Friday, March 30, 2007

Combining Passions

I love the trips to Tennessee that I've made with my parents over the years. Last year was bittersweet as mom and I left dad behind in Indiana as his physical condition did not permit him to make the trip with us. The two of us had a nice time, albeit it different (and quiet) without dad, but the memories I've stored from the trip with mom are quite special to me.

I used my favorite graphic program, Paint Shop Pro, to create a blend of photos from the trip last year, which included a side trip to Burgess Falls State Park, which is just south of Cookeville, TN.

I'm looking forward to the trip once more, as Memorial Day weekend will be here before we know it. I'm sure it will be bittersweet again as only Dad's memory can accompany us from now on. I'm hopeful that my sister will join mom and I on our yearly sojourn to decorate the grave sites of family members, some of whom I never knew, some who were quite dear to me. We also get the chance to visit with family still living in the area where my mother grew up and other family who also come into the area over the long weekend.

What a peaceful place mid-central Tennessee is... quiet and natural, right on the border with her neighbor to the north, Kentucky. I love traveling through the rolling hills nestled among steep stone cliffs; traversing curves on back roads that slow me down to almost a crawl, fearing what may be coming round the bend that I cannot see; feeling and smelling the richness of some of the most fertile soil you will find anywhere on this earth; knowing that I will soon be sharing in the early bounty of nearly fully grown gardens planted by the hard working people we visit each and every year we are there. God surely smiles on this place and the stoic people who inhabit it.

Sometimes, when I am fighting my attitude, when I let the world eat my lunch or just plain forget to be thankful, I think of this place and know that I am looking at things from the wrong direction. It centers me to think of the place my ancestors helped settle and tame.

Yep, I'm ready to return once again.

Did I mention the food? home-cooking to die for! I'm gaining weight just thinking about it!

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Saturday, March 10, 2007


touch·stone /ˈtn/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation [tŭch'stōn']


  1. a test or criterion for the qualities of a thing.
  2. An excellent quality or example that is used to test the excellence or genuineness of others: "the qualities of courage and vision that are the touchstones of leadership" (Henry A. Kissinger).

[Origin: 1475–85; touch + stone]

1. standard, measure, model, pattern.

My friend Margaret has been my touchstone for years. I was delighted when I looked up the meaning of touchstone and found that it perfectly describes how I feel about her... she IS my measure for quality... she IS the standard I use for genuineness.

Margaret and I became friends slowly, gradually, over time and in spite of, or perhaps because of, the differences between us. Not only are we different in our physical appearance but in personality and expression as well. It seems what we have in common is our value system. We are both idealists, perfectionists, holding out for something better from life not only for ourselves, but for all those we love and care about. It isn’t money or possessions that either of us desire, but a moral quality of life; a rightness; a desire to be good and to do good.

We came to know each other through work. We both started work at the newly created corporate engineering office at CenturyTel on 7th Street in Monroe, Louisiana on January 26, 1981. We left the company’s new headquarters together almost 23 years later taking early retirement at the behest of our company. We walked in individually, separately as strangers; we walked out as sisters, if not by blood, then in our hearts.

Margaret saw me through many personal struggles as a single mom, raising 3 children on my own and supported me valiantly over the years. I was there when her son was hurt, suffering an eye injury that was devastating to her at the time and through other struggles in her life. We had what we affectionately termed ‘adventures’ together, although I don’t think we quite qualify as Thelma and Louise. Along with our friend David, we went on several weekend trips. We saw Tina Turner twice, the Eagles once and we all went to New York City together in 2002. Just going to lunch could be an adventure for us or a time of peace and solace when we would simply choose to take a sack lunch to our retreat at Black Bayou. As with most friendships, there were times when we would seem to drift apart but we always seemed to find each other when our needs were most urgent. I know today that it was God's hand involved in our lives, directing us, keeping us close.

When we first became friends, I don’t believe Margaret had a religious affiliation. I had turned my life over at the age of 12 in the Methodist church in the small town where I went to school but I was not active in the church on a regular basis and had not been in some time. When Margaret joined the Methodist church after her son’s injury, I was happy for her but still felt no real pull to return; perhaps guilt sometimes for not going and for not getting my children involved, but not enough to spur me back into living a fully committed Christian life. At her urging during one of my struggles, I started attending services at her church and got involved in church activities once again in my life. When the minister we both loved left our small congregation, Margaret eventually moved her membership to a different church and I dropped back out. Once again, although our personal paths seemed to diverge, God continued to keep us available to each other as we were both about to face some of the biggest struggles of our lives.

She was the one I called into my office at work when I got the devastating news about Anna, my granddaughter. She held me, she listened to me; she cried with me; she made arrangements for me to leave the next day to be with my daughter and her family. She offered money; she offered her shoulder; she prayed for me and my family; she gave me her heart.

