My friend told me that I was a hospice worker for plants. I help transition them into death. My thoughts on that is that I’m not just a plant hospice worker, I’m an excellent plant hospice worker. Anything worth doing, is worth doing well. In a way, you excellent gardeners are selfish. Keeping those plants alive for your own enjoyment while I send them on to Jesus for everyone in Heaven to enjoy. Hallelujah. I don’t let the entire process get drawn out, the plants I buy are dead within a 7 day span. I spend hours picking pretty blossoms out. I let each of my children pick a plant or two. I then spend a few more hours transitioning them to the pots on my porches. I buy spring rugs, I rent a machine to power wash the porches and I dedicate an entire weekend in spring to making a happy, flower filled setting around my home. Then I promptly go inside and never think about them again. Within 7 days the dry and wilted stems are reaching to the sky as if in a very lonely cry for help. This macabre display is what stays on my porches until the following spring when we begin our plant hospice activities once again. This is irrefutable proof that gardening skills are not passed on via our genetic code. My mother is an excellent gardener and my father was in charge of the city garden for years. In West Texas. Cacti die from dehydration in West Texas. If you can get plants to thrive in the desert of West Texas, you can get plants to grow anywhere. He would supervise the people sentenced to community service for their crimes or misdemeanors. He would put them to work growing food for places like Meals on Wheels and the city food pantry. My dad has serious gardening skills. But that’s just not my bag, baby. Being organized hasn’t necessarily been my bag either. I’ve moved a lot, so I have the benefit of the huge ‘move purge’ that happens each time, but usually every drawer is a junk drawer and each day includes at least one moment of frantically trying to find one or more items. I don’t like clutter so my disorganization is neatly hidden behind closet doors, but it’s still there. The last few times that we have moved, we have had the benefit of a moving company. They come in, they pack everything in your home, load it all in a truck, drive it to your new home, and then put all the boxes in your home. Ideally the room name on the box matches the room they throw the box into. In my experience, the unloading of the truck happens at a frenzied pace in which the movers all but toss the boxes into each room willy-silly and woe be on to you if you didn’t label the boxes correctly or already know exactly where you want each box to go. You and your boxes are standing in the way of getting home early and miller time. This is how my lifetime of trashy romance novels and my epic collection of Halloween decorations were stored in the safe room. I don’t happen to have a room labeled ‘trashy romance novels’ or ‘boo ya’ so I had to decide in a split second or they were staying on the driveway. I waved them into the long, dark bowling lane-esk room of cement safety and patted myself on the back for getting the items out-of-the-way. I had no idea we had moved to a location that had actual tornadoes and we would absolutely need a safe room. A safe room that you could actually fit your entire family into along with seating, water, flashlights, a go-bag and your important documents. When you need a safe room in Missouri, you are going to be in there for a while and you might have to climb out. Most people save the family pictures and precious mementos that document a lifetime. If our home had been hit in the last 4 years, I would have epic stories of highland warriors in kilts and spooky spider fabric to clothe my family. Happy Samhain, you mighty warrior! The kids cried last year because we couldn’t squeeze our fat pug into the safe room with us. You don’t know drama until you’ve had to pinky swear to a 3 ear old that you would sacrifice your own life so the pug wouldn’t die. At the beginning of the storm season this year, I decided to get organized. Martha Stewart level organization. Organization as if she was producing a week-long TV series on organization, writing a book on the topic, building a new store line dedicated to an organization system, type organized. I went through every closet, every drawer, every scrap of paper, under and over, around and through all the nooks and crannies of my home. I got credit at a used book store from the books I swapped, dropped off countless bags to Goodwill, trashed, cleaned, scrubbed, moved and shoved every single item in my house. You know what happens when you get organized? You go broke. Storage systems, totes, racks, shelves must be bought. Your family goes hungry because you are too busy to cook, you have unplanned garage sales, and you may find treasures you haven’t seen in years. Finding treasures could be a good thing. Or it could be cursed like the doubloons in Pirates of the Caribbean. “This is either madness… or brilliance. It’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide.” – Captain Jack Sparrow. I found some treasure. I’m not saying it is cursed, I’m saying that finding treasure set of a cascade of unexpected events. How is