Posted in Motherhood, Photography, Writing

Finding Splendor in Time


I dug up the rocks and plopped them in a bucket, leaving digits in our front yard. Churned up over and over by the farmers in the hopes our soil would eventually swallow them, but the stubborn rocks still prevented the football games I’d imagined here. I stretched the kink out of my back, as my husband, the builder, wants to take my picture. I pose with my shovel.

“My country girl.” He laughed and shook his head, not understanding why I like to play in the dirt. I’m a do-it-yourself kind of gal, while he’s a “we’ll just hire someone to do it” kind of guy, but somehow in our zooming twenty years of marriage, we fit like the soil hardened around those large rocks jutting my yard.


Bella joined me. I told her to search for dinosaur bones, and she’s delighted.


The next day, Colin and I drove the ATV to the river to look for fossils. I’d read shark teeth were found there. We dug in spots at the edge of the dark water only finding the treasure of each other again.

“Momma, we need to get a metal detector. Imagine the pirate treasure that could’ve washed up here from the ocean,” he said. Several times metal detector comes up as Colin often does when his pubescent mind wants something.

“Colin, you need to learn to live in the moment God puts in front of you, instead of yearning for something better.” I found a piece of driftwood. “Here, look for driftwood if you’re tired of digging in the sand.”

“But it’s just wood,” Colin said.

“It’s a piece of art, wood that is shaped and preserved by the salty waters.”

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We hiked along the beach and woods searching for nature’s art, spotting large cat tracks, coyote, raccoon, deer, wild hog along the way. A wildland recorded as scary to the white settlers. A place the Native American’s hid. A land we love. He made me laugh. A twig snaps. We spun around. My middle son Christian snuck up on us in full camouflage.


“You guys need to clear out by 6:30pm,” he said walking toward us. “I’m hunting wild hog tonight.”

I stepped back knowing he’ll scold me for wearing perfume and leaving a trail along the beach. He walked on without noticing.

“How much time do we have?” I said.

Colin glanced at his phone. “Twenty minutes.”

I sighed.


Our twentieth wedding anniversary snuck up on me this week. Earlier, Jay suggested dinner out. It seemed casual. We glanced at our sick Bella on the sofa snuggled with Nick, my eldest son. The builder wanted time… my time. I agreed to go.


He pulled into the Ritz at Amelia Island. “Can’t we go to some small seafood place on the beach?  Someplace dark and intimate.”

“Nope, it’s a special night tonight,” he said.

We sat in the lounge. My black pants were a little short as my ankles peeked out. It was too cold for the dress I bought. I tugged my pants down to touch my ankle boots. He handed me a glass and we toasted our twenty years. The guitar player played our song, Someone to Watch Over Me. Gershwin’s words bring my late twenties with them. I didn’t think I needed him then. I just wanted him.

Today, I know I need him to watch over. He shoves the gun and radio in my hand before I head to the woods, while I roll my eyes. He yells at me as I dive off the ATV when it starts to tip over. While I never worry about dangers, he keeps a lookout. While I like to do the work, he tries to make life easier by hiring the help.

At the Ritz, he kneeled on one knee. His lip quivered. He opened a box. I stared at the contents afraid to touch the too much. “Will you have me another twenty years?” he said. Tears filled his eyes. He was more nervous than he was asking me the first time. He’s tried to build a perfect moment.

I lifted my weathered hand… artist and mother…hands that are washed too much. He slipped the ring on my finger, and I saw the remnants of our dig still under my nails after all the brushing. I’m embarrassed.

“That’s your original diamond, just a new setting. I built it myself.” He’s proud. I told him I’m relieved he didn’t trade up my diamond. “I wanted to build on our foundation,” he said.

I glanced at the ring and see my ankles sticking out again. I remembered the scolding I gave Colin to enjoy the moment in front of him. I forget my fingernails. Stopped tugging at my pants. Gratefulness pinks my cheeks. I lowered my hand and looked at my treasure. A treasure I found drifting by when I was picking in the dirt of my career. In him, I’ve found splendor in the grasses of time, in the plucking out the rocks so the roots of love grow deep, and in the simple moments that drift by.  

He lowered his glass. “I reserved a room on the ocean, but since Bella’s sick I didn’t think you’d want to stay the night, but we can get room service. Spend some time alone before going back.”

I smiled. “That sounds perfect.”






Posted in Christian, family matters, Farm life, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Writing

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk Week 3



Many times when you plant a young tree you stake and tie it, so it has a support system for growth, but a Chestnut Tree shouldn’t be staked and tied when it’s newly planted unless it has an immature root ball.  A Chestnut Tree needs the movement to grow. When a Chestnut Tree sways in the wind, it stimulates its roots to grow, and also allows the trunk to become thicker at the base. This movement creates a healthy tree.

