My Mother’s Stuff

Most of us would say we don’t really like goodbyes. I don’t. Saying goodbye to the people I love isn’t something I enjoy. Almost two years ago, I said an unexpected goodbye to my mother. It was traumatic. She literally died in my hands. I did everything I could to save her, and I failed. I watched her slip from this world into the next. Even as paramedics worked on her, I knew she was already gone. Even as I called on the name of Jesus, I knew it was goodbye.

I’ve learned a lot of things about my mother since her death. I have gone through her house… every nook and cranny. Attic, cabinets, closets and drawers. Mom had things stowed away in every conceivable space. My mother didn’t grow up with much of anything. She was the much loved daughter of two hard working parents with meager earnings. When she was finally able to have things, she began collecting… everything. That little oriental lady who thinks folks should only keep things that bring them joy, would have met her match in my mother. EVERYTHING my mother had brought her joy. Even if she packed it away for a rainy day that would never come, she would say she still loved it. 

That’s all well and good until you die unexpectedly and leave it to your daughter to wade through. My mom used to say, with only a little humor and more disdain, “I won’t be cold in the ground before you and your daddy have the mother of all yard sales.” She was sort of right. We had two yard sales the year she died, but it barely made a dent. Dad and I had some sweet times going through boxes in the attic; unpacking memories and wondering why in the world she kept the things she did. More times than I could count, I said, “Mother! Why?”. 

Sometimes it was a nice stroll down memory lane, every once in a while, I’d find something that brought back sweet memories of my childhood, but mostly it was a struggle. Do I just throw away all this stuff? Mostly no one wanted it. Not me, my brother, or our children. We all have our own things, and didn’t have much room for her stuff, too. 

We sold Mom and Dad’s house recently. That gave me a crazy deadline. I had to get through the rest of the house in just a few weeks. Every day after work and all day on the weekends, I spent at my parent’s house sorting through nearly 60 years of stuff. I had sweet friends and family that helped me, but mostly I just had to go through it all myself. I loved my mother, and on one hand, it was kind of fun to open the next drawer to see what was inside, but on the other hand, when I do see her again, we are going to have a word!

Today, the house is empty. I stood in the bedroom where I said goodbye to my mom. I won’t be back there anymore. It’s empty. All the stuff gone. I look around in astonishment that it’s really all gone. I know sometimes people claim to have little visits from their dearly departed. My mother has visited me in my dreams, but I wondered if there would be something for me there in that room where we shared our last moments. There was nothing. After a few minutes, Dad and I decided to go. It was done. Nothing left to do. 

As we made our way toward the interstate to head across town to my house, the ambulance from the local fire station rushed past us. I rode to the emergency room with my mother in that ambulance. She was gone, but for my Dad’s sake, I wanted her to be pronounced at the hospital. I thought of my mom again when I saw the ambulance. And as it passed by us, I looked up to see another truck sitting at the light ahead of us, waiting to cross our lane. It was a large truck hauling plants. My mother loved plants of all kinds… and on the side of the truck in huge green letters was the word, Bonnie. My mom’s name. I’m not trying to make something out of nothing, but as the truck passed in front of me, I realized that my mother’s life was not wrapped up in that ambulance, but in the things she loved, which of all those things… what she loved the most was her family. 

Children Are An Inconvenience

Recently, one of my children called us unexpectedly to say they were having car trouble and needed a bit of advice. My husband, being the fixer that he is, jumped into motion, ready to drive across town to where they were to help them figure the issue out. Our child, however, really just wanted advice over the phone as to what they should do. They did not want to inconvenience us.

I had to laugh a little bit. Because here is the truth. Children are an inconvenience from the time they are conceived, and my personal research thus far proves they continue to be an inconvenience for the sum total of their existence. It’s just the way it is. Most of us realize that, in theory anyway, when we decide to become parents. Nevertheless, kids are just… inconvenient. They get sick right before a vacation. Their little toes grow through the ends of their shoes very unexpectedly. They need an elaborate science project… and it’s due tomorrow. It is teacher appreciation week and they signed you up to bring in homemade breakfast casserole. Also needed tomorrow. See? Inconvenient. 