it that any one decision seems too small to be one of the biggest decisions of your life? I found a home-made, fabric purse made with vintage fabric. I wasn’t particularly entranced with the little purse, in fact, I put it in the pile for the garage sale. But Landry swooped it up and began to carry her treasure around. Soon my 7-year-old asked if we could buy her a purse as well. I explained to her that the purse was made by hand and we couldn’t go buy her a purse just like that one. In a sad little voice, she asks if I could make her a purse. How hard could it be, really? Heck, I’ll just make one for each of the girls. We began our treasure hunt. The search for X. We trotted to JoAnn’s Fabric and promptly spent enough money to buy 10 designer purses because I had no idea that 4 yards of fabric per child was extremely excessive for a small purse. I don’t research my projects, I’m more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. I then spent 8 hours on Saturday and most of Sunday attempting to figure out my sewing machine. I’d had the machine for 10 years and this was the first time I pulled it out of the box. I read my manual, I you-tubed videos, I looked up troubleshooting ideas online. I could not get that machine to work the way I wanted it to work. Finally ,I shoved the thing aside in anger and pulled out the embroidery fabric I had found in a closet on my organization journey. I sewed these puppies by hand with no pattern, no measurements. The time, money, blood, sweat, cursing, beer and tears I spent on those first three bags was ridiculous. But my children rewarded me with clapping hands, excessive praise and the purses are not forgotten items, they are loved and toted around. What the heck am I going to do with all this left over fabric? I should just use up this fabric and make a few more purses to give away. But I need to go back to Jo-Ann’s fabric store to pick up a few more things. I went in for a ‘few more things’ and I got lost in Jo-Ann’s fabric, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and every Antique and Junk shop from Texas to Nashville for the past 4 months. With no thought as to what I was going to do with any of the items – I made an entire dining room full of purses, mounds of jewelry and key chains, a garage full of furniture I’ve made over or created from scratch. I went from hyper organized and broke to looking like a hoarder and broke. Thus the journey to X became an Etsy shop I’m trying to get off the ground. It was a lesson in technological frustration, but I opened up my Etsy shop (Pieces of Reesie). I’m attempting to reserve a flea market booth for the items like the dressers, desks, lamps, bed frames, chairs and book cases that are just too large to ship. A large portion of it is taking on an Industrial or Steam Punk vibe I really like. So we will see. This is either madness or brilliance. It’s funny how often the two coincide. *If you are up for it, please go check out my Etsy shop PiecesOfReesie. I added the link at the top of my Blog site so you could find and click on it easily.
About little over a month ago I went on a girls trip to Nashville. Our first morning in Nashville we all meandered to the front of our hotel and stood in line for the shuttle to get downtown. I have no idea who found the shuttle, timed the shuttle or figured out the fee for the shuttle. I just arrived promptly to my designated location and began my chit-chat with my friends while I stood in line. Chitty-chat, chittty, chitty, chat, chat, chat-chitty-chat. The shuttle arrives. I pay my fee. I find a seat. We’ve been on the shuttle for about 20 minutes when a big green sign announcing the airport flashes by our window. One of my friends shouts out, “Are we on the shuttle to the airport? We need the shuttle downtown! Is this the shuttle to downtown?!” The shuttle driver promptly shouts back, “You picked a hella-fine time to start paying attention.” Tru dat shuttle driver. Tru dat. It’s all about the timing of the details. inconcievableDetails. Details. Everyone keeps saying that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means. I thought I was paying attention. I thought up was up and down was down. Good was good and bad was bad. Turns out I was wrong. If you asked me to list what I felt what my most positive attributes were, being self-reliant would be in the top 10 on my list. When I can do things for myself, I choose to do so. When I can’t do something for myself, I am skilled at knowing which resources to use. I can pay my own way, I can forge my own path, I can thrive when others fall. ChurchillI pride myself on being self reliant. My mom once told me that you have to pay attention to the lessons that God is trying to teach you, because the lesson just keeps coming at you like waves in the ocean until you learn what he is trying to teach you. It starts out with soft gentle waves, but can end up a tsunami if you keep ignoring the lesson. Don’t worry, God. I’ve got this one. I’m good. I can handle my problems. I can find the solutions. I can find the knowledge in some really great books. I can talk it out with my mom and my friends. My husband and I can tackle any problem. And I could. Until I couldn’t. 39 years old