This brings us to the third thing the Chestnut Tree wants to tell us:


III.  When planted if a Chestnut tree is tied and staked tight, it will never grow roots and a trunk that can weather the storm.



My son Nick came home from FSU for Christmas break, not looking healthy. He’d lost weight, and his eyes sunk deep into his pale face. Each morning, he headed out the door and didn’t return until late. Everything in my Momma body screamed something was not right. One afternoon, I received a text from his roommate’s mother, who was hosting a brunch for all his high school friends.

“Nick brought me flowers but didn’t stay for the brunch. He didn’t look good. I hope everything is alright.”

That night, I texted him demanding he come home immediately. I met him outside and he followed me in.

“Sit” I pointed to a dining chair across from me. I leaned over. “What’s your GPA?” I said.


His eyes teared up. “I don’t have a GPA, Momma. I received a call on the way to the brunch. I’m on academic suspension for a semester.” He spilled the whole story. He couldn’t handle the 16 hours I made him sign up for in his freshman year. He found himself buried after the hurricane when a week of makeup work was piled on top of his regular week, which started a cherry-picking of which class he’s doing well enough to skip, in order to catch up in another. He’d always been good at school, and now he sat across from me with his tail tucked between his legs. He was having an identity crisis.

“I stayed up all night studying and vomited on test days. I panicked and then I made stupid mistakes, like forgetting to email my speech to my professor, which earned me a 0 on the whole project.” He shrugged. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

I recalled a conversation with my husband Jay, during Nick’s senior year.

“I’m concerned life’s been too easy for Nick,” I said. “He’s never failed at anything. He’s always been a good student, good at computers and editing, he’s talented in art, he picked up a guitar and learned how to play. Everything he touches turns to gold. I’m scared when he does fail, he’s not going to know how to recover.”

“He’ll be fine,” Jay said.

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I’ve gone over and over in my mind the picture of my boy. I think of mothers who have heard worse news from their boys, like the parents who showed up for parent’s weekend only to find their son died the night before from alcohol poisoning. This could be so much worse.

He hung his head and promised to pay us back. “Maybe I’ll just quit college and work for Dad, I can learn the business.”

“No, you’re not. You’ll untuck your tail and try again. Look, I can handle bad grades. I’m not happy about it, and we did lose money, and I’ll admit I’m a bit embarrassed to tell family and friends, but that’s just my pride and money can be replaced.” I reached for his hand. “To be honest, I’m relieved it’s not something worse.”


Life is messy. Sometimes, we have to flap in the wind to learn how to weather the storms.

My son is flapping in the wind like those Chestnut trees on the farm. He’s learning how to weather the storms of failure, criticisms, and a confidence beating, but the roots of humility, perseverance, and faith will spread. His trunk will strengthen. Too often as parents, we tether our children too tight to our aprons strings, and they never learn coping skills. The best lessons we can teach is how to turn to God when they’re in trouble, and how to learn from failure.


Nick is reading Discerning God’s Will, by Richard Case and journaling. It is a crash course on hearing God’s voice. He is on academic suspension until summer, when he will start again with a clean slate.

“I’ve been praying about my degree. I pray a lot in the car. God will show me what to do, for now, I volunteered to work for a guy starting an oyster business,” he said.

He also has an interview with the city of Tallahassee to volunteer for several organizations this Friday and is re-thinking a business degree.

“Would you guys be okay, if I just pursued my passion in Marine Biology?” Something, Jay and I talked him out of. (Momma has had to take some responsibility. No judging. I’m a work in progress.)

Nick is spending a semester spreading roots and growing a thick trunk so he can bear fruit no matter what storms come along.


What about you? Do you see failure as hopeless? Or do you see it as an opportunity for growth and change?  Next week the Chestnut tree wants to tell us what protects them until they are ready to nourish others. Have a great week!


