Out of Africa

About six months ago I began writing this blog.  I’d never done anything like this before, and had only began writing for the Caringbridge site when Michael was in the hospital.  It was the result of lots of encouragement from family and friends that I decided to take this on.  When I decided to begin, the name I felt like I needed was “Where I Go From Here”.  It was never “Where do I go from here?”  It was never a question, but more of a statement.  I knew God would lead me in some direction, though I didn’t know which one.  So I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned in this time.

First, about the blog.  I’ve learned that this isn’t as easy as it looked to me.  I’ve gained a new appreciation of those that write and host complicated websites and blog posts with links and pictures and all kinds of media attached.  Boy am I out of my league.  I’ve learned that it’s scary and makes you very vulnerable to put your honest feelings and ideas out for everybody to see.  And sometimes you want to just hide out for a few days after the post is out before you’re brave enough to see if anyone has commented and what they’ve said.  I’ve learned that it’s very humbling to convey your thoughts and have people actually spend their time reading what you’ve said.  I appreciate every comment and Facebook “like” (even though I’ve not yet figured out how to respond to those who leave comments on the website itself).

I also didn’t know at the time that I would literally GO to physical places as well.  Most of the last two weeks I’ve been in South Africa.  Didn’t see that one coming six months ago.  Makes me think of that old Dr. Seuss book Oh The Places You’ll Go!  So I’d like to take a minute to tell you some of what I’m taking out of Africa.

I’ve learned that I can pack two weeks worth of clothes in a medium sized suitcase, come in under the 44 lb. weight limit, and still have packed too much.

I’ve learned that I can put myself out there to join a group of 28 traveling strangers, sit back and watch the new relationships develop and not feel insecure.

I’ve learned that I’m still agile enough to climb up the outside of an open jeep to the seats on the highest level (picture Granny from the Bevery Hillbillies sitting up in her rocking chair on the back of the old truck).

I’ve learned that animals are much more beautiful in their natural setting – zoos and circuses just don’t do them justice.

I’ve also learned that some people drink – a lot.  I know I’m not a big drinker and I try not to judge others who choose to drink, but I’ve been watching people drink wine for lunch, cocktails at the sunset safari, wine in the bar upon return and then a few more glasses at dinner. WHEW!  I mean how much is too much? (I’d actually be interested to hear your opinion on this question.)

I’ve learned that I can go nine days without an attack of homesickness – I think a new personal best for me.   Maybe because there’s no one at home waiting for me anymore.

I’ve learned that in spite of the lyrics to that Disney song, it’s a BIG world  out there.  It seems silly to say, but there are so many people living lives that are so different and “foreign” from my way of life.  People who have moved from country to country at different times I their lives.  They’ve taken their families and learned new languages, cultures and traditions.  They haven’t lived their whole lives in one city or state.

I’ve learned that if our little traveling group is any indication, there are a lot of people in this world who don’t know God.  They say things about spirituality and tolerance and higher powers and everybody finding their own way.  But it all sounds mighty hollow to me and I wouldn’t want to have only those platitudes to cling to as I go through life

And  I’ve learned that even if I’m almost 9000 miles away from home, when the band plays What A Wonderful World, I can still see and hear Michael singing like Louis Armstrong with his head back and his eyes closed.

Michael, if you can hear me, I miss you and I love you!









In Dependence

I can’t recount how many times in years past I would have this recurring conversation with God.  Sometimes when Michael was off working or when I was driving alone in the car.  For some reason I have for many years felt that I would one day be a widow.  (Now I’m not sure if that was prophetic or an overactive imagination – though recently it seems it may have been the former rather than the latter.)

In this recurring conversation I would usually find myself near tears begging God not to take Michael away from me.  Trying to explain to Him how much I needed him.  I remember thinking every time how I shouldn’t be so dependent on Michael, but should be more dependent on God.  I knew that many times my focus was more on my earthly husband than on my heavenly Father.  And I knew this was an area of my life that needed work.  Interestingly, Michael always told me how much he depended on me.  Occasionally he would take off to the farm and decide to stay overnight to get more done.  But always that night, and then again when he would get home, he would say how much he hated to be away.  “Why did I stay overnight when I just want to be with my dear,” he would say.  He was always the strong one, the leader, the one who knew what direction we were heading to.  Yet so often he would tell me how there was no way I could understand how much he loved me and needed me.

