Friday, December 13, 2013

Hiding the Gifts

Reading Facebook earlier today, one friend posted that she’d hidden a Christmas gift so well that even SHE couldn’t find it! I’ve done that. Have you?

When the pole in the master bedroom closet gave way at a parsonage we were living in, I realized two things. One...we must have had too many clothes. Two...the way it ripped away drywall where the shelving was mounted was going to make it pretty hard for me to repair.

You see, I’m the fixer-upper around our house. Shadowing my daddy for so many years gave me some knowledge of tools and minor repairs, so when something needs fixing...I’m your girl! Plumbing under the sink clogged up? I can fix that. Shelves need to be mounted? I can do that. Re-wiring a lamp? Yes. Wallpaper? Be glad to!

I couldn’t help but get a little tickled recently when my hubby noticed that our mailbox door wouldn’t close and asked, “Do you think you can fix that?” And so I fixed it. It isn’t that he doesn’t know how to do things like’s just that he has so many things to do in ministry (and I love to do small repairs)’s a no-brainer. I’m the handy-man at our house! 

My sister, Vangie, would save little things for me to do for her on my many visits. Her husband was handy, but there were some things she decided she wanted me to do for her. She’s been in Heaven for almost a year and I miss hearing her call me “Butch” whenever she had a job for me to do!

But I digress...
Getting back to the closet mess: I did what any good pastor’s wife would do. I called the head of the Parsonage Committee who quickly dispatched one of the church trustees to come take a look at the problem.

Before the trustee arrived, I dutifully picked up all the clothes that were on the closet floor and cleared out all the shoes we had in there, when I noticed a big bag from K-Mart. Not thinking it was anything I shouldn’t look at, I opened the bag and found a pancake griddle! I got so excited because I needed a new one. Then I realized I’d just found my Christmas present from my husband. It was October, and he’s pretty good about shopping early.

I’d ruined his surprise.

What should I do? Open it on Christmas morning and tell him how surprised I was to get a griddle? Confess to him that I found it and then have breakfast for dinner?

I called him at his office and told him I’d found the gift.

Joe: What gift?

Me: You Christmas gift.

Joe: Your Christmas gift?

Me: Yes, the pancake griddle. I’m so sorry. I was emptying the closet floor and saw the bag, opened it, and realized I was messing up your surprise.

Joe: Pancake griddle? Pancake griddle. Pancake griddle. Hmmm...

Me: (waiting during a long pause)

Joe: Oh yeah, I remember now! The pancake griddle! But it isn’t your Christmas gift. It was your Mother’s Day gift. I forgot to give it to you!!!

We had breakfast for supper that night. Happy Mother’s Day to me!

“If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Beth's French Toast

I'm not an expert in the kitchen, but there are a few things that are specialties for me…and French Toast is one of them. I've served this on Christmas Eve morning for many years and I hope you'll enjoy this recipe.

Beth’s French Toast

I use Texas Toast from the bread aisle...not too fresh though, so it holds up. For every cup of eggnog (I use Mayfield) I add two eggs; then I add a ½ teaspoon of vanilla, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of salt, a dash of nutmeg and 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon of oil. (It all mixes up really well if you'll drizzle in the oil slowly as you beat the mixture.)

Pour the mixture in a bowl and start dropping in one slice of Texas Toast at a time so it's wet on both sides, and then transfer to a hot griddle. It’s also HEAVENLY done with day or two old croissants.

I’ve tried adapting it to baking it in a casserole dish, which is great for a crowd.

Remember, if you have a pulse…you have a purpose. Make your life count!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Taking two shots...

All I did was take a bite of salad one night and the next two weeks were miserable!

Hubby and I were enjoying a few days away in the Smoky Mountains...staying at the home a friend loaned at the outlet malls...eating delicious food. Something we’d been looking forward to that came at a really good time in Joe’s busy fall schedule. He was able to keep those days open for ‘just us’ and we enjoyed every moment.