is a hella-fine time to figure out that being self reliant has left me vulnerable to solving the big issues. No amount of reading or talking on the phone or indulging in creative problem solving can handle the issues that need the hand of God. I’m 39 years old and I’m like a toddler that refuses her parents hand in the parking lot. I don’t know how to grab hold of the hand that has been extended to me all this time. Because I’ve been self reliant. I’ve handled my business. I’ve forged my own path. I’ve solved my own problems. TroubledWater“Trust in the Lord” What does that even mean when I’ve never really had to extend that trust? Pray that prayer? Feel that need? I have worshipped at His feet while I’ve refused to take his hand. It’s been a hella-fine time figuring that out this summer. A hella-fine time. I’m on the hunt for who I’ve not yet become. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. – Amen.
My mom called me at 5: 26 pm Monday May 30th to tell me my grandfather was dying and I needed to come home. Memorial Day 2016. I packed up my car, my kids, my dog and didn’t so much drive to Texas as use my car to fly along the roadways. My grandfather holds a special place in my heart. Many times you will hear someone use the phrase, ‘He was like a father to me.’ He was never my father figure, he was just a really good grandfather. One of the best. My relationship with my grandfather became something more than just a vague ‘responsibility relative’ to check off my list right about the time I became pregnant with my first child. My grandfather held on to the hope of seeing his first great-grandbaby to stave off cancer and I used his house as my new home base when I would come into town to visit. Other than very distant memories of staying at his house as a child, I had never spent any more time in his home than a few hours scattered around holidays here and there. We weren’t particularly close. I have time spans several years in length when I never set foot in his home. I just never had a reason to do so. stubbornStaying with my grandfather when I would fly my newborn back to Texas to visit came about for a variety of reasons and it did not start out as convenient or easy for anyone involved. It was a lot like my first month as a freshman living in the dorm. We would circle each other with the vague politeness you bestow on strangers as we would try to build our routines around each other. Well…I would build my routine around my grandfather as that man is stubborn combined with obsessive compulsive disorder. He doesn’t change his routine for anyone. You don’t go through Granddad, you go around him. coffeeThat first holiday I spent with him will go down as one of the most irritating holidays I had experienced thus far in my life. Parenting did not come easy for me and life in general was one exhausting struggle at that point. I had a three-month old I had no idea how to manage gracefully and a 70-ish holiday roommate that had decided I was unpaid labor to tackle his unending list of chores he couldn’t manage or just didn’t care to manage. The man was relentless. I remember the baby waking me up at 5:00 am the first morning I was there. I sat in the dark attempting to breastfeed my screaming child and praying she would go back to sleep when granddad got up to be ‘helpful.’ Helpful was me getting him coffee. And so it began. My grandfather and I are a lot alike so by the end of each day we are usually grumpy with each other. He has demanded that I do about 10 more chores for him than I think he should be asking for and my kids and I have moved too many items in his home and changed up his schedule too much for his OCD to tolerate. Many nights that I’ve stayed with him over the years have ended with him grumbling under his breath as he huffs himself to his room while I’m slamming stuff around trying to get my kids settled as I complain very loudly about my irritations. Overly loudly. Just in case he couldn’t hear me. Nights at Granddad’s house can be hostile and grumpy. CoffeeFThe nights may be fueled with irritation and impatience but the mornings are golden. My grandfather and I have coffee together every morning that I stay at his house. It’s our thing. It’s the reason I have refused to stay anywhere else long past the point when it made sense for my family to stay at his home when we travel back to Texas. That first irritatingly inconvenient coffee clutch at 5am over a wailing child began a routine that continued up until the last morning that I spent with him this past Christmas. Coffee in the morning with Granddad was sacrosanct as far as I was concerned. Regardless of the time I got up, we had a routine. I’m not the quietest person so he would hear me shuffling about when I woke up. I made the mistake of not jumping into the bathroom as soon as I woke up only a few times. If Granddad gets into the bathroom before you do in the morning, you might as well go pee in the bushes outside because it’s going to be a while. The man will not be rushed. By the time I have the curtains open, kitchen lights on, coffee brewing, newspaper retrieved from the driveway and placed near his chair, old newspaper never thrown away until after he has read the new paper, rubber