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red clay ponderings

Hmmm… what shall I ponder on today?

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#Friends ♥️

It’s been two years since I wrote the following post (11/12/17). But thanks to Facebook memories, it appeared in my Timeline today. And I’m thankful it did. Because it reminded me of the many wonderful people I have in my life.

Yesterday, I thought I was holding it together pretty well. I was feeling all the emotions that come with being mom of the Groom… a groom who is the baby of the family, and also the rock and glue… still, I was doing good. A few people even complimented me on my composure. 🤔

But then…

as we lined up for entry, Matt and Joe Laughridge, two of Garrett’s closest and longest friends, both spoke gentle kindness to me, as they always have, and I began to feel the tears building.

A few salty drops managed to escape my eyes.

Before we started down the aisle, Matt said, “I’ve got you. I’ve always got you”.

And I began to taste the liquid salt.

As he escorted me to my seat, I looked over the congregation of guests, and I saw something that broke the dam.

I saw Love.

A lot of love.

Love that rescued. Love that offered a place to sleep. Food. Hope. Promise. Forgiveness. Friendship. Peace. A listening ear. Transportation.

Unearned love, given freely.

On both sides of the aisle, people who love my son, turned compassionate expressions toward me. And each time my eyes landed on a face, my mind played a video reel of the roles they’ve played in our lives.

Someone whispered, “you’ve raised a good man”. I could no longer see through the tears.

I remembered the love these family/friends have given. The sacrifices made for people they didn’t even have to love…

Some were family… most were friends.

That kind of love is rare. And seeing them all in one place, together, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization of how many people truly love Garrett.

And I cried the kind of ugly cry you don’t want to cry at your child’s wedding.

The people there, ages ranging from child to geriatric, love Garrett because he loves back, without strings attached. When one of his groomsmen said, “He’s the most loyal man I know”, I heard soft echoes of “yes, he is”.

I agree. ❤️

Family is a gift from God. Friendship is a bonus gift of love from Him.

This was never more evident to me than it was yesterday.

Photo credit to Cindy Harter Sims , one of God’s bonus gifts to Garrett Able and our family.

🔹 Cindy Harter Photography

Little Red Slippers

My grandmother Crawford would put up her Christmas tree mid-December; a fragrant, local evergreen.

Christmas 1967 was different. She caught the Christmas Spirit early, and had her tree up the week of Thanksgiving.

She had never done that before.

By December 1st that year, packages wrapped in bright paper were nestled beneath the boughs of her tree. One package for each grandchild. Everyone commented, but didn’t complain, on her premature decorating. They wondered “whatever could she be thinking, putting a tree up so early?”.

Back then, most people decorated a week… two at the most… before the Holidays. Setting up a live tree one month before Christmas was unheard of. But there sat the Crawford tree, in the front window, for all of Hickory Flat to see.

One afternoon, around Thanksgiving, I went shopping with her. On that day, she got behind the wheel of her big, blue Chevrolet Impala and I snuggled up next to her. On the bench seat. No seatbelts required.

Lois Emma Benefield Crawford aimed her Chevy Tank in a southward direction on Highway 5, and before long we had left Cherokee County. We were rolling down Highway 41… destination: Marietta.

More accurately, our compass pointed to Kmart and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Browsing around Kmart, we lingered for a while in the shoe aisles. And it was there, that I came across the most beautiful pair of house slippers I had ever seen. Red velvet mules, trimmed in red fur. And they were just my size.

I couldn’t stop looking at them. Couldn’t resist running my hand over the furry red trim, even as it tickled my palm.

She stood very still, and I felt her watching me.

“Neetie, you like them shoes?”

I looked up at her… her blue eyes were intense, like sapphires against her dark complexion. Beautiful eyes. But there always seemed to be a hint of sadness behind them. The kind of sad you see in the eyes of poor people. People who keep going, even though life doesn’t cut them many breaks.

I answered her: “Umhuh …. I think I’ll ask Santa for these”.

We finished up at Kmart and made our way to Dunkin’.