Until I ate that salad.

Let me back up. I’m a grinder. For some reason, I have been grinding my teeth in my sleep for a very long time. I’ve worn one of those night-guards to prevent it, but haven’t used it in a long while. It doesn’t fit anymore (unlike my clothes, which don’t fit because for other reasons) due to new crowns, bridge-work, etc. I’m such a grinder that I’ve worked my way through two crowns on the same tooth.

The day of the salad incident, I’d just had the second crown re-attached until I could have a new one made. Instructed by my dentist not to eat anything on that side of my mouth for an hour, I was obedient and waited four hours or more. That evening, as we sat in a restaurant overlooking our beloved Smokies, I took a bite that sent horrible pain shooting in my mouth. Joe said that my face went completely white and he thought I was going to pass out. My eyes filled with tears. I have a high pain tolerance, but THIS pain was nearly intolerable! No Advil, no pain reliever of any kind was in my purse, so Joe went to find someone who might have something I could take. When he returned with four Advil, his food had arrived. (I’d had the waitress box mine up earlier.) I insisted that he go ahead and eat his meal while I excused myself from the table.

This wasn’t my first time to order a drink at a bar. (Thanks be to God, I don’t need that anymore.) I think the last time was when I was a chaperone on a choir tour with my daughter’s elementary school. Her fourth grade teacher had ‘the crud’ and couldn’t enjoy her meal for all the coughing she was suffering. After the children went to their rehearsal and the adult chaperones were alone together in the restaurant, I took Teacher to the bar...ordered a straight shot of whiskey and had her sip it. Voila! Her cough let up! (Yes, I took my daughter's teacher to a bar...but for good reason!)

Don’t get judgmental about me using whiskey. Over-the-counter cough remedies contain alcohol. My mother may have once been president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, but momma never heard a cough like Teacher had!

In TV westerns, cowboys would be given whiskey to kill the pain before a bullet had to be removed. That logic came to mind when my tooth felt like a shot had gone through my whole body! I went to the bar and ordered a straight shot of whiskey. No water. No ice. Just whiskey. Telling the bartender what my problem was, he recommended I have something smooth, so poured me a shot of Crown Royal (not Royal Crown, ‘cause then I’d have needed a Moon Pie, and I wasn’t in the mood). I paid the barkeep, took that shot and let it roll around in my mouth a little bit to ‘medicate’ the tooth. Then I swallowed. It was smooth. $7.50 worth of smooth. 

I went back to the table and sat quietly while my sweetheart finished his meal. He felt bad eating in front of me, but I told him I was just happy he could chew! He paid our bill and we started out of the restaurant when I decided to buy one more shot. Joe probably thought I was going to the restroom when I told him I’d be in the car in a few moments.

The restroom was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to get back to the bar! This time, I told the bartender I didn’t want to pay for expensive, smooth whiskey. I just wanted cheap, straight whiskey to roll around in my mouth one more time for the pain. Yes. The pain. And that shot helped. A little.

Two weeks and many peanut-butter milkshakes later my dentist informed me the tooth under that hole-y crown was abscessed and needed to come out.

Fast-forward. The tooth is out. Stitches are in, and I’m feeling much better. And I may be sick of peanut-butter milkshakes for the first time in my life!

And I haven’t been back to the bar since then. Remember, don’t judge me.

Just because the preacher’s wife made two trips to a bar in less than twenty minutes isn’t that big of a deal. The fact that she was wearing her Asbury Theological Seminary sweatshirt representing the place where her hubby was trained to be a minister? Well, that kind of is...

just sayin’

“If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!” 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The desire of my heart...

Psalm 37:4
"Take delight in the Lord,and he will give you the desires of your heart."