band from the newspaper placed in the jar he has just for those rubber bands, and creamer on the counter; he would be in the kitchen with me. He would take his morning pills while I poured our coffee. He would ask me if I slept well and then he would verify what time my mother was coming over to cook us all breakfast. (I’m not sure she enjoyed that routine as much as I enjoyed my coffee routine.) Then we would move to the recliners in front of the window to begin our day together. friendGI can’t think of a topic we haven’t discussed over coffee. I have very few topics that I feel are taboo or inappropriate or flat-out embarrass me to discuss and in 11 years off coffee discussions I never found a single topic my grandfather wouldn’t discuss in-depth. He’s given me some real gems of advice over the years and some real bad pieces of advice I made sure to leave back in the 50s where that advice belonged. My grandfather has a reputation for not actually saying ‘Thank You,’ to anyone performing the endless chores he is snapping out or taking care of preparing and placing his meal in front of him exactly the way he likes it as he sits at the table like a king. It is enough of an issue that I can’t recall a Thanksgiving where that wasn’t on the list of TOP 3 irritations of the event for pretty much everyone in the house. But in the mornings he will take his coffee from my hand and tell me, “Thank you, Sweetheart. I love you.” Every time. Wednesday morning, June 1st 2016, I woke up at Granddad’s house about 7am and started shuffling around. I went straight to the bathroom so I didn’t end up peeing in the bushes, I opened the curtains, turned on lights, started the coffee, retrieved the newspaper from the driveway and placed it right next to the armchair and the rubber band in its proper spot. I poured my cup of coffee and didn’t pour Granddad’s into his cup because he likes his hot and I didn’t want it to get cold before he got up. painI was staring at the spot on the wall just above the counter where he keeps his pills when I realized he was not going to join me for coffee that morning. He was not going to be joining me for coffee ever again. My brain went a little fuzzy in that moment. I just kept starting at that one spot on the wall while I shoved that pain into the invisible backpack I carry. My own personal oubliette where I place all the thoughts and pain I don’t want to look at ever again but can’t set down. I didn’t take a sip of my perfectly prepared coffee. I just placed my full mug in the sink and quietly turned off the coffee pot. This was no longer a refuge, this house was just an empty shell making an echo of a home I once had. I spent the entire week in that empty echo of a home while I watched my grandfather die in his hospital bed. It wasn’t gentle and it wasn’t easy. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever had to watch or experience. griefFearWhen the depth of love that you feel for someone is bottomless, the grief you feel when they die is bottomless as well. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to shove that into the hidden corners of your mind, it’s too big to be contained. Life isn’t fair and life doesn’t stop even on the moments you want to forget all your responsibilities so you can grieve. So I’ve been shoving the pain into my oubliette and in the midst of life I will notice that tears have run down my face un-noticed and un-checked in a way that is similar to a nose bleed. It happens out of nowhere and I’m scrambling for tissues once I sense the moisture dripping down my chin. This past Saturday I spent the day getting my mother into a rehab facility so she can recover from her hip surgery. I was only going to be in town for one night and I had the moment when I had to decide where I was going to sleep. beginningsMy father has been asking me to stay at his home for several years. I just couldn’t make the change as it felt like I was abandoning Granddad. So that night I dragged my bruised and weary soul into my father’s house. It would be the first time in over 21 years I had spent the night in a place he called home. I had a very long drive back to Missouri the next day so I went to bed early. I woke up to the sound of my father and the smell of coffee. He had made it very strong, just the way I like it. We gathered in the kitchen as I found the creamer and sugar and we sat in the living room discussing quite a few topics as the sun rose up. I didn’t set that backpack down, but I was able to gently close the door to my memories sharing coffee with Granddad and stride boldly towards the wide open door my father had been holding open for me for years. The heaviest of burdens sometimes bring the brightest of blessings.
