Every so often I pause in my day to reflect. Today, I am thinking of you. I know some of you check to see if I have posted new stories or to find information about me. So, I hope you read this little note.
First, think you for visiting this site and for reading my stories or columns. I noticed the last column I wrote and posted on Facebook titled, “Can a Sickness cause Healing?” was read by many and it keeps being shared. It is a story about what is happening today with the COVID-19 and where we can find solace and strength.
We will survive this time in our lives no matter what. Our faith must remain steadfast, and because we have faith, our fears will ease. And, when we return to our normal worlds, perhaps we will appreciate all the things we took for granted before. Perhaps we will complain less and love more.
I have often said that folks can come out of hardship in two ways. One, we can become resentful or angry or two, be humbled and thankful. Which will we choose?
May God be with you, keep you safe, and I will keep writing my little words of encouragement along the way. Write back if you want and remember, we are all brothers and sisters no matter where we are.
Most of us can be skeptical and doubtful at times. Sometimes mysterious events occur that we conclude are merely coincidences and see no divine connections. And, most of the time, we are wrong.
I often write about the power of God and the things He does do to show us He and his staff of angels are with us even in the small stuff of life. We can’t possibly understand the how’s and why’s of His plans, but sometimes we must lean not on our understanding, but His.
Near the end of 2017, I began to compile many of my columns into a book. Before I started this trek into the unknown, I consulted my friend, essayist Lee Walburn, who encouraged me to do so. He had written a similar book, and I was very impressed with the artist he used to illustrate the chapters. Her name, Michaele Flynn Prince, a former art teacher from Armuchee, Georgia.
Once the chapters were organized and titled, I met Michaele and her husband at a restaurant outside of Atlanta.
She decided to take on the project and used many of my ideas for each drawing. Some were more complicated than others. In the months that followed, I discovered the incredible talent and friendship of Michaele Prince.
When she would email a rendering, I often would cry because it was as if she put on paper a vision that only lived in my mind. She painstakingly and beautifully created authentic depictions of my written words.
However, one chapter, titled “Roots,” gave us fits! It held stories regarding our heritage and how it affects our lives. A drawing of a family tree began as an oak, but then we chopped it down. Nothing was entirely right.
Finally a Solution
Finally, after doing a bit of research, I discovered a tree silhouette. I liked the idea and quickly sent an example of one to Michaele. I told her the names to put in the roots and on the tree trunk, which were my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.
The tree also depicted life events on its branches, which I thought was a good idea.
“Are there any specific events you would like to portray in the tree?” Michaele asked.
“No, the names are the significant part, so the activities represented can be anything,” I replied.
Michaele knew nothing about my relatives, their lives, and little regarding me. We initially met over lemonade to discuss a book and laughed over her love of fishing, tennis, and pickleball.
“Lynn, I just finished a sketch of the silhouette heritage tree, and I am emailing it to you now.” She messaged me early one morning.
I opened my computer, and as I gazed at the screen, chills ran over me. Tears welled in my eyes, and I recognized there was a divine element involved that could never be mere coincidence.
The tree branch to the left of my parent’s names on the trunk was a silhouette of a couple dancing. My parents loved to dance, especially my father, who passed such love to me. A woman is pushing a man in a wheelchair as I did my cancer-stricken brother’s chair toward the end of his life. We shared many laughs regarding how he directed me to drive his wheelchair.
In the middle of the branches is a child fishing with a pole, which was my grandmother’s and my favorite activity. In the 1800s, my great, great Aunt Hennie delivered over 1000 babies in the Tennessee hills riding horseback to each new mother. And, a woman is riding a horse toward the top of the silhouette.
A ballerina regally poses in the center of the tree’s branches. Both my granddaughter and I pirouetted most of our childhood years away. A bike rider is racing down another limb, which few people knew I almost destroyed my face when I fell off my bike at age twelve, hit gravel face first because I raced down a hill.
A child is reaching toward an upper branch as I did when I would sneak into my great-grandmother’s backyard, climb up her cherry tree to stuff my cheeks with ripe goodness.
And, finally on the bottom right are two elderly folks seated at a rectangular dining table, which my grandparents did every day until my grandfather died in 1965.
