Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Plan F -- The Christmas I Didn't Plan

My table this year that no one will see.
One of the things I used to look forward to each Christmas was going to Patrick’s mom’s house. Gynelle cooked for days. She would decorate her home not missing one single small touch. One year, Gynelle had put a collection of glass trees and a lit chapel on a large mirror that she had painted the edges to make it look like snow. White lights were hidden in tufts of white cotton all around the setting, and the desserts were nestled into the cotton…a beautiful tablescape on her buffet. The table seated ten comfortably, and each place was set in silver, crystal, and china with each person having their own salt and pepper crystal shakers. Dishes full of the most delicious food one could eat. Gynelle had trained and cooked in Mississippi’s governor mansion, and she knew how to cook some food. Her weakness…rolls. The rolls were ALWAYS without exception burned on the bottom. It was truly a feast for the senses. During the holidays, I miss her the most.

Before the house flooded, I had started hosting Christmas at my home. I loved decorating following cues learned from Gynelle. One room had a Santa theme, one room “the gift” room – it has the Magi. One room has nutcrackers. One room is snowmen, and of course, we have our nativity. I was so excited to be doing it again in my home after years of remodeling; I finally had a kitchen that could handle the cooking I needed to do. The things I had requested to be done well before December did not get done until the day of the dinner. Things like cleaning items out of the dining room and finding home for things. This meant that I couldn’t complete what I needed to do until that work was done, but you know, I got some energy and can do a lot in a pinch. But things happen. Things we didn’t plan on. Things we had not scheduled time for. The refrigerator leaked which means the water had to be turned off. Turning the water off meant the breaker for the ovens had to be flipped. This means my double oven used to cook the sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and broccoli and rice casserole was out of commission.

I texted Lori, my sister, to tell her of the calamity. She immediately said we could do everything at her house. While I was relieved, I was also reluctant. Memories and traditions are important to me. I guess that’s one of the reasons I blog. About 9 AM when I realized it would be best to alter the plan, I have to admit I cried. I was angry and upset. When I made the call to Lori, I tried to hide my disappointment, but I know she heard it. Had I mentioned I hadn’t even been able to wash my hair or face?

We moved to plan B…and we moved straight through to plan F with the changes of plan. The fact that we were doing this on December 26th was a testament that we could break with tradition and adjust to meet others’ schedules, but I was tired of adjusting. I told Lori we were on “F,” and she said she liked plan “F” because it was Fine. I agreed it could be Fun. I haul everything to Lori’s home and fix things there. Her mixer was a little different than mine. I had finished mixing the sweet potatoes and was getting ready to disengage the beaters. The button to disengage my beaters is on the top. The button on the top of Lori’s does not disengage her beaters. Nope. What does it do? It puts her beaters on warp speed. Sweet potato goes everywhere, and we have to laugh. There were so many little things that happened in the preparation for the day and in this day that we knew God had been preparing us without our knowing it. An unexplained can of extra cream of mushroom I’d need found in Lori’s cabinet that wasn’t there the night before, and other little God winks like that.

Before all was said and done, we were on plan “G” which was Great. We ate in shifts because of timing issues with the turkey and work schedules and family coming in from out of town. We adjusted. We lived with disappointment and because we did not dwell on the disappointment but looked in the moment to see and to live, God blessed us anyway.

Christmas time isn’t always a happy time. Plans change. Loved ones are no longer here, and we miss them. Unexpected news comes. Things we don’t expect. Things we don’t want. It’s as if we think Christmas time belongs in a bubble safe and sound from reality like nothing bad is supposed to happen. Truth is bad news comes every day. Truth is disappointment happens. Truth is life can be hard during the holidays regardless of what the holidays are supposed to be about. But here’s the bottom line, God is there if you will just look for him. Look for him in the unexpected, in the unexplained, and in the uncommon blessings. Try not to hold on to disappointment too long. Let go of disagreements quickly. Look for God in every situation. You may not understand the why, but I promise you God doesn’t waste anything. He can use it all. Hang in there. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not the train.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Timmons and Groves Christmas Memories

Over the years my perspective on Christmas has changed. When I was young, of course, it was all about the gifts – the more the better. I remember spending time at Mammaw and Pappaw’s house with my family from Texas, and there were so many presents that when all was said and done the wrapping paper was a foot high in the panel-lined den. Some gifts were ornately wrapped and very organized – those were from Sharon. Some gifts were best described as “unique” – those were from Richard and Rosie. The adults would sit around the whiskey-barrel table as Pappaw sat in his chair holding his unlit pipe in his hand while Mammaw washed the dishes by hand at the sink. As we got older, the grandkids took over this chore with Mammaw standing behind us telling us how to do the job at hand. After spending time with this group of relatives, it was off to see my daddy’s side of the family.

