“Here Comes Santa Claus!”

When I was small, I loved watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television.  I squirmed with anticipation as the bands and floats passed by, hoping the next float would hold Santa waving to crowds atop his sleigh.  When I finally saw his face, I knew Christmas was finally here! 

“Lynn, calm down!” Mom would shout from the kitchen.  I have never been calm about anything, but certainly never calm about Christmas.  That would be sinful anyway.

This year, there is something brewing in the air.  I know COVID is raising its ugly head again, but that’s not it.  I see whatever it is in people’s eyes, in their speech, and in their smiles.  The holidays are welcomed this year with more enthusiasm and gratefulness than I have witnessed in a while.  I feel it in my heart, and boy, am I happy about that.

No way, no how, not happening

Now, y’all know I love people.  But a few out there can sure put a damper on one’s spirit if we let them.  All those naysayers, troublemakers, and hot-headed opinionated, self-righteous folks make us often believe that all humans have moved to the shady side.  They may cause us to want to give up, toss in the towel, and go hide in the closet until the Lord comes and takes us away.  But that’s not what we are supposed to do, right?

Hopelessness is just a downright killer of the Christmas spirit. When we lose our enthusiasm and zest for living, we miss the opportunity to experience life to the fullest.  And, by gosh,  not COVID nor politics, nor conspiracies, are going to dampen my Christmas cheer.  Not happening.  No way, no how, and they are not going to put a damper on yours either.

So, I need all of you to put on your happy face, top your head with a Santa hat, your car with reindeer antlers and let the world see your Christmas joy.  Unless you are one of those “shady” characters, you have no excuse.

God’s love is the meaning

Indeed, Christmas is not really about Santa or our wish lists; it is about the enormity of God’s love.   He gave us His only son to bring us hope.  God hasn’t abandoned us or hid in a closet; He desires us to believe that we can overcome our dark days and smile again as we did as children.  We must never give up on ourselves, our country, or our fellow human beings.  If we do, we hurt not only ourselves but our Maker.  

Yes, those Scrooge-like folks have no business messing with our Christmas.  So, disregard them and, instead, see the joyful faces that surround you. Notice goodness and turn away from ugliness.  Listen to those who encourage and ignore those who speak of despair. We are not finished; we aren’t going to be defeated without trying to be better.  It is what we are supposed to do, right? 

My grandmother, aka Grandpa, likened life to a garden.  “Shoot, if you want pretty flowers and a good watermelon or green beans, you constantly must pull the weeds growing in the garden.  Everything that reaps beauty and food for the soul requires tending for it to grow.”

Well, a big “AMEN” to that!   So, let’s pull the weeds of scorn, skepticism, and hopelessness.  Let’s toil in our spiritual gardens and let kindness take root.  It is the only way to grow a beautiful life. 

Beaming is better

Yes, there is something in the air.  Optimism is contagious, so spread it.  Don’t just smile, BEAM!  Beaming is better.  Don’t calm down; jump up and down with delight so that all people can see the best of who we are.  Enjoy living, be grateful that you are here, and pull those pesky weeds that sabotage your happiness.

If we want our holidays to shine, we need to polish our hearts.  If we’re going to feel the enormity of God’s grace, we must fall on our knees and hand him our pain.  It’s not that hard to do; it just requires tending to our souls.

Now that I am grown, I know and understand that I knew Christmas was actually here when I finally saw God’s face.

“May the Lord bless and keep you; may his face shine upon you and bring your peace.”   Have a beautiful, happy, Holiday season.

Thankful for an Angel’s Comfort

How many stories can one write about the Thanksgiving holiday?  We all know we need to be thankful for what we have and share our blessings with others who have little.  Whether we follow through on what we know to be true is up to each of us.  Because most of us, if we are being honest, are not always full of gratitude and charity.   Being human is complicated and fraught with transgressions and selfish behavior. 

An abundance of grief and loss has spilled over the earth these last two years.  Our society has endured so much.  Some have not felt the sting of death or disease as others have, but the loss of normalcy in our lives is still sad and frustrating for nearly everyone.   

As the holiday season approaches with a lingering feeling of uncertainty still looming, let us seek our comfort.  Perhaps we should pause and not only be thankful for what we have but also be appreciative of what we had.

Returning home

Recently I returned to the place in the Tennessee mountains where I was born.  Saturday was spent promoting my new book at a book signing in the old train depot that is now a history museum.   Seeing friends, relatives, and talking about past times is comforting and easy for me, and I relish those who knew my family from long ago. 

However, on Sunday, I woke with a feeling of sadness and melancholy.  I deduced my fatigue was to blame.  When the morning coffee didn’t seem to perk me out of my malaise, I decided to go for a drive.  I went to the cemetery where my family eternally rest and walked among the tombstones as I approached my parent’s graves.

My mother and father’s headstone has a small ledge large enough to hold a plant on each side.  I sat on the one nearest my mother and rested my back against the marble.   I looked around at the names that reminded me of happy holiday times filled with kinfolks and storytelling.  

The sun beamed brightly in a cloudless blue sky.  It warmed my face as I gazed upward to heaven and also stung my eyes wet with tears.  Looking at all those who I had lost began to cast me further into unhappiness.

In my Mother’s arms

I tried to pray, but the silence was only interrupted by a rooster’s crow and the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze.   Then, as if there was magic in the mountain air, I suddenly felt my mother’s comfort.    Her arms encircled me as if I were a child who had scraped my knee, and she kissed the pain away.   The tears began to dry, and as I looked around at the graves of many family members, I no longer felt loss but rather a sense of joy that these folks once lived as part of my world.

How blessed am I for what I had? How fortunate I was to have parents who embraced and protected me.   I am grateful for the grandmother and grandfather who taught me so much and showered us all with unadulterated love.   I was blessed with a wonderful brother, defender, and partner in shenanigans who now waits for me in heaven.

A bit later, I waved goodbye to all those whose voices I only hear in my heart.  Pep was back in my step as I walked toward the car, and I realized my mother’s comfort returned my joy.   And my gratitude for such an experience was overwhelming. 

Appreciation for angels

We can be thankful for all the blessings we have today, but also be grateful for all the people who have walked with us, loved us, held our hands, and shared our world.   Become joyful that God blessed you with each and every one. 