I always wanted to be a mother. When I found out I was pregnant again (after several miscarriages) I had little faith in this one succeeding. But my husband, who can’t help but believe God’s promises, had enough faith for both of us. A total stranger who was praying for him at a retreat in Atlanta told him that “...the Lord says you’re going to have the desire of your hearts. You’ll have a child of your own.” Joe kept this to himself and waited on God. It wasn’t until that night in the ER that he shared this ‘word’ with me. My gynecologist had just come in to tell me I was pregnant again, but we’d found out early enough that he might be able to help me carry this one to term. With injections of HCG, I might have a baby in September. Without the injections, he said he would keep me comfortable until the pregnancy ended itself...which was what was trying to happen at that moment. He left the room to let us decide what we wanted to do. That’s when Joe told me about the ‘word’ given to him in Atlanta five weeks before. After sharing it with me, he laid hands on me and prayed for our child...that it would stay in my womb until the time it was to come forth. The doctor returned and we told him to start the injections because we wanted to have this baby! Dr. Sherrill started them that very night on January 6, 1985. I was to take the shots until I was ten weeks’ pregnant and stay in bed through the first trimester. During that down-time, I never read so many magazines and books in my life! (I also started watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street!)

Fast forward to the night of September 9, 1985:
I was in labor as Joe and I watched the Dodgers win on television. Then we had praise and worship music playing softly in the background. And then I got the epidural...something I didn’t want...but I had toxemia and my blood pressure had become so high, the doctor ordered it. Late the next morning the music was turned off and I was getting into some serious work! Joe was wonderful as he coached me through all those hours. He only left my side once and that was to get some fresh air and a Diet Coke. And that was when my sweet and dearest friend, Myra, was there to continue the LaMaze coaching.

When Joe stepped out, Myra came to my side and told me when to take a deep, cleansing breath, then find my focal point and breathe rhythmically. We did that together several times, then all of a sudden I became this desperate woman! I grabbed Myra’s shirt, yanked her down to my face and said, “I had to stay in bed to keep this baby and now I need blasting powder to get it out!!! You tell them to get this baby out of me NOW!” This is what our LaMaze coach called ‘transition‘ and I was IN TRANSITION!

In the delivery room, I pushed and pushed, and the baby crowned. But that’s as far as it went. The baby was stuck. Forceps were used. Still stuck. Pretty soon, the baby’s heart rate was getting irregular and obviously in distress. All of a sudden I was having a Caesarian delivery. When the doctor took her from my body at 2:04 p.m. she was hanging limply “ a rag doll” Joe said.

No one was exclaiming “it’s a girl!!” No one was making a sound. Not even the baby. I kept asking the anesthesiologist about the gender and he quietly whispered that I had a little girl. Two student nurses were standing nearby and I saw tears in their eyes. The drape in front of me wouldn’t let me see much in front of me, but I saw my obstetrician’s face. He was working on me, then glancing over to the side of the room where our baby had been taken. Still no sound.

When I tell you that Joe believes God’s promises, I’m quite serious, because I heard him begin to pray. He got louder. Pretty soon the whole room heard him remind our Mighty God that “...You promised us this baby and I’m not gonna let go now! Satan, you can’t have this one!”

And that is the moment I heard Hannah’s first cry. The atmosphere in the whole room changed. There was rejoicing in that place! Our 8-pound, 6-ounce baby girl was fine! Joe held our miracle for the first time. I was still having surgery, but I got to touch her. She was squinting, pink, and beautiful. She didn’t look anything like Winston Churchill! (up till then, I thought ALL newborn babies looked like Winston Churchill!)

That night, I made a promise to God that whenever I had the chance I was going to tell people what a miraculous thing He did. So now, I’ve told you.

Today, September 10th, is that miracle baby’s 28th birthday. Hannah Elizabeth is in love and married to a wonderful man who loves her dearly. She is an artist, a graphic designer, an amazing woman, a pianist and a singer. She loves Jesus. And that’s the best part...she loves Jesus. I knew God gave us a special girl because there were so many things that might have taken her from us. But He protected her. She’s here. And she’s beautiful inside and out.

