JUST WRITE IT YOURSELF !

March 6, 2019

One day, about a year and a half ago, Levi and I went to the bookstore to pick out a book for him. He looked at so many of them, but couldn’t seem to find just what he was looking for.  I asked him what he wanted and he told me a book about a dinosaur.  We looked for that.  And they did have books on dinosaurs…but not a story about a dinosaur.  We finally found something else he was happy with, and left the store.

Once we got in the car, He thanked me for the book, and said, “But, I really wanted a dinosaur story.”

Tonja…What kind of story, Levi?

Levi…About a dinosaur who is mean.

Tonja…Oh, that doesn’t sound like a fun book.

Levi…No, he would get sweet.

Tonja…What would the dinosaur’s name be?

He thought about this for a while.

Levi…I think his name is Thor.

Tonja…That is a good name.  Where does he live?

Levi…In a cave.

Tonja…What makes him mean?

Levi…He doesn’t have any friends.

An idea began to form in my mind.

Tonja…Levi, if you can’t find a book that is what you want…then you can write one yourself.

Levi…I am not a grown up.  I don’t know how.

Tonja…Then I will help you.

When we got home, I quickly wrote down all that he had said so far.  And put it away.  The next day, I asked him to tell me more about Thor.  He did and I wrote as fast as I could.  After he told me the rest of the story.  I told him that we were going to write all this down and make our own book.

And, that is what we did.  We worked on it for several months.  The story had to be divided into sections for each page.  And, it had to be illustrated.  He was so excited and ready to make his book.  We worked for several months, a little at a time.

But, his interest began to wane…and other things became more important.  Starting school, and playing ball.  So I gathered up all our work and put it in a box and put it away.  There, in my studio closet, sat that sad little unfinished book for about 6 months.  Levi never spoke of it, and neither did I.

Then one day, he came to me and said, “Lulu, don’t you think we need to finish our Thor book?”  I replied, “I think that is a grand idea.  I know just where it is.”  I got it out and he was gung ho on working on this book.  He wanted to finish it.

Levi…Can this just be a pretend book, or can it be a real book?

Tonja…Well, it can be a real book, if we work hard on it.  We have to divide the story, draw the pictures, glue it all together, and then I can have it printed.  It will be a real book!

We worked diligently every chance we had.  We wrote and rewrote.  We changed some of the words when we used the same word too many times.  Usually, he would dictate to me…but at times, he would ‘hunt and peck’ it out on the computer himself.

We drew pictures and colored them and cut them out and glued them onto our mock up.  I made a title page.  Then he designed a cover.  His book did not end with Thor staying mean, but with the help of a friendly lion, learning that having friends is lots more fun.  All the other dinosaurs even came over for a slumber party.  The last page of the book, has the verse, “A friend loves at all times”.

About this time, he decided we needed to be a real company.  With a real name.  And a real president of the company.  This was all up to him.  He decided that our company would be called BOOKS FOR LIFE.  And, he would be the president and I would be the president’s helper (sort of like a vice-president)  Alas, no fancy title for me!

Finally, the book was finished.  I took it to the printers and we ordered 15 copies.  (We have since ordered 20 more!)  He had plans to sell them at Barnes and Nobel…but I persuaded him that, perhaps, we needed to just give them away.

We took  the mock up to his classroom and I wrapped the book up in a box.  The children all gathered around.  Wanting to know what was in the box.  I told them it was a gift…and Levi had made it. 

We opened the box and took out the book.  The children were surprised.  But when I showed them who the author was, they were astounded.  I read the book to them. 

 I told them that books were like a gift that opened up as you read it.  I read it to them.  They were amazed that Levi had done that.  “Can we write a book, too?” they asked.  Levi and I both told them that of course they could!   What a special time we had that day!  ( Levi gave a copy of the book to his teacher and it now has a permanent place in Mrs. McClurkin’s Library.)

Yesterday, we picked up the final printing of Levi’s first book.  It is printed just like any soft cover book you may buy anywhere.  Levi came to see the copies and I think this picture shows you just how excited he was!

He is already thinking of a sequel to his book about Thor.  I won’t spoil it…but Thor goes on a great adventure.

This has been a labor of love.  And, hopefully a lesson to Levi that you don’t have to settle for things as they are.  You can change them.  If you can not find what you want…design and build it yourself.  You may need help along the way, but that only shares the joy of creativity!