Posted in Christian, family matters, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Women

The Man in the Stilettos

“We’ll call ourselves ‘Starfish Sisters’.” My friend Heather said over lunch. “You know after the Starfish story.” (Click the link for the starfish story.)
That was how it began, about thirty Momma’s and Grandmomma’s coming together to make a difference in the world, or at least, at a charity in Orlando, Florida. Heather sent us an assignment, we hired a babysitter, and went to work.
One of our first assignments was for a charity called Mending Hearts, owned by a powerhouse named Stephanie Richards. I was pumped and ready to go. The assignment? Clean a house and get it ready for a family. I could do that! I had three boys, I was over-qualified for this assignment.
When we arrived, sinister-looking men lurked in the shadows, one ducked behind a tree. I wanted to yell, “I see you!,” as if it were a game of hide and seek, instead my eyes darted warily at our spectators.
An older “sister” grabbed my arm, “Tammy, don’t be afraid of them. We have God with us.” I raised my chin a notch. I wanted to yell it. “Yo Yo You wantta mess with me. I got God with me! Come try and see what happens!”
Inside, we found Stephanie on her knees scrubbing the floor. She was dirty, her blonde hair hung down into her eyes, but she smiled, for the calvary arrived.
Let’s just say here, crack houses are disgusting. There was feces among other unmentionables on the floor, windows, and walls.
By that afternoon, the walls had a fresh coat of paint, and the house was almost ready for a single mother and her children, once the fumes from the bleach cleared out. We were packing up to leave when Stephanie received word another house of hers, was set on fire by it’s former occupants. She laughed and said, “This is what I deal with all the time.”
“Why would you chose to do this?” I asked. It seemed not only exhausting but deflating as well. She explained, lower-income families slipped through the cracks of our society. They feel defeated even though they work just as hard. By providing a fixed rent, furnishings, utilities, and childcare, Mending Hearts sealed those fissures and provided a solid foundation where children grew up with stability. Stephanie required her renters to work, which helped parents maintain their self-worth, and their children grew up understanding a work ethic.
I admired Stephanie. She was the old man throwing the starfish back into the sea, while I was the boy asking what’s the point?
Another assignment for the Starfish Sisters was to collect personal products, organize them in bins, and hand them out at the homeless shelter downtown. The big day came, and I was manning the toothpaste distribution, when a man with green eyes and eyeliner, stumbled in his stilettos past my table, for a fourth trip. I was indignant. He was breaking the rules!
“Excuse me sir! Excuse me! You have gone through my line three times already, and the rule is you are only allowed once.” I motioned to an employee, “He keeps coming through the line. This is his fourth time!” I was the toothpaste police, and would not allow anyone to have more than their share.
He didn’t deny it, and nodded as the employee took him aside as I felt good about the job I was doing.
When we were cleaning up a deaf couple ran up with their two children, one in a stroller and the other around four years old. They signed frantically that they were there to get personal products, and I grabbed a bag and ran through each station dumping all that was left in their bag. My heart went out to these people and their situation.
Later, I had lunch with them, and in my best sign language asked them if their son could hear. They nodded ‘yes’ he could. I looked across the table at this little boy who grunted and pounded the table for more cake, but his parents couldn’t hear him. I slid a piece towards him, and his smile stretched from ear to ear.
That night, as I lay in bed the little boy’s grunt still rang in my ears. What kind of future would that child have if he never heard language?
The next month, I couldn’t work with the Starfish Sisters, for Momma was coming to visit. Daddy was flying to Orlando while Mom was taking the train. (She’s petrified of flying.)
I arrived at the train station early to pick her up. I double checked to ensure my SUV was locked before walking into the open air station. Sitting on a bench, I took in my surroundings. Piles of trash and leaves were on the floor. The dank odors of trash hung in the air.
Alone, I was in a vulnerable position. The train station was not located in a nice part of town, anyone could walk up behind me and put a gun to my skull. I clutched my designer purse tight against my chest and kept an eye on both doors.
It was then, someone started snoring. I jumped off the bench, ready to run for it, but stopped…
I recognized those shoes.
His stilettos were cast aside on the floor beside him. It wasn’t just Louis and I in the train station that day.
I sat and studied him.
His mascara was smeared under his eyes. He was lanky and long, with fingernails painted bright red. His lips were still stained from the lipstick he wore the night before.
I listened to the rhythm of his breathing. A maternal love filled me for this bi-racial man, for I was raising bi-racial men of my own. I wondered what his mother was like, or if he even had one. I longed to wake him and ask “What happened to you? Tell me your story!” But I lacked the courage. I hadn’t the courage to tell this beautiful twenty-something boy ‘Somebody loves you’.
For thirty minutes, I watched him sleep. He was peculiar, and although I knew he was far from innocent, he appeared to be curled up on a bench too small for his frame. He tugged his filthy blanket up around him, and switched sides.
Ashamed,I glanced away. Was toothpaste really all that important? I questioned why was I willing to dump tons of supplies in a deaf couple’s bag, yet I embarrassed this boy for going through the line as many times as he could.
I repented and prayed God would intervene in his life, and someone with more courage than I would come along and tell him Jesus loved him.
The train rolled in interrupting my reverie, and I stood to greet my mother. Once we collected her baggage, and re-entered the waiting area, I looked around for him, but he and his stilettos were gone. My chance to help save a starfish disappeared.
Later, I realized if he awakened he would have seen the toothpaste police clutching her purse to her chest. Who am I to think he’s peculiar? I am just as peculiar as he for what I held tight…what I valued enough to protect.
Before my sister Tricia died she said, “We worry about so many things that don’t really matter in the end.” Wisdom comes to those who taste death. Name brands, getting into that smaller size (loosing those baby pounds ugh!), our titles at work, impressing others with our cars, houses, bodies, and selfies, take our focus away from God and others, and places it on ourselves. People are mourning, feeling inadequate, rejected, scared, unattractive,and unloved.
Life is too short. Those things we hold so tight don’t really matter, so let them go, for how else will you be able to get your hands dirty picking up something (or someone) that does?