Like Momma’s side, daddy’s parents had three kids, but for some reason it always seemed like there were so many more of us on the Timmons’s side. I remember occasionally they had a medium tree in the corner, but most years it was a small tree that sat on the table in front of the window. The fake logs turning on and off warming the room when necessary, and the picture that hung over the sofa of the two sisters playing musical instruments. I always loved that picture. It was time to eat AGAIN, and if I was going to eat, I was going for two things – squirrel and dumplings and chocolate pie. I used to love me some squirrel and dumplings…until. Until the Christmas I was eagerly plunging the ladle into the dumpling and pouring the contents on my plate to discover the skull of the squirrel. I haven’t eaten a squirrel since. At the Timmons get-together, we each received one gift. Most of the time I got socks, a scarf or kitchen towel. Simple gifts from my grandparents. I never got over how many people we could squeeze into their small living area. I’m sure it was a fire code violation, but it was fun. Every Christmas all the grandkids took a picture together. I wonder where those are. They are probably best left hidden.

I don’t remember too many of the times of opening gifts at home with my family, but we have the pictures to show the mayhem and chaos of Santa Clause.

It wasn’t until about the sixth grade that the gifts started losing their luster. I didn’t get as many because the things I wanted cost more. There wasn’t as many surprises either when you hand-select the items you really want. It was a little disillusioning and disheartening at the same time.

It took me a couple of years to find my joy in Christmas again. It had always been there. It had never gone away. It was the thing I looked forward to every year. It was spending time with my family. Whether it was beating Peter in Othello (because that never gets old), counting Pappaw’s hot peppers in the hot sauce, or trying to find a place to sit at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, it was seeing their faces, listening to their voices, spending time with them and making memories.

Now I’m a mom, and we’ve gone through the gift mania phase, and our kids are getting to the age where they are starting to see there is a reason for traditions. There is a reason why we celebrate Christmas, and it isn’t the presents. There is a reason why we spend time with family. The reason is because these are some of the richest blessings God gives us. Whether we’re making a spontaneous trip to Marshall singing carols all the way stopping only to ooh and aahh at the Christmas lights, visiting the Rose Center and eating at IHOP afterwards, going to Natchitoches to see the Christmas lights or staying home watching movies and spending time with family, these are the gifts that cannot be wrapped and put under a tree.

I encourage you to count your blessings this year. Cousins grow up, and we all age. People move far away, and we don’t see each other as often as did. And there are loved ones who have gone to heaven. Cherish the moments you are given. Don’t take any of it for granted because there is someone in this world who would love to have a little of what you have.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and to my family, my cousins, aunts and uncles, thanks for the memories and Feliz Navidad.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Timmons Clan Warped Sense of Humor...I think God has a sense of humor too