It is amazing, when you stop and think, how God gave us all different talents.  Some of us are intellectuals, some are seekers, some study nature, and some study the body.  Some build with wood, some speak with paint.  Some can weld, some know how electricity works.  Some know the inner workings of a vehicle, some put words together to make beautiful poetry.  Some have the gift of opening little minds through teaching, some know the workings of stocks and bonds and IRA’s and such.  Some excel at sports, some prefer to sit quietly and think.  Some are born to lead, some are born to follow.  The thing is…God in His almighty wisdom gave us the talents he knew would fit us the best.  None are greater than the other.  We need them all.

Through this project with Levi, I have attempted to show him that he can do hard thingsit is OK if you have to stop and rest awhile.  I wanted him to see that he could do something that he had never done beforealong with a little help.  I wanted him to see that we are to use our talents to glorify God.  That’s why the book ends with a Bible verse.  We can find a way to witness for Him in everything we do.  I wanted him to not be afraid to make mistakes...just throw it out and start it over.  Hopefully these are lessons he will remember through his life.  As a matter of fact…we would all do well to remember these lessons.

Way to go, Little man!  Way to go!

FATHER’S DAY…WITHOUT

 

Father’s Day…2019.

This is the first time, since 1953, that I have not had a earthly father to wish Happy Father’s Day to.  Pop moved to Heaven on March 16 of this year.  It’s barely been 3 months since he left.   When Mom died, it was hard and there was grieving, it took a while to realize she was really gone.  Of course, she left suddenly and we had no time to prepare.  I missed my Mom so much, but I didn’t feel alone…I still had my Pop.  And, we continued all the traditions she had started.  The whole family stayed close, and we included Pop in everything.  We even held gatherings at his house so it would feel more comfortable for him.

Pop, even though he was 92, was still relatively healthy and as active as his daughters would allow him to be!  (“No more driving, Pop!”…..”No sawing limbs out of the trees anymore, Pop!”)  His illness was short lived, even though he had begun to slow down.  He went into the hospital the first time in January.  Back and forth, he was admitted 4 more times.  Slowly declining, Joy and I, and her daughters, Tara and Lori were with him around the clock.  He was on daily infusion treatments at home, on oxygen, and we had to continually regulate his meds according to heart and blood oxygen.  What a blessing that 3 of us have medical training, and we were able to take care of all his treatments at home.  He passed early in the morning with Joy and I on either side of him.  There was no struggle, no pain…he just stopped breathing.  We had prayed mightily that God would take him easily.  And, He granted our request, for which we are eternally grateful.

The whole family gathered immediately…even our little boys.  They watched as we went about the things that had to be done.  We laid Pop back in his bed and all the grandchildren got to have some time with him before the funeral home arrived.  The little boys got to see a family joined in love celebrating the life of their father.  There were tears and there was sadness and there was happiness.   We had the opportunity to teach the boys what death really means.  Their daddy’s and mother’s spoke words of truth and wisdom to them.  They explained the process and answered their questions.  They explained that right that very minute their Papa Clyde was seeing Jesus!  It was a beautiful time.  Pop was ready to go home.  He was tired and weak.  He told us, “When God calls me, don’t make Him call me twice.”  We knew his wishes, we knew how he felt and we honored that.

But, what I feel now is different from what I felt at Mom’s passing.  I have no parents in this world anymore.  I have a dear husband, who loves and cares for me.  I have a sister who would be at my beck and call for anything, anytime.  I have grown sons, who care for me.  I have a dear d-i-l, who is more of a daughter to me.  I have nieces and nephews who are very close to me.  I have a grandson who loves me .    I have friends that would come to me whenever I would call.  But, I don’t have parents.  I don’t have the folks who loved me first.  I don’t have the ones who held me as a baby and raised me through the years.  I don’t have the ones who instilled their values and morals and love into to me  that made me the one I am today.  I don’t have the ones I argued with because they wouldn’t let me grow up as fast as I wanted.  I don’t have the ones who saw me make big mistakes and helped me deal with the consequences.  I don’t have my Mama and my Pop.

