Where I was / where I am

There are times in our life when we remember exactly where we were when something happened:

November 22, 1963 – I was only two months old, but from my mom’s stories, I grew up knowing where my mom was when she heard Kennedy was shot. She was in the kitchen cooking and I was there with her when she got the call.

January 28, 1986 – When the Challenger exploded, I was driving to Broadmoor Middle School in Shreveport, Louisiana, where I was student-teaching 6th grade science. When I arrived and heard the news, I remember audibly hearing the breath leave my body and walking into a classroom of crying 6th grade science students who looked to me, all of 22 years old to bring comfort. They needed me to be their solace and consolation during the time…. we had been following the science teacher Christie McAuliffe who was on that mission as we were going to follow her lessons plans from space.

January 17, 1991 – I remember being in the car headed home from the Collin Creek mall in Plano, Texas….when I heard over the radio that we had begun bombing Iraq and that the Iraq invasion had begun.

April 19, 1993 – I was eating pizza at Pizzeria Uno in Addison, Texas glued to the TV with Ron and one of our college friend’s John, when the Branch Davidian compound burned in Waco TX. I sang two months later at the UM Children’s home in Waco, where several of the children who survived that day had been sent.

August 31, 1997 – Ron and I were leading a family retreat for Foundry UMC in Washington, DC the weekend princess Diana died. After watching coverage on television from our rooms, we visited the spontaneous memorial in front of the British Embassy in DC.

August 29, 2005 – I watched the Hurricane Katrina coverage from a hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thad was out with me playing the guitar and we kept yelling back and forth at each other down the hall between our rooms.

September 11, 2001 was a different experience because I was a mom and because I felt like anything could have happened that day . Less than a year prior, we had bought a home just outside of Franklin, Tennessee. I was sitting in the den rocking Max…. pregnant with Zach, only a month from delivering him. Our friend Ashley was there helping us with office work and with Max. I sat, like so many of you, and cried as I watched our day crumble right in front of us on every channel. An hour faded into the several hours. I became a news junkie. I wanted to do something. I called a friend within the hour and I remember her saying the name, “Osama bin Laden,” as if I knew who that was. I did not have a clue what kind of world we were all entering into — an age of terrorism and the fear of terrorism. As I watched President Bush speak from Barksdale Air Force Base only a few miles from our former home in Louisiana, I thought to myself, “anything could happen today.” And it wasn’t a hopeful thought. It was like the sky was the limit, but any bad thing, any crazy thing, any unthinkable thing could happen that day. And it did for so many.

One night while watching Diane Sawyer interview family members of a firm whose members were lost when the towers collapsed, she spoke with a mom and teen daughter. The teen was holding up a picture of her dad and looking straight at the camera and saying, “if anyone knows where my dad is, please contact us. We love him and we want him home. We want him where he belongs. Maybe he left the building and someone knows something. We want him back. Please call us.” I remember wanting to write the number down and to call just to say how sorry I was. I broke down and just wept for her, for her mom, for NY, for our country and for me, really for all of us. There are times when we want things back. We want something fixed. We want someone to call and say it is all gonna work out. I know. I feel it, too.

At some point, I had to turn off the television and start living. I picked up the phone and called Danny, a youth director in Ohio, whose group I had just been with the weekend prior to that Tuesday. One of the best memories from that weekend was their Saturday night tradition. The new seniors shared their wisdom, hopes, dreams and fears with everyone. Those words guided me in the days and weeks following and continue to guide me today. We laughed that evening. We cried. We hugged. We promised to be there for each other. We were reminded that we are not alone and we were reminded that the sky is the limit (of good things). Anything can happen. The unthinkable can come true and all for good! And when the unthinkable happens, when darkness washes over each of us like a violent storm; we will get through it. The sun will rise again.

Maybe as important as 9-11, were and are the days following tragedies. The days when we wake to the sun rising again and we rise to take our first steps forward – we hug our children a little closer, we are a little more patient and we realize how precious each moment is.

September 6, 2011 – I made a phone call and sang over the phone for my friend Marti, a pastor friend who I have had the joy to know for several years. She was in her last days of cancer, being cared for by her loving husband,Mac… family and a wonderful hospice group. I was flooded with all of the wonderful memories I had shared with her in ministry. She was all about …justice… and mercy. She reminded all of us that we each can make a difference. Her daughters have followed in her footsteps finding careers that bring healing and hope. Her love, her smile, her laugh, her presence — she was very real and a presence of goodness during our ministry together. I called to sing to her over the phone — “How Great Thou Art” and “Wonderful World.” I sang “Wonderful World” specifically because even though what’s immediately around us might at times cast a shadow on all the wonderful, we can choose to find the wonder. We can choose to dwell on the wonder filled world we live in — a world that so desperately needs us, needs our laughs, needs our hope, needs our us! Mack said she kissed the phone when I finished. Marti died on Sunday morning, September 11, 2011 at 4:30 am. I smiled thinking, “here she goes again reminding us to remember” — remember the life, not the death, remember the goodness not the bad and to be about forgiveness. The best way to respond to hate is simply to love; which is simple to write in a devotion, but not so simple to follow through on. I get locked up daily with all that weighs me down in life. And yet on some days I get a small reminder of what could be and about the difference I am making. A few days later, I spoke with Marti’s husband who called to say thank you. Thank you for the songs, thank you for taking the time. Thank you for calling when you did (I told him I almost didn’t, because I didn’t want to bug them.) Thank you for your love — it made a difference and it was enough. I kept thinking, I could do more. I should have done more. I can still do more.