My family has a warped sense of humor. When Lori and I were living at home when guys would call, we knew they were serious if they continued to call back because they never knew what to expect. One time when my then boyfriend, now husband called, Lori answered the phone. She told Patrick he would have to call back to see if I would answer the phone because she could not transfer the call. (We only had one phone line.) He called back. And who answered? Why, Lori, of course. She told him the same thing and hung up on him. He called back. I think I got the phone from Lori about his fifth try. That is the kind of warpedness we exhibit and that’s to the people we know! One time Lori, Daddy and I were out in public together unchapperoned and  we decided to start staring up in the sky and see what happened especially when one of us would walk off. It was hilarious! There were people who would walk by looking up to see what we were looking at. There were several that stopped and then we left them standing there looking up at nothing. Why? Because we could. Dorky? Yes. Entertaining? To us, most definitely!
What brought this last story to my recollection is that I’m reading Acts right now. I think by far it is the most action-packed book of the Bible. In chapter one Luke writes about the last moments Christ spent here on Earth before ascending. Verse 10 says, “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.” Think about it…A group of believers are seeing the most amazing thing. Jesus is ascending into heaven like watching the plane take off with a loved one. You watch till it disappears. While the believers are still standing there looking up, open mouthed, angels appear suddenly beside them. Have you ever been so startled by someone who has sidled up to you without you knowing it? I think this would have been hilarious to see. I know I would have been jumping out of my skin. The angels were there to remind them of what Jesus had told them. My paraphrase, “Why are you staring gaped mouth? He’s coming back the same way he left. Close your mouth.” Does anyone else see humor in this? I think God did. I wonder if God said, “Hey, watch them jump out of their skin!” I know it’s odd to think about these things, but it helps me to see the people in the Bible as real and not just someone in a book.
Right before Jesus ascended his followers asked him when he would return again, when was he going to restore the kingdom of Israel. Jesus told them in verse 7, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Basically, it’s none of our business to know when the world as we know it will come to an end. We are to live each day as if it were our last operating in the Spirit and following his direction. We aren’t to be standing around, looking up at the sky, gaped-mouth waiting for him to return. We are to be about our Father’s business. So people…get busy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mayan Calendar -- The Sky Is Falling...

WOW! Tomorrow’s the BIG DAY! December 21, 2012! My daddy’s birthday! Happy Birthday, daddy! What? You think I was going to write the end of the world? In truth, I was browsing the internet on the whole world coming to an end on December 21, 2012, and it prompted my wondering mind to wonder.

                                  How would I live differently if I believed the world was coming to an end?
                                 How would I live believing the apocalypse was happening tomorrow?

                         Would I eat whatever I wanted not fearing the consequences of the calories or cholesterol?

 Would I go on a shopping binge and spend money I don’t have because let’s face it, I wouldn’t be here to foot the bill.

Would I search for long lost friends and loved one? Would I say whatever was on my mind to whoever crossed my path?

Really December 21, 2012, is the end of the Mayan calendar. A new era begins on December 21st. There will be parties of all sorts in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. People are asked to show up very early that morning wearing all white and carrying a white candle. Now, I have to tell you I’m not into the big crowds, but I would love to see that scene. Crowds of people standing in the dark wearing all white holding white candles…I wonder if there will be anything like that in heaven? The mass donned in white raising their voices in worship and praise holding their lit candles (although in heaven we won’t need candles, but I won’t belabor that point). Fields and mountains covered with people wearing white praising God. That’s where I would want to be if I were expecting the world to end. Raising my hands in worship, singing Hallelujah! And waiting in anticipation of his coming surrounded by my family and friends.

There are some days more than others that I’m so ready for it to happen. When I hear of kids being life flighted to hospitals, friends battling cancer and the awful effects of chemo, atrocities being committed on human beings by human beings…I just wonder when enough will be enough.

Truth is the Bible says in Matthew 24:36 that no one knows when the Lord will return, and Matthew 24:42 says we should always be watching for his return. Reminds me of the song title Live Like You Are Dying.

Does this mean I’m going to go buy an all white wardrobe? NOT. What it does mean is that we should live not expecting to be here tomorrow, but instead we live thinking we are entitled to tomorrow, to the next breath.

Seize today and every day as if it is your last. Mend fences while you can. Love on those who don’t deserve it and need it the most. Leave a legacy and a path that others will want to follow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's No Wonder Why We're Exhausted!

We as women have many titles: aunt, daughter, grandmother, niece, sister, employer, employee, caretaker, friend, leader, and mom. Under the title of mom is another list of titles – cook, laundress, referee, coach, teacher, cheerleader, account manager, personal shopper, chauffeur, nurse, and the list goes on and on.

As women, we have to deal with issues in our lives. Issues that we go to bed with at night and pick up in the morning. Issues that grow heavier and heavier as the day progresses. We deal with issues like cancer, infertility, abortion, infidelity, bankruptcy, foreclosure, pornography, abuse, neglect, addiction, over-eating, anorexia, bulimia, over spending, unemployment, neglect, health issues. Some of these issues we hide because of shame and embarrassment, and as long as we keep them hidden, Satan will continue to use them against us.