This is not a bad or scary feeling, it is just different.  And, a feeling so many of you know, too.  It is really the first time I have felt ‘old’.  My parents are gone…and now I am the eldest female in our family.  I am so thankful that I know that I know that I know that my true home is in heaven.  My parent’s true home, also.  And, every member of my family.  And, friends as close as family.  This world is a place for us to serve God.  It is a place for us to learn and grow.  It is a place where God wanted us to be for a portion of our life.  But, Praise God!, this is not our home.  He has a place for me…with Him…and my Mom and my Pop, and all the loved ones who have already made the journey.  We will be together again…for eternity.  I bet my life on it.

 

My Pop was a man who loved to serve.  He travelled extensively in South and Central America as a liaison to Southern Baptist missionaries and others.  He built churches and radio stations. He gifted generators for light in dark places.  Below with missionary Dick Greenwood.

He travelled the Amazon in a dugout canoe to get to villages deep in the jungles. He served as a handy man for the missionary’s wives…fixing stuck doors, replacing windows, building rabbit hutches, repairing washing machines…whatever they needed.  He befriended the missionary kids and told them tales of great adventures.  He served.  And, his method of travel was a motorcycle…with a backpack, and a bedroll and a rain suit and a few changes of clothes.

He would go for months at a time.  And wherever he went, people were blessed.  He and mother travelled to Africa several times…they flew there.  As they got older, they would travel together to South America by plane.  Oh, how they loved missions and several of the missionaries became dear friends to them.  One couple, the McGriffs, even attended Pop’s funeral.  Another Missionary and his son who were especially close to Pop felt led to come and see him. They visited with him the day before he died.  I sat and listened as they told stories and adventures they had together.  This was Archie Jones, Sr and Jr.

Archie Jr, made several motorcycle trips with Pop, also.  Pop’s mind was clear, as they talked.  He recalled the most minute of details.  This was one of the things he had asked God to grant him.  He never wanted to lose his memories.  And, until the very end, he had every one.  This is not to say he wasn’t confused some at the end, but the confusion stemmed from the illness and the medication.  God was so gracious and merciful.

Pop loved his grandchildren and spent much time with them  He took them fishing…taught them all to ride motorcycles…was there always for support and guidance.

He  was loyal to his friends and still kept in touch with boyhood buddies.  One of his friends spoke these words of him.  “He was a man who had two callings in life for sure: 1.  To serve God and live with high morals and enormous faith and 2.  To live, ride breathe, and travel on a motorcycle and help young people understand the complexities of life…”

My Pop loved his church, and served it faithfully through the years.  He was a deacon, Sunday School director, worked with youth, was treasurer, and just about every other job there was. Here, he was honored as Sr. Adult of the year.

Oh, his church was special to him.  He was a inspiration to young people and he poured into their lives with truth and wisdom and friendship.

He had a strong work ethic.  And, he was not afraid to learn something new.  I learned early on that if he gave you a job to do, he expected it to be done to the best of your ability.  No excuses.  He expected Joy and I to do chores at home.  We even went to work with him and cleaned his office.  But,  he set the bar high for everything we did.  We learned right and wrong.  We learned about helping and serving.  We travelled.  He taught me to love books.  He showed me the whole new world that books held inside.  Things to think about that you had never thought about.  He attended lectures and talks with me  from different authors who spoke at Samford University.  But, we went to other talks that were not on the Baptist campus.  And we read the books and listened to them speak.  We discussed our feelings.  He valued my thoughts.  And, then we decided if it was ‘all wet’ (as he would say) or whether the point was valid. My opinion did not have to be the same as his.  This has stayed with me.  I love to get books and learn new things.  Some ideas are taken and some are discarded, but I can find out for myself if it is valid or not.  To me, that is a very important tool to have to live a well rounded life, taking others thoughts and actions into account, then deciding what is right for you.

 

 

Pop was a small man.  5’3″…115 pounds.  But, it mattered not.  He told us that anyone could do anything if they set their mind to it.  The only limit was in your mind.  He taught us to believe that…down in our souls.  “Step out on faith.  Be bold.” he would say.  “Yes, you can.”   “Follow your dreams…have adventures…don’t be afraid to try”  he would say. “Put God first, always, He will guide you and open doors for you,”  he said.  Even when he was living on one meal a day, before he married, he tithed what he made.  “You can never out give God,” was one of his favorite sayings.

All these things are seared into me and Joy, and the grandchildren.  He lived what he talked.  He poured into our children and they soaked it up.  I hear them say things he said, I see them use some of his mannerisms, I see them following their dreams.