We both had a single donut. She had coffee. I had hot chocolate. We nibbled our treats, sipped our hot drinks, and I talked about those red shoes the whole time.

“If Santa brings me those shoes, I won’t just wear them in the house. They are so pretty, I’ll wear them to school, too. The bottoms are hard, like real shoes. Not soft, like house shoes”.

She laughed a little.

On Christmas morning, I found a package addressed to me:

“To Neetie,

Love, Maw and Papa”.

The wrapping paper was covered with chubby little Santas, all playing in a falling snow. I was hesitant to open the package. Because I knew there would never be another.

Life had changed since our Kmart shopping excursion.

On December 4, 1967, the phone rang. It was late for a phone call. But I wasn’t yet old enough to be fearful of late night calls. So I answered, and heard my grandmother’s voice on the line.

“Neetie, I need to talk to your mama. I love you.”

My dad found her on her kitchen floor, the phone was nearby.

She was gone.

Without warning. Without saying goodbye. Her heart had simply betrayed her, it had given up and quit.

Christmas morning, I sat on my knees by her Christmas tree, and told my mom I didn’t think I should open my gift. She told me the decision was mine, but encouraged me to remember that the gift was something my grandmother had given me, her oldest grandchild. And it was something she wanted me to have.

Carefully, I pulled back the tape. I couldn’t bear the thought of ripping her paper, paper she had selected. In my mind, I could see her at her kitchen table, drinking coffee… wrapping gifts. Humming along with the radio. Her Coca Cola clock illuminating the wall behind her.

I felt so lost.

My chest was heavy with grief when I opened the gift from her. And when the paper was pulled away, I wanted to cry. Cushioned in a blanket of white tissues, lay the shoes. The most beautiful shoes in the world.

But I didn’t feel joy at receiving them. It’s not that I was disappointed in the gift. I loved the slippers and I was thankful to have them. But I missed my grandmother. I wanted to go back to the day at Kmart. And stay there.

My mom still has the red shoes. They are in my old room. They’ve been around for 52 Christmases now. And I still get a lump in my throat when I think of the sacrifice Lois made, to buy them for her seven year-old granddaughter.

And I wonder if she had a feeling that she would soon be leaving us.

I don’t know. But this I do know… some of us have complained about our people decorating too early.

It’s ok. Let them have some Christmas joy. Don’t shame the family and friends who want to stir up some Christmas memories a little early in the season.

They may know something you don’t.

Merry Christmas 🎄

Danita

Two of Lois Emma Crawford’s great-great grandchildren.

My friend Lorie Hamby’s tree.

She decorated in October that year. She said the lights and decorations made her happy. I said she should leave her tree up all year… “no shame in your Christmas game”.

It was her last Christmas. ♥️✨

Matthew 23:13

I can’t tell you the name of a single Kanye song. But we all know his name. He made sure we knew his name.

~Respect to him for building his own door and walking through it.

Recently he surrendered to another call on his life. Walked through another door.

~More respect to him, for ignoring the critics.

But something is confusing and confounding me.

Christians. They are doubting.

They’re laughing. They don’t believe it’s real.

They are judging.

So my question to you:

Is your salvation real? Is it? Because… correct me if I’m wrong (I’m frequently wrong)… your judgement and critical behavior is non-compliant according to the policies and procedures of the “handbook”.

And woe unto you, if you are a Christian teacher, preacher, missionary, church leader… who judges others… refusing to forgive for past sins, missteps and human failings.

(Matthew 23: 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.)

How many of us have prayed for a brother, husband, son, nephew, friend… to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ? And when your prayers are answered, do you not believe?

I can imagine KW has had a grandmother or a mama, maybe an aunt… praying for his heart to turn from dark to light. No doubt they are celebrating this victory.

Is his salvation sincere? I believe so, but I won’t be the judge. Will he stumble and fall? Yes. We all do. I pray when he falls, a brother or sister in Christ offers a hand and helps him get back up, rather than a heel to keep him down.

✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨

“Dear Christians,

Today we saw the radical life changing grace of God displayed in the life of Kanye West. He released an album proclaiming his newfound faith in Christ that holds more weight and depth than most CCM on the radio right now. This is a man that went from proclaiming “I Am God” to “Jesus is King.”

