Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bittersweet Joys

It's a little hard to see, but the photo in this picture is of my mother. My grandmother and Aunt Linda (who was only 13 at the time) dressed me up in this pretty dress my grandmother made, and put me in front of the tree with my mama's picture to send to my mother, who was in an Indiana TB hospital. I was living with my grandparents in Tennessee. My dad was working as a truck driver, and staying close to my mother and his job.

I don't remember much about this. I do remember how much I was just crazy in love with my Granddaddy Warren. I look at the letters my mother saved from my grandmother and my scribbles all over the bottom of them--because I loved to "write." I wrote all over my Aunt Linda's high school yearbook. She wasn't too happy with me. I'm sure it was hard having this baby who not only invaded her life, slept with her in her bed, kept her up at night with this problem and that, but also sort of ruined her social life. You would think that she would have ill feelings toward me even now. But no, my Aunt Linda is probably my closest and dearest friend/relative. She still lives in Tennessee, has a wonderful family and hosts a Christmas breakfast each year. I am missing her this Christmas and marveling at the thought of how she tolerated me.

I also look at this photo and think of my poor mom--gravely ill, separated from her husband and baby daughter. She had five miscarriages and then got me. Then not even a year later she gave me to her inlaws and made my grandmother promise to give me back when she got well. What a sacrifice my grandmother made! She once told me that the hardest thing in her life was to give me back to my mother, but I'm so glad she did. While I loved my grandparents just as if they were my parents, my mother was a rare gift to the world and I feel so privileged to have been raised by her.

Of course, this causes me to think of Mary. When she found out she was having the son of God, the Savior of the world, it had to be bittersweet to think that someday he would have to return to His Father! What amazing courage she had. It makes me weep to think about the pain, but what an amazing love and sacrifice--and a bittersweet joy.

Bittersweet joys are all around us. Don't miss out on joys just because you are afraid of the coming pains.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Thoughts Day

(I don't have a picture of my parents around their wedding day. This was taken many years later, after I had been born.)

When I was growing up, there were some tough times around Christmas. I tend to block out those thoughts and still fight feeling melancholy around Christmas, even though my situation is much better!

But I always have happy thoughts when I think of December 22. That was the day my parents married in 1951 in Corinth, Mississippi. Both my parents are now dead, but they celebrated 45 years of marriage before my mother died.

This is why I feel happy on December 22nd. My dad was a long haul truck driver and often was still on the road on December 22nd before coming home for Christmas. But here is what he would do--no matter where he was in the Midwest, he would stop somewhere, find a phone and call my mother at 12 noon on December 22.Twelve noon straight up is when they got married and he made special effort, long before cell phones, to connect with my mother on that day, but also at the TIME he married her. My dad may have had many issues, but one thing came through loud and clear with this effort--he was crazy about my mother and had a great desire to let her know their connection.

So every December 22nd, I sit and reflect on the fact that we have an imperfect life, but there are threads of delight and hope tucked into each one. Situations aren't so wonderful for almost all of us at one time or another, but if we can stop and thank God for one blessing, then life can go on, hold together. We can choose happiness. When I start to spiral down in December...December 22nd comes. And I find myself smiling and thinking that there are threads of hope woven into every life, especially my own.

Happy thoughts, blessings and prayers for many threads of hope woven into your fabric of life today. Happy December 22nd. (And yes, I should've posted this at 12 noon!)

In the Shadow of the Sun King by Golden Keyes Parsons

Normally, I don't do reviews of books on this blog. I promote authors and books, but don't do a review. I have published over 800 reviews, so it's not like I don't do them--I do. Usually it has been as part of my job with a magazine. Anyway, I agreed to do this, a real review and it hasn't been easy. I want to just promote the author and let you decide if it's a book you want to read--not tell you what I thought of it! Ok, so here you go. Let them eat cake.

In the Shadow of the Sun King by Golden Keyes Parsons
(Thomas Nelson)

Based on the author's own family history, the seventeenth century Clavell family's struggle to hold together their family in the face of religious persecution on order of the "Sun King" Louis XIV proves nearly fatal.

Huguenots, or French Protestants who followed teachings by John Calvin, are pillaged, their books burned, and homesteads destroyed, while the children are sent to Catholic schools to be re-educated if they did not convert to the country's religion, Catholicism. It was a time of great peril for families like the Clavells, but Madeleine, lady and wife of Francois, travels to Versailles in order to convince King Louis, her former love as teens, to desist in the pressure to conform to the country's religious practices.