So even though Pop is not here on Earth with us…he lives on in our hearts.  His words resound in our ears.  His testimony stands as true today as ever.

I could write and write and write about him.  But I will save that for another day.  I have trip logs and diaries to go through.  Stories of his many trips around the world.  I have stories of miracles that happened and close calls where only God could intervene.  These I will share as I have time to organize . Below, these are his riding boots…they went on every trip he took out of the country.  Photo by Adam Owens.

But for now, I will honor my Pop.  He was a giving man.  He was a strict man with his daughters.  He loved my mother the way God intended.  He honored her even after her death.  He was a godly man.  He was not always a patient man, but he tried.  As you grow older, you begin to see your parents for who they really are.  You see that they had faults, just as you do.  But, there was never a time I doubted his love, or care or concern for me and our family.

I have often told my boys that despite the fact that they were not always happy with my decisions concerning them, or their Father’s …and despite the fact that they would have picked someone else to be their brother, at times…God in His wisdom put our family together.  He is the one who thought we needed each other.  I feel the same way about my original family.  God put our family together.  It grew and we have learned from each other.  We miss our Patriarch, but he prepared us well to live without him.  And, we will strive to honor him with our lives.

This was our last photo of the complete family…taken Christmas Day…2019.

Happy Father’s Day, Pop from your family!

BOOKS TO SHARE

It started back in October of 2018. A hurricane called Michael hit the Florida Coast, the first Category 5 hurricane to strike the US since 1992. It incurred 25.1 billion dollars damage, took the lives of 43, and forever changed the lives of the people in the Florida Panhandle.

My grandson Levi and I watched on TV in awe. It got worse and worse. When it reached Dothan, 80 miles away, we had no idea of the damage it could do this far inland. As it finished its windy and watery journey, the world was shocked to see what devastation it left behind. Truly, it was heartbreaking.

Levi and I talked about what would become of the people and the buildings and the beach there. We prayed for the residents and the helpers who went to assist in the clean up. We talked about it for days.   We remembered all the happy time we spent there.  We both had been going to this wonderful beach town all our lives!  And, then the holiday season was upon us and all the activities that go with that. It was pushed to the back of our minds as we focused on our own lives.

However, seasons pass, and life returns to a more normal pace. One morning, before school, we had the television on the news and a report came on about how little had been done and how much needed to be done. Help was not coming fast enough. Businesses were destroyed, homes demolished, and people were living in tents. Levi asked me, “Who is going to help all the people?” I told him that many had been helping, like his Uncle Will, a lineman, who had been there almost daily since it occurred. Levi replied, “I just don’t think that is enough, Lulu.” And, I agreed with him that no, it wasn’t.

We started talking about what we thought the people needed the most. I pointed out to him that there were lots of people sending food and clothes and basic necessities. “Are the schools gone, too, Lulu? What about the children, where will they go to school?” I didn’t have a good answer for him. But, we had seen pictures of schools with no roofs, where all the desks and books and tables and chairs were all blown away. I told him that all that had to be replaced. And, from his loving heart, he said, “I could send them some of my books.” Now this second grader is a voracious reader and looks on his books as very special to him. He has quite a collection. I told him that I would think on it a little bit and we would discuss it some more.

After he left for school, I got busy. What could one grandmother and one grandson do to make a difference? Where to even get the information? I talked to a friend in Panama City as a start. Then I called the school system and asked if there was someone in charge of donations to the schools. They put me in touch with a lady who was doing this. I texted her and asked what the biggest need was. She told me books. Not textbooks, or teachers books, but those books that teachers have bought through the years with their own monies to enrich their classrooms. These were books they would send home with the children to practice reading. These were the books the children could check out from the teacher to read for enjoyment. These were the books that added that extra that each classroom desperately needs. I thanked her for her information and told her we would be back in touch.

Levi and I talked about it the next day, and he thought that his second grade class at Providence Christian School would like to help, too. I contacted his teacher and she thought it was a great idea. And, our plan began to take wings.

 

She ran it by the principal to be sure, and our principal asked why didn’t the whole school participate? That was a great idea! Oh, my! our project is really getting big! We set the dates for the book drive, and asked the children to pick out books on their grade level, and bring them to school during the month of April. I went to the school and spoke to the students at chapel and explained the project to them. I used the verse in the Bible that reads, ” Serve one another in love.” Galatians 5: 13. I explained that this was what God told us to do…not if it was convenient…not if it was easy….not if we felt like it. We were to do it! Soon books began to pour in. Levi was excited and proud and took great responsibility to talk it up and encourage the students. A popsicle party was promised to the class that brought in the most books from each school.