Yes, we have mourned the loss of normalcy, the loss of friends and family, and suffered the slings and arrows of selfish behavior.  We have endured illness, violence, and hardships, but we can rise above it all by just appreciating the folks who share our life journey and those who shaped our lives.

This Thanksgiving, as you gather around your tables, look at the faces you can still see and be grateful.  Be thankful for the teenager who is being a teen.  Comfort the toddler who screams through dinner, and the grandpa who can’t hear the scream.   Be grateful for the spouse who kept you up snoring and the child who keeps you in worry.  And, above all else, appreciate the God who placed them at your table.

Fill your plates with happiness and Thanksgiving and take a moment to feel the arms of angels as they bring you peace.

“Welcome Home, Mighty Warrior”

Sometimes in life, we must go backward to move forward.  We may need to repair a bridge before we cross it, or perhaps, ask for forgiveness before we seek blessings.

History tries to teach us not to repeat errors.  America has a long-standing record of fighting for freedom and for the oppressed throughout the world.  Our ancestors suffered or died in battles to protect our democracy and served us all with heroic acts and unselfish devotion. 

America has given much, applauded many, and saved countless, but we have also created a few potholes in our roads that caused damage and pain.

This country made an error in the 1970s when our Vietnam Veterans returned home. It was a tragic mistake when we held no parades, heard no applause, and saw few “Welcome Home” signs for those who had served America in a long, brutal war. 

We sent well over 2 million men and women to battle and over 52,000 soldiers to graves.  Afterward, we shuffled the war and those returning soldiers into silence.  We were in a hurry just to “get over” this blip in our history.

It is past time to repair this pothole.

A humbling experience

After I wrote a column, “Salute the Vietnam Warrior,” last Memorial Day, I began receiving many responses from thankful Vets. They simply appreciated my few words recognizing their valiant service. Soon, I was invited and honored to speak to several Vietnam Veterans’ organizations near me.

  The first evening I stood before a group, I was moved to tears. When one gazes into the eyes of those who walk with canes due to old war wounds or still grieve over the loss of close comrades, the experience changes you. 

In the corner of an American Legion Hall, a white linen-covered table with a place setting for one adorned with a single red rose dominated the space and jarred my soul.   The empty chair patiently waits for the missing soldier from long ago to join the others for dinner.    

I was humbled when I noticed a veteran’s tear fall because I had simply saluted their service with mere words.  It was then when I realized that we must repair a hurt, mend a heart, and build better bridges.

Past due gratitude

These military men and women applauded me for a three-minute story, plus a 30-minute speech. However, they had given years telling countless stories of heroism, sacrifice, loss, imprisonment, abandonment, and grief.  It is I who should be praising these warriors who marched en-masse to Southeast Asia to fight in a thankless, unmerciful, foreign war.

There are over 600,000 living Vietnam Veterans scattered over our country and beyond today.   The names of those who never returned home are carved on a wall in Washington. Yet, few of us will see or begin to understand the depth of pain it represents. 

All veterans, including those who returned from other battles, need to be welcomed home. Also,not only by their families but by every person who calls themselves American.  I wish it were not too late to produce a Ticker Tape parade celebrating our returning military men and women. But since that cannot happen, perhaps we could honor them another way.   

We should give from our hearts to the many organizations that help our veterans to show our appreciation.    It is not too late to mend the broken spirit of the soldier we too often take for granted.  It is never too late to reward our heroes with resounding applause, open arms, and gratitude. 

A warriors love of country

We will be changed if we look into the pages of history to understand that the love a warrior has for his country is the backbone of our nation.  The sacrifice that soldiers gave so that we remain free should be honorably held in the highest regard, whether a war was popular or not, whether you agreed with the battle or not, and no matter how long ago it was.  No veteran should ever feel alone or forgotten.

We can spar over politics, over our rights, over policy, and over our dinner tables, but we must all agree that we never forsake the most courageous among us. 

Let’s welcome home all veterans with our humble hearts, countless gifts of gratitude, and buckets of pride.  Let’s fill our potholes with care and concern so those who march across the bridges to war will always do so, knowing that we will honor their courage all the rest of their days.   

Here are two out of many you may wish to donate to on this Veterans Day 2021:

Vietnam Veterans of America or your local chapter

Tunnels for Towers Foundation

A Brave Adventurer’s Final Journey

After a seven-year battle with cancer, Tom passed away.  But then, I am still not sure who won.  In all my years living on this earth, the fortitude and power Tom exhibited during his battle were akin to Alexander of the Great family.

At the beginning of his cancer war, the future looked bleak for Tom.  He was sick and fearful of what the next day would bring.  I am not sure when or what month or even what day, but somewhere along the battle lines, Tom decided he would live fiercely until he couldn’t.

Always the adventurer, he began packing his bags.  He and his wife, Geri, sped off when the cancer was slowed by chemo, new medicines, and Tom’s ferocious will.  They sailed across oceans, flew high in the sky, and drove across the land, distancing themselves from disease.  Tom’s desire to see the world and enjoy the folks who inhabit it curtailed cancer’s death wish.

One last dream trip was planned with a buddy to go to Antarctica, but it wasn’t the big ‘C’ that canceled that trip, but rather the other nasty ‘C,’ COVID.

The greatest adventure

Because of the virus, the travels and explorations ended for a while.  However, once those vaccines hit Tom’s arms, the brochures, plans, and explorations were back on the table.  Cancer would need to return to the cargo hold.

Finally, Tom’s adventurous voyage to the South Pole was rebooked, and he could finally see the ship on the horizon in his soul.  But about the same time, cancer was weakening his body, and the doctor finally broke the news, “Tom, there isn’t much time left.”  Saddened, Tom thought about his family, friends, and the last trip he would miss.  He wasn’t ready to leave.  The oncologist, seeing the sadness sweep across his patient’s face, declared, “Tom, you are going on the greatest adventure of your life.  You will finally see the face of God, and He will show you the world!”

Tom flew away three days later.  He was in a hurry to go.

For some, reading this, this is a sad tale of sickness and death.  But when I think about those who savor living until life ends, I am in awe of the courage they exemplified during the battle.  They give purpose to their days and show the meaning of motivation to the rest of us who are eating twinkies while staring at the TV.

Never waste time

Whether a soldier is battling an enemy in war or a warrior facing a disease, the endurance and strength it demands to stand tall is astounding.  These are the folks who can teach us all how to march on and live a good meaningful life.