September 18, 2011 – I had the chance to sing for someone else receiving hospice care. I had not met Mercy Elizabeth Whitfield who was born days earlier on 9/8/11 with Trisomy 13. She was sent home with her loving parents Rodney and Allison, and her siblings Grace and Justice. She has been surrounded by family, friends and church members, all loving that sweet baby during her limited days here on earth. As my guitarist friend Austin, and I entered their home, we were greeted by my friend Allyson George, the children’s director at Rodney’s church First UMC Richardson where he serves as an associate pastor. As I sang, Mercy was held by those who loved her and sometimes I could hear them singing along with me, like on “Jesus loves me” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Grace and Justice were put to sleep after rocking with their parents. Then the adults all just sat and listened to instrumental music of the guitar fill the room. As I prepared to leave, I took Mercy’s hand and leaned close and whispered, “I love you.” Her mom Allison was holding her and said to me, “you can kiss her” and I placed a soft kiss on her forehead and said, “you sleep sweet baby.” I got the news this morning that Mercy died around 2 am this morning. I believe that she is still held by loving arms. I am a witness to Mercy–love going the extra mile. Those parents and caregivers being in the moment, every second, knowing what they had was the right now. I loved that my friend, Marti paved the way for me to share with Mercy… and in Marti’s ministry… she loved mercy.

I am reminded that our time is precious. I am thankful I used my voice, as tired as it was and as uncertain as to how I was going to be able to sing for my friends. I gave what I had in that moment and it was enough.

I love you all and pray that today you know that YOU are the gift. You use your voice and live with the assurance that you too are surrounded by loving arms.

I’ll always know where I was on September 18, 2011, the day I saw the face of Mercy, in a living room filled with love in Dallas, Texas. I hope I never forget the impact it made on me.

Celia Anne

You can offer your prayers for Marti’s family here: Marti
and for Mercy Elizabeth Whitfield’s family here: Mercy

It’s winter and I’m feeling it.

All that comes with winter is here–the snow, the cold, the barren trees and days spent indoors watching endless movies while drinking hot chocolate. Paraphrasing Charles Dickens, “it [is] the best and it [is] the worst of times.” I love winter for so many reasons: Thanksgiving, gathering with loved ones and sharing a meal, Christmas-there is nothing as magical, the birth of Christ, presents, Christmas lights and the Christmas tree, which has always been a favorite part of the holiday for me. This year we bought a new nativity set – a Playmobil Christmas. It was so cute on our mantel. We got one for our friends Skyler and Bill Baskin-Ball, too. Skyler said he loves his as much as we love ours. There are some things about this season that are wonderful and timeless– the memories, the traditions and the spirit.

Holidays, I’ll be honest, are also hard for me. Both my parents have died and it always feels strange not to see them or to call them. I have felt that hole more this year than the past seven since they died. This year I have had a sense that I’m really doing this alone. Part of that sense is because I miss my dear friend, Skyler’s mom. Kathleen Baskin-Ball died last December 2nd, with several of us surrounding her with love. Through November and December I have been reliving those fresh anniversaries as I thought back to “a year ago today I was…”.

At her memorial service there was an celebration of all we loved about Kathleen and a sense of gratitude for all she had given to each of us. I think of her especially this season–she celebrated and loved Christmas. My sons knew why I kept going back and forth to Dallas for her treatments and our visits. My son Zach and I were talking about death. He said, “I’m not scared of death; the living’s just so good!” I love that. It’s a reminder that they are both parts of our lives–life and death, good and bad, back to back, hand in hand.

I am also aware of our turning the calendar page. I have been reflecting on all that 2009 has been and all it hasn’t been, on all of my hopes. There is a longing for loved ones that I will not hold again in this life and a thankfulness for those still within my reach. I stand at the crossroads of hope for a New Year and acceptance that some my 2009 resolutions are still on my 2010 list. I’ll be honest, Zach is right, the living is good, but living faithfully is also hard work. Daily, hourly, second by second, I am working on believing things unseen, trusting that God is still working on me, surrendering, being real and present in the moment and being myself. It means remaining on the lookout for ways to bring the kingdom–helping others, growing and becoming the person I am meant to be.