My hope for the future was short lived when I started scrolling on social media. I was dumbfounded at the amount of hate, judgement, and ridicule from other believers. Friends, the world is watching you. A soul that was lost has now been found, and when the world sees you turn him away because of his past, they feel unlovable and unforgivable. You aren’t just posting about a man you’ll never meet that will never read your posts. You are speaking to every lost soul in your life. Your friends, family, coworkers, etc. You are turning them away.

If Kanye West isn’t redeemable by the blood of Christ then neither am I. The gospel isn’t about living up to a standard or meeting expectations. It is a gospel of rest and grace. It’s a grace that covers all and doesn’t discriminate. It’s the same grace that changed Saul from a professional murderer of Christians into Paul, a champion of the Faith.

Will Kanye West fail? Yes, but guess what? I fail daily and so do you. Instead of sitting and waiting for that “I told you so moment”, use it as an opportunity to show the same grace that Christ has shown you daily.

I believe with all of my heart that we are on the verge of a modern day great awakening. That move of revival isn’t going to come from suit and tie, church pew religion. It is going to come from Influencers like Kanye displaying the radical grace of Christ. It is going to come from churches that abandon religion for true relationship. It is going to come from believers that lay down their picket signs and display the same love that Christ showed during His earthly ministry.

Dear unbelievers, I’m sorry. The words of judgment, hate, and ridicule that you’ve seen today are NOT of Christ. Even Jesus was rejected by the church when He came to earth. In fact, it was the religious elite that murdered Him. There will ALWAYS be a place for you in the Kingdom of God. No matter your past, your failures, or your mistakes, you are LOVED.”

-Written by Noah Henshaw

Fight Like a Girl

Fight Like a Girl?

I’ve loved that empowering encouragement since it first became a marketing slogan.

But if one of the girls in a fight is really a man, dressed like a girl, then the fight is out of balance. How can a girl physically fight like a girl and win, if she’s fighting a man?

She can’t.

This is madness. And what are we doing? We are letting madness control us. Women and men should be fighting FOR the girls. And for the boys too. But we sit idle, and do nothing.

For the record… it doesn’t matter to me how anyone identifies. But fairness and equality does matter. In non-physical careers, gender doesn’t change things (usually). But in sports and physically challenging endeavors, where promotion and honor is based on physical strength, it matters. Allowing males to compete physically against females, is wrong. Males and females are divergent. A physical contest between them is an unequal match. It’s unfair to the girls who have worked hard to succeed in their sport.

A man who emotionally feels like a girl, doesn’t magically become a girl. We all know this. Emotion doesn’t change the fact that a human born a man will always carry the stronger bones and muscle of a warrior. Even if a man has surgery and takes drugs to change his physical appearance, his core doesn’t change.

God intended for men to be warriors. He designed them physically stronger than women. Regarding intelligence though, he made us equals. (There are exceptions here…. on both sides😉).

If the boys want to battle it out with a girl in the sport of academics, I have no problem there. That playing field is equal. Bring it on.

But in competitive sports, stay off the girl’s field.

https://www.thecollegefix.com/big-sky-conference-names-male-runner-female-athlete-of-the-week-leaves-out-hes-transgender/

You Do You

I know something you may not know yet…

Wearing your natural hair is a brave and empowering move.

When you choose to grow your natural crown…you remove pretense. You feel more spirited, more daring. Whether your intentions are to make a bold statement or not… isn’t important. Because regardless of intent, your decision to walk away from the box makes subtle, yet very loud proclamations…

I am confident.

I like me. No, I love me.

I’m not here to please you.

Move along with your negativity.

What happened to get me up on my soapbox today?

Yesterday, a friend showed me a video of her friend… a woman who had recently stopped coloring her hair. She told me people were telling her friend that, with her grey hair, she looks older than her mom, or grandma… (I don’t remember precisely, because about that time, my blood pressure started rising).

My friend mentioned that she was concerned with how unhealthy her hair was beginning to look, and considered the damage was caused from dyes.