Whenever I think about what might have been, I’m thankful God had His hand on her. My daughter...Hannah an answer to many, many prayers. And those prayers are still being spoken every day for her. I like to use Jeremiah 29:11-14 now and again as I pray for her. I insert her name. This is something you might want to do for your children, your grandchildren, or someone else you care about...

For I know the plans I have for Hannah,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper her and not to harm her, plans to give her hope and a future. Then Hannah will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to her. She will seek me and find me when she seeks me with all her heart. I will be found by Hannah,” declares the Lord...

Amen and amen.

“If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!” The woman at the post office window probably has no idea, but she did that today. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

I try to keep my blog postings upbeat and funny, but today I had a meltdown of major proportions.

It happened at the Post Office in our town where everything was moving along just as it always does. I stood in line with a couple of packages and waited my turn. As usual, it was a long line since that is the only P.O. in Cleveland, TN. The postal worker at the window on the far left was the next person available to assist me.

I had two packages to mail. One heading to Oregon and the other to Ohio. I asked for tracking numbers for both of them, then tears began to flow. As much as I bit my lip and tried to hold them back...they were relentless and fell down my cheeks.

The postal worker looked at me and asked if I was okay.

No. And then I whispered to her through my tears that I was mailing the last of my late sister’s jewelry. And the realization of that hit me as I stood before her. She reached across the counter and took my hand in hers...shared that she understood my hurt and to not apologize for the tears. She said she understood. She'd lost both of her parents.

I think about her every day and have finally reached the point where thoughts of her bring more smiles than tears. But that wasn’t the case today.

Right after she died, Vangie’s husband asked me to disperse her jewelry. She and I had talked about it many times and I knew who was to get I took care of it. Lots of family and close friends have things to remember my sissie by...and I kept some things that were meaningful to me. So today, I packaged up some earrings for her husband’s cousin and then put the remaining pieces of costume jewelry in an envelope for him.

And here I was...crying to a postal worker holding my hand. We didn’t know each other. I’ve seen her a few times, but don’t know her name. I can tell you this, though...I’ll never forget her face. And if I run into her in a grocery aisle somewhere, I’ll tell her what she did for me today. She comforted me. It didn’t take long, for which I’m sure the other customers were glad about. She just took my hand, made a remark, gave it an extra squeeze and I was on my way.

Thankfully, I didn’t run into anyone on my way out the door. I unlocked my car, dropped in the seat and cried like a baby.

It all seemed so final. She really is gone.

And I still have the best of her in my heart.

I always end my blogs with this reminder, and today’s is no different...
“If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!” The woman at the post office window probably has no idea, but she did that today.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Where a House Becomes a Home

Bennett’s Furniture in McComb, Ohio has been in business since 1906. Brothers Ned and Dan Bennett had many storefronts in their little town, providing furnishings for every room to people who would drive from as far away as Toledo and Lima to shop with them. I just learned today that they were closing their doors soon. Just the thought of that made me sad...and learning the news brought a flood of memories to my mind. I didn’t know the Bennett brothers...I just know what they did for my parents.

I was born in Greensboro, North Carolina nearly 60 years ago. (I remember when my mother was 60, I thought she was so old...but these days it looks younger all the time!) My daddy was a minister and I was raised in the South before he made me be a Yankee. (Technically, it’s the midwest, but as far as this mountain girl was concerned, it was Yankee territory!) As a Quaker minister, Daddy served churches in North Carolina and Virginia, before becoming a Methodist as part of the Holston Conference. (Little did I know that I’d be married to a District Superintendent in that same conference many years later...)

Holston Conference provided parsonages for their ministerial families to live in while serving their churches. The houses were many different styles and sizes and the “Parsonage Committee” was always in charge of making sure things were just right before, during and after a pastor’s tenure. Mother was one of those ministers’ wives who always left the house cleaner than she found it, so Parsonage Committees liked her a lot! She taught me well and I’ve tried to do the same in each parsonage we lived.