I tried often to tell him that it was me who depended on him.  Not just physically or financially, but even more so emotionally and for support and encouragement.  Anytime I would try to tell him these things he would just smile and shake his head.  “You’ll be fine if I’m gone. You’ll be just fine,” he’d say.  Somehow he couldn’t accept that I could be so dependent on him, could need him so much.

So here I am.  That horrible recurring conversation has come to pass. (Now don’t jump to any conclusions on me – I’m not saying I believe God took Michael to make me more dependent on Him.)  I no longer have Michael to depend upon.  I have my wonderful children and my awesome family and friends.  But more than ever I have to learn to live in dependence on God.  I’ve known this was true for decades.  I’ve even practiced it to a certain extent in my life.  But now I’m having to bring it to a whole new level.  Why is this so hard?  After all, He’s the creator of all there is.  He’s the one who loves me more than anyone else, including Michael.  He’s the one who has gone to extremes to pursue me so that I can be His – to know and enjoy His perfect and unconditional love and acceptance regardless of my performance.  This should be the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

This is a huge stretch of my faith.  To go to places of faith I’ve never gone before.  To reach with arms and hands of faith for things I’ve never done before.  To walk in shoes of faith that sometime hurt my feet and rub blisters because they are new and tight and haven’t been broken in yet.  To live completely in dependence on Him.  Hopefully soon the movements will come more easily, more habitually rather than something that I have to so consciously will myself to do.

Join me in dependence on rather than of God’s direction and desire for your life.  Thanks for reading along.





Goodbye Momma

It’s been one year ago today that momma died.  She was diagnosed with lymphoma almost 20 years ago.  It’s the kind of disease that shows up every two or three years and you have to beat it down to buy some more time.  Over the years the lymphoma had shown up in various places throughout her body.  And each time she would step forward for whatever the prescribed treatment was.  Sometimes it was radiation, sometimes chemotherapy.  Sometimes the chemo would just slow her down, and sometimes it would almost kill her.  She lost her hair a few times and even developed a heart condition as a result of the severity of treating the cancer.

In the fall of 2013 we began to notice that momma would say things that didn’t quite make sense.  She couldn’t find the right words to express herself.  We were visiting one day and it was obvious that this was more than just the trouble we all sometimes have in not finding the right word.  When we left my daughter even commented that she thought something was wrong.  I went back over to momma’s to tell her of my concern with the full intention of taking her into the ER, thinking maybe she was having a stroke.  Of course when I got there she insisted she was alright and proceeded to have a 30 minute conversation without misspeaking once.

But by December we continued to see these symptoms and tests were done.  A brain tumor was discovered in the part of the brain that controls language.  Radiation was the course of treatment and the daily routine started.  We (my siblings and I) would take turns taking mom to her daily appointments and then compare notes as to how we thought she was progressing.  It became evident in just a few weeks that she was not getting better, but we persisted.

It bears mentioning that in all the times that momma underwent treatment for the lymphoma she never once declined any treatment the doctors recommended.  Even though some of the treatments were brutal.  It made you wonder if the treatment wasn’t worse than the disease.  I remember thinking when she would be diagnosed yet again that, as much as I wanted her to get better, how could we ask or expect her to face it all over again.  But she always did.

Looking back, I think there was something different about this time.  You see earlier that fall of 2013, daddy’s lung cancer had reoccurred.  The doctors told him there was nothing else they could do and referred him to hospice care.  And then they discovered that the cancer had metastasized to his brain.  Yes, both of our parents were fighting brain tumors at the same time.  Daddy underwent the radiation treatments and was getting a good result.  But momma knew that the doctors had given him less than a year to live with the lung cancer.  She always said she never wanted to live without daddy.  And so now I look back and wonder if, though she underwent the radiation treatments, she didn’t really desire to live longer if it meant she would live without him.

By the first week of January, momma was declining fast and hospice was called.  She was allowed to be cared for in a hospice house just a block from her home.  It was very homey and the people were very nice.  She was not very aware by now of what was happening around her.  One day I was trying to get mom to eat something, anything.  She always had a sweet tooth so I was trying to coax her with a little ice cream.  She took a few bites very slowly.  Me, the pushy sister, kept on pushing and pushing for her to eat a little more.  “No!” she finally said.  It was the last word she would say to me.

