Busy Bees, we are.

“He who is too busy doing good finds no time to be good.”

We all do it. We get busy. Sometimes with important things, sometimes with trivial day-to-day happenings.

Nothing is wrong with it. In fact, sometimes we need to just get busy and get the job done. There is something wrong, however, with getting so busy that we miss it. We miss little moments, and BIG ones. We miss memories–we miss life.

Yesterday at the office, one of the most important women in the school system stepped out of a meeting to let me know she was expecting a visitor and what to tell them. She did more than that, though. Before she turned around to go back to the meeting, she paused mid-sentence and said, “Your dress matches your eyes. Has anyone told you that today?” The comment/compliment may not appear as touching in writing as it did in person, but it really made me think. I looked down at my green dress and realized that even I had not noticed it. The point is: she wasn’t too busy or too important to connect with me.

How many times have I been “too busy”? How many times have we all failed to notice people in the world, or even people that we’re close to? For believers, how many times have we passed up opportunities to share Jesus?

We can’t notice everything or everyone, but we can make a genuine attempt to slow down and make the most of moments–beautiful moments that we know are so very limited.

Notes for Nanny

In my eleventh grade lit class we were asked to write a literacy narrative. It quickly became my favorite type of essay. What I wrote is incredibly special to me. And since this is a blog, I guess anything goes.

Notes for Nanny

“What appeals to me? There are things, points of view, uses of the language, habits of dress, ways of thought and believing that came to me from my grandparents and came to them from theirs. Things that are of good use in any situation, no matter what the future may hold.”

-Tommy Lee Jones

               I balance on my tiptoes, brush my tutu out of the way, and bite my lip to gain concentration. I reach up as far as I can to take down the magnetic letters on the refrigerator. The warm sun runs in through the kitchen window that is directly behind me and warms my back. I turn around to see my older brother, McKinley, snickering. He loved to wait until my carefully constructed words were in order to come by and rearrange them. My sweet Nanny gives her best disapproving glare to McKinley and then grins as she tells us, “Get in the living room and let me finish cooking. Go see Papa.” I run to Papa, climb up in the recliner with him, and stick my tongue out at my brother. McKinley knew just as well as anyone else that when I was with Papa, I was untouchable. Papa smiled down at me, picked up a children’s book that was lying nearby, turned down the television so that the familiar sounds of his favorite western no longer danced around the room, and opened it to the first page. Rayna, my younger cousin, stopped playing with McKinley’s toy cars and trucks and made her way over to the rug in front of Papa’s chair. She sat down and leaned against his long legs and waited to hear him read. Just as he got to our favorite part where the wolf huffs and puffs and blows the house down, he was interrupted.

 “Supper’s ready! Go wash up. Tammy, Raymond, and Barbara will be here before too awful long,” Nanny tells us from the kitchen. Papa closed the book and helped us do as we were told. Not surprisingly, since Nanny was always right, it was only about two minutes later that Mama, Uncle Raymond, and Aunt Barbara came in and sat down in the most loved room of the home: the kitchen. The kitchen was the heart of the home because that is where Nanny, the heart of the family, spent so much time. She enjoys cooking for others more than anyone I know. That is why it is no surprise that my messages on the refrigerator were always noticed.

On December 19, 2000, Nanny and Papa’s anniversary, our family was devastated to learn that Papa had Lung Cancer and advanced and aggressive brain tumors. Within a week, he was lying in a Hospice bed in the middle of the living room. This time was more trying than ever for my entire family. It was also the time that I happened to be really grasping the concepts of reading and writing. Every day, I would write Papa a note with sweet little messages to get better soon, and notes to Nanny that almost always said “I love you bunches”.  She was busy dealing with the slow loss of her husband of over forty years, but she never stopped showing great love for her children and grandchildren. Amid such a tragic situation, she remained the rock of the family. When we would pull up to her house, I always jumped out of the car, ran inside to hug Papa, then Nanny, and made sure that I checked the refrigerator. This particular day, I followed the routine perfectly. I walk in the kitchen and notice that my “Jesus loves you and so do I” message is still showcased on the refrigerator before I go grab a piece of paper and my marker set to make today’s note. McKinley often helped me with spelling of words that I could not quite handle, and Rayna would always watch closely. Sometimes, she would even get a sheet of paper and try to copy my words and sentences.

The cold days passed slowly as his disease progressed. The hopeless attitudes were interrupted with moments of quality family time as Christmas approached. On Christmas morning, the whole family gathered around Papa’s bed and opened Christmas gifts. Uncle Raymond is famous for guessing what each present is before it is opened. “Alright,” he says as he grabs a neatly wrapped gift from underneath the Christmas tree, “this one is for Tammy. It’s a pocketbook. No, no. Yeah, it’s a pocketbook.” Everyone smiles, because he places his ear to the wrapping paper and acts like he is getting radio messages about what is inside. This radio station had no static, because he was correct. I looked around at everyone smiling and stopped when I looked at Papa. His bright smile looked strange against his pale face. Even at such a young age, and even though I did not understand most of the details of the disease, I could see his physical appearance changing. His strong spirit rested inside a weak, tired body. After the gifts were all unwrapped, we ate our traditional Christmas meal with very limited discussion. The minute “problems” no longer seemed important, and the small talk of what happened in last week’s football game or how the weather was seemed beyond inappropriate. It was hard for normal to happen, but every moment that Papa was with us was cherished.