Please note: Mending Hearts needs your help. Stephanie Richards has been fighting Orange County for her tax exempt status. If you can give anything at all please click the link below to read about her situation further. Thank you.

Posted in Motherhood

Motherhood is Not For Wimps!

Motherhood is not for wimps!
Last weekend, we had a baby shower for my sister-in-law Prem. There are four babies on the way into the Adams/ Hodge family, and as the bellies are growing so are the fears and hopes in each of the mothers. Lisa, a first time momma is having twin boys (no anxieties need to be explained on this one), Stacey, already a mother to a beautiful girl, is having her first son, and experiencing the “I don’t know what to do with a boy”, anxiety, and my sister-in-law Prem is having another girl who will be born in Philadelphia, for sadly they are moving next month. Her anxiety is having baby in a new town.
During the shower, I sat with my “sisters” individually, and each had their concerns on what they were about to undertake. I am the eldest amongst them…by far…they see me as having the answers on all things maternal. They wanted my assurance everything would work out fine. Here’s the truth, motherhood is not for wimps. There is a period in every mother’s life when she enters bootcamp. Bootcamp is a dirty, scary, strenuous place in a Momma’s life, but it is where you drop all those ideals and pretentiousness, and chose to be the Momma God made you to be.
My bootcamp started when Nick and Christian were toddlers. Jay’s work carried him to Phoenix from Tuesday to Friday, planting me into two years of Military Momma Training comparable to that of a Navy Seal. Jay returned Friday night to a clean house, lit candles, clean boys, a made-up wife shoving toddlers at him, but it was all a farce. The reality was we spent the week in the muddy trenches.
It seemed the wars always happened the moment his plane pointed towards Phoenix, the multiple viruses fueling temperatures over 104 (both boys in cool bath tub, while Momma praying fervently), the cream carpeting being painted blue after their favorite cartoon Blue’s Clues, the boys going missing, and just as I was about to file a report with the police, the phone rang.
“Uh… Tammy are you missing something? They are in my garage pulling all the sports equipment out of the cabinet.”
If they were going to steal, why did they have to pick “Perfect Mommy” three doors down? You know the one. She has the perfect yard, perfectly dressed kids, and the tight body? She works out with baby tied to her chest, and she never eats sugar..that in itself makes me suspicious of her.
“I’ll be right over” Ashamed, I hung up the phone.
I felt as if the large “L” “loser momma” was branded on my hot face, as the boys and I put all the sports equipment back into the labeled cabinet.
On the way home…
“Boys, why did you go to her house?”
“They have the good toys.”
“Of course they do.”
Motherhood humbles you.

Christian was a particular challenge. His favorite toy was anything with a mushy feel between his fingers, and unfortunately there is a stinky variety of mush he especially adored…his poo.
I tried everything to break his addiction during those months. I bundled him up for bed like he was about to climb Mount Everest in the dead of winter, just to keep those fingers from digging up the smelly treasure. If I saw the monitor light go off after his nap, I sprinted up two flights of stairs with the speed of a leper, only to find poo covered hair, a big grin on his mouth, and all the flaps opened on the multiple onesies. Have you ever tried to scrub poo out of textured drywall?
One particular week I hit rock bottom. My day-husband, a lady named Ana, whom Jay hired 15 hours a week with a job description “keep my wife sane”, screamed, “Miss Tammy he’s awake!”
Fifteen minutes later she found me sobbing on the floor of his bedroom. “I just can’t do it again Ana! Poo Poo is killing me.” I grabbed her ankles as if they were my life lines.
Ana squeezed my shoulders, for she knew if I died she would loose her job. “There.. there… Miss, l clean up this time. You go have coffee.”
That week, I asked for prayer from my Bible study girls. One offered me this bit of godly encouragement, “Christian is very creative like his Momma,” before winking in my direction. I smelled myself all the way home.
Motherhood strengthens you.