Courage and strong convictions are two traits that the Clavells possess that transcend time and cultures to show that some things are worth dying for, worth risking it all for. The more the Clavells try to hang together, the more it appears that the family will be ripped apart at the seams.

Parsons shows a strong command of French history and culture in the King's court, as well as storytelling skills that help us to understand the power of prejudice vs. convictions. She demands attention to the emotions tied to our very souls, our heart’s convictions and core beliefs. In similar times would your faith stand? This is one question that Parsons attempts to answer with her own family history. My favorite parts involved the boys who were whisked away to keep them from being "re-educated" and the scenes where action was involved.

While it is difficult in this day to imagine Protestants pitted against Catholics, it is not difficult to imagine one group demanding obeisance and exhibiting power plays for reasons other than what God would want of us. May her message be one of choosing tolerance among our society today. Reading group guide and map included, as well as a glossary of French terms. Beautiful read, one of little known religious history and many details of the French court.

Here are the questions raised: When those who have power and disagree with you tread into your church, will you have to go underground? Will you sorrow over the books burned? Will you stand strong in your beliefs, even as your children are threatened to be re-educated in another belief, or you are threatened with conformity or death? A few years ago I would not have thought this was something that I would be confronted with in my own country—but these days I am seeing rumblings and so, this may be the book you should read to open your eyes to what persecution could be. Thought provoking and worth a look, and especially if you love French history. I found it to drag in places, and my own emotions weren't always pulled into the story as much as I would have liked, even though I normally love historical fiction like this.

However, if you love anything French, language and history, and the affairs of kings and court, you will like this, I assure you.

Purchase at

Saturday, December 20, 2008

To All Suffering in Grief This Christmas

Trish Berg shares on her blog the story behind "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and it hits my mood. I wonder if this is the message all suffering this Christmas should read. It's a thought. If you know someone suffering instead of rejoicing, or you are suffering this Christmas, this song is for you.

Here is the Casting Crowns version:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head,
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then peeled the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail; the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men."

To My Friend, Erin, in memory of her wonderful father, Marc A. McDugle:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Which Jane Austin Character Are You?

My results:

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Take the Quiz here!

You are Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice! You are intelligent, witty, and tremendously attractive. You have a good head on your shoulders, and oftentimes find yourself the lone beacon of reason in a sea of ridiculousness. You take great pleasure in many things. You are proficient in nearly all of them, though you will never own it. Lest you seem too perfect, you have a tendency toward prejudgement that serves you very ill indeed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is Change a Good Thing, Martha?

So much has changed for me since the photo above was taken. If I started listing all the changes, there would not be enough room in this blog and I'd blow your mind! But for one thing I now have front teeth. I have five candles on that cake--I now have, um, many more. I am so happy in that photo, and I still carry that joy in me. No matter what has happened in my life, I still have that outlook that you see on my face in this photo.

I see myself just as I am in that photo. No matter what. I'm always surprised that bad things happen to me, but I have this Scarlett O'Hara attitude--"After all, tomorrow's another day!" or "Why cotton will go sky high!" or "Fiddle-dee-dee, pick yourself up and have another turnip!" or "As God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again!" (Well, I had some tiramisu today.)

I have been exploring a new path for me. In the mean time I haven't posted here because I'm trying to decide just what I'm supposed to be doing in my own writing, with this blog. I am having a hard time trying to think of what to write. I am rereading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.

This time of year has me 1. melancholy, missing my mother 2. missing my extended family 3. reflective 4. Still thankful and joyful about my life and family. I have two good friends who told me to just take December off from reading, from blogging, from building my own writing, and I am as much as I can. I do know that I need to change a few things.

I am all out of When I Was Just a Kid interviews, too, by the way, so I may start moving some of the ones I have on Chat 'n' Chew that I did before I opened the Kid blog. Start looking for that in the coming days. However, if you know someone who'd like to do an interview, please send them my way! Would love that!

Happy birthday Little Crissy! (No one called me by my real name, Crystal, until I married a Chris--and my mother was delighted, I think!) Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Space: The Final Frontier of My Mind

I'm not getting any younger. Still, I've lived pretty fully up until now. As I finish up some responsibilities this month, I'm thinking more and more about "what next?"

I think somehow in the last few years I landed on the wrong planet and I've got to chart a new course. I want to explore the space in my mind.

What lurks on the darkside of my mind--that unexplored space? Who would I have been if I'd gone in that part of my brain instead of this side of my brain?

I'm going to find out. It could get pretty hairy. But that has never stopped me before.

Houston, we have lift off.