When Landry was three she pointed to her veins and asked me what those blues lines were on her body. I lost my mind for a brief nano-second and told her it was the blood in her body. She proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes wailing and crying as she insisted we plaster band-aid’s over every inch of her body. We went through an entire Sam’s Club box of band-aid’s over the next week as she would sporadically remember the blood and begin to weep and wail again. Unfortunately, band-aids don’t fix crazy. I love motherhood, but the transition from not being a parent to actually being a parent is similar to spending years laying on the couch for years and then deciding to run a marathon that same day. On one leg. With a stab wound to the kidney. Maybe that’s why people that get married later in life decide not to have children. They have enough experience to question whether or not they are capable or willing to tackle the life encompassing marathon of raising a child. It’s the arrogance of your 20s that allow you to boldly decide that you are able to raise a fully functioning adult while you can’t pay your light bill and are still on your parents insurance. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage. wing itI miss the arrogance of my 20s because I’m nearly 40 and I know a laundry list of ways I could mess these kids up for life. I haven’t read any parenting books entitled, “Your Kid will be Amazing with your ‘Winging-It’ Parenting Style.” If I had to make that initial leap into parenthood with the knowledge I have now, I’d have still jumped into it, but I would have been filled with a lot more fear. That first step into parenthood is a round of Tsunamis’s hitting you over and over. Your job, marriage, body (oh God, your body!), your sleep, home, your love of your dog, your appreciation for your own parents, your car, clothes, your hopes and dreams all change in an instant. These changes, while epic, are at least talked about or written down in several books. You will not be ready for these changes, but you will at least know they are coming. I read every book available. I took an actual 30 minute class, provided by the hospital ,on how to change a diaper. I paid $50 for someone to show me how to change a diaper and was tragically grateful for every second of that class. ParentingEarlyKnowledge of a situation does not mean preparedness for a situation. I had to hunker down in survival mode longer than most women. I’ve been caught in an endless riptide. Some women pop right out of the hospital bed and don’t seem to miss a beat. Here is a high five from me on one hand and me flipping you the bird with my other. I feel both emotions equally for you. My first born is almost 11 years old, my youngest is a hair shy of 5 years old and I am just now finally feeling like I can take a deep breath and take a good look around me. I’ve taken that deep breath and the view from here is terrifying. Every single time a woman with older children would tell me that this early stage of parenting with no sleep, endless vomit poop and pee everywhere, random weeks of sickness that you are not prepared to handle without a $200 pediatrician visit, finding a place to breastfeed your wailing child in public, never being able to sit down and relax, ongoing potential marriage crisis from lack of attention, giving up your entire life in ways you never expected, and very few glimpses of freedom was the easy stage; I wanted to punch her in the face until she had snot and pee on her own clothes. Every. Single. Time. Now that I’m caught up on my sleep and everyone in the house (excluding the geriatric dog) is able to take care of their own bathroom issues I’m glad I didn’t punch any of those women in the face. Now I’d like to have them on speed dial and clutch them to me for comfort. I’m supposed to raise three children to be fully functional, God loving, happy, well-adjusted, contributing members of society. Me? Oh sweet Lord, what I have I done to these poor innocent children? I have this vague image of God gathering my children to his breast one by one pointing down at me from Heaven. I imagine him telling their little souls all about me and asking them if they are willing to take on the burden of being my child in this journey through life before they come back to him. Then they strap on their warrior attitudes to begin the battle that is surviving childhood with me as a parent. For those of you about to do battle, we salute you! Gladiator Not unexpectedly, I’m a talker. I don’t bottle things up inside, I like to talk things out when faced with a problem. Let’s get it all out on the table and brainstorm. If brainstorming means meeting your girlfriends on a patio of a restaurant and discussing children while you nosh on nachos and down a Korona, all the better. It was the blind leading the blind. Circled around the patio table were 6 very educated women. We all brought different range of experiences, different world views, various motives that drive us, all ages and both sexes of children, and just one religion amongst us. teenagers We couldn’t agree on one damn thing. Not one. It wasn’t even the small details we were debating, we couldn’t agree on basic themes or general life goals we shared for our children. The only consistency seems to be that we all have a plan that our children choose to only follow loosely and some of them don’t follow the plan at all. The stinkers!! Our big notions and plans turn into hastily prepared band-aids slapped onto the craziness that is raising children. No one has the answer because there is no simple answer. We are all winging it. I left that girls night mortally offended by one of my dear friends. She didn’t