This past week Ron and I and our boys drove through a town called Many, (pronounced man–ee) in west-central Louisiana. It is a town where I lived as a young girl. I was amazed at how some things had not changed and others were frozen in time. I showed Max and Zach my house, and the backyard where I made snow angels (the story’s on page 32 in my book). The yard still looked big to me. I showed them the stump of the former tree where I carved my name with the name of the boy I liked and wanted to kiss “Celia + Scott”. I showed them another huge tree that used to have a rope in it. I remember swinging out over onto the roof of an old shed until one of the neighborhood boys went through the roof. That incident ended our Tarzan reenactments. I showed them the hill that my friends and I rode our bikes down. It used to seem enormous. I showed them the old Sabine Theater where I used to watch John Wayne movies and the good old make-you-ugly-cry movies like Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows. We retraced the path where I used to ride my bike and buy a Richie Rich comic book and fudge ripple ice cream cone. I showed them the Baptist church where I played basketball and the water tower that sprung a huge leak one summer and the kids in our neighborhood all played in the water for hours. That tower seems to have shrunk. I showed them the Catholic Church that had an after school program. They had ping pong and pool tables and we would play every week there. I showed them the church that my dad served First United Methodist Church. It was where I learned “Hallelu, Hallelu, Praise Ye the Lord” and “If I Were A Butterfly, I’d thank you, Lord” and “Do Lord” and many other songs. It was where I attended Vacation Bible School with my friends and where my girl scout troop met. I showed them where the Middleton sisters lived and I know why I love old Victorian homes so much. They had a Victorian home across the street from the library and we drank tea on their porch and they had a basket of children’s books for me to read.

I remember my last summer in Many. It was summer of 1975 and I was on a quest. My friend Annette and I were working toward a pair of Icee towels. You had to save proof of purchase coupons clipped from the cups. You could earn a beach towel from Icee and we each wanted a towel. We had to mail in one hundred Icee coupons and three dollars for each towel. (According to, the beach towel is now 500 points and $20). For weeks we rode our bikes around town looking and gathering coke bottles to redeem for a nickel each. We used the money to buy Icees and toward the $3. We had a system–we’d collect, clean and then trade them for our money. I can’t tell you how long this process took, but in the middle of that summer, our towels finally arrived. We would display them proudly at our local swimming pool or in my back yard with our slip and slide. I still have that towel today. I spent those summers with my best friends–Annette, Barbara, Sandra, Pam, Jill, Rebecca and I have fond memories of our time together.

At another recent stop in southwest Louisiana, I helped my boys catch green lizards with a friend Noah in his yard. Last week I smiled at their response after I caught one on the side of Noah’s house. Zach said, “My mom’s caught those guys before.” All I could do is smile as I put the lizard in their bug cage. “You bet I have guys … and it’s always fun!” (Incidentally, no lizards were harmed in the making of this newsletter. They were set free that evening to find their families and friends. We’re all about catch and release.)

A few days ago I received an email forward from Debbie, a friend in my book club. It was simply titled “do you remember when?” I rarely have time to sit and read email forwards and hardly ever take the time to forward them on, but this one was good and it got me thinking.

I remember … when summer lasted forever and I took my shoes off last day of school and didn’t put them back on till I had to go back to school after Labor Day, …lying on my back in the grass with friends and saying things like, “That cloud looks like a…” …eating watermelons, …snow cones (rainbow was my favorite flavor), …staying up late to watch a meteor shower, …playing tag until it was too dark to see, …making promises and keeping them, …sleep-overs, …homemade/hand churned peach ice cream; …climbing trees and riding on the handlebars of a bike with a banana seat, …shucking corn and shelling peas on my grandmother’s porch, …baseball cards in the spokes transforming your bike into a motorcycle, …water balloons fights, …catching fireflies for an entire evening.