Two days later we knew the time was getting short.  All the siblings were gathered at the hospice house that Saturday.  We all stayed close.  As the evening came we had the Saints football game on in her room and were following along – she liked to keep up with the Saints.  The game ended and the four of us stayed in her room.  We just sat around talking and laughing about what it was like growing up – silly memories and family vacations, who was the “favorite son” and things we thought we got away with as teenagers.  We sang a few of momma’s favorite hymns.  Momma’s breathing was getting labored and she was no longer responding to us.  She would have enjoyed hearing us laugh and retell stories.  Her family was the most important thing in the world to her.

As it got later the nurse came in.  She asked us to step out so she could reposition momma and give her some medicine.  We had stepped down the hall less than a minute and the nurse came to get us.  Momma wasn’t breathing.  Sure enough when we went back in she was perfectly still.  No more labored breathing.  Just quietness. The nurse checked her wrist and said she thought she still had a pulse.  She put my fingers on momma’s wrist and I felt the last few beats of her pulse.

It was just like momma to wait for everybody to leave the room to take her last breath.  She would never have wanted to be any fuss to anybody.  She died like she lived – very quiet, very private.

In that last month with momma, during trips back and forth for treatment and sitting around visiting at her house, she would sometimes get started on these circular conversations where she would say the same things over and over again.  We would listen, always respectfully, as she would retell us her thoughts.  She talked about how she and daddy always wanted to “love the Lord and work for the Lord”.  She said all they ever wanted was for their children “to work for the Lord.”  And as parents all we should want is for our children “to work for the Lord”.  All this said over and over again in her best southern Mississippi drawl.  And while in the days during and after momma’s passing we laughed at her simple way of looking at things, it really did give you a picture of her heart.  I mean, incredibly, when cancer took away her ability to reason and she couldn’t find the words to tell people how to care for her, she still wanted us to know that she loved the Lord and she wanted us to love Him to.

Miss you momma.




One of the things I love most about Michael is his sense of humor.  It was both entertaining and infuriating.  You see Michael was the fun one in our marriage and I was the serious one.  I don’t know if all marriages have a fun one and a serious one, but I must say that I look at lots of couples and see a fun one and a serious one.  Now this doesn’t mean that the serious one is never any fun or that the fun one can never be serious.  But, in general, one person is quicker to be fun and spontaneous while the other tends to plan and be responsible (sometimes translated the “wet blanket” or “party poop-er”).  Together we balanced each other well.  He kept us reaching for the moon while I kept our feet on the ground.

Even in our children you can see it – of the three of them, two tend to be more serious like me, while one is definitely the fun soul like Michael.  (I won’t name names, but if you know them you know exactly who’s who.)  Even a friend recently commented to one of my kids, “Yeah, you’re pretty serious.”  Interesting that others see it as well.  Interesting because you relate to people differently when you’re the serious one or the fun one.

Sometimes it’s easier to relate to the serious one because they’re more like you are.  You’re easily on the same page about so many things.  But the fun one brings so much adventure to life, which challenges me to get out of my comfort zone and do things that I’ve dreamed of but am not sure I’ll ever really go for.  But the fun one can also really make you crazy because they’re always pushing you to do things and dream big, when what you really want is to be safe in your own little personally-created world.

I miss the fun one.  I miss the spontaneity that drove me crazy and the adventures that gave me a nervousness in my stomach.  It makes me want to be more spontaneous to try to recapture some of that fun.  It makes me want to take more chances (though the serious one inside me keeps saying “What if you fail? What if someone sees you make a fool of yourself?”)  It makes me want to try new things outside of my comfort zone (though my stomach is nervous just thinking about it).

So as I say good-bye to 2014 (which I am both wanting to do and hating at the same time) I want to be more of a fun soul.  I can’t really quit being the serious one because that’s who I am, and this world needs some serious folks to be sure that bills get paid and people show up on time to places they need to be.  But I hope to take a little of Michael’s fun-ness with me and let it more freely lead me through whatever 2015 has in store.  And as I look at what is already on my calendar for 2015, there are lots of adventures ahead – some of which I am comfortable with and some, not so much.

Stay tuned for where I go from here in 2015.  It may raise a few eyebrows.  Thanks for reading along.