The parsonages were completely furnished. My mother never let us put our shoes on the sofa, chairs or coffee tables. We weren’t allowed to eat anywhere except the kitchen or dining room because she said it wasn’t our house, and we needed to be careful. I grew up only knowing about four pieces of furniture that belonged to us...twin beds and nightstands that my sister and I shared. Our parents bought them for us at a little store in Abingdon, Virginia. They were used...but they were ours!

Plus, we owned an upright freezer that Daddy bought brand new for Mother when I was in first grade. She sure was proud of that freezer and kept it stocked with food that the church folks would share with our family!

I was nine years old when my father accepted an appointment in the West Ohio Conference of the Methodist Church (we weren’t United Methodists until the late 1960’s) and moved our little family to the village of McComb, Ohio. We drove all night long to get to our new home. I fell asleep in Virginia and woke up in northwestern Ohio...seeing flat land everywhere I looked. This was nothing like I’d grown up enjoying, but I soon learned that living in the ‘flatlands’ was easier when riding my bicycle!

We arrived at 315 West South Street in a black 1957 Chevrolet Impala pulling a rented trailer behind it. Our dog was on the floorboard in the back seat with my sister, my cousin and me. My mother and aunt were in front with Daddy who drove the whole way. (He was the only one that didn’t have to take a turn holding the bird cage that my parakeet, Pete, was traveling in.)

A nice man from McComb Methodist Church met us in the driveway, took us in the house and showed us around. That place was like a castle to me! It had fourteen steps in a stairway that curved at the top between the first and second floors, a basement, laundry room, one bathroom, a stove, refrigerator, washer, and TWO telephones...but it didn’t have any furniture.

The nice man asked Daddy when the truck with the rest of our belongings was expected to arrive. Daddy told him there was no truck. Mother looked as if she'd cry any moment. We had no furniture, except for a few things that had been passed down from our grandparents...the freezer and our twin beds. Daddy explained to him that parsonages down south were furnished, so we were in a bit of a fix.

That nice man smiled, picked up the phone, made a call, then turned to my parents and invited them to go downtown with him to Bennett’s Furniture Store. He had made arrangements with the owners that would allow my parents to get what we needed for overnight, then shop for everything else the next day. I wish I could remember that nice man’s name. My parents were allowed to pick out everything we needed with a small down payment and monthly payments until the furniture was paid for. All the furniture was used, except for mattresses and boxed springs. It was all so beautiful to us! And it was ours.

I’ll never forget the delivery men placing the sofa in our living room. I looked at Momma and asked, “Is this ours?” She told me it was.

Then I asked, “Can we put our feet on this furniture?”

She looked at me and a big smile came on her face! “Yes! Yes we can!”

The next thing I remember is Mother hopping onto that sofa in her pretty cotton dress, propping her feet and all! I was nine years old and that moment is as clear in my mind as if it just happened!

My parents purchased what we needed from the Bennett that is still in our family today. My daughter and her husband have my parents’ dining room suite. They also have the maple bedroom set that I grew up with. There are chests and chairs, tables and mirrors that came from that wonderful store, being put to use by members of my family and extended family.

I’m very thankful for two brothers who allowed a couple they didn’t know to come into their store and pick out items that made our house a home. They provided places where wonderful memories were made...many tears were shed...but most of all, where a family had something to call their own. They probably had no idea how much that meant to us, but when I look at the pieces I have, I’m grateful for Ned and Dan Bennett once again. And for the nice man who made the arrangements that day back in June of 1963.

Businesses like theirs are getting to be too few for my tastes. When I need something, I do my best to shop right here at home in Cleveland, Tennessee. I want the family businesses to be blessed and I hope you want the same...

I always end my blogs with this reminder: “If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!”

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I'm being serious...

Just kidding. I’m not like that often...but I have been known to be serious on occasion. I try not to be serious for any length of time because that just isn’t the way I’m wired. Some people say I’m not wired right...never have been and never will be. They’re right. That’s me. And my main thing with this blog is to bring a smile to your face or make you laugh so hard that tears will fall down your legs.