How many of us waste precious moments with self-indulgence and trivialities? How many of us fight over stupid stuff, acting irresponsibly and selfishly?  While Tom was facing death with grace and honor, there were idiots on planes punching flight attendants or politicians somewhere acting like idiots.  Folks were fighting over a vaccine to prevent illness, while others like Tom were rejoicing to receive an injection so they could continue to live. 

We all make mistakes, sin, and occasionally act foolishly while we are here.  And, for many, we try to correct or atone for those errors during the hours we breathe if we are insightful enough to do so.

The final trip

For me, I envision my final trip because I see God now.  I suppose when I leave here, I will travel down a long hall.  Framed pictures hang on the walls depicting my life on earth.  I will view joyful paintings of my time with family and friends. However, I will also see dark scenes depicting the sins and hurt I created.  They will cause me sorrow as I relive my journey walking down the corridor.  However, at the end of the hallway, there is a light waiting for me, and as I move closer, I recognize the face of God.  He takes my hand and dries my tears from the sadness of my life.  And when I touch Him, I look back toward the hall, but it has vanished.  It is then God smiles, and I understand.

We are born with a duty to live our lives until we are done. Our days here will leave inspiration for others or not.  When we walk down the passageway to meet our maker, what scenes will be depicted in the highlighted paintings of our time? 

So, adventurous Tom took his final journey. I believe when the brave explorer reached the end of the hallway, the Lord said, “Welcome, my friend! I am flying you to Antarctica where we will toast the setting sun for an inspirational life well done.” 

 For Tom Harkins, 1949-2021

Makes Perfect Sense, Right?

Well, folks, my ears are beginning to hear jingle bells, my nose detects a scent of turkey roasting in the oven, and my eyes are spying Christmas ads.  Isn’t it still July?  COVID has destroyed my mental calendar.  I would say it is age, but nowadays, I blame all things on the virus.  The pandemic certainly has provided us an excuse to blame our oft-errant behavior on a spikey menace we can’t even see.  Makes perfect sense, right?

Yes, the holidays are just a few weeks away.  The last time we saw Thanksgiving Thursday on the calendar was a day when death loomed around every corner and controversy swirled through our nation.   Family gatherings were either small or not at all.   Food was scarce for many, while heartache was plentiful.  Businesses were shuttered, people were fearful, and the holidays as we once knew them seemed unattainable.

Never forget last year

 I pray we never forget the holidays of 2020.  May we never see such rage, hopelessness, and folks assigning blame again.  By now, we should all acknowledge that to enjoy our lives and celebrations, we must shelf our anger.  The one sure way not to be grateful is to be hateful.

You know how we all get those controversial emails from friends who adamantly profess one concept or another and try to convince us to do the same?  Well, I don’t open them anymore.  They just seem needless, tiring, and passe.  Do we need to fuel more rancor and divisiveness?  Haven’t we endured enough sadness, sickness, and bitterness?  I would rather watch a turkey thawing than reading another hate-filled, conspiracy ladened email.  If we don’t read such madness, then maybe we won’t be so mad.

My son has a ticket to fly home for Christmas.  I have seen him only once in two years.  I am just grateful that he is still here to see.  Many families will never lay eyes on their loved ones again.  Some people fight over vaccines, masks, and other so-called “rights,” but there is nothing right about a loved one who died from COVID.  There is nothing right about those whose holidays will never be the same again. 

Make some lemonade

If our celebrations are to be filled with joy, then we must produce it.  We are the ones responsible for spreading optimism, respect, and love.  We can no longer blame others or a spikey menace for our misery.  We absolutely can make lemonade out of lemons, and we can please God when we do. 

Could it be that this is the Christmas we need to give the gift of our hearts? Don’t worry about a present you ordered being stuck on a barge in the ocean.  Instead, wrap up kindness and give it to those who need its power.  Why not put a bow on compassion and gift it to the child who has lost a parent?  Let’s quiet our ugly rhetoric and instead sing a hymn of Thanksgiving. 

If our desire is to heal our nation and enjoy our holiday season, it begins in our living rooms.  It starts in prayer, in giving, and in celebrating God.  If we wish for our children to learn the true meaning of Thanksgiving or Christmas, then we must put aside our own personal agendas and reveal  God’s agenda by our actions.

There is much to do to kill all the effects of COVID for good.  Our anger will not destroy it, nor will our divide.  Nor will untruths, nor folks who profit off conspiracy and controversy.  Our personal self-interest and our self-serving beliefs will not ease our future calendars of suffering but will keep us stuck in time.

Time to move on

Let’s move on to a healthier, wiser, less painful tomorrow.  We can help each other if we just believe we can.  We can lessen the agony the last two years created, and heal the wounds caused by distrust and disagreements.  May we, instead, remember those who have suffered so much because of them.

My mother always said, “If you spread pain, you will die in pain.  If you spread hatred, in the end, you will be hated.” 

There was a man who, gratefully, lived on earth for a while.  He spread healing and saved folks from the sting of death.  He radiated love and thus has been loved for over 2020 years.  We celebrate His birth every December and mourn His death every Spring.  He still teaches that love, kindness, and understanding are not just words but acts that must be initiated to save us all.

Do you want to hear the bells jingle, smell the turkey roasting, and your eyes witness delight this year?  Quit the blame game, the bad behavior, follow God’s words and add sweetness to lemons and water.   Makes perfect sense, right?

Just Don’t Close Your Eyes!

A funny thing happened on the way to writing stories, columns, and books…. I saw God winking.   Author Squire Rushnell explains, “A God Wink is described as a personal signal or message, directly from a higher power, usually, but not always, in the form of a coincidence.”

The trick to noticing God winking is to not close your eyes! I mean, how can you see a wink if you aren’t looking, right?

I have mentioned this God Wink briefly in a story long ago, but it bears repeating.

When my friend Ricki was about to turn a significant age, we surprised her with an all-girlfriends party at my home.  It was a rowdy crowd full of fun and playfulness celebrating a girl who is quite full of her own feistiness.  Ricki always believes in creating bucket lists.  If she has a goal, she writes it down, throws it in a bucket, and achieves it.

We played a game that evening where every guest was instructed to write down a personal goal but not sign their name.  Then when each was read aloud, the cheerful girls needed to guess who wrote it.  Some were funny, some were serious, and as I began to read each one, I realized I had not put my own bucket list item in the bucket! Yikes!