She asked if I colored my hair to make it silver. I told her I didn’t, and explained the process I experienced when growing out my natural hair. I could sense her hesitation as she touched her hair and looked in the mirror. I could feel all the comments running through her head:

“she sure looks older”… “must be somebody’s grandma”…. “no longer attractive “…. “man, she aged fast”…

I’ve heard all of them. Those carelessly spoken words sting at first. But then you realize they’re spoken out of insecurities and naïveté, and you feel empathy for the person hurling the dart.

Women shaming other women for aging naturally and beautifully, exposes a dark shallowness in the heart of the critic.

You might think, “Who do these women think they are? Cleopatra? Aphrodite? Helen of Troy?”

No, they don’t feel like those legendary beauties. Most likely, they more closely identify with Olive Oil, or the Sea Hag… or the little girl on the playground who became broken and self-conscious from the taunts of an insecure seven year-old bully.

It takes a while to get to that understanding.

Not to be misleading, I’m all about taking care of my skin with excellent skincare products (you know where to find me… DanitaClark.myrandf.com ). There is nothing wrong with slowing down the natural progression and aging as gracefully as possible. But if a woman (or man) chooses to display their natural, God gifted hair… leave them alone.

Let them do them.

You do you.

That’s what sweet little Cooper said to me, “You do you, Diffy”. ~ and it was excellent advice from a six-year-old.

Listen, if you want to color your hair until you’re one hundred and three, go right ahead Sister! You do you. But don’t shame the thirty year old that chooses to let her (his) silver sparkle like diamonds in a black sky. Let it be.

You do you.

Goodbyes Hurt the Most…

“Goodbyes hurt the most, when the story is untold.” Jenny

 

Hey Friends,

Shotgun Road itunes717

My son, Garrett Able and I have created a podcast. It was released today on Apple Podcast and will soon be available on all podcasting sites.

The title of our podcast is Shotgun Road.

Why that title? Well, we lived on Shotgun Road for a long time. And without fail, the road’s name always generated curiosity.  Shotgun Road just seemed like a fitting name for a True Crime show.

We chose Jody LeCornu’s story as our first episode on Shotgun Road for several reasons.
But mainly, through Jody’s sister Jenny, we’ve come to know and love Jody. We want justice for Jody. We want her family to have their questions answered.

We are doing this for Jenny.

And also, we chose her story, because Jody’s story could happen to anyone.

Jody LeCornu was a college student and part time bank teller. By all accounts, she was as kind-hearted a girl as you will find. She was fun, yet considerate of the feelings of others. Her dad’s pet name for her was Sunbeam, an appropriate name for one who brought light to the lives around her.
But one cold morning, darkness extinguished that light.

In this episode of Shotgun Road, we pick up Jody’s story, where her life ended… in a Baltimore parking lot, on a snowy, pre-dawn morning in 1996. She was young and beautiful, just 23 years old.
As of this recording, Jody has been gone as many years as she lived.

The night before she was murdered, Jody had hung out with friends at a local pub, The Mount Washington Tavern. On the morning of March 1, 1996, she and her fiancé had argued and he told her not to come home that night. – Imagine those being the last words you say to the woman you plan to marry.
Jody complied. She didn’t return to their apartment after classes and work, instead she went to the tavern. At closing, the tavern’s manager asked her to drive an employee home, and again she complied.
Presumably after driving the employee to his home, Jody stopped by a store and purchased a six-pack of beer. From there, she drove to the empty lot of a shopping center and parked her car.
These actions are confusing to the family.
Jody was a twin. And while many siblings have close relationships, there is nothing like the bond shared between twins. They know what the other feels, they understand how the other reacts in situations. Even across the span of a continent, there is an undeniable link… one that senses when something isn’t right. And that’s how it was, when Jenny’s call to Jody on the morning of March 2nd went unanswered. She says she had “a feeling of not being good”. Her sister always answered her phone.
I’ve spoken with Jenny regarding Jody’s behavior on her last night, and Jenny says there are several actions that were out of character for her sister.
* Jody was afraid of the high crime in Baltimore. She had spoken of this fear many times.
* She was cautious, not willing to insert herself into potentially dangerous situations
* She was afraid to drive in the snow.
* She didn’t like to drive late at night.
* She was afraid of everything.
* She suffered from anxiety
For 23 years, the LeCornu Family has sought answers from the Baltimore County police department. Sighting an ongoing investigation, the agency refuses to hand over details. The years of frustrating roadblocks and legal battles have taken a toll on the family… physically, emotionally and financially.
In the beginning, Jody and Jenny’s dad, who was a marine colonel and state’s prosecutor against violent crimes, handled the correspondence with investigators. After his death, Jenny picked up the baton, and discovered that they really didn’t know much more than they knew in March 2, 1996.