 

Levi’s mother, my daughter in law, Suzanne, is a teacher at Slocomb Elementary School about 15 miles outside of Dothan. “What if we join the drive?” she asked. Great! She checked with her principal and she agreed, and now books were coming in at 2 locations! Even the Preschool where I worked for 20 years got involved…First Presbyterian Preschool. Books were flying fast into each of these places.

As April drew to a close, I began gathering the books. The first trip to pick up filled the back of my CRV and the back seat.

The next trip did also.

Thank goodness for strong boys who were willing to help.

At Slocomb, Suzanne already had over 600 books which by the end was over 800. We finally got all the books to my garage. Wow..Look at all these books! We discovered we had left one box behind at Providence, and even though it was heavy, Levi got it into my car.

Now comes all the sorting and the checking and the packing. My sweet friend, Tina, gave me a day, and we went through, putting books into piles, organizing into types and grade levels and boxing similar books.

This little man took part of his birthday money to buy books for the schools.  Such an unselfish thing to do.  His Mom helped him find where his money would go the furtherest and he added a big stack to our growing garage library!  

 

 

It took a good long while. Suzanne was also going through books at her school. She went the extra mile, with her students. She had them look up grade levels for each book and tag it so it would be more convenient for the teachers in PC.

Levi told me from the beginning that his class was going to be the winner of the popsicle party, and he was right.   Mrs. McClurkin’s class of second graders brought in 317 books!  In Slocomb, Mrs. Owens’s fourth grade class brought in 160 books!  And that class got a popsicle party too!  

After texting back and forth with the coordinator and other teachers at the school board in Panama City, we set up a date to deliver the books.  My husband, Don, borrowed a trailer and together, he and I loaded all the books into the back.  We took off the next morning heading to PC.  A caravan of sorts, Suzanne and Levi leading the way, Don and the truck, and me following behind.  In our trailer we had books…big books, little books, mostly new books, a few gently used books but a truckload of books!  In fact, we had over 1800 books!!!  1800!!!

 

 

We delivered to the Bay High School and there were students there waiting on us. They formed an assembly line from the truck, into the school, down the hall, and into a large art room! Levi and Don handed out every box of books to the students.

 

 

When we got inside there were representitives from other schools there to greet us and collect books to take to their schools.

 

They were so gracious and appreciative. And, Levi. He stood tall and proud. He answered boldly every question they asked him about our book project. He even told the Elementary School principal that “God says, that when we serve others, He will not forget it.” (” God will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for others.” Hebrews 6:10)

We made pictures, and shared hugs, and it was time for us to leave. We walked to the car. It was done. Our little talk at the breakfast table had turned into this. We all worked hard and did our part and together, we made a difference to some schools in need. Levi said, “I didn’t think it would be like that.” We asked him what he meant. He said, “That was great! They were so happy. I feel happy. ” I reminded him that doing good is its own reward. The feeling you get from helping others is as much for you as them. When we do the things God planned for us to do, we feel it all the way down in our hearts.

Later that afternoon, as we were sitting on the porch of our beach house, just me and Levi, I asked him if today had been a good day. He replied, “Oh, yes! Lulu, I still feel happy. I think God is happy, too, don’t you?” I do, Levi. Indeed, I do.

We love Panama City.  We have visited since I was a baby…those that live here in Dothan and surrounding areas have too, I’m sure.  We even have 2 little cottages on Laguna Beach.  The Gulf of Mexico is a beautiful creation in God’s world and in thanks and gratitude for many years of pleasure, we share with them, as we can, in this tragedy.

 

Friends, there are as many ways to serve others in this world as there are thoughts that come to mind. This sprang into fruition from a tv newscast and talking with my grandson. It’s as easy as that. People are hurting. People are waiting. There are needs as great right here in Dothan. Find something that touches you and go for it! God will bless your efforts and He will not forget it.

 

BOOGALOO CAMP 2019

This year has to have been the most special Boogaloo Camp yet! It was the most fun and the most joyous time, just us girls and our little boys!  And, the Lord sent us perfect weather!  Last year, we had to leave after 2 days due to a tropical storm closing in!