Oops!

I quickly got a notepad and started to write, “I would like to travel across the country once more.”  But suddenly, as if someone else took my hand, I wrote, “Write for newspapers and stay alive!”

I immediately thought as I read it to the group, “Why in the world did I pen such words?” 

That was July 13, 2015.  My first column was published three months later. 

I knew I would like to write one day many years ago but never thought it would be for newspapers, so God wrote it down for me.   Ricki saved the note, framed it, and gave it to me as a gift five years later.  

God winks at us all the time.  Often, I will write a column and wonder, “Now, what inspired that idea for a story?” Or, “Why am I writing about this or that?”  Then after it is published, a reader will send an email explaining how much the column helped them on the particular day it was publish.

He is always there

The older I become, the more I understand the presence of God is found in the small stuff and everyday places.  He looms large and is hovering over us as we walk through each day.  He is not just there in the middle of struggles, or devastation, or tragedy but will even attend a rowdy girl’s party if need be.

God stands in the middle of the fights over politics or parking spaces.  He is with us in our offices, at ballgames, and attends our backyard barbeques.  Sometimes we just need to stop the yelling, look away from the computer or the ballgame, and offer God a hamburger at the barbeque. He is waiting to be noticed, and if we do, we will be inspired to do what he asks of us.

We all have a problem with our attention span.  We are so distractable it is ridiculous.  How often did you tell your children to “Pay attention!” After raising three children, it became a motto at our house.  But the truth is, it does not just apply to our children, but to all God’s children. 

A walk on the beach

Years ago, a significant relationship ended, and before going to bed one evening, I cried crocodile tears over the loss of someone I hoped would be a life partner.  That evening I dreamed I was walking on a sandy beach with Jesus by my side.  The beach was crowded with couples and happy folks.  The Lord pointed to them as we strolled near the water’s edge. 

“Why are you showing me these happy people when I am so sad?” I asked.  He didn’t say a word but instead pointed to a gentleman walking toward us.  I couldn’t see the man’s face but noticed that he wore a beautiful wristwatch.  Just before the Lord disappeared across the ocean, he turned and spoke, “Lynn, look for the watch.”

I awoke, remembered the dream, but dismissed it as strange.  I had almost forgotten the vision when I met a man a few years later.  He and I began a conversation when suddenly, I noticed his wrist and said, “Your watch is beautiful.” “Thank you,” he responded, “I love watches!” I married him two years later.

God’s winks are even in dreams if we pay attention.  You see, God is there to help us through all things, big and small. The secret is…..  just don’t close your eyes.

Angels in Lab Coats

I despise COVID for many reasons.   It kills, maims, harms, and destroys, but we can radically alter its ability to do so if we collectively try.  So many other diseases do not come with such an option.

October is breast cancer awareness month. Typically, pink surrounds fall’s colors, reminding us of the disease that will claim an estimated 43,600 women and men this year.  Lung cancer will claim approximately 131,880 in 2021. Cancer, heart disease, and other catastrophic illnesses have no vaccine available to stop their killing tenacles. All we have is science, research, and medicines that ease and reduce the horror of them all. 

700,000 Americans have died from COVID in less than two years.  Science created a way to curb the sting of its death, but some folks listen only to what they want to hear concerning preventing loss and debilitating illness from COVID.   A percentage of people are afraid of the unknown, the uncertainty, or the science.

People may claim many reasons for not receiving the COVID vaccine, some of which are valid.  However, one is that the vaccine did not go through many years of research before it was approved.  Have they multiplied 4.8 million (worldwide) by all those years? Obviously, time was an issue.

An Angel

 Dennis Joseph Slamon, born in 1948, is the son of a coal miner from New Castle, Pennsylvania. Dennis was obviously a very bright young man who graduated from Washington and Jefferson College and pursued his dream to become a physician in the field of oncology. He later continued his education and received a Ph.D. in cell biology. Today, Dr. Dennis J. Slamon is a researcher, a scientist, a physician, and an angel. Sometimes God can select a person from the humblest beginnings and bless them with the ability to move a mountain, solve world problems, or save countless lives. 

In a short version of a long story, Dr. Slamon could not understand why 30% of women with the same type of breast cancer in the same stage died at an alarmingly faster rate than others.  Why were some breast cancers more aggressive? Accompanied by other research teams, he discovered a protein attached to a cancer cell they would later call “Her-2.”  Once they found that Her-2 caused breast cancer to become aggressive, Dr. Slamon, Genentech Research, and other scientists doggedly pursued a way to develop a medicine to save lives. 

The drug, Herceptin, was first given to breast cancer patients with the Her-2 protein in 1998.  Today approximately 3 million women have been treated with Herceptin.  Before developing this drug, these women who carried the deadly Her-2 protein had a life expectancy of no more than five years.   Three million women continue to be mothers, grandmothers, wives, sisters, and aunts because of scientists, a physician, and a drug. 

Don’t tell me to ignore science

Don’t tell me to ignore science.   I am offended when I receive a conspiracy-laced email encouraging me not to trust doctors, researchers, or medicine.  If Dr. Slamon had not sat in his UCLA lab determined to end as much death, pain, and heartache as he possibly could, then my child would not be here today.  

Yes, drugs can create problems and side effects, and no medicine is assured of a permanent fix without issues.  But when one is viewing death, one must take the chance.  When we face debilitating diseases, most of us will try anything to live on because perhaps we have more to do and continue to care for those we love.  

Without science and technology, many of us would not be here.  My grandfather would have lived longer if bypass surgery was an option.  My friend would not be crippled from polio if the Salk vaccine had been available to her earlier.   Typhoid, diphtheria, smallpox, measles, whooping cough claimed so many, but science and research proved that it could tame or eradicate the killing tentacles of many diseases. 

Miraculous cure

Today 700,000 Americans are in graves, and we still have some who don’t trust those sent to save our lives.  People are afraid of the reactions and risks. What drug doesn’t come with side effects? I don’t know of one.  I know that Herceptin, with its known long-term side effects, continues to give women a chance to raise their children, to live longer, to flourish without fear of death at any moment.

Yes, don’t tell me not to listen to science.

For so many, medicine is all they have available to live another day.  Sometimes angels are disguised in lab coats, and they often will look through a microscope and miraculously discover a cure.