What we know is this:

Sometime after ‪3AM‬, Jody pulled into the empty parking lot in the back of the Drumcastle Shopping Center. Security videos reveal that Jody parked her white Honda Civic in the snow covered lot. Phone records indicate she made several calls, one of them to the African American boyfriend of her female roommate.
At some point, though we don’t have time references, a white BMW is seen pulling into the secluded lot, parking near Jody’s Honda. A black male, emerged from the BMW and approached Jody.
We presume she put down her window to speak with him, an action that indicates she was familiar with the man. They appear to have conversation. As the man turned to walk towards his vehicle, Jody begins to drive away. But instead of continuing to his BMW, he stops at the rear quarter panel of the Civic, and fires into the back of Jody’s driver seat. Hitting her in the spine.

Somehow, this remarkable young lady had the presence of mind to exit the parking lot, drive across six lanes of roadway, and enter the parking lot of an all night grocery store.
Surveillance cameras captured the Honda slowly maneuvering the circumference of the shopping center lot. They also captured a white BMW waiting at the top of the lot. When Jody’s Honda kits a curb and comes to a stop, the BMW begins to slowly move towards her. The BMW comes to a stop beside her. The same black male exits the car, methodically walks to Jody’s side of the Honda, leans into the car, puts it in park, reaches across Jody and removes an unknown item from the car. He then walks slowly back to his vehicle, and casually exits the shopping center, onto York Road.

Soon, patrons entering the grocery store, and an employee of a nearby Boston Market, realize something is wrong with the young woman in the white Honda. She’s slumped over her steering wheel, still and silent, while her car idled.

Calls began coming into the emergency call center just before ‪4AM‬. Witnesses recounted that a black man of stocky build, wearing a green “army style” coat had followed the white Honda into the plaza, and removed something from the car. The witnesses description matched that of the man seen on the Drumcastle video.

In 23 years, that’s about all Jody’s family knows. They have filed for autopsy reports, requested copies of investigation reports and more. Each time, they are denied.
Representatives from m-Vac, A company with a specialized DNA process, have offered to test Jody’s clothing. M-Vac has been successful in retrieving DNA from porous surfaces. But the Baltimore police haven’t accepted their offer.

The same investigator assigned to Jody’s case on day one, is the same one assigned today. I don’t know, I’m not a law enforcement officer, and to be clear, I have immense respect for our men and women in blue. But it seems to me, after 23 years, the local agencies might want a fresh set of eyes. Perhaps M-Vac could pull out new dna, uncover new evidence.
Or maybe if the family could read the reports, something in them might trigger a memory. Something that may be crucial to understanding what made Jody drive alone, and park in a dark lot. It may be something that seems insignificant to investigating officers, who were unknown to Jody. But might hold all the answers.

I have a lot of questions about Jody’s case, some of the same questions her family has:
• Who would do this to a 23 year old just as she was getting ready to graduate and plan her wedding?
• Why?
• Is the murderer being protected by Baltimore?
• Was the 38 caliber shot that severed Jody’s spine a lucky hit by this coward, or was he trained in firearms?

Jenny is on a mission to find her sister’s killer. She has placed billboards, offered monetary rewards, and still no one has been forthcoming.

I believe that someone, somewhere, knows something.

