, I got used to her absence.

Now I look forward to her it when she stays with us...tolerate it when they take their turn staying with the Sleepers! Watching her and Levi enjoying their life together makes it all worthwhile. After all, that was my job...raise her, teach her, mentor her, support her...then send her out to be her own person. And while I have an "empty nest", there's still enough activity with kids and grandkids in and out of it that it's not so bad.

And I hang on to one little thing that makes me feel a connection with Dana...I still watch One Tree Hill!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Measuring Up

(I wrote this on March 17th, 2008)

I bought a rule today. Not the kind of rule that you are supposed to (but don’t want to) obey. The wooden kind that carpenters use…like the one my daddy always used…like the one that we always played with when we were little…like the one that my little sister requested to have when our daddy died.

You see, Kerry and I were laying edging tiles for the flower bed in the back yard yesterday. I needed something to help keep the row the right distance from the fence. It didn’t have to be exact, so I looked around, and there, lying on the deck, was the little toy broom that all the grandsons love to play with. (One of these days they will swear they never have and never intend to touch a broom!) But there it was, and it looked about the right length for the distance I wanted the bed border to be from the fence. So I got the broom, laid it perpendicular to the fence and started placing my tiles down. Kerry was sitting up on the deck and just started hee-hawing!

“Your daddy would be laughing at you!” he said.

“Why? Because I’m measuring this with a toy broom?”

“He would be saying ‘I taught her better than that!”

“No, he would be proud of me for using whatever was at hand that would work. And this works!”

You see, I have a measure tape…the thin metal kind that you pull out of its little case and push a little button that makes it stay at the measurement you want. In fact, I have a very nice one in a wonderfully inclusive tool kit that Kerry bought for me! But as nice as it is, the little button doesn’t work very well, and the tape tends to slide slowly back into its case. That’s what I used to measure to see how many tiles would be needed for the border! I figured 62 (each tile was a foot long, so that made it easy) and rounded it up to 65 just in case it was off a bit, since the tape kept slipping. Kerry asked how much we needed, I told him 65, and he said we should get 70 in case any broke. I hadn’t thought about that, so I didn’t mention I had already rounded it up by 3.

So we got home with 70 tiles, and after spending much of Sunday afternoon digging a little trench (a broomstick’s length from the fence!) to lay the tiles, we had 11 left over. I figured that wasn’t too bad, especially since I laid out one corner a little differently than what I measured and probably used 2 or 3 less tiles than I had figured.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to pull that silly little measuring tape out every other brick to make sure I was on track. The broomstick worked just fine! Even though Kerry…and probably my daddy…was laughing at me! So I started thinking about what my daddy would use. A wooden rule! He always had that rule in his pocket. I often wondered how many of those rules he went through. My little sister (the one who has Daddy’s rule) reminded that the first section was always broken off. My older brother, who worked a lot with my dad, said that was because most measurements were less than 12”, thus requiring the rule to be used most often with the first section extended, thus making the rule more vulnerable to breakage. (That’s an engineer’s answer!) My brother also told me that our dad was very careful when buying a new rule…he would always choose one that had the 66-72 inch marks showing when folded and the 1-6 inch marks on the inside of the first section. This was because the numbers often rubbed off the tip end of the outside section and it was more difficult to measure accurately. I also figured that when the first section (the first 6 inches) was folded out, it would lie flat against whatever was being measured. My daddy not only worked hard, he worked smart! Alas, the one I bought has the first six inches showing when it is folded…and brick spacing marks on the inside! I don’t even have a carpenter’s rule; I have a brick mason’s rule! I didn’t pay that much attention when I bought it…it just looked right. Mainly because it was white, and the others where yellow. My daddy’s was always white.

All this talk about measuring and choices of measuring devices has brought me to think about how I measure up in God’s eyes. Am I choosing the right measuring device, the right standard with which to guide and direct my life? Or am I just looking around to see what is at hand that seems to be right? Am I careful to choose the right "measure" for the job, or am I just using what looks right. Obviously, if I am not reading my Bible and praying and using Jesus Christ as the "standard", I am going to be off track, out of "plumb", totally messed up! My daddy could eyeball measurements within a fraction of an inch! But he also knew that when it came to living his life in accordance with God's will, he went straight to the Bible; he prayed; he served his Lord unselfishly. Some days I am right on track, other days I could use a good "measure". And God is so good...He is always there to help me get back in line!

Thursday, April 3, 2008


"Why do people feel the need to blog?" Kerry asked me this question the other night. As I began to answer, I realized there are many reasons people blog. It just all depends on the blogger. I won't go into all the reasons I came up with...I'm sure you can come up with your own list if you are at all interested in the why. I will just tell you why I blog.

I used to call it "writing", then it became "journaling". I used to write my thoughts, poems, stories, etc. in a spiral notebook, then I started typing them on the computer. One of these days when I'm gone, the girls will find all my little pieces of writing all over the spiral notebooks, in folders in my filing cabinet, on my computer. Dana told me the other day it wasn't "blogging" unless it was on the web; since my stuff is in Word, it was "dlogging". So be it. I will become official...I will blog my writing, my journaling, and post it on the web.

I actually am not a novice to blogging. I started a blog for our Venezuela work. But it's not really mine. It belongs to everyone who has ever had a part...or a heart...for our evangelistic work called Venezuela Vision. (You can read it at This blog will be mine. I will write new stuff; I will go through my files and spirals and type in stuff I've written in the past; I will dream; I will reminisce; I will brag about grandchildren!

And so it begins.......