But this one may be a little different because there is something I must share with you. After my sister died unexpectedly in January of this year, I felt lost. Yes, I have my wonderful husband, daughter, son-in-law and brothers...but she was gone.

Vangie was a “presence” in my life. My first playmate, my first friend, my roommate. She was constantly reminding me that God gave me the voice I have to sing with and so I must always use it for Him. So when I was singing Carole King and James Taylor tunes in coffeehouses and other venues, Vangie’s reminder always came to me. Even when I’d try to shove it in the corner of my mind, it was there. I’ve never forgotten. And now I do my best to use it like she advised me. (Except when I sing the songs I use in my comedy routines, like the one I wrote about comparing my body to a car...and “The Menopause Song - Stand By Your Fan.” She heard those, by the way, and laughed as hard as anyone, so I guess it was okay with her if I did a little comedic music now and again.)

My sister was my biggest supporter, cheerleader and fan. She would constantly encourage me about this or that...not empty praise or encouragement...but straight from her heart. And that is now my dilemma. She’s gone.

I recently began doing my comedy again, after I’d had time to grieve and get some things in perspective. But I hadn’t had the opportunity to share in a church service until this past Sunday evening. The 3 1/2 hour drive was mostly through heavy rains, so I was a bit tense. I didn’t listen to the radio because I wanted to concentrate on what I was going to share that night.

But one nagging thing was breaking that concentration as I drove. I felt that I just couldn’t stand up and share my heart with that congregation without falling apart. It’s one thing to stand up and try to keep them laughing...but this was different. Yes, I shared a few funny things, but I had a message to bring. I’m not a preacher. That’s my husband’s job. But I do have things to share that I hope ends up encouraging was the plan that evening.

Vangie would always write on her calendar the dates I’d have for speaking or singing engagements, as well as my comedy dates. That was so she could pray for me. Afterward, she’d always ask how it went. But I knew she didn’t know about this one. And it felt strange to think I wouldn’t have to call her the next morning to give her a report on the previous evening’s moments.

People tell me that the “firsts” of anything will be the hardest after a loss like I’ve experienced. They’re right. Last night was my first time to speak in a church service, sharing something God had laid on my heart to say. And it was a first without her knowing about it. Maybe she did. Maybe she gets to see stuff like that. Maybe not. All I know is that others were praying for me and I made it through. God showed up and I knew it.

But what about next time? What about my first retreat? My first Camp Sychar without her? That was where we’d spend nearly two weeks every summer together. And this year, I’m leading the worship music in the morning and evening services each day. She won’t be there.

As I drove to Unicoi, Tennessee yesterday to share in that church service...I thought about the fact that I wouldn’t have her at camp this year. I actually started to cry thinking about doing that without her. I even wondered if I would be able to do my music job properly because of the grief I’ve experienced over losing her. It’s something I’ve struggled with for weeks and weeks. She was such a beloved person there at camp and now I’ll be seeing lots of people who loved her. I know we’ll cry. But we’ll smile, too...thinking about her. But how in the world will I be an effective worship leader at this “first camp” without my sissie?

Well, last night I found out that I can do this. I’m going to be okay. Because last night I talked with the congregation about God’s Promises. And His biggest promise at that moment was that He would be with me. God showed up. Big time. It was evident He was there.

From now on, I’ll be doing everything without my sissie. But I’ll be okay. Because I know where she is and that I’ll see her again. In the meanwhile, I need to rely on those promises I shared with the church last night.

And something else. I can rely on His Word. There are two scriptures I’m concentrating on these days. I’m doing this because I do not want my grief to define me when I’m trying to lead other believers in worship. I can’t take them someplace that I’m not willing to go myself. And if I let my grief get the best of me, I’ll not be giving God the best of me.

So I leave you with these two scriptures and ask that you, too, would keep me in your prayers. I don’t want to be a hindrance in what God wants to do through my music leadership.