 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/id1473029154

 

Discuss Jody’s case with us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ShotgunRoadPodcast/

You can follow her journey on the Facebook page, Justice4Jody

Please sign Jenny’s petition, and help her find the answers she’s seeking.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/964/905/254/justice-for-jody/?fbclid=IwAR3E8hU5dt9qq39F6wyrBhTnq3SjR46jwNGgjP3ZPszyFny2vmqUk9XaqQE

 

Jenny

garrett ny

Garrett Able, host of Shotgun Road.

Reinhardt’s Greed

The story, as told to me by a Waleska United Methodist Church minister:

Blanche Hagan requested a lunch meeting with the President of Reinhardt College (now University), Dr. Floyd Falany. During their lunch, Blanche told Dr. Falany she wished to donate money to build a church on Reinhardt’s campus.

Blanche already had plans for the architectural design of the chapel. In them, she had specifically designated a private Bride’s Room, to be included in the Narthex. This was important to her, and she shared this with President Falany.

Blanche Hagan donated several million dollars to Reinhardt College for this chapel.

And she established three scholarships for Reinhardt students:

• Blanche Hagan Scholarship for United Methodist Youth

• Hagan Scholarship for Dependent Children of United Methodist Ministers

• Blanche Hagan Ministerial Aid Award

Considering the designation of these scholarships, I can believe Blanche Hagan would not be happy with the eviction notice Reinhardt University served to Waleska United Methodist Church.

Waleska UMC has called Hagan Chapel “home”, for more than three decades. The Waleska UMC and congregation have been woven into Reinhardt’s history from the founding of the school. Until Blanche gifted the chapel to the school, the congregation met off campus, in the old Briarpatch Church; a building lacking central heat and air, and indoor plumbing. Blanche was aware of this and realized she had a way to help both the church and the school.

Please read below, the thoughts and suggestions of Scott Jacobs.

Reinhardt University puts money above church, and is trying to evict the United Methodist Church after 140 years.

Folks, I am writing this to ask anyone involved with Reinhardt University to contact the University. Reinhardt University, a Methodist affiliated college for 140 years, has hosted the Waleska United Methodist Church since the college was founded. The church used the old Briarpatch Church for 80 years, and then moved several years ago to the new chapel built by the University for use by both the University and the church.

Reinhardt has suddenly decided to charge the Methodist Church an unpayable rent and ground upkeep, far beyond the church’s financial means. The current pastor of the church wrote to the church that, “Chairman Ken White, writing on behalf of the Reinhardt Board of Trustees, has indicated that if we fail to sign the agreement by May 31, 2019, we will have until the end of July “to vacate the premises or the University will proceed with legal action.”

Reinhardt was established as a Methodist institution, and the Methodist Church has supported the college for over 100 years. Many students and faculty have been active members of the church. Eviction of the church is so short-sightedly greedy that it is difficult to believe.

If you are an alumn of Reinhardt, please contact them and express your disagreement. Time is short before the church is evicted by the Sheriff.

Tiger, or Rocky?

Back in 2010, I lost respect for the man, Eldrick Woods.

His golf game didn’t matter to me. I saw a man who destroyed his family. And that did matter.

His story was so familiar, so personal, that my dad attempted a joke: “The news keeps talking about (insert the name of the man I was married to), but they keep calling him Tiger”. The joke was funny, in a sad way.

His wife’s story was similar to mine (minus the wealth 😉).

In a way that only one who has experienced the same pain and humiliation can understand, I recognized her emotional breakdown for what it was:

A reaction to months, maybe years, of heartache, loss, betrayal.

His fall from grace seemed to me deserving of his self-sabotaging behavior.

I thought he was done.

Most of you thought his story was over.

Obviously, he didn’t think so.

I don’t know if Eldrick the man has changed his old habits. I hope he has.

But Tiger.

Tiger changed. He decided to fight his way back.

I am happy for him. I am proud of his tenacity.

Americans love a good comeback. A rise from the ruins give us hope for our own victory story.

We love witnessing perseverance, a mind-shift, and goals achieved. It’s who we are. Those same character traits are the very ones that built the country we love.