As women we have labels, issues and we have external sources that prevent us from finding a moment of rest. There’s the news, newspaper, radio, television, IPod, IPod, ITunes, DSI, Xbox, MP3. There are plenty of things that divert our attention.

Then if all these things aren’t enough, let’s through them into our daily routines: alarm goes off, wake up spouse and kids, fix breakfast, fix lunch, get ready for the day, throw supper in the crock pot, go to work, meetings at work, extracurricular activities for the kids, business functions, church meetings, school programs, gifts to buy and wrap, food to cook for the holidays, hair to color, nails to paint, and the list goes on and on.

Even when we sit down, we’re multi-tasking – folding clothes, listening for the buzzer in the kitchen, calling out spelling words to Erin, helping Pearce with his math facts.

Some days there just isn’t enough Calgon in the world to undo all the kinks and knots I have going on in my neck, back and shoulders.

A moment of rest?…Yes, I’d like to have a Moment of Rest with a side of Peace and Quiet, please.


Psalm 34:8, Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. When I think of refuge, I think of three words: Open, Welcome, Safe.

Open. In order to have refuge from a storm, you have to be able to get into a building. The building isn’t a refuge unless you can enter it. You aren’t adequately covered. In order for someone or something to be a refuge, they have to be open. Do you remember the commercial with Tom Bodet saying, “We’ll keep the lights on?” He was saying we are always open, and we are waiting on you. God is like that. Psalm 121:4 says, indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. You have insomnia? Great. What a perfect time to talk to God. He’s always open.

Welcome. Just because a place is open doesn’t mean that you are welcomed there. Every good southern woman knows that when you entertain or host, you have to have good food and plenty of it. They also know that you greet your guest at the door, show them in, introduce them to some other guest, and the direct them to the food. Southern hospitality – there’s nothing like it. God invites us in to taste and see. He invites us in. He welcomes us with open arms.

Safety. Psalm 121 talks about how God protects. Psalm 139 says he hems us in from the front and the back and has laid out our days before us. God didn’t make the sacrifice of his only Son’s perfect life just to destroy you now…not that we don’t deserve it. But Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to give you a hope and a future, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.”

It is in God, our safe refuge, that we can find peace and can find rest. You want to know the reason why we don’t have those things? We aren’t seeking God first. It’s our stubbornness, our pride, our shame that gets in the way of us finding peace. Satan will feed you every lie in the book to keep you from God. It’s time you kicked Satan to the curb in Jesus’ name, and then run to Jesus.

He can be your open, welcoming, safe refuge. You can have peace. You can have rest. The question is, Are you willing to lay down the labels, the titles, the issues, the eternal sources of distraction, and the agendas to pursue God first?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chocolate and Love Letters

When my son (who is fortunate to be 8) was about 3 years old, I opened the back door and let him go play outside. Outside waiting for him was his second momma, a dog named Kelly. She was a Shepherd-Chow-Heeler mix. Herding was her nature, and if the kids did anything out of line or that she didn’t like, she would bark at them until they stopped. This particular time I didn’t get to the backyard in time, so Pearce came inside. Around his beautiful, little mouth was a dark rim, and there was something dark on his shirt. I confess the first thing I thought of was, This boy has found my stash of chocolate! Putting my hands on my knees, I leaned down so I would be face-to-face with this precious child. Pearce, have you been eating chocolate? He grinned. No ma’am. I haven’t eaten any chocolate. It was about this time that I saw the darkness on his tongue and caught a whiff of his breath and knew he was telling me the truth. Remember, he had just come in from the backyard where the dog was. What have you been doing? I asked. Making snowballs. Pearce, it’s April. There’s no snow. He grinned again. I know! I used mud and pretended it was snow. About now I’m starting to freak out, but before I do, I’m able to ask, Pearce, did you like it? He said, No ma’am. I’m not going to eat that again. Thank you, Jesus, for small miracles.