As I reflect on summers gone by, the thing I remember the fondest is the goodness of it all–the simple blessings that I received. I enjoyed walking my sons down my memory lane and reflecting. As I recounted my memories to Max, Zach and Ron, we talked about what we are loving about our current summer. What made those times special and what makes today special are the people I am spending my days with and making time for simple things. Think about it. I’ll bet it’s true for you as well. Make some time to play today and make it a wonder-filled summer . . Celia

PS I had to pause in the midst of writing this devotional thought to retrieve a toad frog from under the couch, the adventure continues.

Sometimes it’s just right

Some things just feel right. Last week I came home from traveling and decided I’d spend some time with my four year old, Zach, while Max was in school instead of spending much needed time in the office. Ron told of Max and Zach dragging Ron’s golf clubs into the front yard and chipping golf balls over the weekend (while I was away). This morning, Zach suggested that he and I play golf. The weather had finally taken the turn I was waiting for—a spring warm-up. I love warm, growing up in Louisiana, I know hot. Last month I was in Wisconsin and I know it’s warm that I love. It was sunny, starting to turn springy and Zach and I chased the little white ball a bit. As we got outside, he handed me a wedge . . .

I remember my first round of golf. Several years ago, I was in Alamogordo, NM for a youth event. The youth director, Wes, and the choir director, Mike, asked me what we should do on one of our days off. They suggested golf. I said, “I love golf.” They picked me up and we headed off to Cloudcroft Golf Course, which was a beautiful course with lovely homes lining the fairways. As we drove toward the course, I learned that they played together almost every week. Looking back, our experience was pretty comical, especially the first tee. As we arrived, we rented a set of clubs for me, got me a box of balls and a cart. Mike hit a screaming drive and then Wes really got a hold of his first shot. They were both perfectly situated in the middle of the fairway. We headed to the ladies’ tee and as I prepared to tee up my ball, I said, “Ok, how do you play?” They were surprised and I said, “You didn’t know I didn’t play?” They were both shocked. “Well, I am a youth director’s wife — I have a lot of miniature golf experience, but I just know I’ll enjoy and excel at this game.” After they picked their jaws up from the cart-path, they proceeded to teach me how to play. Once I was told I was holding my club too tightly. So I compensated and as I swung, I remember my driver flying out of my hands. It must have looked like an episode of the three stooges. I spent the next few holes trying to make my ball go as far as that driver had. Once I remember picking my ball up and throwing it farther than my best drive. Eighteen holes make a long game for a rookie. Let’s just say that several groups played through. I have to say they were really good sports about the whole day and to many of your surprise, those guys are still my friends to this day.

Upon returning home to the Dallas area from my New Mexico trip, Ron couldn’t believe I didn’t tell them I didn’t know how to play. “Well they didn’t ask me, if I knew how to play. They said, ‘Do you like golf?’ I answered, ‘I love it’ and that was true.'” During our years in Dallas, I encouraged Ron’s friends to let me tag-a-long on their golf outings. One of my favorite teachers was named Bob. He was an attorney and we’d play with him and his two sons, Bobby and Ryan. He always had great tips and I was pretty good at taking his advice. I remember the first time I really got a hold of a ball. I remember the sound it made. And I remember how my grip felt unusual at first, yet I really connected and it was a great shot for my experience level. I did a victory dance. When you hit one great shot, you want to keep on playing. Bob was also there to watch me blow up on a hole. He always had a quick comment or joke for me and he has this explosive. Anyone who knows him will tell you how infectious that laugh is. The game was just never about the score. Bob was my favorite golf counselor. For me the whole day was about enjoying his company and his smile. The golf tips were just lagniappe, (that’s French for a little something extra.) Bob’s way of just gently teaching –he taught with loving eyes, you know, eyes that smiled and laughed and made you feel special while teaching you something. That’s it–he’d say when I really hit one. Then when I’d mess up, he’d smile and say that’s golf. The thing I looked forward to was our time with Bob and his humor and delight in love of our time together, much more than a golf lesson.

When we moved to Tennessee, I continue to play a little here and there I dusted off some old golf clubs of my dad’s and entered the game. I still tagged along when I got the chance. Somehow, my grip changed. I got more and more comfortable with it and yet my game didn’t improve–it got worse. Once my sons came along, I didn’t play for a number of years.