A friend of mine spent Thanksgiving with me this year and she brought me a Paperwhite [narcissus papyraceus] Bulb Kit. It has sat on my counter for a month and a half. Today I planted them. I was shocked to read that it takes five to six weeks for them to bloom. The first two are spent in the dark, crazy. I love the smell of paperwhites and I love their delicate budding flower. Now I learn that I have to wait 6 weeks. I’m thinking if I had silk or plastic ones, I’d be looking at them now; but they wouldn’t feel like paperwhites, smell like paper whites and they wouldn’t BE paperwhites. It takes time to make a real one; but I know it will be worth it (if I don’t kill them first). I’m going to do my best, Angie!

Beginning with the Christmas story, Zach and I progressed our theological conversation to the topic of the Trinity. We talked about the creation story. Specifically, about how in Gen. 1:26, 3:22, 11:7, God is referred to as us. We talked about how the Trinity-God who creates, Jesus and the Holy Spirit existed from the beginning. Zach said, “well yea,” then they said, imitating their dialogue, “one of us should go down there and look like them …soooo… they sent Jesus as a baby… cool huh?” It was funny to have my 8 year old remind me about what I already know–God is here, Christ is here, the Holy Spirit is here. Like bulbs under the soil, something is already at work, Though I can’t always see it, I have faith.

Winter is a reminder of that for me. Our faith is more than what we see. It is deeper than we can give words to. It has more potential than it appears. I need to keep telling myself that there is us. Winter somehow brings out this thought that we are isolated, that we are alone, that we are facing all of this by ourselves. But that is farthest from the truth; our lives are a wonderful mix. Just like this past year-fullness, growth, dormancy, listening, fulfilling, celebrating, grieving, standing still, flying by, fully aware and totally unknown. I am all of these and more and I see what I am not-wholeness. I may never get there on this side of the Jordan, but I can keep reaching.

January is also a wonderful reminder of do-overs. I’ve been cleaning out for the last few months. It started a need for an empty guest bedroom for Thanksgiving. A friend in my bunco group said, “don’t let your friend open any of your closets, she’ll be killed by all the stuff that falls out!” I started with the guest room closet and slowly made my way around the whole house. It feels good to put your hands on everything in your life and say goodbye to a portion of it. Think of it, how few times in our lives do we do that–ask ourselves, “what do I need to keep and what do I need to let go of? What needs order and balance in my life?” Whew, it has been a journey! In cleaning out the office, I went through papers, lots of papers, and I once again remembered my friend Kathleen. Someone recently told me their favorite part of her memorial service was when I went to sing the song I wrote for her “One Wish” and I realized that I had sang the second verse first and we were going a little too fast. I stopped and said on the mic, “Kathleen was all about do-overs and second chances,” and we started the song again. To be honest I hadn’t really thought much about my saying that until I found an event brochure for an event I sang at called Perkins School of Youth Ministry. In a faculty bio piece about my friend Kathleen, she was described as someone who “believes in offering second chances and has learned from ‘the least of these’.” I just wept when I read that. I had never really read what was said about all my friends who taught during the years of my leadership at that event, but were they right.

January is that second chance time for me. It is crazy that right in the middle of winter, there is this opportunity for new birth, for changes in our lives–a time for second chances, for some do-overs. We all could learn from the least of these. The Bible reminds us again and again–from a little child, from a despised tax collector, from a prostitute, to a lost sheep, to a stutterer, to a young boy with a slingshot. I keep thinking I need to be perfect–whatever that means. I keep looking in the wrong direction, at the wrong things to be my judge of success and setting the wrong goals for myself. Many times I gaze at people to be my models, when I know people and things have nothing to do with goals–mine at least. This new year I am faced with new opportunities, new risks, new chances, new stories to sing, new challenges, new songs to be written and new mistakes to be made. We all have fresh chances to learn how to love and forgive.

The last day I spend with Kathleen, she taught me one of her wonderful life lessons. As I helped her with a sip of water, she turned to me and said, “whatever your name is, I love you.” I smiled at her, as she said thank you. She was someone who had always been larger than life to me, she oozed talent, grace, creativity, integrity, strength and unconditional love. She was for me an overwhelming symbol of hope and strength–her cup really did run over, and some of it got on all of us. In that moment, she became the thing she had preached about all these years–that God was speaking through the least of these. She was in need and for a second, I saw the living Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. I got why Jesus was born and why in life the biggest gifts aren’t wrapped at all. I got that in winter buried deep beneath the soil, the seeds of new life are really there, waiting for what’s next. It didn’t matter at all whether or not she remembered what my name was that day. I was reminded whose I am, who I am and what I am–I am me and I am God’s. I am becoming more and more who I am suppose to be. I am strong and weak, beloved, lovable and capable of giving love.

I am strongest when I care for others, when I’m a servant. Focusing on that reality this winter will help me the most. I am both–full and empty. When I give, I realize how much I really have.

Peace to all of you this New Year, friends…
May you and all of your paperwhites bloom this year!

Always yours…

Celia Anne

In the Palm of God’s Hand

“Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m being held in the palm of God’s hand.”

I heard that today and I thought, me too. What does it really mean to feel held in the palm of God’s hand? I’ve always thought it meant that I am trusting that God has got me–that no matter what I am going through, I am held. I am supported. I am able to relax and to know that someone else is carrying me.