just disagree with me, she told me my entire life goal was flat out wrong. My back was up, my feathers ruffled and when I came home I slammed my keys on the table dramatically and muttured to myself in self-righteousness as I got ready for bed. I had stated that I really just wanted my children to be happy. Happy2My friend turned to me and told me that wanting my children to be happy is not an appropriate life goal. What?! The hell you say! That’s the moment my muttering started and the slamming of keys commenced. But as with most disagreements, our opposing views were based in a large part to miscommunication. My friend is completely justified when you take the initial definition of happy. When you define happy as being delighted over a particular thing, you can see how that could not possibly translate into a reasonable life goal. You would be constantly giving up relationships, responsibilities, and anything tangible if you are constantly seeking that elusive and bright and shiny moment that might be around the corner. Something that could disappear in a moment. That would be wishing my child a life of no substance, no depth, nothing real. So in that sense, she was correct. happyBut just like Shrek’s onion, happiness has layers. I wish my children a life filled with a happiness that is defined by contentment and joy. Happy is not the same thing as funny. It can be part of it, but it isn’t the entire picture. Seeing humor in a situation isn’t the entire picture or we wouldn’t have comedians committing suicide right and left. You might even argue that comedians have a higher percentage of depression, addictions, suicides than other famous personalities. Being happy is also not the same thing as being an optimist. In high school, I won the Rotary Optimist award. I went to a fancy luncheon and received a plaque. But being able to see the bright side of life and choosing to see it are two different things. Make no mistake, happiness is certainly a choice you have to make. You have to make it deliberately and move toward it with purpose and intent until it becomes a habit or a reflex. I had a moment in college when the elusive concept of happiness became crystal clear. I changed my major quite a few times in college so I had an entire second round of roommates after my first set graduated in the typical 4 year span. I had been working at a radio station and my humor had been turning more often to a sarcastic, witty yet tinged with mean tone the DJ’s worked like a charm over the airwaves. Think talk-back to your parents in a Disney Jr. teenage sitcom mindset. One of my new roommates was Beth Coffey. I had known Beth for years in a very vague sense. Our schools competed over various sports and academic activities so while she wasn’t a stranger, I didn’t know her. happy3Beth had a zest for the ‘now‘ that can not be faked or duplicated. Beth wasn’t just happy, she would make the bad epically good. Beth could take a situation that most people would drown in despair over and make it into an envious experience. She didn’t simply turn burdens into blessings, she made them into experiences people would seek out. It’s one thing for people to envy your successes. It’s an entirely different ballgame to have people envy your failures. She didn’t have rose colored glasses, her glasses were crystal dipped in gold colored in neon with rainbow sparklers shooting out the side. The first time I truly started to realize this was a quality I would fight to emulate, we had rejoined a large group after being separated for a long lunch. It had been a lovely lunch but when I heard it described by Beth, I literally paused to make sure she was talking about the same lunch I had just shared with her. She didn’t lie, she wasn’t faking her enthusiasm, she wasn’t intending to compete with others, and she didn’t even exaggerate. She just viewed it through her very happy outlook on life. I’m not saying she is perfect or never got upset or angry or mean. But you could tell she made a choice each and every day to be happy and to see the best in every situation. None of that snarky, judgmental humor at someones else’s expense for her. unicornPeople were drawn to her in droves. Droves. If I had to choose between an exciting outing and spending the evening cooking out on the patio with Beth, I would choose to be with Beth. Every. Single. Time. I wasn’t alone in this choice, I would see people make that choice the entire time I lived with her. It was a phenomenon. When you look at life through the lens of true happiness, it doesn’t matter what you are doing. It doesn’t matter because you are grateful and content and find joy in the moment. Snarky and witty just doesn’t hold a candle to happy. trainI had been funny. I had been an optimist. But I hadn’t made the decision to see the best in every situation, to find contentment and joy for no reason every single day. After meeting Beth I made that choice. Some days I’m more successful than others but, I have spent every day since meeting Beth waking up and choosing to see the best in each day and to find joy in the moment, blessings in my burdens. It changed my life for the better. My life has not gone according to plan and I imagine my children’s won’t either. So I’m winging it. I’m winging it and my goal for my children is for them to be happy. For them to find joy in the mundane, blessings in their burdens and gratefulness each and every day. Happiness combined with some real world pragmatism and a never ceasing work ethic and they will be unstoppable. Because band-aids can’t fix the crazy, but happiness can.