If you’ve experienced a setback… know that you have a comeback in you, too. You’ve just got to work for it.

#belikeTiger

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Too good not to share…

* Content below was written by Chris Field

He had it all. Everything. Until he didn’t. And the fall was not a small one. It was documented everywhere. All his sins, and there were plenty, for the world to see. Whispers, finger pointing, head shaking, headlines.

Slowly, with almost nobody watching and even less believing, he started coming back. An injury almost ended the comeback before it even started. He persevered through that as well.

Today, with the world watching, he does it. A generation who years ago sat with their dads watching Tiger win sat with their own kids now and said, “watch this.” A generation inspired to become and excel at golf by watching Tiger on TV as kids watched one more time today as he passed them on the leaderboard.

His children who watched it all unfold over the last decade with their own parts in the story are waiting for him just off the 18th green. The mom who watched her son have it all, and then lose it all, is waiting too. She never left, by the way. Mommas almost never do.

The story isn’t perfect. They never are. We never are. But it’s a heck of a good one. Watch closely kids. Being great is one thing. Being great after falling out of grace takes twice as much work and ten times as much courage. That’s the good stuff in life. That’s why a bunch of old dudes got tears in their eyes today.

Cowgirl Blessings

My favorite artist is also good with words. Her paintings make me happy. Her stories make me laugh… and they stab me in the heart.

Amy Wilmoth Watts is multi-talented. She’s a cow farmer, a true cowgirl.

A Blessed Cowgirl.

She deeply loves her horses, her dog Snowflake, her husband James. And her sister.

“Never judge a book by its cover.

That statement is never more true than when associated with Amy. I mentioned she’s a farmer. She wears a farmer’s attire. Denim and cotton, whites, blues and grays. She’s not frilly. She’s not flashy. She’s not concerned with fashion. She may even cut her own hair, but I can’t say for certain.

Her art though… Her art reveals a warm, vibrant soul. And it is beautifully flashy. I’m including some of her art in this article, but today, I bring your attention to her words. Her stories. One story in particular.

She so clearly reveals the angst of a teen, the stinging wound of not belonging. The discomfort of being an outsider. It’s those teens, I believe, the ones who are left to observe from the sidelines, that are most tenderly in tune with the emotions of others.

Another thing I admire about Amy… she has a clear understanding that God is in the bold, and in the imperceptible, spaces of our lives. That nothing is by chance or coincidence. You’ll see what I’m talking about in the following story Amy recently shared:

“Summer of 1981 and 15 years old when I moved with my family to Georgia and what I could notice was the trees that formed green walls to block the horizon. After growing up in Nebraska where it is impossible to sneak up on someone, and the wind carries the scents of the stockyards and the sound of the tornado sirens being tested every Saturday morning, I felt panicked and claustrophobic at once. A new place, a new school and all around me the houses reached to the sky and all four sides brick. Suburbia, a new place where you would be defined by your “Neighborhood”! When I close my eyes to recall my childhood, I feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and feel the wonder of possibility for the future, the excitement of things to come! Being a teenager, however, felt morose and ugly, the future seemed in my face and not happy to see me! There is a definite feeling I associate here. A feeling cannot be defined, but sheetrock and whitewash and newness, people from everywhere, MTV plays as a soundtrack, once it came out and everyone stayed home to watch it. “Our love’s in jeopardy>>” the first song I “saw”. Before that, famous singers and bands were mere pictures on album or cassette covers, now as they live and breathe! But, with all the newness and change, walls would close in on me in those days.

Our family of course could not rest in this new place until a church was located, and we were all keenly involved in the search. We tried a few here and there. A Saturday afternoon drive alerted us that a United Methodist Church would be found down a narrow gravel road with privet hedge growing so close that it scraped the sides of our station wagon as we followed it’s path. There we were to find a dark brown painted single wide trailer, hardly the kind of church building we were expecting and the sign said “Simpsonwood UMC”. My sisters and I had to laugh at the humble appearance! Surely this could not be a church of any spiritual import! The words my mother spoke ring in my ears to this day, “This church needs us.”