But we have taken this whole inconvenience thing way too far in our nation. Recently, the Governor of New York signed the “Reproductive Health Act”, which among other horrible atrocities, makes late term abortions (after 24 weeks gestation) legal. There were smiles and cheers all around, from what I understand, at the signing ceremony. But there are many American people who are grieving this action now. Hearts are breaking all over our nation for the innocents that will be sacrificed in the name of convenience. The most common defense (other than the woman’s right to choose) seems so kind- we must protect the life of the mother. But it is a lie. There is never a need to abort a baby that late in its gestation. Delivery, yes, but not abortion. 

I find it really interesting that the only difference between using every medical intervention we have at our disposal to save the unborn child and tossing the “contents of conception” aside like garbage is whether the mother wants the child or not. If she does, we will fight to save that life. If she does not, it’s not even a life at all.

Maternal mortality rates in the US have grown a bit in the last few years with it landing at about 23 deaths out of every 100,000 births ( This is a sad number, for sure, but most of those cases have to do with poor management of chronic conditions and poor access to health care. Those are the issues that should be dealt with in order to lower the mortality rate among expectant mothers. Perhaps instead of funding Planned Parenthood, we could improve prenatal care for those with chronic health conditions or poor access to healthcare. 

I do know a few mothers who put themselves ahead of their children, but none who don’t suffer from some mental disorder. I don’t know a mentally healthy woman alive who would not sacrifice her own life to save the life of her child. And if she could do it twice, she would. The “life of the mother” argument is negligible. It is far more common for a woman to decide that she did not intend to become pregnant, and then place her own desires above the needs of the baby in her womb. Mother Teresa is attributed with saying, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish”. 

The great deception of the enemy about abortion is in the belief that the contents of a woman’s womb is not a person. It is much more palatable to rid oneself of something that is not a human being than to dispose of a tiny person, piece by precious piece, into a garbage pail. Maybe everyone desiring an abortion should first have to witness one in progress. Maybe if every pro-choicer could witness an abortion for themselves, and see the tiny life that is discarded like yesterday’s leftovers, we’d see the tide turn in this country. Maybe we’d begin, once more, to value life as precious. 

Sure, my kids are, each one, an inconvenience… but what blessed inconveniences they are!

Five Years From Now

This is a repost from about a year ago. A great friend found it and suggested I post this piece again. I hope you guys like it…

When we moved back to Birmingham several years ago, I interviewed for a job in my field of expertise. The woman conducting the interview asked me a typical interviewer question. She asked, “What do you want to be doing in five years?” With complete honesty, I said, “I hope to be doing this.” She was pleased with my answer. I got the job.

But now that I look back on that day, I am disappointed in my answer. Like I said, I was honest. I was good at what I did, had trained hard and long for it, but did I really hope to be doing that same thing in five years? Here’s the truth. No matter how hard we try to stay the same, we will change. None of us will be the person we are today in five years. We will be better at our jobs, or we will be worse. We will be fatter or skinnier. Our talents will be more or less developed. Our marriages or other relationships will be stronger or weaker.

And we will either be closer or farther away from God in five years depending on what we do and how we invest. If I choose to seek God in prayer, worship, Bible study, and godly friendships, then I will be closer to God and stronger in my faith moving forward. If I drift away from my church, let those friendships that push me toward Jesus slide away, and find myself too busy to pray, worship, and spend time in my Bible, then I will be farther away from God in five years.

In life, there is no such thing as putting down anchor and staying put. We are either moving forward or we are drifting backward. We can allow the wrong influences impact us, and we will lose ground. We will eat too much, think less of our spouses, or fall away from God. We can gain positive ground by being very intentional about the influences that speak into our lives, and by doing so, we’ll find that we are in a much better place five years from now than we are currently.

There are some things in my life that I’m not too happy about right now.Like you, I have stress. I have worries and sadness, challenges and struggles. There are some things that I need to do today that will have an impact on where my life will be tomorrow and the day after that. I can chart a course for a destination with intention, or I can drift with very little effort and find myself in a disappointing place in the future.