It was a persistent preacher that brought me to church but it was a bad girl that brought me to Jesus. My mom would go through small windows of time when we would visit other churches, but for the most part I grew up attending the First Baptist Church of San Angelo. It was the cadillac of churches. It took up an entire square block in the middle of down town and it was built to impress. Massive stained glass windows poured in colored light to frame the glory that was the chapel, the pastor there during my childhood was broadcasted over TV and radio and people drove in from all over to hear him preach and to shake his hand. On Sunday mornings, it took a long time to find a parking spot and you had to wait in line with the well dressed masses to get in the door. I actually enjoyed sitting with my mom on a pew in the sanctuary during what I called, “Big Church” because I would sit and stare at the light moving in waves on the stained glass as the clouds passed. When I got bored with that I would take my time inspecting any of the 1,500 members in the pews all around me. I didn’t have as much success during “Little Church”. To say I didn’t fit in with my peers during Sunday school was an understatement. My favorite dress to wear to church was purchased at a garage sale and looked like a yellow and black blood clot topped with very thick shoulder pads. The dress was not intended for a 14 year old, it was intended for a grown woman. It would have fit better had I taken those pillow pads off my shoulders and stuffed my bra with them. But I loved my yellow, blood clot dress as it would swish around my calves. I would wear my moms heels that were too big and I would stumble along the labyrinth of hallways it would take to get to my class. GiveYouIn retrospect, those kids showed restraint and a lot of class by not treating me with derision or scorn when I showed up. No one was ever mean, we simply had nothing to say to each other. Before the lesson started, I would sit along the fringe of the tables while they discussed things like horseback riding, tennis, vacations to interesting places, ski trips, and funny things they overheard at the dinner parties their very wealthy parents hosted. The kids in that Sunday school class were very privileged, very well behaved, well dressed, overachievers and they followed every single rule and every single guideline set before them. No one ever disrupted the lesson and they all seemed to know the answers to all the questions. Of course, they would raise their hand politely before they answered. It was absolutely perfect and soul-sucking boring all at the same time. During my yellow blood clot, swishy dress stage at church I was also in the midst of basketball season at school. We had a big tournament coming up that weekend in Odessa. Coach’s rule was that if you missed a practice that week, you didn’t play that weekend during the game. No exceptions. Unfortunately, that was the week a large portion of our team was struck with the stomach flu. It was nasty and we were dropping like flies. Some of us handled it better than others and I just couldn’t shake it. bruisesI spent the week sleeping in most of the day and just dragging myself out of bed to attend my last class and then athletics after school so I didn’t miss practice. Every bump and turn while I sat on that 2 hour bus ride to Odessa was pure torture. During the tournament, I would be clutching my stomach every moment I wasn’t running up and down the court. It was actually one of the best performances I had displayed so far as my goal was to not enjoy the games, it was to keep the ball away from the other teams so I didn’t have to keep running up and down that damn court. I was vicious in a way I hadn’t been in any previous game. We won that entire event. By Sunday I didn’t hurt anymore, I was just pale and worn out. I must have looked bad as my mom took me to a walk in clinic after church so I could get a shot or a prescription. I didn’t have a virus. I didn’t have the stomach flu that my teammates had battled that week. I had a ruptured appendix. My appendix had ruptured 7 days prior. I had spent the week and the basketball tournament slowly dying from the poison turning my body septic. I wouldn’t have thought a doctor could have a panic attack but the doctor at the walk in clinic gave it his best impression. I think that was what convinced my mom we were in the midst of a bona fide emergency. I was swiftly taken to the actual hospital and while they were scanning, poking, prodding, planning and preparing me for surgery they were telling my mom to call in family members. do our best The hospital called in a hot-shot, big deal surgeon. He was going to give it his best attempt, but the doctor told my mom my chances weren’t good and they should say their goodbyes to me before I went into surgery. I was probably