I thank God every day for them.  And you should too. 

Our Last Harvest Moon

She sat in a rocking chair on an outdoor balcony gazing at the twinkling stars splashed across the sky. A bright, large October Harvest Moon cast a warm glow of light around her. The white caps of the ocean waves gently kissed the shore below as she watched them melt into the sand.  The sea’s calming sounds were all that gently interrupted the quiet, serene fall evening.

“Lynn, I have never seen such a beautiful moon.”  My mother said as she slowly rocked back and forth, never taking her eyes off the scene laid before her.   I nodded my head in agreement.  To this day, I, too, have never witnessed another evening quite as stunning and peaceful.

I knew as well as she did, it would be her last visit to the ocean.  She was approaching the time of life when one never knows entirely when the end will come. However, somewhere deep within both of us, we knew it wouldn’t be long. 

God’s beautiful art

I was surprised she agreed to go with our extended family on vacation to the white sands of the gulf that fall in 2007. But as I watched her relishing the extraordinary beauty, I was so thankful she was there. 

That evening was a gift.  I never return to the ocean without the memory of her rocking back and forth, viewing God painting a canvas just for her. 

In 2007 my granddaughter was a giggling toddler who, along with her elementary-age cousins, caused their great grandmother to laugh with glee.  Mom’s dark brown eyes twinkled as she saw them chase each other in the sand or tease one another at dinner. The matriarch of our family was surrounded by those she loved, and we enjoyed making her happy.   

Today, Mom is gone.  She left not long after that beach trip to travel to heaven’s shores.  The toddler is now a junior in high school, and today her cousins are grown men, carving their path after college.

Life’s many stages

Life is full of stages.  As time passes, I recognize, with clarity, how we go from one passage to another as the days fly by.  All of us are ever-changing, seeing things we didn’t notice before and understanding that each road we take in life has its blessings and sorrows.

We watch as people come and go.  We love, we lose, we fail, or we triumph.  Eadh of us never know what a new day will bring or what another day will take away.  Often life hurts and scars us, but we must not let it ever defeat us.  Our passages from one stage to another are never easy. But we must travel through them to recognize the artistry God lays before us.    

Often, near the end of my mother’s life, I noticed her speaking less and studying those around her more.  By 2007, Mom had lost her only son and her husband.   She was in her last stage of life.   There was nothing more to teach, nothing more to say, and no task left to do.  She had experienced all the passages and was thankful she had.

Our last harvest moon

Today, perhaps we all need to travel to the beach and watch the sun mystically fall, and the Harvest Moon rise.  Maybe we should settle ourselves down in a rocking chair and be quiet.  Because I believe it is in those times when we recognize that the stars, the ocean, and the moon will be here long after we finish our last trip and complete our final stage.

Most of us will one day speak less and listen more as we pray for others to have a safe and productive life journey.  In the end, our lives are summed up by what we left here in the hearts of those we watched go from one passage to another.  How’d we do?  Did we give all we had, teach all we could, and do so with a kind heart?  Were we unselfish, did we aid others? Did we help another to see the beauty of faith, and encourage those who struggled? 

On my last trip to the ocean, I hope to hear my children laughing in the background as I watch the sun fall into the water. And while I quietly rock and forth, I pray I will feel the peace my mother did, knowing she had given it all as God painted the perfect night in the glow of a beautiful Harvest Moon. 

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”  Proverbs 27:19

Loving those Birthdays!

Well, shoot!  As hard as I try to ignore it, someone always yells “Happy Birthday!” this time of year.  Yes, I just aged another year…… thank goodness!  Now, if I ignore the mirror and pay better attention to where I put my car keys, I’ll be fine. 

I am fortunate and thankful that I have survived the ups and downs of my life.  There is something about “making it through” that gives one a new lease on living.  When we survive heartache and trauma, we find that strength, faith, and attitude are necessary to attain peace. 

There are a lot of grumpy people hanging around earth right now.  They come in all colors, shapes, ages, and sizes.  Yes, some folks must enjoy being ill-tempered and mean.  They hang out on social media, spewing their misery and anger.  Life for them has become a hassle, a daily grind of worry, and tormented existence.  It saddens me that they have lost the ability to look forward to tomorrow because they are stuck in anger over yesterday.  What a waste of precious time. 

Care enough to be bold

I learned long ago that we should never discount what God has planned for each of us. Sure, our lives have been interrupted these last two years, but there is a reason to celebrate.  If we are still breathing, that means we are to continue our never-ending journey to find our purpose.  So, get off the sofa, hang negativity in the closet, and make the world a better place because that is what we are meant to do.  I’m serious … like, get up right now!

I love telling folks what to do.  Now that I’m older, fear seems to have melted along with all those birthday candles.   You can ask the girls who work out in my garage gym how I yell exercise routines to produce sweat.  I do so because I don’t want them to leave this earth before they were meant to go.  They perform a boatload of sit-ups so their backs will hold them up as they walk through time.   They need to lift weights to keep their hearts beating and their arms strong enough to carry on.  I shout because I love, and I write because I want my concern for others to travel far. 

Living long has taught me that hate is useless, resentment is mind-altering, and complaining about it all is worthless.  Birthdays are just a reminder that we can become more joyful than our last year if we look at life a bit differently.

Your life is not really yours

You see, life isn’t just about you.  We are all in this time zone together.   We are each given gifts, and it is up to us to determine how to use them.    Some are ignored, and some are expanded, but our talents are gifts to be shared.  We are better people when we attempt to make others happier and healthier.  We are intended to be instruments of God’s work. 

I have a new book out this week.  Did I write it? Yep. Did I spend the money to publish it? Yep.  Was it my idea? Nope.

When I was young, I promised God that one day I would write a story.  He put that bee in my bonnet so long ago, the buzzing just became a daily noise.  The birthdays passed, and the noise grew louder, and of course, I wrote because I promised.  Was it my wish to sit on a beach and watch the gulls fly by? Yep.  But it wasn’t God’s idea for me.  If there is one thing I absolutely understand is that for me to continue to enjoy life, I must do what the Almighty asks of me.  No matter what.

Happy Birthday to you

When we go against the plan God has for our lives, we lose hope.  When we choose hate over love, we lose our purpose.  We become selfish, mean-spirited, and heartbroken because we no longer hear a bee buzzing in our ear and whatever success we have attained is meaningless. 