I love the story in the gospel of Mark of the four friends who carry the paralytic man to Jesus. The amazing part of that story is what Christ says to the them is that it was because of their faith the man was healed.

What must it have felt like to have been carried by those four? Has someone ever carried you? Your face is in their face, there is no where to hide. That man had to allow those friends to carry him. He had to be willing to receive their help. So many times others have lifted me. So many times I have needed help. Why is it that we are a group of folks who are so comfortable giving to others, yet receiving we are not so great at. We go out of our way to do something, something big or small to show others we are there for them, yet saying ok I am in over my head here and I need some help is not only difficult, it can be almost unbearable. We would rather stand on the deck and sink rather than sending out a mayday. It doesn’t make sense, but I am here to confess that I do it too.

Recently I was really behind the eight ball with a small travel detail I was trying to work out. It was really not that big of a deal, but I called a friend, who I knew would understand it. I said, “ok help me brainstorm some solutions for this situation.” A single thought came out of her mouth about how she could help and my dilemma was solved. I felt so silly. Such a burden was lifted and she kept saying, “this is not that big of a deal.” I had fretted, worried, dreamed and problem solved, all alone of course. The minute I opened it up and let someone in, it was done.

What, my friends, are you waiting for? There may be something in your life that you feel is too overwhelming, too difficult, too shameful or like me, too complicated to find a solution for. That’s a lie, but you have to share it. The thing that’s hard is that you have to tell someone about it before it can be resolved.

The same is true with God. I want God to guess what I need, to guess what is troubling me. I am sure it is already known, but there is something wonderful about surrendering and resting in the palm of God’s hands. The first part of that is rest.

This past weekend while at a youth retreat, I encouraged the youth to find someone to get knee to knee with to share what is going on in their lives, to trust that God has provided and is providing what they need, if they would simply look around. The last night of the event one of the students on the retreat sent me an email. He had spoken with one of his youth leaders and he said, “I feel a burden has been lifted, like I have taken one step closer to God.” Ok, I need to take my own advice, that we would share each others burdens, that we would turn to God at these times and lay our burdens down. I know is the desire of a God who spoke, time and again, a simple message that we are not alone.

A Life Well Lived


I put together a house concert for a friend on Friday, November 28th (the day after Thanksgiving). I could tell you the whole story, but one of the songwriters who sang said it so well that I thought I’d pass his words along. I’ll add more at the end of his note.

(A note from Pete Sallis, Tuesday, 12/2/08 @ 10:09 PM)

A life well lived…

The day after Thanksgiving, I was asked along with Nicole Witt, Brian White, and Billy Montana, to fly down to Dallas. Celia Whitler asked us to come down to play our songs to celebrate Celia’s friend Kathleen Baskin-Ball. Kathleen has been bravely battling cancer for a couple years now to find out that it had spread. So, what did Kathleen decide to do with her 10 or so days she was told she had left? Celebrate!! One of the many things she loved was music, so she wanted to spend last Friday night with family, friends, and music. We arrived to find the street lined with cars that any valet service would be jealous of, a lawn filled with white paper bags lit up with candles inside and inspirational messages written on the outside, and a sweet quaint house right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. We were greeted by a smiling Kathleen in the front yard, so gracious that we would fly down and take the time out to come and play for her. Just one look at her and you felt like you’d known her your whole life. Her eyes were bright and her spirit was on fire – soaking up every moment like a flower savors the rain.

Walt Wilkins drove a couple hours from Austin to be a part of the evening because he’d heard how much of a fan Kathleen was of his. In all, we ended up playing a couple hours of songs that were funny, reverent, emotional, and uplifting. Throughout the night, I couldn’t help but notice how tears would suddenly hit different people, and how unique laughter looked when mixed with the fresh remnants of tears. It was a surreal experience to say the least. We ended the night listening to Nicole singing a stirring acapella “Oh Holy Night”, and divine it truly was. As we packed up our guitars, Kathleen asked me what my favorite food was and I said lasagna is in my top 5 – to which I thought she was going to wrap up some of the leftovers from the kitchen – and she said “..I’ll make sure its ready and warm when you get to heaven…” It was hard to keep it together, but how can you break down when the one who has every right to lose it is smiling with a blessed assurance that all is well.

I can only pray that I would have an ounce of the dignity that Kathleen showed us all that night. We all have a terminal disease called “life” that none of us will escape. Some might even think its a blessing to know when you’re gonna go so that you could live like you’re dying. Well, everyday is a gift and every day we have a choice to unwrap it or leave it under the tree. So I pray for all of us to make the most of what God has given us and cherish what really matters. It ain’t “the next song we write” or what “artist is cutting” or “the best gig or songwriting deal”, like Kathleen knew, its family, friends, and the quality of experience we soak in that make up this short but colorful fabric called life.

So we all came back a little different and changed for the better, moved by Kathleen’s faith, and nudged a little bit to try and be more like her. It is with a solemn heart to say I found out today that she left this earth to go be with God. My prayers are for her husband Bill, her 4-year-old son Skyler, her family, and the multitude of friends whose lives were brushed with the presence of an angel’s wings.