Michaele knew none of those things when she randomly chose the scenes used in the silhouettes of the tree. However, there they were, the story of my heritage told in the branches of a mystical black and white tree.
Life is a series of finely tuned connections and clues reminding us we are never alone. Our families live on in a place where angels and souls soar amid mighty eternal oaks.
After writing weekly columns for over four years, I have a few thoughts about our society from the reader’s responses. I have written stories about death to abundant life, depression to fried, and every topic in between. However, when I write about my grandmother, or a pie that heals, or God’s goodness, my computer lights up.
People are in a desperate search for human kindness. They crave goodness, fellowship, compassion, and understanding. In other words, they are all looking for hope that our world will turn away from judgmental attitudes and hypocrisy. They pray that bullying will somehow magically disappear and that truth will always be triumphant.
My column several weeks ago, “The Healing Power of a Homemade Pie,” was inspired by the comic strip, “Stone Soup,” in my Sunday paper. Once the story was finished, I sent it to the cartoonist’s creator, Jan Eliot, who lives somewhere on the west coast. Never expecting to hear from her, it was only a short time later when I was surprised by her response.
“I read your column three times, and I so appreciate you taking my cartoon and honoring my work with yours.” Jan began.
How lovely and sweet, I thought, but her kindness didn’t end there. When the story gained a national audience, I heard from folks throughout the country.
From a comic strip to a column, to meeting authors, readers, and others, I concluded, human kindness is like a seed planted deep in the earth. If you water it, take a bit of time to clear the weeds, there is no telling how much beauty will rise from the soil and spread.
Every one of us has different opinions regarding every topic I could possibly opine on. Still, the subject we can all agree with, is that kindness is the key to living in harmony with one another. God called us to do so and lay down our swods of bias, mockery, and arrogance.
A PRESIDENT’S COMPASSION
Years ago, I was an Interior Designer based out of a large department store. A man was beginning his cross country campaign to gain support for his first Presidential race. On a sunny southern day, he was to speak to a crowd gathered in the parking lot from a lower roof of our store. I was aware of the event, but I had an important meeting with a client about the same time.
I gathered my things for the meeting but required several wallpaper books near the other end of the store from my office. As I walked to retrieve them, I was in such a rush, I didn’t notice the first of several Secret Service agents until on grabbed my arm.
“Ma’am, you cannot go any further because we have blocked this section off for safety.” I pleaded with the gentleman that I desperately needed the books for the most relevant meeting of my young career.
“It won’t take me, but a second – I promise. I will grab what I need and be out of your way before you know it!” I begged.
“Ok, but hurry!” He acquiesced.
My heart raced as I grabbed the books, came out of the aisle running and dropped them all when I abruptly stopped as not to run into or over Ronald Reagan.
The books fell at his feet, and the Secret Service swarmed. After realizing I was not shot, I repeatedly said, sporting a bright red face, “Sir, I am so sorry, I was in such a hurry!”
Governor Reagan began to laugh, leaned over, and started stacking the wallpaper books in my arms before the agents started helping. He assured me he was fine and joked about me slowing down.
Perhaps, real power is found in compassion and not in winning a race. Goodness is always seen with a helping hand and not a fist. Kindness is discovered by taking a moment to respond, and not in those who never answer.
God is the caretaker who tends our gardens, but we are the ones who should always supply the water. If each of us helps Him, maybe our fields will be ripe with fruits of kindness, empathy, and love.
So, perhaps the search for kindness and curing a lot of ills is in filling our water buckets.
“Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, and leave the rest to God.” President Ronald Reagan.
Five horses gathered at the fence behind the barn waiting for Miss Carter to bring them treats. She patted their noses, told them they were each special, and she would return with more love in the afternoon. Apple, the young colt, tilted his head as Carter whispered to him as only Miss Carter could do. Afterward, she returned to the barn to prepare tea and cookies for friends who were joining her for a picnic.
Miss Carter is three-yeas-old; the horses are seven inches high, and a popsicle stick fence surrounds the plastic barn. the barn is plastic. This idyllic scene rests on a child’s table in my living room. However, for Carter and me, our imagination allows us to travel far. We visit places where there is the freedom to ride, climb trees, and play in a hayloft.
I am called Grandma by this spirited, sweet child. We are not blood-related since she is my stepdaughter’s little girl but never mind all that. Family dynamics are way too complicated for a three-year-old. Love seems to cancel such trivial nonsense anyway.