It was there settled and our family is written in the history books as charter members in what is now the Simpsonwood Church and Retreat Center. Our first Sunday, we went into the small room with folding chairs that served as sanctuary and with one small bathroom that opened up in the middle of the main wall. Cindy whispered that she had to go, and gave the door a yank. We all know how cheesy and ill made a trailer house door and knob can be and the throne was already occupied, with the woman there exposed for all to see! And we made our first impression thus. My sisters and I had been involved in youth group in Nebraska, and were sad to note that our new church did not have one. Maybe not, but this church “needed” our family! In a few weeks, we made posters to advertise a meeting, and persuaded a college aged young man to be in charge and what would be known as Simpsonwood UMYF(youth fellowship) was born.

The point of my story really begins here, as a few months went by, the new youth group “took off”, and young people already members came and brought their friends. My sisters and I were feeling like outsiders worse than ever. Not only were there other kids coming, but we were quick to recognize that these were a large group of the “popular” people, and not only were we not among them, we were newcomers to our own party. Cindy and I begrudgingly stuck with it, all the while distancing ourselves towards a morose and hormonal sulleness to which only teenage girl can adequately adhere.

The group became more than the college age young man could handle and God brought us a wonderful couple named Karen and Rob. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Karen and Rob saw right through the discomfort of our scenario, chances are good they were new themselves at one time or another. They reached out to us, and worked hard to makes us feel a part, just as Jesus calls all of us to do. When the time came for us to go on a camping retreat, Karen put Cindy and I in her cabin, and did all she could to make us feel special.

In the time of which I speak, a singer emerged named Dan Fogelberg and he was one of the soft rock kings of the 80s. He is best known in my world as the singer of “Run For the Roses”, which is recreated by various artists in Oklahoma City every year for the winner of the Reining Horse Futurity. “Auld Lang Syne” and “Longer” are two more hits at the time playing on the FM dial. On Saturday night of our camping retreat, word reached us that Karen’s dad had passed away unexpectedly. She made the decision out of necessity to stay with us, as she was one of our only chaperones and we were to leave the next day. That evening, we gathered around a campfire to sing(something all church groups should do more of!). Someone led the fellowship with his guitar, and without knowing of Karen’s loss, began to play and sing “Leader of the Band”. This is a song Dan Fogelberg wrote to honor his father as he came to the end of his life. It became too much for Karen, and she rose sobbing to return to the cabin. I sat frozen, and watched as my sister Cindy got up to follow her out. No one else seemed to even notice. As the song finished, I got up quietly and went out into the darkness to the cabin door and looked through the screen. Cindy and Karen sat together on a bottom bunk, Cindy with her arm around our youth leader comforting her. And there my sister ministered to one who had to her done the same. My sister was special! And what I already knew came plain. “Truly I say to you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

September of 2011 finds me in a charming café in downtown Santa Fe, and internet access has me looking through itunes to make a new running playlist for the streets of the Plaza call to me every morning while I am there. I found myself shopping through the “Songs of the 80s” and there on the list is “Leader of the Band” by Dan Fogelberg. I am immediately restored to a time and place, one seen through the distortion of a cabin’s screen door and the memory of my sister who now takes her own rightful place in heaven. I purchased the song, along with a few others, and memories followed in my footsteps along the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos that week and this is where the story, for those who have stuck with me, gets not strange, ethereal and satisfying. One evening, having a sandwich at the same café, I received a call from my gallery just a mile or so away. The woman told me with great excitement that she had sold my piece “Vaquero” a moment before, and the buyer was none other than the widow of Dan Fogelberg! She had just moved to Santa Fe after her husband lost his battle with cancer. My painting was the first thing she purchased for her new home. I was stunned, but not really by the coincidence. I have proof of Heaven above and those who dwell there on a daily basis and this is just one more. It makes me smile to think of Cindy watching over my daily affairs, and it is in her witness that I make decisions to guide my life as she always did, walking with the Lord! “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

~You can find Amy, and her art, in galleries around the USA. And on Facebook and Instagram.

Tough Enough – Amy’s tribute to the memory of her sister, Cindy.

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