Looking back, playing with those first two guys in New Mexico and our youth worker guys in Texas, and with our friends here in Tennessee, I was the only girl. I should have been the odd person out, but I never felt like I was. My memories of those days spent together on the course were that some things just feel right. You breathe differently, you’re at ease. The company builds you up and you leave better. It had had very little to do with the golf, it was about spending time with great people.

Now, here I was in my front yard. As I showed Zach how to hold a club, keep your head down, loosen your knees, and see where you want the ball to go. Follow through all the way. I can still hear Bob’s words for me and his laugh. The thing I loved most were those days getting to know him and his family. The golf was good, but the family was much better. Losing your ball in the woods, getting stuck in a sand trip, hitting your last ball into the water, like that scene in “Tin Cup,” riding in his cart. I don’t even remember what we talked about, but it fit–like getting a good grip. Something was just right about it. I don’t know what made it so, but I have a feeling it was mostly just being with Bob. Zach brings my focus back to the game and says, “you try one, mommy!” Well I just teed it up and let it go and off it went. It was a beautiful shot over our Magnolia tree that stands near our mailbox. “Wow,” Zach yelled. Hey let’s see if I can really get something going. We live on an acre lot, so I teed up diagonally across the yard. My old grip was back! Long before I changed, changed, changed, I remember Bob’s words, and almost hit the mailbox. On my second shot, returning from the mailbox, I overshot my target and it bounced toward the street. “Mom, that was great,” Zach proclaimed. Just as Ron came out to check on us. “Celia, what in the world? The other day when Zach and I played, I wasn’t hitting them full out. You could hit someone’s house or a car.” “Yeah,” Zach laughed thinking that might be good for a laugh.

I told Zach about some guys who play golf a lot better than mommy like Tiger Woods, and a couple of Louisiana fellows Hal Sutton and David Toms. Like mommy’s a song maker-upper they play golf as their work. Zach said, “next time can we invite them over to hit golf balls to our mailbox?” Next time, we just might. As Zach and I picked up the golf balls and found my last one, in the bushes, I smiled as I realized more than my grip what really felt right was time spent with Zach–real, uninterrupted time. Like golf, sometimes you just don’t connect, the more I over-think things, the worse it is and sometimes, it’s just right. When it clicks, it seems that I’m remembering the importance stuff and forgetting all the other stuff and I’m amazed. Important stuff–like hanging out, doing something together. Time–I do know this life is like a vapor. So friends soak it up and hit some golf balls with your mom, dad, children or friends. Turn off the TV and do something together. Hear stories, tell jokes, laugh, be together, fish, dance, play a game, talk some friends into teaching you something new–thanks, Wes & Mike! Like snowboarding, or playing spades or bunco or crocheting or joining a book club. Because my theory is that Life is too LONG not to enjoy it. You too may finds that “it’s a fit and it feels just right.”


1. A minor or unspecified object or article.
2. A set of light, open shelves for ornaments.

January 7, 2006 – My flight was early. We were scheduled for a 6:46 AM departure and for me, that’s early. I had already had a half a cup of coffee and had been up since 5:04 am. I was staying at a hotel located literally feet from the airport. As I entered the lobby, there was an airline crew sitting on couches. My best guess is that they were two pilots and a flight attendant. As I loaded my bags into the hotel shuttle, I saw them walking to the terminal. It was a cool morning and I was glad to be sitting in a warm van. Ricky was our driver. By 5:30 my friend who was traveling with me playing guitar, Thad and I were on our way. We were 50 feet from the American Airlines terminal. Ricky was friendly for 5:30 am. He said you stay over at our hotel again. We not only offer rides to the airport, but to shops, fast food restaurants and whatnot. I smiled and said the whatnot is probably where I’d want to go.