(* This is Celia again)…. The house concert was incredibly rich. It was about life, not about loss.

I have been fortunate to journey with Kathleen for the last two decades of our lives. I am thankful to her husband, Bill, her son Skyler and their families who have been so gracious to let me be a part of Kathleen’s courageous battle with cancer. It has been filled with laughter, tears, grace, faithfulness, sadness and hope. I was humbled to be with her for her last breath and also to celebrate her life at her memorial service.

During these last two years, I have prayed for a miracle and know in my heart a true miracle happened. Those of us who were touched by Kathleen’s life and faith, who believe as she did that “light will have the last word” know that she was the miracle … the way she lived… the way she loved…the way she shared her faith and spoke of the love and truth of Christ she bore witness to daily…the way she believed in the wonder of God’s unrelenting grace. She once wrote to me, “I thank God that our paths crossed and then in awesome unity moved straight toward all that is holy.” I feel the same way about her.

Thank you to Pete, Nicole, Billy, Brian, Walt and Ron for more than a wonderful night… for being a part of a journey that changed us all.

LINKS: I brought six songwriters’ to the concert. Here are links in case you want to sample a little of the flavor that we shared that Friday night in the living room.

Billy Montana
Pete Sallis
Brian White
Walt Wilkins
Nicole Witt

Four other singers and/or songwriters joined us that night: Doug and Jill Bryan (from Greenland Hills UMC, a former church Kathleen had served) and Katlyn Baskin and Jessica Newport (two of Kathleen’s nieces).

Here’s a link to a collection of information about Kathleen’s life and ministry, including several items from the Dallas Morning News.

On Unslumping Yourself

In the words of Dr. Seuss “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

Slump – verb slumped, slumping – To fall or sink suddenly; sag or slouch: slumps A sudden fall or decline. The baseball player went into a slump and struck out 8 times in a row.

We have been playing little league baseball this fall. Well some of us have. Max and Zach are on the same team, the Reds, this year because of their close age. We thought this was a wonderful idea and it has been. There’s less scheduling and less hassle. It’s just more efficient to be on the same team, with the same practices and the same schedule (we were on two different teams last fall). Things were trucking right along. We met the coaches. We met the other parents. The boys got along great and the games began. Max and Zach did well in practice. As the games began a few months ago we all seemed to be having a fine time, until as Max likes to call it (cue the sound effects), “dah, dah, dah… the slump.” It happened suddenly and without warning. It snuck up on us all. One game Max was hitting the ball and then he wasn’t. There was on one single cause, one time he swung too late, one time too early, one time he was too close to the plate, another too far, one time he lifted his head, once he had more of a golf swing than a baseball swing. It’s enough to make a mom go crazy, I tell you. In the middle of Max’s slump, Zach hit a homerun. Through it all it was amazing to watch Max wrestle with, in the car one day he said, “Mom, I’m in a slump!” “Yep,” I said, “what are you gonna do about it?” “Well,” he said, “unslumping is tough, but I know I can and I believe.” Each week he went to practices and games and gave it his best shot. Never getting mad, never envying Zach for his hits, doubles and even the home run. Max kept his head in the game and kept believing. One coach in particular kept encouraging him, “you can do it Max. I know you can.”

And then as soon as it came, it left. This past Tuesday, it happened. We were playing the undefeated Lookouts (named for the Chattanooga, Tennessee minor league team). Max got a hit and off he ran to first base. There was jumping, screaming, cheering, his coach who was pitching came off the mound to congratulate Max (it’s machine pitch, with your own coach loading the pitching machine). It was a moment.

It got me thinking about my own life, about my slumps and about how I get stuck. It creeps up slowly sometimes and in others almost instantly. We think to ourselves, “what in the world have I gotten myself into and how can I get out of this.” Sometimes, that is just it. We cannot. I cannot. I need help. Max needed help, he needed practice, a different stance, a different swing. He needed to listen to advice from his coaches and he needed to keep his eye on the ball. When he stepped up to the plate, he didn’t need to be thinking about all the changes he was making. He needed to naturally trust that he was gonna hit the ball! Most of all he needed to believe he could do it! Ok, I get it. If I were honest, I get it sometimes. I cannot do this on my own. I do need help.

I’m not even sure how to describe my slumps or how to prescribe what is needed, but there are days when I feel a decline, a fall, a sag or a slouch. As Dr. Suess said in “Oh the Places You’ll Go”, “And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

Last night, I was leaving baseball practice, when my cell phone rang. I had forgotten about my book club meeting. It was my turn to bring snacks and, Ugh, I forgot. My friend was calling to say, “hey where are you? We are hungry!” So after a mad dash through the grocery store, I was climbing out of the car with my hands full of sacks of snacks. I was late, I was stressed and my slump had found me again. I wanted to put my pajamas on and go to sleep. As I was climbing out of the car, Zach looked at me with his sweet face and said., “Mom, don’t be embarrassed. It happens. They are you’re friends!” Ok; everyone gets in a slump. Everyone gets bogged down. Everyone gets stuck, forgets something and falls short… everyone.