Lord, teach me how you want me to live. Then I will follow your truth. Give me a heart that doesn’t want anything more than to worship you. Lord my God, I will praise you with all my heart. I will bring glory to you forever. Great is your love for me…
Psalm 86:11, 12 [NIRV]

Here in this great gathering for worship I have discovered this praise-life. And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table and eat their fill. Everyone on the hunt for God is here, praising him. “Live it up, from head to toe. Don’t ever quit!”
Psalm 22:25, 26 [The Message]

This picture was my view on the way home after sharing at the church service. It's one of those "aha moments" people talk about. Maybe you can see why I thought it was appropriate to place in this part of the blog.

“If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!”

Monday, March 18, 2013

For here or to go...

On a recent drive from our family home in Virginia, I became extremely sleepy. Driving while sleepy is as dangerous as being drunk and is considered impaired driving. I knew I couldn’t keep going...something I wish drunk drivers would realize. Even as I was on the exit ramp I wasn’t in full control. I was on the ramp. My car was where it should be, but I was so very sleepy, I’d taken my foot off the accelerator and was at a crawl. When I realized what I was doing, I quickly looked to see if anyone was behind me. Thankfully, I was alone in my stupidity. I pulled into a busy parking area of the first gas station I saw, made sure my doors were locked, cracked my windows for a bit of air, then promptly fell asleep. About 45 minutes later, I awakened and felt refreshed.

I got out and walked around a bit to stretch, then went into the McDonald’s next door for a snack. An ice cream cone seemed like the perfect thing. I placed my order and the young lady at the register asked if it was “...for here or to go.” Hello? It’s an ice-cream cone!

Later on that question struck me as funny, so I posted it on my facebook page. Several good comments were made...
Greg: “Did they offer you a hot apple pie with that?”
Robyn: “Was she going to put it in a bag if it was ‘to go’?”
Kelly: “You should have told it it was to go and then when she handed it to you, you should have said, ‘oh, i’m sorry...i said that was to go...’”
Wes: “I will have a Caesar salad.” Cashier asked, “What kind of dressing on that sir?” Then Wes wrote...”Heeeere’s yer sign!”
Rick: “Oh, Beth. Have you not bought fast food for a while? In Ohio, it is taxed if eaten in the restaurant, and tax free if taken to go. Very likely wherever you were it is the same way.” (I was in East Tennessee, and I should know the tax laws here, but I must admit that I do not.)

Her question made me start to think about other stupid questions. Right here I should tell you that I wasn’t allowed to use the word ‘stupid’ when I was growing up. Mother would actually wash my mouth out with Dove Soap if she heard me say it. Dove is not very tasty.

But I digress...

Other ‘duh’ questions (how’s that, Mom?) that come to mind are things like the following:
Q: Where were you when you last saw your keys?
Duh: If I knew that I wouldn’t be looking for them right now.
Q: Do you remember where you laid your phone?
Duh: If I knew that I wouldn’t be looking for it right now.
Q: What time is the Midnight Christmas Eve Service going to start?

Duh: Duh!

I can speak fluent sarcasm, just so you know. In’s my second language.

But as much as stuff like that bugs me, I have been known to make the brilliant proclamation to someone who was looking for something they’d misplaced: “It’s always in the last place you look!” 

Duh, Beth. Of course it is. Why would one keep looking when the lost has been found!??!?

All this reminds me of my mother...not because she was the Dove-mouth-washing-mother...but the funny mother. This was a woman who laughed at a joke three times. When you told it. When you explained it. And a few hours later when she’d get it.

Daddy never once called her a ding-bat...but he would sometimes smile and call her “Edith” of Edith-Bunker-All in the Family television show-fame. Mother was not stupid in the least, but sometimes things would zip over her head and we’d have to explain.

Come to think of it. I’m a bit like my mother in that regard.

I guess that’s why I was nearly home when I realized that cashier asked me if the ice cream cone was “for here or to go.” I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes!