               January 6, only a couple of weeks after his diagnosis, Papa passed away. At that point, Mama, McKinley, and I basically lived with Nanny. The funeral was a sweet service in a small, packed, country church in Axson with a burial service following at the Axson cemetery. I placed a note I had written with red marker that read “I’ll always be your Cooter Boot” in the casket with his body. The nickname was reserved to only be used by Papa, so that was out thing. I liked to imagine that it was all just a terrible dream, and that my sweet Papa would be sitting on the porch with us again before we knew it, watching the red birds like we always did.

               The next few months were really hard, but as time passed, Nanny could talk about Papa more and more without crying. Their marriage was a testament to the fact that true love and passion can take you a long way. When things were messed up, they fixed them. There was not anything Nanny could do to fix this, and that is what was so hard. I think that fact motivated her to not let any other relationship she had go badly. Tragedy sheds light on the importance of loved ones, community, and most importantly—the promises we have in Christ. Nanny’s faith became much more important to her. Nanny also grew even closer, if that was possible, to her children and grandchildren. I continued to write notes to her. By this point, the cedar chest that she stored all of our artwork and notes in was nearly full. Rayna was now drawing more pictures, and even ventured to use words with her gifts to Nanny. I remember walking into the kitchen one day and noticing that the note hanging up was not in my handwriting. It was not like the pictures McKinley commonly drew of deer or pick-up trucks either. In messy purple handwriting with yellow flowers around it, the paper read “Nanny, I love you ‘cause you’re so sweet and sour.” I laughed then, because I knew that this description did not have a chance of becoming a best-selling Hallmark encouragement card anytime soon, but now I appreciate the humor in it even more.

               This past July, Nanny turned seventy-five. I bought a book of sticky notes and wrote “365 Reasons I love you” on the first sticky piece of paper. I dated each page after and wrote all of the reasons I love her. The reasons range from more humorous ones like that she has the best dressed dog ever to more meaningful ones like how she has instilled in me a strong sense of compassion and how she has shown me what it means to live—to really live and enjoy life.

               What better way is there to enjoy life than to look back at things from the past? Nanny and I found ourselves looking back through the cedar chest of memories a few weeks ago. I found a note that I had written to her on one of her harder days that had “Smile Nanny. I love you. A whole, whole lot. So does Jesus. It will all be better” written in cursive. I found myself rewriting these same words a few days ago when I visited Nanny.  Mrs. Higgs, her neighbor and best friend of decades, had passed away at the respectable age of ninety. Sometimes it is hard to find the right words to say in situations like that. I find myself wondering sometimes, why does our advice always have to include big words and fancy philosophy? I think we had it right as children. Smile, Nanny. I love you. A whole, whole lot. So does Jesus. It will all be better.

Full Heart. Thankful ♥

If you think about it, life, from the very beginning, is full of firsts and lasts. I took a first step, had a first day of school that was almost as dreadful for me as it was for my mama (shout out to my Pre-K Parapro who came to my rescue when I was the only one who couldn’t open my milk at lunch), and rode a bike for the first time. I wore braces for the last time in eighth grade (after 3 1/2 years; of the things that have come naturally to me, straight teeth was certainly not one), danced my last recital, and had a “last sleepover” with a close friend who moved to California.

The past year, though, has been full of the most memorable firsts and lasts in my life thus far. My last Friday night football game, my last time cheering with a group of girls that I would do anything for, and my last time sitting in classes at Coffee High. First car that required monthly payments, first time working all day like the big girl that everyone thinks I am/should be at this point. First boyfriend, and I am proud to say that I waited until my last year of high school to date. The world keeps spinning, and with every rotation I lose grasp of something that I was so accustomed to and grab hold of the unknown. For someone who is the queen of plans and control, this is scary. And for this unknown, I am thankful.

Thankful.

Thankfulness is a virtue that stepped all over my heart yesterday as I sat in my car alone to eat lunch. Granted, I could’ve eaten in the office, but decided to enjoy every second of my sixty minutes of quiet. I went into full meltdown mode. My s’mores blizzard, that I didn’t need but thoroughly enjoyed, had no time to melt though, because every fear or worry was consoled by another bite of pure chocolate sinfulness. Why was I freaking out? Well for as long as I can remember I have proudly proclaimed my intent to be an educator. High school English, to be exact. Sitting there, I realized maybe I got so used to saying it that I never re-evaluated my decision. Maybe I shouldn’t be a teacher. But what other career would be meaningful, fulfilling, and allow me to use my writing skills? Even if I do teach, should it be here? What if God is calling me to a life as a foreign missionary and I am selfishly using the excuse that teaching touches lives (don’t get me wrong, IT DOES) to ignore that calling?

At one point, I even said to myself, ALL I know is that I am a follower of Christ. I have no idea about anything else anymore.

Then it hit me. If that is “all” I know, then I am doing just fine. If “all” I know at this point is that my identity is in my Lord and Savior, if “all” I know is that my King Jesus is alive and that His name is worthy to be proclaimed, then I really don’t need to know anything else. I do know that God provides, that He has and He will. I may go to college for four years and realize I had it all wrong, but I know that when I stand before God when this temporary life ends, I will be known as His daughter. And that makes it ALL RIGHT. I realized that just knowing Jesus is enough to be eternally thankful for.

With that being said, I won’t be ditching my planner anytime soon. I will still want to make sure everything is in order. But surrendering control of all the details to the One who sits on the throne of my heart is MY challenge.

Take my dreams, Lord. I want You. I want to follow, no matter where it takes me.