Christian was and is a very sweet boy. When he overcame the poo stage (angels singing in heaven) he discovered the joy of cooking. One morning at 4 am I awoke to the aroma of coffee in my bedroom, and his large black eyes peering over the cup I was drinking from the night before.
“Hi Christian, what are you doing honey?”
“I made you coffee, Mommy.”
“Oh, Thank you.” I sat up and peered into the cup, but it was empty. I pretended to sip.
“Yum this coffee is so good!”
“Mommy, I’m making you breakfast too.” He sprinted out of the room. I stretched and let out a big yawn, mouth wide open his words broke through the fogginess of my tired mind.
Fear instantly filled every fiber of my being.
I jumped up. “Christian, I’ll make you breakfast instead!” I hollered, following the brown trail of coffee from bed to door soaking the cream carpet..
I entered the kitchen cautiously, the soundtrack from the movie “Jaws” beating in my ears. The refrigerator door was ajar, shining light across the floor. I peeked around the bar into the family room.
“Hi Mommy!”
I jumped. He was there… in the darkness. I turned on the lights.
“I’m making you some eggs!” He stirred the eggs into a very large circle with a wooden spoon like a chef.
I gulped…”That’s very sweet of you, but next time Mommy would love to cook with you.”
“I wanted to surprise you!” he said. “You’re the best Mommy ever.”
Let me just say, that expensive Oriental rug never smelled the same, there was a gamey stench for years. Have you ever tried steam cleaning a dozen eggs out of wool? Chunks of cooked egg spewed everywhere.
A loving mother grants grace when needed.
To satisfy Christian’s love for messy, I pulled out one layer of shrubs by our front door and made a sandpit. Something the neighbors couldn’t see from the street, but I could see from the door. I threw in pots and pans, trucks and cars, shovels, and some days a bucket of water. I sat my two boys in the pile of mess and said. “Go for it!”
The joy in their eyes over this wonderful gift was priceless. One day my neighbor stopped by with her two boys to see if mine could play. Her boys watched enviously at my war-painted troops in their trench.
“If you want, I’ll watch your boys. They could play in the mud.” I suggested.
“Please Mommy can we?” They pleaded.
She wrinkled her nose. “No, you don’t have any clothes that would be appropriate.”
“They don’t need clothes. I’ve got plenty of stained up clothes they can borrow.” I smiled, as if I was bragging about by boy’s merit badges.
All of a sudden she announced they had “that thing” to do and left. For a moment, I compared my dirty piglets to her’s and felt sorry for her boys. I slipped off my shoes and jumped into the mud pit with them. I became dirty Momma of the Turtle Creek subdivision.
You decide what kind of mother to be, and sometimes that means compromise and creativity.

I was pregnant…AGAIN!
I knew this one was a girl. I was smaller. I felt great. It must have been a girl. I picked all girl names and designed the nursery.
I bribed the doctor for an early ultrasound with a huge fruit basket. I thrust it in his hands and said, “I need to know Doc.” I had this fantasy I was going to bring the first girl into the Adams family. Never mind I brought the first grandchild, that was not important enough. I had to deliver the girl. The ultrasound picture I would put in a Christmas card. My mother in law would be so happy, for she had four boys and always wanted a girl…
“I see it.” The doctor’s voice broke through my dream.
I sat up. “IT? Did you say IT?” I wanted to snatch that fruit basket and bomb him with apples.
“Congratulations! You’re having a boy.”
I held back the tears, until we were in the car and then the dam burst.
“It’s all your fault!” I turned on my husband. “You’re too…too… masculine or something. I don’t know what it is.” I pointed at him accusingly. “You only make boy babies!” As if I accused him of an affair and wanted a divorce.
I cried for two days. Then, I wiped my eyes, put on my fatigues, and started planning for a new baby boy, while begging God to give my husband a new job.
I was about to give up on that new job, when at the end of my pregnancy Ed Kobel showed up. He was Jay’s competitor in Phoenix, and was running the development company for his brother Eddie DeBartolo in Tampa. By the time Colin was born, Jay had a new job. He drove to Tampa daily, but that was much better than flying to Phoenix.
Colin was like a ray of sunshine. He made me feel like I was a “perfect” Mommy. When I said I needed to loose weight, he told me I was beautiful. When I painted, he said it was a masterpiece. When it rained and we couldn’t go to Sea World, he said Yeah! we can snuggle on the couch. He was just that kind of child.
Motherhood is full of blessings.