When Margaret was diagnosed with cancer, it rocked my world. I wanted to do all I could for her. I prayed for her and I requested others to pray. I gave my heart to her and found it easy to take on a role of servant, doing little things at the office to clear away any concerns she might have there and being a link to others who cared about her. It was easy to do, I just followed her lead. I would say this is the point at which I was most impressed with Margaret’s Christian beliefs. I knew she had grown tremendously in her faith but I found a true understanding of how strong it was during this time. I heard her speak of it often over the years but I was watching now as she was living her belief every minute of every day.

It was through observing how she handled the cancer, the treatments, the fears and concerns for her family as well as for herself and seeing her remarkable strength that I recognized how much my friend had grown. By comparison, I realized that my own belief had withered, was producing nothing and that I was in serious need. A serious car wreck, involving myself and three of my precious granddaughters that we all walked away from convinced me of that even further. Again, Margaret had just the thing for me. She got me involved in Disciple classes at Lea Joyner Memorial UMC, took me to Women of Faith conferences and I found my faith rekindled one more time. In the midst of all she was going through, she was ministering to me.

The point came in Margaret’s treatment that a decision had to be made. A bone marrow transplant was needed and it was the only real hope of stopping the cancer from coming back again and again. I watched one more time as she, with grace and dignity, handled this difficult treatment on top of all of her other obligations in life. This time, I knew exactly where her strength was coming from and isn't God good! She came through the transplant and was cancer free!

Later, when our company came to all of the longer term employees and presented us with a difficult early retirement option (much earlier than I had planned), I found myself on my knees, asking what to do. I felt like God was leading me to retire and that I was being given the opportunity to walk out the door with Margaret and so I did. Since then we have experienced many more adventures including a trip to Israel together with other members of OUR church (yes, I moved my membership—finally), we still occasionally do lunch, we attend classes together and sometimes we just talk about our lives. During this time she also became a grandmother, we both deal with the issues of aging parents. She was one of the first people I talked to after my dad passed away last year and our lives continue to wrap around each others today... and today, one of us is in need again.

Late last year, Margaret got the news that although her cancer had not returned, her bone marrow was failing. It is treatable but not curable without another transplant. Even with treatment, she is in a weakened state, receiving transfusions regularly and taking serious medication, some of it still in clinical trial. She is currently recovering from bacterial pneumonia and accumulated fluid in her chest cavity and breathing problems associated with that. And that is where we are today. My friend, my touchstone, my measure of quality in all things good is in need again. And again, my world is rocked. But here I am, on my knees praying for Margaret each and every day.

I bring you the story of my touchstone so that you might pray for her as well. I believe there is power in prayer and that in this instance, more is better. Her husband Glynn, and their children, Chris and Traci and their families, Margaret’s mother and her siblings all need your prayers as well. I pray that they all be given strength and peace and comfort to endure and to trust in God. I pray that the donor be blessed with God’s grace and mercy. Mostly I pray that Margaret's condition will improve soon and that she will be prepared for the life giving transplant waiting for her down the road. She must be healthy to undergo the procedure and recover from it. She has much more to do in this life; she has a husband and children to enjoy; she has a grandson to love and hug and to watch grow; her mother and siblings need her; she has many friends that adore her; and she and I... well we have adventures to plan and experience.

Please, in whatever way you are comfortable, using whatever words you choose, I simply ask that you pray for Margaret today.

I apologize for the length of this entry, but it is hard to sum up 26 years of friendship in a few paragraphs. If you’ve read this far, all I can say is thank you! Thank you for reading to this point, thank you for praying for Margaret and if you have done either of those, thank you for measuring up to my touchstone.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Draw Me Closer

This song is one of my favorite Christian songs and is on the album Not By Sight, by the group, Not By Sight. It was written by lead singer Naomi Thompson Carroll, as were most of the songs on the album. Naomi performed at my church one Sunday morning a year or so ago, as a solo act. I loved her vocals and music and bought the group’s one and only CD that I’m aware of after the service. I believe that the group has disbanded but I did locate a website for Naomi here and here where you can listen to some of her music and discover a little more about her.

The song Borne, also from this album, is another huge favorite of mine and was nominated for a Dove award. I love the lyrics to both songs and will probably feature that song later.

Draw Me Closer touches that part of me that is an artist. I love the idea of God painting our lives over His canvas, shaping us, changing us, putting us where He wants us to be as each scene in our lives unfold. All the while, He is drawing us in, pulling us closer, if we only put the brush in His hands.