Carter broke her femur (thigh bone) in a freak accident at her preschool several weeks ago. She looks exquisite in her pink and purple Spica cast, which begins just under breastbone, travels down her right leg to her ankle, and the left leg to her knee. A steel bar attaches from the right ankle to the left thigh, which separates her legs by about two feet.
She cannot walk, nor can she sit without assistance. Miss Carter sleeps only on her back because she cannot turn and does so without complaint. She requires constant supervision, and when she needs to move, you must lift her, including the heavy apparatus she is half-buried in.
I keep Carter three days a week since she cannot return to school until the cast is removed. I have learned to sit with her around her table in little chairs that rise one foot above the floor. As a result of the lifting and sitting, I take a substantial amount of Ibuprofen for my back on a weekly basis.
When we are not at the barn, we go to Barbie’s house and visit the girls, or we shop at the grocery store where the head cashier, Miss Carter, runs the Minnie Mouse cash register. We unload our groceries in the kid’s kitchen and prepare cookies containing pretend ingredients of vegetable soup and cherries. We solve puzzles, and without cheating, I cannot win a game of Candy Land to save my life.
Carter, in her infinite wisdom, has taught me a lot about life during these last few weeks. I realize if I were in her situation, the claustrophobia would have set in, and my wailing would have spooked all the horses to flee to greener pastures! I would certainly require more than a dose of Ibuprofen to get through the days. And, not even Godzilla could lift me since I would have drowned my sorrow with real cookies made with chocolate chips.
Children are amazing. They accept what befalls them and roll with the punches. Children use their imagination to escape to bliss and enjoy the love showered upon them as they go. They choose not to complain but instead hold their dolls or bears and if need be, watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks” to ease their burdens. Little ones don’t worry too much about tomorrow because they assume it will eventually arrive, bringing a new horse to the barn or more folks to the tea party.
Adults could learn a tractor full of insight by observing God working through a child’s mind and soul. I understand that since we live on this earth, bad things do happen to even the smallest humans. However, when it does, because they are innocent, God calms their soul and must whisper to them just like Carter does to her little colt, Apple, to assure him all is well.
When tragedy visits us, perhaps we should remember, like Carter, that when we fall, courage will help us to stand again. Miss Carter also understands that attitude makes a huge difference in how we heal. We can choose to laugh at Alvin and his chipmunks or cry and complain over our misfortune. We can decide to pray to God or blame Him for our troubles.
Children trust us to make things okay. They believe our words of comfort, “It’s going to be alright.” Are we not God’s children? If we believe in His words, everything will be okay even on the day when the horses arrive with chariots to take us home. Until then, enjoy the green pastures, let your imaginations fly, and appreciate the love bestowed upon you as you go.
I was rummaging through an old file in my office labeled, “Reflections,” and found a poem among the papers. I noticed the date, March 1988, was written on the bottom left corner of the page.
Please, let me go
Let me vanish into a place
Where my spirit will flow
Far away, into a never-ending tomorrow
I have had enough of trying to try
Laughing when I hurt
Giving and Giving
Just more work.
Please, let me die
For I am but a burden
To those who have listened
Only to cry.
I’m only getting worse
May I go?
My life’s a curse.
I know you will forgive me
If I interrupt you plan
And let me go by my own hand
I fought the fight Now I’m tired
Let me retire
Into your soft night.
Oh, my plans!
You always win
Finding a way to
Give me hope again.
You saved me; heaven knows why
To find purpose, rhyme.
You carried me when I couldn’t
Thank you, God,
For loving me
Even when I didn’t.
When I read what I wrote in 1988, years slipped away, and I recalled the feeling of being on the inside of clinical depression and darkness. I realized most people only view suicide from the outside looking into those lives who see only blackness. The voyeur cannot begin to understand what sorrow lies in the heart of those who take their own lives. Most people cannot understand those who live in a world where sadness is so profound and feel happiness only belongs to others.
When suicide seemed to be the only way to find rest for myself, I believed the world would be a far better place without me. My depressed mind thought my family would be free from my tears and their worry about me, gone. I felt I bothered the world, bothered my family, and I was a bother to myself. I hated being me.