Yesterday, we were walking into the grocery store, Nick stayed in the car with baby Bella, Christian came in to help me pick out the food..still the chef, and Colin wrapped his arms around me and said, “Momma, I don’t know why I love you so much, I just do.” He is a 10 year old lover, and he signed a contract to not date until he is 22. It is legal and binding.
It is in motherhood we understand the unconditional love of God.

When I found myself pregnant at 44, secretly, I was hoping for another boy, for I had no clue what to do with a girl, but God likes to keep me guessing and along came Isabella Fawn.
Having a child at my age is like being in bootcamp all over again, with the added bonus of your father telling everyone your age. Everywhere we go, “This is my daughter Tammy, she’s 45 and just gave me a granddaughter.” (as if God touched my 90 year old womb)
“Just call me Sarah,” I say.
Being a mother is the most important job I will ever have. I look back at the Mommy Boot Camp years, fondly now. I love to tell the stories of those years, for they put new Mommas at ease.
You see I’m a screwed up, mess of a Momma, and by God’s grace I’m raising four messy but loving children. They are not perfect, but they are perfect for me, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in this world.
For my “sisters”, I can assure you there will be wars. There will be moments that bring you to your knees, but in the trenches you will find humbleness, strength, grace, creativity, compromise, joy, and blessings, but most importantly unconditional love.
Remember motherhood is not for wimps.

Posted in Christian, family matters, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Women, Writing

Sometimes God sends a Pig

In the hall, she laid heavy and limp on the tile floor, illuminated only by the light spilling from the bathroom. That is where the children found her. I was unloading bags from the car, when blood curdling screams made me drop everything and run.

“Don’t let my Mommy die Tammy!” Peyton said.  I will never forget the look on my niece’s face, as she looked at me for reassurance. Her little hands patting her mother’s still face.

I leaned her head back in Peyton’s lap and gave her mouth to mouth. She gasped, while her eyes rolled up into the back of her head. She was not coherent, but she would not die today.

As with all stories, they never begin at the climax, for this story started with a pig. I have come to realize through our fight with Breast cancer, when life gets so heavy and sad, sometimes God sends you a pig.

The night before her mishap, my son Christian was studying for a test on China. Tricia and I were cleaning up the dishes, while everyone lingered around the table. In his research, he discovered the Chinese Zodiac and asked what our birthdays were.

“Momma, you are a rooster. You are talkative, outgoing and entertaining. You like a neat house. You like to dress up and go out, but you can be blunt and vain.”

“I can’t get why people believe this stuff!” I said.

Tricia laughed at my denials. “What am I?” she said.

He scanned the page for her birthday. “You’re a pig!” Christian burst out laughing. “You are content and loyal. You face troubles calmly, but you like to wallow in your own mess.”

We laughed as Tricia tried denying she is a pig, but finally shrugged her shoulders and let out a snort.

The following afternoon after a meeting with Dr. Shah,  Tricia and I sat in an Italian bistro, over a spicy plate of pasta.

I leaned across the table. “The doctor’s not God.” I reminded her. “She doesn’t know the cancer will spread into your organs and bones. We must stay positive… stay the course.”

She nodded, while trying not to get emotional.

“Let’s just pretend we didn’t hear it…like it didn’t even happen,” I continued. “We’ll juice more, to boost your immune system. Vitamins…that’s what we’ll do. If she takes you off the chemo…oh well..” I shrugged, “we look at alternative treatments. I will find another doctor….Europe! Let’s go to Europe. I’m telling you, we will get this done. I feel good about it.”

She quietly listened to my ranting, as she cut up her pasta.

I used a spoon to swirl my pasta neatly onto my fork, while Tricia chopped hers, until the occasional piece she missed, which she slurped sloppily into her mouth. I giggled and she snorted.

After lunch, I dropped her off at home, and told her to have a good cry. I would not return with the children until after basketball, so she had time to get herself together before Peyton came home.

While at school, I paced the sidewalk praying.

“Tell me what to do now. What do I do?” I pleaded for answers. “How do I save her?”

I passed under the shade of a giant oak tree, over and over as I prayed. I took a breather and looked up to study the tree. It’s trunk was split down the middle from a lightening strike, and it’s root system was popped up over the ground, spreading several feet. It wasn’t a beautiful tree, but it produced many bright green leaves. The gnarly roots sprawled strong and vast, to help it weather a storm of significant magnitude.

It struck me, man did nothing to save this tree. God ordained it.

I had painted a tree like this before. The theme of the painting was a beautiful life can come out of disaster.

God also knows He needs to hit a rooster on the head for me to shut up… in Jesus name, and listen. It was then my phone buzzed, I checked my messages and found a post from my girlfriend Yvonne. It was a poster created at our school and it read, “My child, you worry too much. I’ve got this remember? Love God.”