Draw Me Closer

There are finger painted dreams
Imaginary things
Of what I wished existed
It’s been evident at times
That what I had in mind
Was not, what you intended
I’m your child, trying to stay within the lines
But wanting to explore
Father now I’m eager to see
What you’re doing outside of my little world

I’m just a scribble on a page
At a starting place
A work in progress
A beautiful mess
I’m just a shadow on the wall
Nothing great at all
Without your lines to shape me
And your life to make me new
You make me want to be like you
You are the Artist

Sketch the lines around my life
Paint the dreams behind my eyes
And draw me closer
Erase the mural of my mind
Create new colors that through time will
Draw me closer

I’m just an ordinary girl
A stranger in this world
But Who lives inside me
Is extraordinary
Though I may never understand
The moving of Your hand
Oh, how Your love is working
Constantly creating me
Jesus, You’re rearranging me
I’m just the canvas

Sketch the lines around my life
Paint the dreams behind my eyes
And draw me closer
Erase the mural of my mind
Create new colors that through time will
Draw me closer

Draw me closer x8

Sketch the lines around my life
Paint the dreams behind my eyes
And draw me closer
Erase the mural of my mind
Create new colors that through time will
Draw me closer

Sketch the lines
Paint the dreams

Oh my my

Draw me closer x4

I wanna be
I wanna be
I want to be Lord, closer to you

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Buttering Toast

I couldn't help but smile this morning as I spread butter on my toast. I will probably never butter toast again in this lifetime without smiling.

The last few years of visiting with Mom and Dad bring to mind a flood of memories. Most from visiting them at their home in Indiana, where I grew up, many from visiting Tennessee with them, where mom grew up, and a few from my home in Louisiana, where they used to come visit me and my children on occasion. Never though, in all those visits, did I ever fix breakfast for dad, that he didn’t admonish me about how I was supposed to butter his toast.

For that matter, it could have been jelly, peanut butter, mustard whatever... anything one might spread on bread. For him to be happy, it had to go all the way to the very edges. I had toast thrown back in front of me on the countertop and told to ‘fix it right’ on more than one occasion. I can’t tell you how many times, after I would make an exaggerated effort to spread ‘whatever’ to his satisfaction, he would thank me (after prompting) then tell me how mom wouldn’t bother to spread the butter right... all the way to the edges just the way he wanted it.

His usual comment would be something like, “Shuuucks, she may as well give me a piece of dry bread for no more trouble than she goes to.”

Pleasing dad wasn’t always easy. In fact, there were times it was darn near impossible. Ask mom. He wasn’t always reasonable. Alzheimer’s has a way of taking the reason right out of people. This dreaded disease was fairly well controlled in dad. He would have the odd time of slipping away from you in the middle of a conversation but mostly he simply acted and behaved in a child-like manner.

He was belligerent a time or two when I was around, one time threatening me with his cane in the parking lot at K-Mart... the same day he started to walk home in the rain because he was mad at me... the same day we finally got him home and found him outside in the rain putting a ladder up to the side of the house so that he could clean the gutters out. The man could barely stand up without his cane let alone climb a ladder in the rain! Getting him back inside that day was no easy feat.

Dad was always puttering, always trying to do something, wanting (and needing) to feel useful. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty reasonable desire. Isn’t that what most of us want... to be needed... to be useful... to have a purpose?

hmmm... maybe we should have let him butter his own toast!

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Meet the Fisher Girls

Erin Elizabeth Fisher
14 years old
One word descriptions: smart; beautiful; talented; loyal
She is: an artist; a musician; a writer; a poet; a daughter; a sister; a granddaughter; a niece; a friend; a computer geek; a teenager; a leader; most like her mama

Erin is my first grandchild. She was the first one who brought tears to my eyes because... well, no other reason... just because. By virtue of being first, she changed my path in life. I was no longer content to go down the same road because now I had a granddaughter; someone with whom I could bake cookies; that I could take shopping; that would sing Beatles songs with me, not caring that I couldn’t sing a lick; a precious, perfect baby to hold and love.

One thing I won’t forget: that she sang Blue Bayou to me on the phone when she was only two years old - the whole song.

Emily Virginia Fisher
12 years old
One word descriptions: smart; beautiful; unique; insightful
She is: an equestrian; an animal lover; a straight A student; a daughter; a sister; a granddaughter; a niece; a friend; most like her daddy; a pre-teen only days away from that magic birthday number 13.

Emily came second and my heart melted completely. How I loved my sweet Emmy. What a perfect baby she was; so sweet and loving. Too often, she played second fiddle to her older sister, not because she had to, because she chose to. She often hesitated to step out on her own; afraid to risk; afraid to try but never afraid to love or to offer a part of herself to others.

One thing I won’t forget: Her Tea Party Birthday

Sarah Grace Fisher
10 years old
One word descriptions: smart; beautiful; funny; charming
She is: the baby of the family; a shopper; a daughter; a sister; a granddaughter; a niece; a friend; a mix of her mama and daddy; the easy going one in her family

Sarah loves being the baby in her family and is well suited to the role. She is open to the world but took the longest in growing close to me. I think she may take the longest time in growing apart from me now that we are close. Gosh, I hope so!

One thing I won’t forget: The scratch on her finger after our accident.

It's hard to believe that over 14 years have passed since I became a grandmother. It was never a role I chose. It was not a position I sought but one that I give thanks for every day.

Thank you God, that it came to me in the form of these three Fisher girls and their cousins, Anna and Kayla.

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