Some of my un-slumping happens when I go to the beach. Some of it happens when I go for a walk with a friend. Other times an unexpected call or hearing a congregation sing a hymn that’s centuries old at the top of their lungs. Sometimes it happens when I sit in my red chair and read, listen and pray.

This week I got the privilege of hearing Bishop Rueben Job speak about his book, “Three Simple Rules.” They are (1) do no harm, (2) do all the good you can and (3) stay in love with God. For years, he has modeled his life after these simple principals, beginning each day with them and reflecting each night on them. Today I did the same. I sat quietly before the boys woke up and simply opened his book. I have had the books for months, I have picked it up and turned it over. Consider this Prayer at the Beginning of the Day from Bishop Job’s “Three Simple Rules.” “Loving Teacher, come and make your home in our hearts this day. Dwell within us all day long and save us from error or foolish ways. Teach us today to do no harm, to do good, and assist us so that we may stay in loving relationship with you and our neighbor. Help us today to be an answer to another’s prayer so that we may be one of your signs of hope in the world you love.”

Maybe that’s it for me. Instead of concentrating on the slumps of my life, helping others in their slumps, reaching out, cheering for others. I need to keep playing, keep being involved and keep believing. Please know that you are not alone and keep believing that you are amazing. When I turn my attention off of myself and turned toward others, it somehow happens. As Dr. Suess reminds us, “You’ll move mountains. So be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! You’re mountain is waiting. So get on your way!”

On a side note… Zach had his own slump, but pulled out as well. It happens.

Go Reds! Celia

PS Thanks to the Phillies last night for driving home my point about the possibility of unslumping yourself after a 28 year drought.

apple trees

Consider the lillies… (or the Apple trees for that matter) — Matt 6:28b

So I’ve go these apple trees in my front yard–four of them. They are too small to climb and they have only produced apples one of the seven years we have lived here. That was the year my dad stayed with us. He was 79 and my mom had just died. He visited us for three months and one day he said, “we need to work on your apple trees.” I do not have a green thumb was my first thought. I love to grow things, but things don’t love to grow for me. My dad always had a garden. He planted strawberries one year, always tomatoes, a pear tree one year and then there were his flowers. One place we lived had a two acre lot and he planted 50 different types of roses. My favorite were the kind that had a sweet fragrance. He said his favorite was Queen Elizabeth. I took flowers to school every week. If I was ever the teacher’s pet, it was because of my dad’s flowers. I also loved his pansies. They were dark purple with yellow accents.

My apple trees were not in the same category as his plants. Mine had spots and not just a few little spots–spots on almost every leaf. The trees were unruly and he said they needed to be pruned every year. They just needed a little care. I’m not big on pruning. I get my hair cut every 4 months whether it needs it or not. I’m not big on upkeep–I need plants that thrive on neglect. If they make it, they can stay. That philosophy didn’t go over too well with my dad, so we pruned. We watered and we went to the local hardware store to buy something to put on the leaves for the spots. It was maybe a fungus, a virus or some type of bug. Who cares what it is. I was sure we could not get rid of it, but he was determined to leave those apple trees in better shape than he found them and he gave it his best try. I laughed at the store. When we got to the pesticides isle, they all had warnings on them. I thought these might not be safe. Then I thought he’s almost 80, what harm can they do. So off we went with our bag of, let’s just say some form of poison. Dad used my cooking funnel and a mixing bowl to mix the ingredients. I threw that funnel and bowl in the trash that night. No need to try to salvage those. We hauled off 6 large black trash bags of pruned limbs. We sprayed and then we waited. Slowly over months, small sprouts began to appear. The day my dad had his final heart attack that left him bedridden for 6 weeks before his death, he was working on my apple trees. He loved the outdoors and loved to have his hands in nature. I love that he got to spend time at my home in that way.

After his death I came home from his memorial service to find those trees brimming with small apples. I kept the boys (aged 3 and 1 1/2) away from them most of the summer and remember Dad saying early September would be a great month to pick them if the birds haven’t gotten all of them. Those apples grew and grew despite me. One day Ron and I went out for the day in the middle of the summer and left the boys with a baby-sitter. When we came home, in their wagon were my dad’s apples. I was so shook. I’m not sure why those apples represented my dad’s time with me. More than our work together, they represented hope The possibility in life, even when things seem impossible, and somehow the possibility in me even me with my not-so-green thumb. It doesn’t make sense that I can grew something when something had not grown before. I sat on the front porch and cried as the boys proudly showed me their apples. I got my camera and began to laugh as they dumped them all on the ground too green to eat. Max said, “Mommy why are you crying?” Ron explained that the apples were not ready to pick. So the boys said simply, “we’ll put them back, someone get the tape.” It is funny how many things just can’t go back and sometimes it’s okay. Sometimes it’s better than okay.