I breathed. “Okay, you’ve got it.” I said out loud.

Just as I surrendered, I saw a pig. There was a pig face in that tree. I felt the stored up tension release, as I laughed. I took a picture of the pig to show Tricia when I returned home.

But…she was lying on the floor heavy and limp.

I rode in the ambulance with her. I watched through the mirror as my husband’s black car veered into a U-turn, and sped up with us. He texted me.

“I can see her through the window. She’s talking.”

When we arrived, I ran to the back as they unloaded her gurney.

“I’m here.” I said. “See me Tricia! I won’t leave you!”

By the time they allowed me to see her in the emergency room. I couldn’t breathe from crying. I saw her lying on the bed. Her head was swollen so high in the back, and she couldn’t remember a thing.

“Did I fall?” She repeated over and over. “I feel like I fell.”

But then…

“Hey Tammy! SNORT!

She did remember the pig.

There are times in life God knows, we need a pig.


Posted in Christian, family matters, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Women, Writing

A Story from India

A few nights ago, I played old hymns on the piano as my boys nestled into bed.  As I played, each song brought a memory to mind. Some of them, my family would sing around the piano, while my mother pelted the keys, Brandon banged his drum set, Tricia shook her maracas, and I… well, for those of you who know this story, I had my sticks. (My mother gave me the sticks, while my siblings got the cool instruments at Christmas time.) My dad would proclaim proudly, “We are the Carters!” (meaning the Christian Griswolds) The windows were open for we had no air conditioning at the time. Begrudgingly, I hit my sticks, thankul we lived in the country, so no neighbors could hear us.


That night, I started playing a song I loved growing up, it was a Griswold favorite.

“Peanut, do you know this song?”

“No, Momma what’s it called?”

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” I said.

“No, but I like it,” he answered back.

While Jay was working, I took a minute to look up the stories behind those old hymns. I was shocked to find “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”, was a song written in India, by an Indian family who decided to follow Christ.

I have a fondness and a curiosity for India. God has brought many Indian people into my life. For one, my sister- in -law Prem, who is a princess to me. She has this gentle feminine air about her, which makes me want to throw down my cloak over mud puddles, so her toes don’t get dirty. She wears flowers in her black hair at the beach, and drifts around in her pink tubby, while I am in complete snorkel gear rising up out of the deep, my hair coated with the green slime, I collected on my swim. We are complete opposites, my blood contains the savage sort, while her’s the exotic type. Somehow, though different Indian blood, we still fit, as sisters do.

I have several close Indian girlfriends as well, whom have opened their hearts to me. I don’t understand what they see in me, but they are a giving, gentle lot. They love to feed you their food and laden you with gifts at Christmas time. My friend Sanjita explains it is her culture, to feed those you care about. I’d be loving some Indian culture. Pass me a fork!

There is a little girl in India who has won my heart. Her name is Abilisha. We write each other regularly. She constantly pours the grace of God on me in her letters. What a cutie! The night I was playing this on the piano, I found a letter from her in my mailbox, along with a picture of her new rusty bicycle. Her smile could have lit up Disney World.

So, as I was reading the story of “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. I thought all the while as a young girl singing this song with the Christian Griswolds, I didn’t know one single person from India, nor did I know the horrific story behind the song. Here it is….


One night, around 150 years ago, in a North East area of India called Assam, an ordinary man opened his door to an angry mob of villagers. He and his family were dragged into the town square. The tribe pointed their spears into their chests. Their anger was ignited by a change in their village. A change caused by a group of missionaries from Wales, who took a dangerous journey to bring the message of Christ to a corner of the world, where no one wanted to go, and only one family decided to follow Jesus.

I imagine the missionaries thought their efforts were in vain, yet one family started a movement throughout the tribe, that the elders did not like. They decided to make an example of this family, in the town square.

“Denounce your belief in Jesus and you will live,” the chief shouted. The man and his family began to sing.

“I have decided to follow Jesus.  I have decided to follow Jesus.  I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back….No turning back.”

They snatched his two boys from his arms and speared them through the heart.

As they fell writhing on the ground, the chief yelled. “Denounce Jesus or your wife will die.”

He and his wife sang.

“Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back. No turning back.”

They grabbed his wife and speared her. She fell alongside her boys.

“Denounce Jesus and you will live.”

The man sang.

“The world behind me. The cross before me. The world behind me. The cross before me. The world behind me. The cross before me. No turning back….No turning back.”

The man fell on top of the heap.