What is whatnot? I’ve often heard that term, but have never been sure what it was. I guess I’ve always thought it was the extra stuff after the important stuff. Once on a visit to Nashville before Ron and I moved there, I visited an area near music row and near downtown. It was a strip of tourist shops. I wish I could remember all of the names of the shops. As I meandered my way from store to store killing time before I met with someone to talk about what I needed to know about the “music industry.” Sometimes I’d meet friends of friends asking me about my writings songs, singing on the road, selling music. Those first years, I’d travel to Nashville and like a good student, I’d learn what was working and what wasn’t working for others. Many people assisted me as I journeyed this road. Funny I might have a meeting at 10 and then nothing until 2 PM. I hung out at a few places. Long before Starbucks, I went to the “Slice of Life” a quaint coffee shop / restaurant near music row. They had great tea. I’d sit for hours writing songs and reading the newspaper. And sometimes I’d visit the string of souvenir shops. My favorite was the Elvis Presley Museum. Every time someone entered the door, the young lady from behind the counter beamed and faithfully recited her speech. As I remember it, “Welcome to the Elvis Presley Museum. It is our pleasure today to offer you private pictures, personal possessions and never before seen items of Elvis Presley. Before you is an array of items to purchase, signed autographs of Elvis, his very own Driver’s License, tee shirts, music, videos, books written about Elvis, Love me Tender Lotion, whatnots and such.”

I would wander around to pass time. It seems there was also a car in the lobby Elvis had owned. I might be the only one entering the store and about the second or third time I’d drop by, I’d just wave her off and say, it’s okay, I’ve heard it. I kept thinking I’d write it down, I have not done it justice. She was much more thorough and chipper. She made most greeters seem pretty somber. And always dressed with a southern smile. How do they find these wonderful people? Especially with repeat customers, I’d be like a whatever — helps yourself to the whatnots and such.

And I’m back where I started at 5:30 AM, the extra stuff. I get distracted by the whatnot, I’ll be honest. I’ve gone in to the grocery store for milk and left with a bag of whatnot and no milk. I guess my new years resolution is to do better with the whatnot, to not lose sight of the big, real, vital things in my life. To name them, give them my time, attention, prayer, efforts and let the whatnots and such fade out of my vision. How can I do that? My only road map like many of you is to stay focused — for me, it’s to stay focused on Christ. I want what matters to Christ, to matter to me: what I should be doing, who I should be reaching out to, where my treasure should be. I want to make an effort to line myself up with that this year, this week, this day and this moment. The whatnots often seem appealing, but when I get them or focus on them I later discover they were neither as important nor as sustaining as their initial appeal.

Mind you the “love me tender lotion” along the with house slippers with Elvis head attached above the toes, had their lure–but their appeal wasn’t abiding or lasting. And the next time I visited there, I’d always be on the lookout for a new whatnot.

Coming to Nashville on these early trips, what I spent my time on then, I know now, still hold its value. The relationships I built and the people I met, as we each heard God’s call and followed those paths somehow we bumped into each other along the way and the same is true today. There a lot of whatnots out there. Places to go, things to distract us, agendas to seek, goals to meet and this next year, my prayer, my deepest desire is to find those that are the truest, that are aligned with Christ — my faith, my family and my purpose. I’m gonna focus on those and pray somehow they are the ones that matter. As Ricky dropped me off curbside, I thanked him for the ride. I asked what he was gonna do, when he’s off at 6 am. “Oh I have a 13 year old daughter and that’s my first priority each day.” “Have a good day with her and God Bless you both,” I said. He doesn’t seem interested in the whatnot and I shouldn’t be either.

Cherish What is True

Cherish what is true. Be about that which is eternal. Be able to name it both when life is easy and when the going gets tough. Some questions I have asked myself recently are: Does what I am doing have a purpose? Will this matter in 5,10 or 20 years? Do I spend my resources–time, energy and money–on things other than myself and is what I am doing worthy of my efforts? Do I surround myself with those who edify me–who lift me up and do I in turn lift up others? Am I sharing God’s love in all I do and say each day.