“If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!”

Monday, January 28, 2013

We weren't finished...

4:00 Saturday morning, January 19, 2013:

I’m typing this blog from my sister’s room in the Intensive Care Unit of a Cincinnati hospital. I see six IV bags hanging from poles, numbers constantly changing on a monitor above her head, tubes...everywhere...and hear the constant puffing and whirring of a ventilator that is assisting her breathing. All this follows an emergency surgery for a ruptured bowel. Now her body is fighting septic shock, acute kidney failure, pneumonia, and any number of other things going on at the moment. Her doctor told us this morning that the prognosis is guarded. Guarded. Does that mean he doesn’t want to give us a hint of hope in the midst of this...or does it mean he’s trying to get us ready to lose her?

Earlier this week my sister and I decided it would be fun to sit and talk with each other on the phone while watching QVC. We’d been deciding what top would go best with a beautiful maxi-skirt she bought for me. We did ‘shop’ talk while the televisions were on mute, essentially providing our own commentary on the beautiful Susan Graver designs being shown. 

9:00 Monday morning, January 28, 2013:
That last paragraph was typed just before I saw my sisters legs moving, and I walked over to check on her. Any movement seemed to indicate she was in pain, as she was sedated to allow the ventilator to breathe for her so her sick body could fight the infection. I stood next to her bed, holding her hand, talking with her. I told her that I saw her open her eyes and look at the nurses when they were working on her a couple of hours earlier and that I wanted her to open her eyes and look at me...just so I’d know she was ‘in there’ and she’d know I was with her. There was no attempt for her to squeeze my hand as I held hers, but I needed to know she knew I was there. I kept whispering in her ear that I needed her to look at me. Then she raised her eyebrows. I told her that wasn’t good enough...I wanted more. So she raised her brows and barely opened her right eye to see me. I was satisfied. She knew.

Many times over the course of the next two days, I would talk with her, reminisce, sing, joke, and talk some more...reassuring her of my love and that when she got out of the hospital, I’d be there to help look after her. One time, I sang the song she would request me to sing a number of times...”It is Well With My Soul” and prompted her when the alto part she’d always sing came by telling her “that’s your part.”

Over those days, more and more people arrived to support her sweet husband Gary...who I like to call “Favorite” because he’s my favorite red-headed brother-in-law. Vangie was well-loved and the steady stream of people - even in the middle of the night - gave witness to that. During those hours of waiting, Vangie had a massive heart attack - one I’m thankful she never felt pain from because she was so heavily sedated.

Without chronicling every single thing that went on during those next many hours, the decision was made by her husband (and lovingly supported by her siblings) that the ventilator should be cut off so she could move on to Heaven, a place she sang about and longed for many times. The nurse said it would be about ten or fifteen minutes before she’d draw her last breath. Well, Vangie got the last word - which was typical - and breathed on her own four and a half more hours. She was such a fighter for so many years through chronic illnesses that left her weak and at times, bedridden...that her little heart and lungs kept going until SHE was finished.

But I wasn’t finished with her. I never will be. My heart is broken. It will mend...but it will never be the same. She used to tell me I was her ‘other half’ and now half of me is missing. I am a woman of faith, so I know God will mend my broken heart and I will see her again. But for now, I can only say that I wasn’t finished with her yet...we had so many plans. We had a unique relationship. A closeness that some didn’t understand, others envied, but mostly one that our friends and family appreciated about us. 

I loved her so.

I always close my blogs with the same line...and now those words have taken on a whole new meaning. “If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!”

My sisters life counted. About 600 people at her funeral was a real testimony to that. Originally we thought there were about 500 people until we talked with the guy who cleaned up the church afterward. He told us there were nearly 600!

Evangeline Ruth Miller Hughes was well loved, but most of all was in love with Jesus...and her husband. She was a witness for so long...even in her death. 

Now let me remind you - as well as myself: “If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!”