My world was depression, and when God showed me a glimmer of hope, I took it. I worked hard to walk away from the cliff beckoning me to jump, and instead, climbed up the mountain to find life, not death.
I am one of the ones who survived the tomb of the lost. Its darkness does not discriminate between the young or old, rich or poor. Clinical depression isn’t the only reason on can enter the tomb. Situational depression from a tragic loss, physical illness, financial distress, failure, addictions, mental illness, bullying, pressure, resentment, and a myriad of other reasons can place you among the lost.
When we lose a famous person to suicide, we don’t quite understand why, when they seemed to live the dream, they would choose death. The truth is they weren’t living a dream; they were lost in a nightmare.
Since cases of suicide and mental illness are on the rise, it is way past the time for us to reveal who we are. It is time to share, to care about each other and be brave enough to talk about our struggles to the others understand they are not alone.
Plus, this idea that mental illness is a sign of failure is archaic. Everyone needs to trash judgmental thinking because too many are suffering and dying, including our children. Let’s love one another and show compassion. Let’s stop the whispering and start listening.
If I could be in the same room as the person who is ready to fall off the cliff from life to death, I would grab them by the arm and tell them the story of me.
“There were times in my life when I needed to fight to keep from jumping off the cliff just like you. Times when loneliness and fatigue multiplied my depression. Times when I worried about money, weariness from jobs, and when sadness followed me around like a shadow. The good news is that I am standing with you now to you away from the edge.
If you fall, you will miss seeing what is awaiting you tomorrow. I found help, I talked, I shared, I prayed, and because I did, I was able to see my children grow into beautiful adults. I saw a precious granddaughter join the world. I fell in love, I continued giving my career all I could, and when it was over, I began my dream of writing. The bullies will move away, and loss will ease with time. So, don’t die, let me take you to see the light of tomorrow.
Tomorrow will turn into weeks and with work, weeks will turn into the future and one that will feel sad if you are not there.
Every single person on the planet is vital and has a reason not to give up. God showed me purpose, gave me a voice and the courage to live long after 1988.
The year was 1961, and my parents were building their dream home in Tennessee. Mother and I had driven to the new house to meet a contractor on an unusually warm August Saturday morning. I would have preferred to stay home but decided at the last minute to tag along.
Upon arrival, saws were buzzing, and hammers were pounding nails into rafters as Mom, and the contractor tried to converse over the racket. I began to stroll to the vacant lot next to ours where a large oak tree on the far side beckoned me to come join her shade and quiet.
“Where are you going?” The voice startling me to quickly turn around, exhibiting a bit of fear.
“I’m sorry,” the voice continued, “I didn’t mean to make you jump!”
I met the gaze of a young man about my age just as the sun caught the sprinkling of gold dust in his dark hazel eyes. His eyelashes curled up to his eyebrows, and his perfect teeth gleamed as he flashed a broad smile. He was stunning.
After introductions, we ran and played in the vacant lot until we tired and sat under the branches of the oak tree to talk. Henry was thirteen, and the son of the nice gentleman Mom was still meeting with.
After a while, we began to head back to the partially built house. Henry was a few steps behind me when he yelled, “Don’t move, Lynn!” I stopped dead still as he cautioned me to walk around the large coiled snake lying peacefully in the tall grass in front of me. Henry was able to calm me and keep my normal hysteria at bay over such creepy creatures.
When we reached my mother, I told her about the snake, introduced her to my new friend, and the three of us walked toward the car.
We waved goodbye, and as we did, tears welled in my eyes because I instinctively knew I would never see Henry again.
“Why are you upset?” Mama asked.
Once I explained the reason, she understood and said, “It is sad, but you are right, you probably will not see your new friend again.”
Mother was right, I indeed, never did. Sixty years have passed and, yet, I still recall the beautiful boy who saved me from the snake and talked with me under the oak tree.
I was born and bred in the segregated South, yet, I never understood any form of racism. As a child, I remember wondering why folks judged people by the way they looked, the way they talked, or the color of their skin. I felt it was anti-God to do so and still do today.
Mama must have thought the same because I never heard her say a disparaging word about anyone. Usually, she was a woman of few words, but I recall her declaring, “What’s race got to do with anything? Whether a person is bad or good doesn’t have a thing to do with the color of their skin!”