So, I am old.  So what?  I am grateful that I get to spend one more day listening to God tell me what to do!  How cool is that!

May each of you have the best of birthdays this year because a bee landed in your bonnet and told you to get up, better the world, and believe, no matter how old you may be.   

Declaring War for Curtis

Curtis is walking toward his first day of middle school this year with his buds.     Curtis will notoriously spend a good bit of his time in the principal’s office for the comical excuses he invents for not doing his homework.   

Being an eleven-year-old, Curtis would rather watch a movie, pick on his little brother, Barry, and listen to music.  He is your typical American kid who resides with good parents and possesses a kind heart.

Curtis lives in the panes of a comic strip written by award-winning cartoonist Ray Billingsley.  Curtis’s shenanigans usually make me laugh because they remind me of my own preteen son years ago.  Today, however, Curtis made me cry.

As he and his friends near the school’s entrance, they notice two groups of adults shouting.   They are calling each other names, and it looks as if a physical fight will ensue.  Curtis runs toward the group, telling them to “STOP!” 

Who are the spoiled children?

The angry crowd notice him as they argue over COVID masks and mandates to the point, they are clenching their fists as their screams become nastier.  Finally, they look to Curtis to hopefully utter something profound to reinforce their side of the argument.  However, Curtis simply says,

“Children used to brag ‘bout their parents…… but not very often anymore.”

I recall when my son was Curtis’s age.  He played Little League baseball during most of his youth.  Occasionally, a parent would attack a coach or umpire over a call, and the words that spewed forth for all to hear were nothing short of abysmal. 

When we see parents in fistfights and public brawls while their young children watch, most of us want to crawl into a hole of shame.

Adults can become as spoiled children in a nanosecond and should be humiliated each time they do. When a parent loses common decency because of a desire to win, the only one who loses is the child.

Today, parents are fighting over masks and vaccines.  So, let’s say you don’t want your children to wear a mask in school.  What do you have to lose if your child is required to wear such monstrous attire?  You may say, “freedom.”   What do you have to lose if your child doesn’t wear a mask?”  Maybe his health or yours.   Face masks do not pose a wellness threat, but COVID certainly does.

Protecting our children is #1

We should have declared WAR when COVID began.  We marched to battle terrorism after we were attacked on September 11.  When Japan flew to our shores we declared war, yet COVID has killed more Americans than all who died in World War II.  Maybe if we had stated “WAR,” we would have joined to fight in the battle and win. 

We are not winning this war.  We are not united in battle.  Many have put personal ideology above America, its people, and the children they vow to protect.

What if a foreign enemy dropped a chemical weapon on our country and forced us into gas masks?  We wouldn’t think a thing about putting one of those on our kids to protect them, right?   

Yet, we fight in front of schools, in front of our children over a harmless mask. What?  Who are we, what have we become?  We all desire our children to have a free life.  We want them to be able to dream, play, and go where they would like. Because we are not consolidated to win this war, our actions are imprisoning us and them.    If we had simply done what was required to fight the enemy earlier, the war could have ended before another winter of discontent began.   

Exhausted from battle

Many Governors say, “People know what to do!”   No, they don’t.  If they did, this disease would not still be ravaging our lives, our sanity, and our ability to move on.  We have let politics literally kill us.  None of us should allow anyone to lead us into believing we are fighting for freedom when, in reality, we are actually fighting to live free from an enemy.

I’m sorry, folks, I’m tired.  I’m exhausted from worrying over my grandchildren.  Watching other’s suffer is frustratingly painful.  I’m tired of the screamers, mockers, and bullies using deplorable tactics to gain power or fame. I’m tired of watching nurses and doctors tirelessly giving their all while folks refuse to just do what is healing for all.  I am over folks exhibiting senseless acts of selfishness while professing patriotism.  Patriotism is joining our comrades in a war to fight our enemies, not each other. 

 Curtis lives in a colorful cartoon where a brush of an eraser can stop the madness of his world.   For the real little boy today, it will take much more.

Gather Our Slings and Stones

What good do mere words do during seemingly giant-sized tribulations?  I am sure David thought such when he faced Goliath with his sling.  “How are these five pebbles going to stop such a giant beast?”

This morning COVID is again claiming victims and filling hospitals across the nation.  Medical teams are again working exhaustingly long hours trying to save lives through their sheer skill and determination while the rest of us fight over masks and vaccines. 

Fires are raging, heatwaves scorch the earth, violence roams through our cities, while earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorists continue to destroy globally.  And that is just today’s news.  What about tomorrow? How much more disaster can we handle? 

The beast has risen.  That old Goliath is back, and we need to obtain heavy-duty slingshots and gather some very smooth stones from the river. However, how in the world do we tame this enormous giant with such rudimentary weaponry?  How did David, who was such a small boy, stop Goliath? 

A story of Courage and Faith

The story of David and Goliath in the Bible is a lesson of courage and faith in overcoming what seems, at first, to be an impossible task.  David slew the giant because of trusting God to aid him.  Even though he was small,  David’s enormous faith gave him the accuracy and power to defeat the enemy.

If we become determined to find the stones needed, we can slay the beast.  Love, courage, faith, dignity, and compassion are the smooth weapons we must use to topple the giant. We cannot do it alone, and we cannot do this monumental task divided. 

We, as a nation, should no longer blame politics for all our misfortunes.  All of us should not rebuke anyone other than ourselves for our loss of dignity.   When I watch or hear or read about folks fighting over the virus because of a political stance, I am befuddled. I wonder if they have lost every grain of love, compassion, common sense, and character they ever possessed.

When we see violence and murders rise, I wonder how or why those who promote such evil lost love for life and one another.  When I witness the devastation of Mother Nature across the earth, I often think, what if God has walked away, given up, because we abandoned him as proven by our actions.

Time to use our faith

For those who have faith in a Mighty God, it is now the time to use it.  Let’s pick up our individual stone and remember in all things, in all our words and actions, ask ourselves, “Is this helpful, is this truth, is this God’s way?”  If so, then cast your weapon toward the giant.  Remember, it is more important to adhere to God’s laws than our personal ideologies.

The Godly must not sit down in battle.  They must put on the armor of God, wear the belt of truth, and stand firm. 