We arrived on Friday morning.  Everyone unpacked and sort of moved in on one another!  Usually 3 of us stay at the trailer next door, but due to some college friends needing a place to stay for a few weeks, we lent it to them,  Which left us all together in the house.  But even a tiny house has plenty of room when it’s filled with love!

We started the day off with the results of a project that I gave the girls a few weeks ago.  They were to find a flamingo and enhance it in some way.  The rules were lenient, but everyone got into the fun!  First John Thomas and Tara…they found a flamingo stake and added clothes and a blinking light flamingo necklace!  It came complete with a sparkly sign.

Next came Levi and Suzanne.  They decided to build their own flamingo!  They built a stand and then fashioned the face and body.  A true arts and crafts project!

Then Joy arrived with the biggest flamingo I had ever seen!  She dressed him in a hat and and he was carrying a large gift bag with smaller gifts for us all!  How clever!

 

Lori came in last…and brought her project!  She had found a flamingo pinata and added some darling accessories!  Sun glasses, and lovely blond curls. She also had a necklace…so cute!

We visited and let the boys discover their boxes of treasure and projects we were to accomplish!  Then I shared my flamingo gift to everyone!  The softest, comfiest flamingo pajama pants!  I bought everyone a pair…and we all liked them so much, if we weren’t dressed to go out…we had on our new pants!  Aren’t they cute?  Found them at Wal Mart several months ago..guessed at sizes…and saved them for camp!

We went out to Boondocks to eat, one of our favorite places!  The boys went to feed the fish after dinner on their pier.  I went out long enough to snap a picture…but the bugs were biting so bad, I came in to wait!  See Levi scratching!

Joy had brought ymmy flamingo cookies and that was our desert!

Next morning was our first run on Thomas Doughnuts…excellent as always!  Then we all prepared to head to Shipwreck Island.  This was the boy’s choice.  They promised me I would like the lazy river and that there were plenty of places to get out of the sun.  So, Joy and I bravely joined them.  Yes, I loved the lazy river.  As a matter of fact, that was the only thing Joy and I did.  But it was relaxing and cool.  However, enough was enough for the seniors in the group.  After a few hours, Joy and I headed for home.  The girls and boys stayed a good while longer…wave pool, slides, all that they offered!  They had a ball!

Everyone was hungry and so we headed out to The Shrimp Basket.  Had a little wait, but not too bad.  Great food. Not much atmosphere, but we enjoyed it!

After dinner, we decided ice cream was in order…trip 2 to Thomas Donuts and Ice Cream.  I love their snow cones!  Home and a little book reading to the boys.  I always bring the funniest books I can find to make them laugh!  Do you know The Wonkey Donkey?

Suzanne woke us to the smell of bacon and eggs, yummy!  And, then Levi, John Thomas, Lori and I met at the kitchen table for a painting session!  We worked slowly and learned about blending and the way the ocean looks when you stand on the shore and look at the horizon.  They worked very well…here is their work in progress…

After this, we got right into a massive tie dying session.  Oh! it was messy!  And, so fun!  Can’t believe I didn’t make pictures of that, but we made some great shirts and had a ball doing it!  Then Levi had some gluing and pasting he needed to do!

Don’t the boys look cute in their matching outfits?  Yes…we know that won’t happen too many more times!

We also did some work with clay.  The boys decided on the designs for their fish depending on what they could find around the house to make marks in the clay with.  They did good, huh?

Everyone decided a trip to Pier Park was in order (shopping, if you don’t know).  We found shoes for the boys and a little of this and that.  Then we headed to Red Robin for an early lunch.

After lunch, Joy and I headed to the house for a little respite and the girls and boys headed out to explore.

And, when they came in…they had found a new candy store called I Love Sugar.  They had bags and bags and bags of treats…lots of the old timey candy.

Time for bed!  This year, all 7 of us stayed in the house.  I have some friends whose college sons needed a place to stay for a few weeks, so they were using the Flamingo (trailer).  So, we were all together…really together.  Stepping over one another, running into one another and loving every minute of it!  We may even do it again next year!

Bacon and eggs again, and biscuits, too!  Lori had to head back to Dothan for work.  And, the boys were more than ready to head to the beach.  So off they went.  Tara has a dear friend (Jayna, daughter of my friend Shirl).  They have a house about 3 blocks from us.  They were here this week, so they all met on the beach.  The kids played together and the girls talked!  The water was pretty rough, so they had to stay pretty close in.  Fun was had by all!