Because this fine woman was my mother, she did not teach hate or bias with words or actions. How grateful I am for her intelligence.
IS GOD TESTING US?
Do we really believe God judges us by the way we look? Doesn’t He, instead, judge us by the actions of our souls? What if God created humans of different ethnicities, cultures, and colors to see if we could see with our hearts instead of our eyes? What if He is giving us a big ole’ test?
I know a lot of people who will likely need to go to summer school or face expulsion if that is the case. And, I don’t mean just some white folks. There are people of all ethnicities who pass blame, resentment, and meanness on down the line to the next generation.
Do they not understand they are hurting themselves, our county, and God?
We ponder why there is so much hatred, anti-everything in America today. White Supremacist groups, terrorist groups, anti-Semitic groups, anti-Hispanic groups, anti-Caucasian groups are swelling. Organizations where violence accompanies them wherever they roam, and hatred blossoms.
Americans have come along way for equality since 1961, but there are still snakes lurking in the grass waiting to cause harm. They are ready to upend strides forward, and ready to strike at common sense and decency.
To save us from their evil, many the beauty in ALL people sound the warning.
Comic strips often entertain us with not only a funny moment but occasionally the cartoonist will introduce a bit of insight within their colorful panels. Such was the case when Jan Eliot provided such wisdom in her comic strip called, “Stone Soup.”
One of the characters is Alix, a nine-year-old precocious girl who is sitting at the kitchen table watching her Grandmother rolling the dough for a homemade pie.
Alix asks, “Gramma, why do you like to make pies so much?”
Her Gramma explains that when she was a young mother, they did not have much money, but she and her husband had an orchard abundant with pears, apples, and peaches. So, when they could afford only rice and beans for dinner, what lifted the spirits of her family, was a delicious homemade pie for dessert.
After hearing her Gramma’s explanation, Alix replies, “In other words… before Prozac, there was pie.”
Gramma ends the story with this statement, “That’s what’s wrong with everyone! Not enough pie!!”
Growing up, I recall my Grandmother making pies to deliver to folks who were physically ailing or mentally going through a difficult time. She regularly baked my brother his favorite chocolate pie and would always make a blackberry cobbler for my mother when the berries were in season. I don’t think I ever visited her when she didn’t bake a pie out of love or compassion for someone.
I remember one summer day, my grandmother’s friend, Mrs. Harris, was ill. First thing on a Saturday morning, we visited Mrs. Harris bearing an apple pie full of concern and affection. Before we left, Mrs. Harris was giggling with her friend before hugging me goodbye.
The tradition of pie giving was passed down from those ancestors who resided in the Southern hills to hearts who needed a pie’s restorative power. Aunts, mothers. grandmothers, a few uncles, and even some grandpas inherited the gift of producing a mouthful of joy. My Granddaddy couldn’t make a pie, but he sure could mend a mortal soul with his homemade peanut brittle.
My mom could roll out the best pie crust on the planet. Plus, she had the artistic talent to create the perfect lattice top over her delicious fruit pies. She would serve them warm with a dollop of ice cream. Mom could dry tears and melt hearts with her delicious creations. I once dubbed her the “Queen of Pies,” and to this day, I believe she undoubtedly was.
Friends and family frequently question me, “Lynn, why do you insist on baking homemade desserts? You can go to Publix and get a great pie or cake and not have to go through the trouble!”
My answer is the same, “It’s not the same!”
Generosity, compassion, and joy are only found in the work you go through to create them. Not everyone knows how to bake a pie, but they sure know how to gather flowers, write a sweet note, or hold a hand. When we use extra energy to lift another’s spirit, whether it is through baking a pie or going for a visit, we deliver healing. When we go to the trouble to love, we give hate trouble.
Our world is a busy place where texting emoji hearts, sad or smiling faces, makes it simple to share our emotions. We are “convenient” happy. Whatever makes our lives easier is becoming the norm. However, our days will become more comfortable only when our society becomes a less hateful place.
A peaceful world can exist only through loving each other enough to create a pie made of sincere compassion, prayer, and understanding. Comforting another is not about easy, it is about sacrifice and empathy. There is no emoji in the technological world that shows the recipe for genuine kindness.