How can we love when we spread and encourage distrust and hatred?  Love must rise above the evil, or we will not slay the beast.  We will not.  If we hoard anger, resentment, and mistrust of all things, we will die by the hand of darkness.  How many times and ways has God said those words in the Bible?   If one cannot let hatred go for the good of all mankind, then our weapons are useless, and the giant is victorious.

A soldiers honor

Dignity, honor, and courage are the backbone of a soldier.  I recently have been the invited guest speaker for several groups of Vietnam Veterans. If you want to view honor and be humbled, go see them.  The beauty of their courage will take your breath away.  It is the bravery of the soldier that gives our America dignity.  These honorable men and women who served our ENTIRE country deserve for us to show the same respect for each other as they did for their fellow warriors amid a brutal, nasty war. 

These veterans understand the pebble of courage like no others, and they can teach us all how to throw the stone not only of bravery but of dignity. 

We can do nothing without the power of God.  We are nothing without him.  Our politics, presumed intelligence, self-righteousness, goodness, honor, friends, families, personal rights, and nation are nothing and absolutely meaningless if God walks away.   The beast wins it all.

 David knew he needed the power of God, and that is how the stone of faith killed the giant.  And that is how we will as well if we band together as an army of honorable soldiers casting our stones toward Goliath.  He cannot continue to stand against such weaponry.  

Do we want to cast stones toward the beast and win or continue to cast our stones toward each other and lose it all? 

My Name is “Old Glory”

As my cousin drove his ATV over the Tennessee hills and green pastures to show me his farm on a recent visit, I could see from afar our American flag flying high above the main house.  It was as if the banner owned the sprawling land below and she waved her stripes declaring so. 

 God’s lush acres encased by an azure sky dotted proudly with the red, white, and blue depicted a picture-perfect Americana post-card.

Once we arrived back at the house, I looked toward the banner high atop the flagpole.  Old Glory’s ends were frayed and worn, her stripes a bit faded, but she continued to valiantly wave. 

“Yes, I need to purchase a new flag. This one is about worn out.”  My cousin stated as he, too, noticed her. 

The perfect flag

Old Glory appeared oddly perfect to me because she reflected America today.  A bit worn, faded, frazzled, and dazed from turmoil.  Her nation has suffered from disease, violence, political unrest, and loss for months.  But she has seen it all before during her lifetime of being America’s symbol of liberty.  And even though she is tired, she continues to remind us just where we are and who she is.

Her blood-stained stars and stripes were hoisted by soldiers to proclaim victory against her enemies throughout her history.  She proudly stood when all her people were freed from slavery.  Old Glory marched with women when they demanded their right to vote.  She lowered her colors when Presidents were assassinated, and heroes perished.  She sadly laid across coffins that held the remains of those who died for her to remain standing.

Our flag flies high above our government buildings, reminding those inside to continually work to maintain her glorious land.   Some people treated her with disrespect and even burned her, but she rose again from the ashes.

Old Glory never gives up, she never gives in, and she, who represents all that is good about America, waves her tattered cloth to remind us that we must battle to save her.

We must not self-destruct

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, “America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

If we self-destruct, there will be no more freedom nor honor, and the red, white, and blue will fall to the earth in shreds.   

Selfishness, apathy, lack of respect, and extremism will end America.  They have battered us these last few years.  Recently, personal ideologies often replaced cohesive, healing behavior, thus costing us lives and livelihoods.

When we no longer care about the whole of our nation, we will no longer have the right to voice our personal ideologies.

Bullying and lack of respect for others should and will rip Old Glory to threads.  America was based on a belief in God.  God might believe we no longer deserve our abundant country if hurting one another with foul words and violent conduct becomes a norm.

The extreme far-right and left of our government and the radical behavior of self-interest groups are splitting our country apart.  The flag represents over 330 million Americans. And most understand a productive government is in the ‘middle’ where we find compromise and solutions.  We cannot stand on divided land, or we fall into the abyss it creates.

Be what Old Glory represents

Unfortunately, some believe America is finished. Well, I am not one of them.  I love this country, its people, and the God who gave her to us.  We must pull together and not lose our nation.  Those who attempt to divide us should remember that our heritage was built on courage.  They, who precariously traveled across the seas to an unknown world, did so to escape persecution, famine, and lack of hope. 

It is here where they fought to keep dreams alive and have the freedom to see them come true. They toiled the earth, built communities, braved the elements, and cherished America.  They sent their children to war, begged for innovative medicines to keep their families from succumbing to smallpox, polio, and countless unforgiving diseases.  Their courage and sacrifice gave us all that we enjoy today.  That alone should force us to stop our oft-inane behavior.

We cannot destroy ourselves.  We are a priceless free nation.  Old Glory represents a battered and bruised land, but we will become the healers to repair her.  With our help, she will continue to proudly wave over our hills and homes so that her stripes and stars can always be seen from afar.

We must endeavor to be what our flag represents; a will to never give up and bravely stand tall even though the winds from storms may fray us.

Salute the Vietnam Warriors

While recently thumbing through my old Tennessee and Georgia high school yearbooks, tears pooled in my eyes.  Yes, they were all there, young men with hope in their eyes and their youth on the edge of disappearing. I wonder what they would have accomplished in their lives if they had the promise of a future.

 Would they laugh as I do at the silly antics of a grandchild?  Would they still possess the impish grin the camera caught in the 60s? Maybe Howard would have made it onto the big screen with his good looks.  Perhaps Bobby would be a renowned physician today, and Larry would have climbed up the ranks in his beloved army before retiring to Florida. 

However, the maybe’s left when they all boarded a military bus to serve our nation while a war escalated in Vietnam.  They, like so many, returned only to be laid to rest in their hometown cemeteries before they had a chance to see what could have been.

Bearing a scar

These young men joined the service as so many do to become soldiers of war.  They are the elite among us who, I believe, God anoints with an extra dose or more of courage.  These soldiers go blindly into battle to defend the land they love.  They steadfastly look out for each other and often give their lives to save their comrades.

The Vietnam warriors were no different in character and honor as those who bravely fought for our Independence.  They held the same gritty spirit as those who battled before them in the Revolutionary War or World War I and II, as well as all other conflicts.  Thousands of soldiers have responded to the call to serve, but the warriors of Vietnam bear a scar.