Although, tragic, the story did not end tragically.  The chief walked away, and began to think of the words of this Indian folk song. He thought about the sacrifice an entire family made for their belief. He and his elders began discussing this man called Jesus, soon all agreed to become followers of Christ. The story of Jesus spread throughout the entire village, and many fell to their knees before God. For one ordinary Indian man and his ordinary Indian family, made an unordinary decision to follow Jesus to death.


If you would like to hear the song, “I have Decided to Follow Jesus” Click the link below. I also found some special Indian ladies to sing it for you.















Posted in Christian, family matters, Motherhood, Parenting, Women, Writing

To Be the Man He’s Made to Be.





He tried on the bright green hideous looking camouflage boots, and walked around the Bass Pro in a circle. I cringed, not wanting my son to arrive Christmas night in Suffolk, Virginia wearing shrubs on his feet.

“Christian, what about these? These are classy looking.” I held up some hip Under Armor hiking boots.

He looked me in the eye. “Momma, you have to let me be the man I am made to be.” He pointed his toe in my direction. “This is who I am.”

That night, Christian looked over at my smiling face in the car. “Momma, just because the camouflage didn’t fit, doesn’t mean I won’t get them next year.”

“Oh yeah, of course,” I said, attempting to appear I believed it.

Two nights later, amongst the torn gift wrap littering my parent’s living room, I spun around, and there standing before me was GI Joe, a present from my parents.

“Wait Christian!” Tricia said.

‘Oh no she didd-nnn’t!’

She did. My sister contributed to my son’s dream of hunting obsession, plopping a camouflage baseball cap on his head. She glanced over at me and laughed. My brother and sister patted him on the back and told him how cool he looked. Then it happened, his face lit up, his shoulders went back, and he gave them the cool man nod. Ashamed, I surrendered to the soldier. He did look cute peeking out of all those bushes.

Upon my surrender, one of my New Year’s resolutions came to light, it is to allow my boys to be the man they were made to be. With homeschooling, I have been pounding square pegs in a round holes.

I’ve come to realize, teaching these boys only in books, just doesn’t work. They are like me. Their attention can be snapped away by the dust floating in the air.

“Mom, did you notice how the dust reflects a particular shade of blue?” (Typical comment)


After Christmas, I pulled Nicklaus out of our two day school. Instead, day in and day out, we are mashed together, like peas in a bowl of split pea soup.

Today, he finished his Science Fair project, which he will submit to the school for judging. He filmed himself on his I- Pad explaining his experiment. When he showed it to me, I was mortified of his interpretation of Nick the Science geek, which included ample nose picking. I may be wrong, but this may set a precedence for future Science Fairs to become comedy shows on I Pads.

I started to forbid it. Then, I remembered my resolution to let him be the man he was made to be. If that means he’s a booger picker, then so be it. I told him my opinion and left it at that. He felt it was appropriate since it was about bacteria, besides the Science Fair needed a little shock value. He is a man made to learn the hard way.

My youngest, Colin is what my family and I like to call…jungle boy. As soon as he is loaded in the car at car line up. In one second flat, I hit the gas to speed away. When one mother sees me behind the wheel, she snatches her children and dives for the shrubs. She literally thinks I’m aiming for her. That’s so silly! I like her.

Before exiting the parking lot, I glance into the rearview mirror to see if I made it in time, and there Colin sits just as the good Lord brought him into this world.  “Colin, please wait until I leave the church parking lot to strip. It’s embarrassing!”

“I’m hot, because I’m part monkey,” he says.

I am starting to believe God made him with a monkey gene. Every time I turn my back, shirtless and shoeless, he is hanging from the columns or trees. Once he went with his Uncle Thomas to the zoo.

“Colin if you take your clothes off one more time!” Thomas said. “Stop hanging out the window!”

“Oh look!” The bare chested heathen pointed to the monkeys. “There’s my family. I told you I’m part monkey. That explains a lot!”

So, I am allowing him to be the monkey God made him to be…most of the time.

Last night, the boys wanted to go with me to walk the dog. Nick and Colin skated up ahead on their roller blades, while Christian sauntered up beside me and took my hand. We walked the entire way holding hands, and although tempted, I didn’t glance to see if he was wearing his… now stuck to him… camouflage.

Twenty minutes later, Colin wrapped his arms around my waist, like the monkey he is, and I pulled him down the sidewalk. Nick, just shook his head and laughed paving the way ahead. I am positive those driving by, thought, “My goodness, look at that poor Momma and how clingy those boys are, you know it’s because she home schools them. tsk…tsk…”

Hmm….I’d like to think it’s because I am letting them be the men they were made to be.