“Before Prozac, there was pie,” Alix declared. I suffer from clinical depression, and I understand needing medications for this illness. However, if my family and friends had been too busy to hug me, pray with me, or cook my kids’ dinner through some of those wicked dark hours, would I have made it? When those compassionate souls took the time to physically aid me, they helped me see a sunny day was on the horizon.
“That’s what’s wrong with everyone! Not enough pie!” Gramma happily tells her grandchildren as she holds her beautiful baked pie above her head. What if we brought a homemade pie of kindness to the table of hate and calmed anger with a dose of warmed goodness?
Then our Grandchildren would learn just like I did from my Grandmother; when we take the time to create love, we might just witness healing our hurts one pie at a time.
How do you
love a child? How do you become the memory that makes someone smile
forever? Does your life exemplify your
ethical beliefs and encourage children to follow you?
There is no
better honor than to answer the above questions with a, “Yes.” The greatest gift we have as adults is children. It doesn’t matter if we are a parent,
grandparent, aunt, uncle, or a friend of a child. To love a child and have the
love returned is the blessing that is beyond all the riches in the world.
three and watching his favorite grandmother make biscuits. He watched as the flour hit the dough board
and dusted the air. She was talking to
him the whole time and laughed as the white powder settled on his eyelashes.
been having a lot of trouble with the name “Grandma.” Since he was born with six grandmothers, he
would get them confused easily. Two
great, great-grandmothers, two great-grandmothers, and two grandmothers all
living in the same town! He was the
first grandchild. It was asking too much
to remember them all. Out of all those grandmothers he only had one living
while standing beside his grandmother in her kitchen, he came up with a
brown eyes opened wide as he tugged his grandmother’s apron, “You gonna be
“John, I am Grandma, and he is your
Granddaddy.”, she replied as she pointed to her husband.
and he Granddaddy!” he emphatically stated again. Then he walked away.
moment on, nine grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren would forever call her
would also be representative of unconditional love. A love that allowed her to be called whatever
these children wanted to call her.
have crossed my path in life, but without question, I have never known anyone
quite like her.
just say, “I love you,” she showed it in countless ways.
nothing she loved more than children.
For those of us who were in her life, we all knew that to be fact. When she played or talked with us, she became
She even let
us play with the wrinkles on her hand, and make fun of her false teeth until
she got new ones. She laughed at herself
and was never embarrassed by any of us.
I can recall
many of my cousins and me being in her small home at one time. She would play games with us all day, fish
with us, tell us stories, and stay up way past her bedtime.
before she went to her room to join my sleeping grandfather, she would sit at
the end of the hall and read her Bible.
That is how
she made us understand the concept of priorities.
played games, she would never let any of us undeservedly win. By doing so, she
taught us to have the grace to lose and understand the word fairness.
stayed with Grandpa many times in our lives.
She would make sure she had everyone’s favorite food in the house. She would cook until her old apron was soiled
and dark. She taught us that in
someone’s eyes we were each special.
bloomed in July with white gladiolas that reached up to the sun. She always wanted white because they were pure
and heavenly. She taught us that out of
dirt, toil, and care comes beauty.
It is hard
for me to write all that she was and did in her 97 years on earth. I could fill the whole book with words and
stories about this remarkable, kind human being.
laughter continues to fill my heart today.
Her hands calm my soul while her spirit still wraps me in unconditional
love and comfort.
We bring children into our world hoping they will be perfect and amazing. I think instead we need to be as close as we
can to amazing and perfect for them. To make a child feel loved unconditionally,
feel special, feel like we would rather be with them than anything else, is
honoring the gift that God gave us in the first place.
Years ago, I
could not decide what to give Grandpa for Christmas. She had a history of gifts going in her hope
chest to save for a rainy day.
I decided to
write a column about her and send it to her county paper in Tennessee. The newspaper printed the story using an
entire page. The title in bold lettering was, “MERRY CHRISTMAS GRANDPA!”
The name my
brother gave her all those years ago was now a bold headline, and that was as
it should be.
For a child
to grow up making us a headline in their heart, a love that will never die long
after we are gone, is the best blessing we will give them and ourselves.
children will arise up and call her blessed,” were the words on a cross-stitched
sampler hanging above Grandpa’s bed when she left this earth. No truer words were ever written.