When I was in eighth grade, I liked a boy–okay I probably liked lots of boys in eighth grade–but I’m thinking of a particular cute cajun boy from Golden Meadow, Louisiana. His name was Jacob and he played eighth grade football. We had maybe three conversations and he let me wear his ID bracelet with his name engraved on it. I remember having it on, as my dad and I drove from our church in Golden Meadow to our other church in Grand Isle after school one day, my dad asked about the bracelet. As a parent, I am shocked that my dad even noticed it on my wrist, but I was probably paying close attention to it. I remember the loud silence in the car before I finally said, “I like him–I really like him.” My Dad smiled and said, “tell me about him” and I had nothing. After lots of “wells” and “ughs”, I said “he’s cute and well, ugh…” I realized I knew little about this guy. Within a week Jacob asked for his bracelet back and that relationship with that boyfriend ended. It wasn’t a true relationship–it wasn’t real. I loved the IDEA of a boyfriend, I didn’t love him. I loved the idea of his getting to know me–not that he knew me. As I reflect on it today, I’m reminded to cherish what is true, not what you wish were true. When the real deal came along, I could tell.

On a recent Sunday evening I sang at a youth gathering and I noticed a young couple near the back sitting with their arms around each others shoulders. As they left, I asked how long they had been dating. They laughed and said, a week. When I asked, “what do you love about each other,” he quickly looked at her and said, “she’s kind,” and as he looked into her eyes, I knew he knew. She looked away for a moment and thought, “well, ugh, I never thought, well, he…” I stood there. Finally she said, “I never thought about it, but he’s great.” I’m not saying that they are not a match made in heaven or even predicting that I won’t receive a wedding invitation in years to come, I hope to. I was struck by his quick response–he knew the answer, could identify it and embrace it on the spot. Like him, I love that I know what is true about the relationships in my life.

I remember having Max and thinking now that is eternal… that is real love… something true. I spend time and energy with things that do not really matter, but when I run into something that matters immensely–well I’m able to see it clearly. That is what I want to spend my life on–the real stuff. When you meet someone and they have IT–you might not know what it is, but you know it when you see it. When you find yourself in the presence of real–cherish it, soak it up, swim yourself in it, have a hefty dose of it, so that when you find yourself in a shallow, superficial, situation there will be no comparison–kinda like the prodigal son coming to his senses in the pigpen. I want to be about the light, about truth, about what is real. I am blessed to have experienced such a wide variety of situations where I have encountered real–where truth lights a single candle in the midst of darkness.

Recently, I experienced the real stuff–I was privileged to sing for some ladies from New Orleans who had been displaced by hurricane Katrina. I wish you all had been with me and with those ladies in the parlor of First United Methodist Church, Arlington, TX. We shared smiles, stories, music, tenderness, and love — an outpouring of love — we were sisters in the truest sense. I listened as they told stories of searcing for loved ones and of being far from home. I told them of the churches my father had served in their area and I sang a few songs for them. Several closed their eyes, sat very still and just listened. I gave them each a CD. One of them turned to me, held up the CD and said, “well, Celia you’re my music collection. I lost all my gospel music during the storm and am so thankful to have this music.” I felt like the boy with the loaves and fish. I wish I had more to give them, but the love seemed to be enough. I am so thankful for eyes to see and an awareness to recognize the people and the moments–the revelations where God shows up. To be honest I could’ve missed it. On that particular Sunday those ladies were the seventh group that I sang for. I started at eight o’clock that morning and I met these ladies in the parlor at eight that evening. I could easily have missed it something so true, so real and as simple as the 9 of us basking together in God’s presence. That evening, I could name real and claim real and claim what makes it real. What made it real, I believe, was God’s love.

I was once asked by a marketing person at a record label what size group I wanted to sing for. I thought for a moment and said, “anywhere there are people.” It was not the answer he was looking for, but it was my answer. He wanted to know if I really wanted to sing for arenas or for great big churches, but it was my honest answer. I have sung for 25,000 and it’s great; but some of my favorite concert memories are doing a concert for one person in a hospital room or for eight in a parlor or for ten in a juvenile center. I enjoyed the 25,000, but I wouldn’t want to miss the eight, either. So, I’m staying with my original answer–“anywhere there are people.”

Blessing friends. May our paths cross soon and until then may you recognize God’s presence in your life. Celia