Joy headed back, she had something to attend too the next morning, and after the beach, John Thomas and Tara headed on their way, too.  She had work the next day.  Got the boys to do some cleanup before they left.  Joy had bought them some of those popper things that leave little white papers..100 each!  Plus, they had marshmallow shooters!  They swept and did a great job!  It was hard for Levi when they left.  He was sad.

That left Suzanne, Levi and myself.  What to do?  What to do?  Hmmm. ” Levi, have you heard of Aladdin?”  “OH yes, let’s go!”  And so we did!  But ended up having to wait for two hours, so they took me to see the great, new, grand, enormous candy store.  We explored it all, then decided what was calling our sweet tooth.  We filled up several bags.  Got several bags to bring back to Alex.

The movie was amazing!  WE got a large popcorn and cola icees.  And settled in to those reclining seats to enjoy!  Such a visual treat for the eyes.

Levi was exhausted when we returned.

Next morning, Suzanne and Levi headed home…after helping me clean up and vacumn.  And, that left me.  All alone in the Sandcastle.  Man, it was quiet.  I lay down on the couch to rest and reflect…I woke up two hours later!  Then I sat on the porch and read, and rocked, and read some more.  The next day, I started on my second book and finished it, too.  I miss having the sweet girls and my Sis and my sweet little boys.

It’s been such a good few days.  We are so blessed to have a family that loves each other and wants to be together.  This has become a highlight of our year and we look forward to next year!

A NEW NORMAL

March 31, 2019

Today I went to church. The church I have grown up in. The church that has helped mold my life. The church that is family as sure as my genetic family.

I started attending this church when I was in the 6th grade. We were attending a small country church, and my parents thought the bigger ‘city’ church would offer more opportunities for sister and I. And, it did. Southside quickly became ‘our church’ and the people there became family.

I still remember the first time I attended. I remember the sweet lady who was teaching…she became one of the dearest people in my life, (JCK). I sang in the youth choir in this church. I went on youth trips with the other kids. I learned about missions in this church…I was a GA and an Acteen. I stood before the church in my cap and gown when I graduated from high school. I left for a few years to go to college. I got married in this church. My husband and I raised our boys here. Many of the same people who loved and poured into my life, did the same for my boys. They followed through doing some of the same things I did…youth trips, lock-ins, VBS, youth choir…and then they stood in front of the church in their cap and gown when they graduated from high school.  They were all 3 baptized in this church.

I served in this church in many capacities through the years…mostly with children and preschool. I learned to love missions through the influence of my parents and godly women who taught me well. I became a leader in some of the same groups I once was taught in. My mom and I arranged 14 mission trips for the ladies in our church. She was very active in the mission teaching at Southside. My Pop was always a deacon and a leader in many ways, especially in missions. My sister and her family were as involved as we were. Sister serves as pianist even today. So, my church has been an extension of my own family.

In 2009, things changed. Mom left us to live with Jesus, quite unexpectedly. Our church family was there for us and helped us all through this difficult time. There were so many people who loved my Mom. It was hard to go back to church without her there…sitting with Pop on the 4th row from the front on the right side.

There were some other heart breaking incidents that occurred in our church soon after Mom passed. But God provided grace and strength for all involved. He knew it all along and allowed it, and it has been used for His glory.

Today, I went to church for the first time since my Pop died. A little hard…but, expected. The last time I was in our sanctuary, his casket was lying in front of the altar. Today, my immediate family at Southside numbered 3. Where once there had been 15 of us. Now, we are down to 4 active members. The others are all actively serving the Lord in their own churches.  And my Mom, my Pop, and my Mother -in -law all worship in Heaven.

I feel sort of a deep sense of regret when I look around the congregation and see those that are missing…who have gone on to Glory. I remember them so fondly, and with great love. I see many of those dear saints that I looked up to for so long, sitting and listening and worshipping. They are still encouraging and teaching us how to be faithful until…

I love my church family. I love those who are still here and those that attend elsewhere. I love those that are worshipping at the feet of Jesus today. The bond that was formed many years ago stands strong because it was a bond formed of love. Love of God first and love of others. Love that was a serving love…the older teaching the younger…and the younger becoming the teacher, in due time. And so it will continue.

