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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

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Entries in parenthood (32)



Yesterday I traveled eight hours home from the beach. As soon as I pulled up in the drive, I noticed the tree sitting darkly in the corner of the den. My boys and Matt greeted me exuberantly. Skip licked at my ankles. 

We gathered around the dinner table, and I heard the stories. On the morning I left for Florida, Sam had awakened with fever and coughing. He was sick most of the week. Joshua was honored with an invite to play Varsity in an upcoming soccer tournament. Skip ruined his coif by rolling in something dead in the common area. 

The lights on the Christmas tree had met an early demise. Matt suspected a blown fuse. We’ve never had this many lights because we’ve never had a tree this fat. Over poppy-seed chicken, we talked about solutions. 


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I stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom pulling my hair back into a pony tail. With my arms in the air and no sleeves, I saw my arms. This thought split my brain in two like a strike of lightning. “Fat arms.” 

And as insanity would have it, I answered myself. With sadness. Appropriate sadness. I thought, “These arms have held your babies. These arms have given love to your husband. These arms have baked when friends are hurting. These arms have fought for truth, wholeness, healing. These arms have raised up to heaven and not remained slack for lack of praise.”

I inherited these arms from my mother and grandmother. Their arms have been shelter for me. I have never, never thought of their arms as “fat.” In fact, we frequently heard from my mother, “come get under my wing.” She would put her arms around us and shelter us albeit temporarily from the world.


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mercy isn't...

Joshua enjoying the first s'more of fall.

The hot wind of a late summer Tennessee afternoon blew through the car as we rode home from cross country practice. Joshua said he had a good day but that the math test  proved difficult. As soon as Jacob got out of the car and we were alone, he said, “but that wasn’t the worse thing about the day.”

“Well,” I asked, “what was?”

Silence. Tears. Face contorting.

“Honey, I won’t be mad. Just tell me,” I said.

Five long minutes of silence marked our passage from Jacob’s house to ours. Finally, he reached into his backpack and pulled out his new iTouch. New equals not yet two weeks old. I glanced over to see the shattered screen.

My stomach lurched. It seemed to be somewhere in my toes. I waited for it to come back. I think I groaned out a prayer similar to “Oh God.” 

Tennessee has a new initiative called BYOT. Catchy and expensive. Parents are encouraged to send “technology” to school with your child.  We had decided to wait it out and make some decisions by Christmas. After Open House at Grassland, we changed our minds. The teachers lit up when describing how they would use it to teach. We got so excited that we took Joshua to Apple and bought him the iTouch the next day. 

The cases at Apple run expensive. Is that redundant? Apple and expensive? So I told Joshua I would buy the case at Best Buy or TJ Max. 

A few minutes after we arrived home with the shattered iTouch, Matt and I sat with Joshua. Very few things make a 12-year-old boy cry, but tears streamed down his face. He told us the story. In math class, he got up to turn in the dreaded test. When he sat back down in his desk, the iTouch fell and shattered. 

Matt and I owned part of the disaster. We had not purchased a case. I had not purchased a case. I call that a “stupid tax.” Shouda. Coulda. Woulda. 

Next day we headed over to Apple. Guess what? $99 later he had a new iTouch. They did not care that the iTouch was 9 days old. They did not care that the screen is a tad too fragile for middle-schoolers and tile floors. They took the old, war-riddled iTouch and our $99 and handed us a new one.

Where is mercy in this story? Is mercy based on contract or character? Kindness or cold hard facts? Co-dependence or generosity? 

Since Jenn LeBow visited me in early August, I have mused mercy. We sat in the swing in my backyard late into the night and talked about the very concept that allowed us to breathe. She shared with me her idea of Mercy Mondays.

I’m eager to muse mercy with Jenn and all her friends in the blog-world. Mercy Mondays is a place where we can share our thoughts on mercy and learn and wrestle and grow. Join us.

Lamentations says that God’s mercies are new every morning. I need them. All of them.


sense of place

Friday we loaded our van with three guns, two boys, six electronic devices and one frozen fish on board for his last ride to a taxidermist. We headed west then south to the land of my childhood - the Mississippi Delta. As we descended the last hill for miles, I rolled down my windows to smell the Delta and involuntarily my body danced to “Pride and Joy.” Stevie Ray Vaughn heralded our arrival home at sunset. 