By the time our troops were pulled from Vietnam in 1973, over 52,000 young soldiers had perished.  Between 1964 and 1975, 2,709,918 men and women wore an American military uniform in Nam.  240 of them were awarded the Medal of Honor as Bobby Ray was for saving many lives, except his own. Of those killed in combat, 61% were younger than 21. Just out of school, just beginning to dream, just starting a future.   

Also, in 1973, America’s electorate was deeply divided, and some say the military was demoralized.  So, for those who returned from the rice paddies and trenches, ships, the skies, and prisons of Vietnam, there were no homecoming parades or bands of screaming, happy folks in Times Square to greet them. Instead, Vietnam was simply over for America.

Never blame the warrior

Today, those fallen Vietnam soldiers are immortalized on a wall in Washington, D.C.  For those who lost friends or loved ones whose names are etched in this wall, the war is not forgotten, nor is the sacrifice.   We are the older generation now, and our young faces are alongside those in the yearbooks who remain ageless. 

Today, 610,000 courageous Vietnam Veterans are still walking among us.  Of those who risked their lives in Southeast Asia, 97% were honorable discharged even though many were drafted for service.

Even after hearing countless stories of the heroism and bravery shown by our American troops during the second-longest war in our history, they returned home to be treated harshly by many for just doing what they were asked to do. Unfortunately, this response created a loss of self-esteem and grief for many young soldiers, leading to future deep-seated problems.  

Our worst divisive behavior is the scar of Vietnam.  The wound was not caused by the soldiers.  The injury was inflicted by the free citizens who remained on American soil that turned their anger toward those sent to battle.  

We can fairly charge those in government or politics for most anything but not the bravest, best, and the most elite among us. So we should never blame the warrior, nor the ones who suffer and give the most.  Nor the over 150,000 who were wounded in Vietnam, or the prisoners of war, or those missing in action.

Take the time to notice the brave soldiers

I look into the eyes of my framed Vietnamese doll my brother sent me in 1965.  She has my POW/MIA bracelet around her waist to remember another pilot whose remains were finally located a few years ago.   My brother lived until 1998, but his time spent in Vietnam was always fresh in his heart.  I, too, vow to honor those who gave so much to receive so little.  

Memorial Days will come and go, but this year stop for a moment, look around, and notice the brave soldiers of long ago and celebrate them.

Maybe it will help heal the scar a divided nation caused and remind us never to produce such a wound again.  

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.  Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”  General George S. Patton, Jr.

The Music Just Beyond the Doors

Years ago, shortly before my mother passed away, she described a vivid dream she experienced one night that prepared us both for what was to come.   

In the Tennessee mountain town where she and I were born, the vacant old Imperial Hotel stands frozen in time as if passing years dare to touch it.  The brick three-story building next to the train depot was built in 1909.  Weary rail passengers would spend the night, enjoy a good meal, and feel the cool air as it whirled around the mountain.  The Imperial boasted 30 rooms and indoor plumbing, which in 1909 was quite extraordinary in the hills of Tennessee.    

When I was a small child, the old hotel was a magical place where I could imagine myself as a traveler on the Tennessee railway or attending a gala in the main ballroom.  However, in the late 50s, the passenger trains discontinued their service to stop at the depot just below the hotel. As a result, the Imperial closed its doors to guests, and silence filled the halls.   

The once-thriving resort town and tourist destination withered.  All other inns and hotels succumbed to the ravages of time.  But the Imperial still stands today determined not to be forgotten.  It is as if she is still waiting to greet her visitors when they walk through her doors once again.

The dream

“Lynn, I dreamed I was at the Imperial last night.  I stood in the foyer hall alone, and the doors to the ballroom were locked.  A band was playing and people were laughing as if they were attending a fine party.  I wanted to join them, so I knocked and then banged on the old wooden doors.  The noise inside grew louder, and my attempts to be heard were useless.  I begin to weep with frustration because I desperately desired to see everyone, but I could not.  I woke up this morning with the dream still fresh and to find my pillowcase was damp with tears.  So strange.”  Mom declared after detailing her dream.

When Mother passed away a few months later, we took her home to the little mountain town to rest beside Dad.  A day after the service, I drove toward the Imperial and wondered if I could somehow get inside.  After parking my car, I found, to my surprise, the front door was unlocked, and I discovered I was alone in the foyer. 

Wooden doors were open to reveal a large room perfect for hosting a huge celebration complete with a band. But, unfortunately, the hotel was void of sound. Yet, I could feel the beat of the music as I envisioned my parents dancing as they always loved to do.

The unwritten messages

While standing among the spirits still alive in the Imperial, I understood how Mom’s dream prepared us for her departure from this world.  In the end, Mother was ready to join the others who await her just beyond the doors to eternity.  Her frustration was over.

We receive images and messages of eternal life all the time.  Either we decide to pay attention to them or ignore them completely.  Usually, when we don’t trust what we hear or see, we deem ourselves more intelligent than the Divine, causing us to not be very intelligent.  

People call such events everything from God-Winks to bizarre coincidences to hogwash, but I call them gifts.  Precious connections to unite us with God and those we have lost from this life.  They remind me of a small present tied with a satin ribbon.  Once you untie the bow, the box reveals glimpses of forever.

Listen with your soul

Today, the depot near the hotel is now a museum run by its cultural administrator, a young man new to the area.  Mr. Cleary fell in love with the town’s history and the under 3000 people who call Monterey, Tennessee, home.   I met him for the first time when I visited a few weeks ago. 

He had just purchased his first house.  “Where is your new home?” I asked.  After a brief conversation, I knew exactly where it was. It was the house where I was born.

 I looked up to the hill just beyond the depot to the old brick Imperial and smiled.  There is no music flowing from the rooms, nor sounds of laughter, nor trains that stop to deboard weary travelers seeking rest.  Yet somehow, the magic that makes life whirl like the wind in the mountains reminds me that we all remain connected to the past, to those we love, and not even death can stop the dance.

Sometimes, when we are caught up in the noise of life, it is vitally important to become quiet and listen to the music just beyond the doors.

WELCOME!

Welcome to my new site! Here you will find stories, both old favorites and new ones which I will change often. I will also write a post when something strikes me or I need to share important news.

You can send me a note, a question, or a request. I would love to hear from you!

In the meantime, keep reading, be inspiring, and change the world with kindness.

Blessings,

Lynn