September came and went and those apple trees have not born one apple since. It’s been 5 years and I’ve wondered should we just cut them down and replace them with something else. What good are they? I don’t have the energy to prune them, water them, love on them and they have not done a thing until… now. This week they have apples and a lot of apples, more than I have seen and on every tree, on every branch almost. I’m left wondering why. I so don’t deserve apples. I have not given those trees one thought much less any attention, but that ‘s when a story gets good isn’t it, when something happens that‘s unexpected, that’s not planned, that’s not deserved, that’s not explainable. My dad and I dreamed of what we’d do with those apples…apple pie, apple cider, apple sauce, apple butter. We would have so many he said we’d need to bag them and give them away to friends. Maybe we could eat them on the porch with boys. We would laugh and dream. I am thinking maybe this September we will do that. You never know if the birds don’t get them or the boys don’t use them during a battle while playing near the trees one day. You wait, you just might be having some apples come your way. So don’t worry about what you’re going to eat, or drink, or wear.

Apples, my apples. Who would have guessed, not me.

Matt. 6:25-31 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you —you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’


Some days are a blur. I look back and think, “what in the world?” It’s gone–one minute, one hour, one afternoon, the whole day–gone; and what has been done? Everyone gets the same 24 hours. Michelangeo had the same 24 hours and look what he did with it–amazing! Bill Gates had the same 24 hours and look what he did. He changed the way the world thinks and works. Mother Teresa had the same 24 and she spent each in humility, serving others. And each of us have our days–what will be done? This past Sunday was Mother’s Day and I read a woman jumped off a bridge and was never found. She had her day and decided what to do with it. Each of us choose. Each of us are faced with where we’re going and where we’ve been, and most importantly where we are–here, now. For good or bad it was my day, it was all mine. I read the foot book with Zach, actually he read it to me and I thought to myself, “he’s doing it.” I smiled thinking that it was just a second ago we were bringing him home from the hospital, baths were had, meals cooked, dreams scribbled down on napkins, calls made, songs began, coffee drank with friends, laughs laughed, stories told, my 24 hours was all mine. Maybe like Michelandelo, Bill Gates and Mother Teresa, I’m not sure while I’m in the midst of it if I’m doing anything, that will make a difference. Maybe they thought the same. Some days I wonder. There are moments in our lives when we have hugh impacts and we know it–I feel it. I’m moved by it and the day seems larger than it is. Then there are days when I’m faithful–that’s the best word I can think of. I keep trying, keep creating, keep swimming even if it feels like I’m swimming upstream, I keep dreaming, keep believing in my 24 hours something is going to happen, something unexpected. I wish I had been on that bridge Sunday, to say, “just wait, tomorrow has so many possibilities. I’ve had bad days and I’ve felt the edge of life. Take my hand and know that something could happen in the next 24 hours. Something could happen through you that could never happen through me.”I believe that, something happens through each of us each day. Some days it feels so small and some days I get to see it. Others might never see, experience it or be moved by it; but it’s real and it happens, so here’s to tomorrow and the blur that it will become.

What’s next?

Springtime always reminds me of what is new and what is now… and what is about to be birthed that hasn’t been before. The subject of what’s next seems to come up frequently in my conversations with friends and acquaintances. What’s next with my life.. what’s next with my career… what’s next with the relationships I am in … What are the next risks that I need to be taking… This past weekend I joined a group of youth who are graduating from high school. One of the things I remember about my senior year was that it seemed like everytime I turned around someone was aksing me, “what school will you be attending? What will you be studying?” or “Who will you be rooming with?” On and on came the questions and to be honest with you, I decided many of those things at the very last minute. I know that does not shock many of you who know me. I did not have a clue many times. There were those days when so much was spinning around me that I felt like I was just along for the ride. I had no idea where those decisions would lead me or if when I got there I would be prepared for what lay before me.

Early in my singing I met a business man on a flight from Dallas. He shared some of his life story with me on our short trip. During an interview for his first job out of college, he was asked if he had any experience taking pictures out of an airplane. “Of course,” he replied enthusiastically, “that will be no problem for me.” He did get the job and as he left the interview, he thought to himself, “now how would one take a picture our of a plane?” The first day on his job he was shocked to hear the pilot jokingly say as they started the plane, “at some point we’ll remove this cover on the bottom of the plane. You need to be sure you tie yourself onto the rope provided on the side and ya best hold on; things can get a little bumpy. I’ve never had a photographer fall out while taking pictures and don’t want you to be the first.” “You know, Celia,” he said as he looked into my eyes, “I might not have known what was next in my life, but I was always up for the challenge. I might not have been here today if I hadn’t taken that first unknown step.”