As the blue moon rose over the flattest place on earth, I snapped photos of the landscape, cotton crops white in the fields and, of course, the moon. It felt like a blue moon since I had last put my feet on this flat ground of home. 

The first time I heard the phrase “sense of place,” I mopped sweat and took notes furiously in a southern studies class. Barnard Observatory at Ole Miss must have been the last classroom at the university to get air conditioning. I listened mesmerized for a semester as my professor told me things in words that my soul already understood. 

 Rarely does an academic truth ring so true in your bones. 

Yesterday as Sam and I rolled into the dove field on the gator driven by my step-brother Justin, these words came back to me and my soul testified. We motored by the house where I grew up and I was 5 again watching the cotton pickers from my playhouse window. We bumped along the banks of the Sunflower River on the dirt turn row where I practiced my long jump and took second place in fifth grade. A turn row is a dirt road where the tractors turn around. I pointed to the spot to show Sam where I had seen the alligator. He’s heard the story a hundred times. Now he could add the texture of geography to it.

We turned west away from the river and snaked through a labyrinth of dead sunflowers.  Row after row covered the terrain and called to the doves. My daddy had lovingly and meticulously prepared the field. Turn rows divided the dove field into plots. Hunters stationed at each plot sat above their kill on camouflaged stools and chairs. We rounded the corner, and I could hardly make out Joshua, 12. He mixed right in with the dead sunflowers. He and Matt had been hunting since sunrise. 

Something like satisfaction filled me up seeing my son and his daddy hunting so close to where I roamed as a child. We were nearly on the exact spot of my one and only duck hunt. My sisters and I had pestered my daddy so much that he finally took us. When we complained of being cold, my daddy had us sit on the dead ducks for warmth. We wished for the Schnapps that kept the men warm. We were cold enough to comply and tentatively placed our rumps on those poor ole birds. It worked, but we never asked to go again. 

In contrast, on this day we would’ve traded an arm for a cool breeze. The sun beat down and the doves skated in and out of the sunflowers playing a deadly game of hide and seek. When Justin came back with the gator, his daughter Ann Lamar had the wheel. I won’t divulge her age and tempt law officials to issue a warning. What age gives you the right to drive a gator? We piled back in and headed across the street from where I spent the first 17 years of my life. 

I lingered in the sunset playing with labrador pups and taking my children to see the river. The bridge in the distance saluted and I told them again of the shenanigans of my youth. Watching through the cracks in the bridge for the pigeons’ nests full of eggs. Riding bikes fast as we could by the fisherman. Playing in the abandoned house right across the bridge.

As I snapped the last photo of the day, I looked westward and noticed that the clouds seemed to form a path. My future awaits. Stories yet untold.



I stood at the sink washing dishes wearing rain-boots when I began to mentally recount the day with my mama. 

We found the rain-boots at Costco hidden behind men’s athletic shoes. I’ve been looking for three years for rain-boots. We bought soap and salmon, steak and raspberries that opened at the check-out and rolled all over the floor.

Before Costco we ordered the exact same spinach salad at 55 South. Then we paraded up and down Main Street in downtown Franklin. We remembered the Christmas parade 23 years ago one of our first outings here. In Avec Moi, I talked her into buying six gorgeous wine glasses. She had bargained with the owner to sell her four. “When do you ever just need four wine glasses?” I said. She acquiesced and I asked the owner for a commission. 

Just another day with Mama.

I am learning that nothing is guaranteed. I have no idea what I will walk into tomorrow. I want to open my arms to today and receive the gifts. 

In June this notion blinded me like a disco light from the 80s. Mama had gone in for a chest xray and wa diagnosed with pneumonia. A SPN - that’s single pulmonary nodule in medical speak - showed up as an “incidental finding.” My sisters, my stepfather, my aunts and a multitude of friends held our collective breath while we waited for results. We got the news days before leaving for the beach that it was BENIGN. 

Never have we danced on lighter feet than that week. Rosemary Beach may never be the same. My sisters and 8 of our children celebrated and milked the most from seven days of togetherness.

Saturday we learned that the nodule is growing. The doctors don’t really know what it is.  They are running more tests. 

And again we wait.

Meanwhile, we fight to enjoy every moment without letting fear and our imaginations get the best of us. I don’t want to take anything for granted. Rain-boots at Costco. Gorgeous new wine glasses. Lengthy conversations about books we are reading. 

Lord, please help me not to let this fear rob from me the present. Amen.

33. a day of play with Mama