going to die. It was going to be the Hail Mary of surgeries. We won that event as well. My appendix had walled itself off around my colin. It was bad, I still had a battle ahead, but that is the main reason I didn’t die. It was a medical anomaly and I was told my case was going to be published in some medical journal. The hot shot surgeon was going to be even hotter in his field. I’m a little fuzzy on everything they told me once I woke up but I’m pretty sure someone told me they had to lift up my intestines out of my stomach cavity to wash them off. I’m going to go with that as a fact as the scar I have on my belly is massive. I spent a very long time in the hospital attached to a lot of tubes and beeping machines. I didn’t get to eat actual food for a long time. I now know that morphine gives me nightmares on a scale that makes the pain preferable and that I cannot stand the smell of coconut. One particular night nurse wore such intensely perfumed coconut smelling lotion that I’m forever ruined on that particular smell. No Pina Coladas for me. Ever. You have a lot of alone time when you are very sick and strapped to a hospital bed for weeks on end. Your family members still have to continue on with their daily lives and it’s not the nurses job to entertain you. Or so I was informed several times. Quite a few times. Okay, fine. I was told that fact daily by every single nurse on staff, several times a day, the entire time I was in the hospital. Give me a break, I was a teenager before the age of internet, smart phones, kindles, or any teen friendly television. PastorsI’m laying in my hospital bed, rebuffed yet again by an annoyed nurse, when Brother James walks into my room. He was the pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church and he came to visit me. He brought me tootsie rolls, his deep rolling voice, a sense of humor, and a willingness to stay and talk until I fell asleep again. He came to visit me quite a bit until I was well enough to go home. He brought me tootsie rolls I was absolutely not supposed to eat every single time he visited. Once I was healthy I had to choose between a church that was perfect but held no connection for me and a church with a pastor that knew my name and smuggled tootsie rolls in for me. We changed churches. The sanctuary at Immanuel Baptist church did not hold 1500 people but it did have amazing stained glass windows. I didn’t have to stare at the reflections of light caused by passing clouds overhead because Brother James was relatable. His sermons were feisty and to the point. I did enjoy those sermons, but that’s not what actually ended up bringing me that final step to a real relationship with Jesus. I had been baptized years before in my perfect church on an Easter Sunday. I was very young and although I certainly had the faith of a child, my baptism on that day was more from knowing they wanted the correct answer to a question than from a feeling bursting from my heart. “Little church” at Immanuel Baptist church was not a compilation of perfect, well behaved children. It was a group of loud-mouthed, opinionated, can’t sit still hellions. It was excitable chaos and I loved it. It took me exactly 10 minutes into my first visit to see that Clarissa Rene was one of the worst hellions in the group. She wasn’t bad, she wasn’t mean, she wasn’t evil. She was a wild heathen that didn’t even make a mild attempt to follow social norms and she was very open about her flaws. All her flaws. She wasn’t overly nice or gentle. She was not soft spoken. She was brass. She was bold. She was outrageous. She. Was. Fun. I didn’t know you could have fun at church. best giftShe was a wild heathen that didn’t get into trouble (much) because she had the charisma to get away with breaking all the rules and when she spoke I swear her love for Jesus rolled out like a thick red carpet drawing you in. I was never her friend. She was older than me and frankly she was a bit intimidating with the extent she was willing to break rules. She and her siblings were such a unique mix of Jesus and bad behavior that I was willing to just watch from afar. But she is the reason I would sign up to attend church camps, ski trips and whatever else I had time to attend. I knew if she was there, it wouldn’t be perfect and boring. It would be fun and somehow she would cause highly amusing and inappropriate shenanigans. Shenanigans and Jesus. That bad girl is the reason I have a relationship with Jesus. Her imperfections, her flaws, her brokenness, and yet her ability to have an immense amount of fun and joy while worshipping Jesus at church and in her daily life influenced me and opened doors for me in a way that perfection never would. A way to forgive myself and others for stumbling along the way. Loving Jesus wasn’t about perfection. It was about the relationship. I was never going to get to heaven in the cadillac of churches. I’m more of a gently used, beaten and battered, scarred and dented, lift kit, big bald tires, yet well loved and faithful Ford tough truck kind of church girl. Maybe Earl Dibbles Jr said it best when he said, “The higher the truck, the closer to God.” All I know is that persistent preachers and bad girls can get you to Jesus.