Psalm 34:8 says, Taste and see that the Lord is good. By digging deeper in the Word of God, you see this is an invitation for you to try God, to explore who He is and what He does in the lives of those He loves. Unlike the mud that my son ate, you will find that God’s Word is good. It is his love letter to us. Love letters are becoming a lost art. Now that we have texting, Facebook, Facetime, and instant messages, the art of writing a love letter is being lost. I think of women in my Mammaw’s generation. My Pappaw was a cook in the Navy during WWII. Women with spouses and boyfriends fighting in the war would receive love letters. They would pour over these letters. Reread the letters. Cry over the letters and show them to their family and friends.

The Bible is God’s love letter to us. What are you doing with it? Are you pouring over it? Are you reading it over and over again? Are you crying over it? Are you sharing it with your friends and family? Starting in Genesis through Revelations, God shows us how much he loves us and what he has done to pursue us. He shows how he sacrificed for us. John 15:13 says, Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. That’s what God’s love letter says to you. That is what God has done for you.

His sacrifice meant stripping Jesus of the benefits of heaven, clothing him in flesh, exposing him in the vulnerability of a baby, dealing with humanity in its depravity and dying the most excruciating and humiliating death imaginable. He did all of that for me – his willful, ADHD daughter who would be in fist fights with boys in elementary, would forge a failed math test in middle school, and who would have multiple stupid human tricks in high school and college. He did that for me – his daughter who would struggle with submission and obedience. He created me even though he that I would cost him the life of His only Son. He knew you before you breathed your first breath and knows every day of your life, and yet, He created you anyway. Yes, Taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy is he who finds his refuge in the Lord. This is a love affair that will never end, and a love affair for which I am eternally grateful.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Confessions of a Chocoholic

I have a confession to make. While I may love my husband, I have had a love affair with chocolate since as far back as I can remember. Sometimes a girl just needs a mouth full of chocolate…my thought anyway. I believe chocolate to be one of those “good and perfect gifts” from God described in James.

At the end of a particularly arduous, stressful, anxiety-ridden day in which I didn’t have one nerve that wasn’t frazzled, I told my family I was going to go and soak in the hottest bubble bath I could stand. I explained the only reasons anyone may knock on the door, come through the door or talk to me through the door was if someone was gushing blood (I knew this wouldn’t be Patrick because he would be passed smooth out) or someone was on death’s door. I told them if someone dare approach the door or try to talk to me without blood or near death that I would be the one causing a gushing of blood and that someone would meet their Maker face-to-face that very night. With that understood, I headed to the master bath. That’s when it hit me. I took a detour through the kitchen, grabbed a platter out of the fridge and a fork and quickly escaped to the hot bath and lit candles that awaited me. I slipped into the tub and began to eat.

There are two women in my life that could make the best chocolate pies…the kind with real meringue (or as Grandmother Timmons called it “cat slobber”). You know the kind that has lightly browned curls on top. I’m salivating just thinking about it…seriously. Those women are my Grandmother Timmons and Patrick’s granny who would make that pie for me every time we went for a visit. Both of these wonderful ladies are now making chocolate pies for Jesus in heaven. At any rate, I’ve tasted all kind of chocolate pies to try to find one that can compare, and I had finally found one. It’s at Julianne’s. I had sneaked a half of a chocolate pie into the master bath with me. I'm not talking about a small personal pie. I'm talking a big 9" homemade chocolate pie with real meringue, and I began to eat. I ate, and I ate, and I ate. Girlfriend, let me just tell you I ATE THE WHOLE HALF PIE!  There wasn't a crumb left. I ate it all right there in the bathtub, candlelight, and fading bubbles.

I have never really been an emotional eater. As a matter of fact, I tend to do the opposite when I’m stressed, but sometimes chocolate just hits the spot.

For that evening, my refuge was a tub full of hot bubbles, candles and ½ of a chocolate pie. It’s not always practical or healthy to have this as a refuge, is it?

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy is the man who takes refuge in him.” If chocolate pie is good, then God must be off the chain! Taste and see is an invitation to explore and watch God’s handiwork. His Word and His actions go hand-in-hand. They do not contradict each other.

The more you seek after him, the more you dig into the Word, the sweeter the walk. Taste and see!