I would answer that interview question much differently today than I did years ago. My answer today would likely not land me that job. I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing now in five years. I don’t want my relationships to be where they are, or my depth of faith in God, or my talents to be at the same level. I want more. I want different. I want better.

So what does that look like? 

Well, for me, I am being very intentional about the people who speak into my life. I need people who are going to push me and challenge me. I need people to call me out and speak truth over me. Sure, sometimes it hurts a bit, but it’s how we manage to keep moving forward. I make myself pray and worship and seek the knowledge found in the pages of scripture. And yes, sometimes I have to make myself do it. And I am seeking out new challenges. Currently, I am a semester away from earning a Master’s Degree. It’s painful, for sure, teaching this old dog new tricks, but it will take me places that I have not yet been.

My point is this… it is pointless to say that I want things to be the same in five years as they are today (Even if today is really great). It won’t happen. I have to chart a course today if I want to move ahead tomorrow and the day after that. Otherwise, I’ll be drifting back, becoming less than, and getting nowhere good any time fast.

May God bless us as we move forward with intention in the New Year!

[Post Script: I am happy to say that I finished that degree, began teaching part time in that field, and am looking forward to the new things and changes that will come in 2019. But I do have to remember the truths I wrote last year… We have to keep pressing forward with intention, or we will slip backwards…]

In the grip of fear

It’s not that I don’t like easy. I really do like easy. But easy rarely ever gets us much, really. My parents taught me to work hard. They pushed me to do hard things. I grew up believing that I could do anything, and that I could accomplish anything if I was just willing to work hard. Honestly the only thing standing between me and world domination was fear. It was the one thing I grew up not learning how to handle well. 

So often, we stand at a crossroads while trying to make a decision. There are usually two choices. Easy and hard. We can come up with so many excuses to go the easy route, and so many reasons why we should avoid taking the hard path. Quite often, it is fear that keeps us from doing hard things. Fear of loss. Fear of failure. Fear of ridicule. Fear of the unknown. Even fear of harm. 

Studies show that only about 15 percent of the things we fear ever actually come to pass. If we do the math, and this is math even I can do, that means that 85 percent of the stuff we are afraid will happen…won’t. That’s a lot of time spent on the fear of things that are never going to come to pass. 

My mother had a lot a quirky sayings. One of my favorites was, “If they kill you, they can’t eat you”. Where she got that one, I have no idea, but she would say it to help me when I was afraid of being in trouble or of making someone angry. 

I have a few quirky sayings of my own. My personal favorite is “Let’s not jump off that bridge until we have to”. That little saying is banking on the 85 percent. It also has to do with the fact that I try to keep fear at bay these days, and I do my best to make decisions based in reality rather than on some intangible fear. I have even intentionally tried to avoid beginning sentences with “I’m afraid…”. Our words matter, and I don’t want to label myself as fearful right out of the gate.

So many times we are paralyzed by the fear that stalks the halls of our thoughts, and we fail to do the very thing that would be the absolute best option for us, or the ones we love, because of it. 

God has a few sayings about fear, too. Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”. And in one of the most famous prayers of all, Psalm 23, the Lord tells us, that even though we walk through rough times that bring us even close to death, we have no reason to fear the evil around us- because God the Father is with us. Like a good shepherd, He has the means to protect us from harm, and we should be comforted by that. 

When we operate out of fear, we do not behave like the overcomers we are as children of the Most High God. We are called to be strong and courageous, not fearful and timid. Most of the time, when we are walking in fear, we are giving in to the plans the enemy has for us rather than the plans the Lord has for us. Quite often, those godly plans require us to be brave. But the best thing about being a follower of Christ is that we never have to be brave alone. Isaiah tells us that God goes before us and He is our rear guard. We can truly leave fear in the shadows where it belongs and walk in the confidence that being a child of the light affords. After all…

If God is for us… who can be against us? 

I mean, really?