Years ago I read a book about Georgia O’Keefe.. her life as a painter and sculptor. She painted very differently from those painting at the time. She said she loved to paint the desert because most people over look the beauty of the desert. She eventually moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico. One of my favorite paintings of hers is titled “Sky Above the Clouds.” On a trip to Santa Fe to sing, I snuck away to visit the Georgia O’Keefe Art Museum. Words do it that painting justice. Over the years, I have seen her work in museums across the country but this was breathtaking. One of the great surprises was seeing the original artwork of Sky Above the Clouds. I was expecting a small painting and when I walked into the room where it was on display I was struck by its majesty. The painting is the size of the room… huge and filled … bold and beautiful. Painters of the nineteenth century had always painted clouds as if they were looking up at them… she painted them as she saw them from a plane. Crazy. Yet, again in her style she knew her next would not look like her now. I have a poster of one of her works and the bottom quote reads, “ I wasn’t going to spend my life doing what had already been done.”

As I buckle in to write my second book, I feel that way today. I’m not sure all that is ahead of me. I’m not sure if I’m going to be prepared, but really that has never stopped me before and it shouldn’t stop me or you now.

What’s next for us? Really, I have a new glimpses… a few ideas… one thing I’m sure of … it will be new and fresh… if I can help it… I’m just gonna tie myself on and hold on with all my might and see where I end up…. I invite you to do the same…

Happy Flying Friends, Celia

“Houses of Hope” luncheon

From Habitat For Humanity, Nashville, Dickson, TN Division “Houses of Hope,” a very successful fundraising luncheon sponsored by TriStar Bank was held Thursday, April 10, at Greystone Golf Club in Dickson. More than 100 guests attended, and the event raised more than $20,000 for the agency to build more homes for purchase by hard-working, low-income families.

There are 3,000 families in Dickson with annual incomes between $15,000 and $25,000 who are not able to afford the fair market rent of $506 monthly. Today, more than 10 percent of the Dickson population and 13 percent of Dickson children live in poverty. Government funding for housing at all levels is on the decline. Only 65 percent of the need for subsidized housing is being met in Dickson, and more than 350 families are on the waiting list for Section 8 homes.
November Build
Our Fall build will take place November 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, and 23. The home will be built in 6 days and will be dedicated on November 23 at 2 p.m. This Dickson division Habitat home will be sponsored by:

Dickson Chapter GNAR
Cross Point Community Church, Dickson Campus
State Representative and Mrs. David Shepard
Community Pharmacy, Inc.
Chappell’s Cee Bee
TriStar Bank
Did You Know?
The average Habitat homeowner makes $21,000 a year and has 2-3 children.

Have Hope!

This past week Max and Zach went to a midweek program for children at church. Our children’s director told me afterward of her discussions with them. She told them the story of Jesus meeting the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) and asked each child what they thought Jesus would say to each of them, today. Zach shared, “He’d say… he’d say, ‘I love you’” Then he smiled and asked her if that was the right answer. “He’d say, ‘I love you?’ That’s a great answer, Zach,” his teacher responded. Next Max told his answer, “Jesus would say, ‘Have hope.’” Max followed “have hope” with “have peace.”

Wow! Have hope. What an answer! I wish I had said that. What kind of life would you and I have if we lived everyday with those two gifts–hope and peace?

I am ever mindful of times in my life when I have felt surrounded by hope. It was like diving into the deep end of a swimming pool and everywhere I turned was water. There have been moments when I have felt engulfed in hope. A hope that is calming and soothing in nature. A hope that is not flashy, nor boastful, but is constant and steady, unwavering and assured of its place and its ultimate power.

Recently, a friend of mine gave me a piece of art. It is a statue and it stands in my kitchen beside a large yellow silk sunflower and a picture of an apple tree that Max and I drew for my dad when he lived with us. It is a carving of Smiling St. Anthony of Padua. He followed the steps of St. Francis as a wealthy child who traded his riches for a life of piety and poverty. He was famous for helping find lost stuff and for lost causes. I got so tickled at the thought of this appropriate saint. Then I read her card. It seemed right and just, because she said, “you don’t have lost cause in your vocabulary.” It was the perfect gift for me. I don’t mind hearing the word “no” because I know that my yes is right around the corner. I love betting on the long shot. I love it when the underdog wins. I love when people say, “well, I don’t think that can happen.”

When my father asked if he could come to my home from the hospital for his last days. I remember talking to the head cardiologist in the hallway. He looked straight into my eyes and said, “Young lady, I’m not sure you realize how difficult this task will be. You have two small children and a touring career and a very ill parent. I don’t believe you can do this.” I felt such a peace when I told him , “sir you don’t know me too well. Can’t is not in my vocabulary. I believe that I can and I will.” We were home by lunch and meeting with a wonderful team from Willowbrook Hospice to care for my father as he lived out his days the way he wanted to. I never once thought,” You know he’s right. I can’t do this. I’ll fail. I’ll make a mess of it.” Have I failed? Have I made a mess of things? There’s no question that I have, but I won’t have to say that I watched that particular ship sail by and did nothing.

I am ever hopeful that in jumping into the deep end, I will realize that I’m right where I need to be. In a simple way I do believe that I’ll have what I need in those moments. I believe that‘s what faith is and I do hear in my life Christ saying to me, “have hope.” My prayer is that you listen with me for those words.

all my love, Celia