My church looks different that it did 10 years ago. And, in another 10 years, it will look even more different. And, so it goes. Things change. People die. Families take different paths. It’s just change. But if things don’t change, they die.

My thoughts are tumbling over and over themselves in my mind as I write…so this post may be a little discombobulated. That seems to happen to me more and more, the older I get. I think there are just a lot of ‘thinks’ that need to get thought and dissected and put into perspective.

All it boils down to is…I love my church family…those here and those elsewhere. I miss my Mom and Pop  and Don’s Mom being in church with me. I miss my boys being in church with me. But, I am happy in my heart for the legacy left by the many Saints I was, and continue to be, blessed by.

May God continue to bless the church on the corner of Cottonwood Road and Appletree Street.

 

CHRISTMAS 2018

And so, Christmas 2018 is in the books. We prepared, shopped, cooked, shopped again and again, gathered together and had a wonderful Christmas celebration. We sort of spread it out a little this year.

We decided last Christmas, that this year we would try to make it easier on the ones who have both families here. So hard to visit both places in one day. So we decided to have our big family celebration on the Sunday before Christmas…this year that was the 23rd. It really turned out well and the best thing was that we all were together! Alex was feeling well enough to be up and enjoy the day. And Pop, at 92, did very well. But, was ready to go home right after the presents. Our 2 little ones, John Thomas and Levi performed for us. JT played the guitar while Tara sang Silent Night. Then Levi quoted some scripture he had learned in school. I let these guys fill in the blanks while reading the Christmas story from Luke. Amazingly, they could quote most of the scripture whenever I would stop! So proud of them!

Now, some pics from Sunday…the whole family…and from Christmas Day…our immediate family! And, we got Alex again! What a blessing!

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23 and TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25

Don and I in our aprons..sstarted cooking at 5:00 AM


Donald and Tommy at lunch…it was warm enough for some to sit outside on the porch.
Tara and Will at lunch
Uncle Alex and Levi
Joy, Pop, and Tonja

Suzanne and Tonja
Levi and Lulu…happy
Levi and Lulu…silly
John Thomas playing Silent Night on his guitar
Ian, Alex, Tonja, Levi, Don, Adam, Suzanne
(sorry about that bright light around my head…it’s so hard to hide a halo!)
Townsend, Owens, McKibben, Bush Families
Lori, Tara, John Thomas
Lunch Time
Uncle Alex and Levi
Tonja and the boys…
Levi and his tree
Don and the boys…
Adam and Suzanne
Our beautiful Mother, who celebrates Christmas in heaven now. We miss her so.
Thank you, Lord Jesus for blessing our family. Everything good comes from you. We acknowledge that and give you honor and praise and glory!

YES, THAT’S WHAT A MEMORY IS

One day last week, Levi and I made ornaments together.   I have a big trunk filled with plastic Christmas balls just ready to be filled with whatever strikes his fancy!  Feathers, little reindeer, tiny beads, pictures we drew…anything and everything.  We have lots of things to string and hang and lot to make garland from.  We save it all…year after year…and we have quite a collection now.

After we got a little weary of that, we opened up the other boxes that belong to him, and pulled out all his favorite ornaments.  We started collecting little red trucks carrying trees when he was just a baby.  Now we get any color truck and have branched out to other vehicles….motorcycles, cars, campers, firetrucks…anything that goes!  I think we have about 40 now!

As we worked together, side by side, on his tree, he was talking up a storm.  These words really touched my heart…

“Lulu, I remember doing this. We have done this before. We always put my tree right here and it always makes me happy. Is that called a MEMORY?”

I answered…“Yes, sweet boy, it is a precious memory. Those are the kind that stick in your brain very well because you really enjoy doing something. It is a sweet memory for me, too.” 

He spoke again and said...” I think it is because I like when we do things together.  It makes me happy when  you and me can make things.   I love all my tree things and the ornaments I made, and today you taught me how to tie a slip knot!  It was hard, but now I can do it!  This is a good day!”

 

I thought…”Oh, my little man…you have no idea how I treasure every day we can spend together…you’re 7 now and things will continue to change for you. Other things will become more important as time goes by and spending these kind of days together will get less and less. It’s the way of the world.  I hope we can still have special days together.  But these precious memories are locked away in my heart of hearts forever!”

That’s all.  Just sharing a sweet moment between grandmother and grandson.  Making memories.  Hope you make a lot of sweet memories this Christmas, too!