Twice today a bird has hit the large window in the den where my desk is. I have gotten up both times to look out the window to find a bird, but have only seen the overgrown crab grass that grows wildly under a white dogwood tree. Those birds are fast! Maybe they didn’t even hit the ground, before they took off. But the sound of both impacts makes me believe they must have hit the ground, but wow, they recovered quickly. I mean I have seen birds just lay there for a moment. I have seen birds die on impact. Each time an animal is lost on our watch, our family has been pretty good about pausing for a moment of silence to celebrate and to remember a life well lived. A few words are spoken and heads are bowed. Just last week, Zach brought home a Fiddler Crab from school and named him Bob. Bob only lasted a day with us. Ron called me to say they carried Bob to the tree line. Ron expected a moment of reverent silence. Ron asked Zach if he had a few words to say. As Zach flung Bob into the trees, he said, “nah, we’re good!” Well, let’s say, sometimes we’re good about that!

When I think about those birds, I think flying is good, death is difficult, but stunned is, well, just stunned. Sometimes it takes a while for resolution. It takes a while to realize what just happened. It takes a while to get up and get back to flying. Can I relate? I don’t know about you, but there have been some stunning moments in my life. Not all of them were life threatening. Some of them have ended up quite pleasantly. Others ended up being heartbreaking. What I know of life is that, that is life. One minute you’re flying and the next you hit your head on a window you never saw coming. What about that window draws birds to it? I guess it looks real. It looks safe. It is falsely perceived as the right way to go. Yet it’s not. Recently, I read a quote from Picasso that said, “art is a lie that tells the truth.” Sometimes there is a hint of that in real life, don’t you think?

Funny, we spend millions on cosmetics, clothes, and accessories, when we know in our heart of hearts that we came into this world in our birthday suit and we’re leaving in the same outfit. Our beauty, our true beauty, lies within ourselves. When we truly share our inner self, the superficial pales in comparison to all that we adorn ourselves with. Our true beauty is our laugh, our gentle look, our sincere smile, our shared tears, the way we share our true selves when we lose all concept of self-awareness. When we are real and genuine with each other and our selves. That kind of treasure can’t be bought or sold or traded or owned or bartered with or stolen from. It is all we ever need to be, just us. When we are that, our true selves, we are not afraid of judgment, imperfection or criticism. The phrase “comfortable in our own skin” has a life, and it’s us, who we are.

This past week during a women’s retreat, a young mom shared her story with me. She told me about the loss of her son Matthew James, born 6 weeks ago. He only lived 3 days; but she said in those three days, she was more certain of God’s presence than ever before. Though she mourned the loss of her son, she celebrated a life lived and loved fully in 3 short days. I told her of my friends, Rodney and Allison, and of my singing for their daughter, Mercy Elizabeth’s celebration of life. I sang “Grayson’s song — Child From Above” from my CD of lullabies. I asked Matthew’s mom if I could sing it for her during the communion service we had during the retreat. I said it was now the “Grayson, Mercy, Matthew” song. She smiled and said, “I would be honored.”

Now to the thing that made me laugh during such a heartfelt moment. Her friend Kim who was sitting on the pew in front of her, as the song started, jumped over the pew to sit with her. All of us began to laugh. I later commented on the moment, “what makes a woman jump over a pew in church during a song, during communion, to sit next to her friend, to put her arms around her? During a time when most folks, won’t make eye contact with her makes her look into her eyes and say, ‘I’m right here.'” It was poetically stunning or stunningly poetic! We all thought at the same time, “why didn’t I do that.” What a sweet gesture. I’m so glad we didn’t just sit in silence and stare at the floor. That mom told me she was numb and her body ached all over. At the same time she said, I almost didn’t come today, but I am so glad I chose to.

I think of her back in her town. All the love they have to give to her, all the ways they want to support her, yet many of us don’t know what to do at times like that. Sometimes ya gotta jump a pew. The lie may be to believe that to be silent and still makes it better. Don’t say the wrong thing. When all along, when we find that we have slammed into a glass window, the truth is we need people to be willing to just be with us through it, not to be afraid to share their own pain with us and maybe we don’t need them to talk at all. Just to jump the pew already and sit by us and to put their arm around us.

On that same weekend, someone gave me this quote that said, “A friend understands what you are trying to say… even when your thoughts aren’t fitting into words.” Ann D Parrish

I’m not sure what made those two birds get up and get on with it and fly toward their next. I know the only thing that gives me the will… what made that woman jump the pew… is only love. Love that surrounds us when we are stunned… love that makes us forget ourselves and reach out to others… love that carries us… love that lifts us when we can’t lift ourselves.

One of my favorite songs says it all…

Love lifted me
Love lifted me
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me

w. James Rowe, 1865-1933 / m. Howard E Smith 1863-1918

Psalm 40:2 He lifted me out of the pit… set my feet on a rock.

All my love… be pew jumpers, friends! ~ Celia Anne

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

On Good Friday

Nearer, my God to thee, nearer to thee!
Even it be a cross that raiseth me,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God to thee:

Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
darkness be over me, my rest a stone:
yet in my dreams I’d be nearer my God to thee:
Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

Words Sarah F. Adams 1541
Music Lowell Mason 1856

On Good Friday, I was reflecting on what it must have been like to survive the first Good Friday without the assurance of Easter Sunday. It couldn’t have felt like a very good Friday. It might have felt something akin to being on a sinking ship.

I’ve been reviewing the story of the RMS Titanic with my sons as they’ve studied the ship and my mind wandered there as I reflected. I have always been fascinated by the Titanic.

Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster of the orchestra on the famous ship Titanic, changed songs from popular ragtime tunes to Nearer my God to Thee sometime before the ship sank April 12, 1912 around 2:20 am on that incredible evening of its maiden voyage. A friend had asked earlier Hartley what he would do if he found himself on a sinking ship. “I would gather the band together and begin playing,” he responded. Wearing their life vests, not one of them stopped playing till the very end … survivors recounted.

I loved the movie “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Debbie Reynolds was fantastic as she played Molly Brown, a survivor of the ship. It is understandable why it was the major blockbuster years ago. People are spellbound by someone who survives something like that, because few do. So I was thinking about how those survivors made it to the lifeboats — simply one word…others. Others put them on those boats. Others gave up their seats so that someone else might have one. Others informed them. Others pointed them in the right direction. Others thought of someone else, instead of themselves that evening.

I recently watched a movie about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life. Once in captivity he said, “real Christianity is sharing each others pain… it will shock people.” I think of those who stepped aside so that someone else might live: husbands put wives into lifeboats, women put children in the hands of strangers. What kind of person does that? Someone who is selfless, someone who is willing does that. When the Titanic finally went down, countless people were in the water. Amid the Lord’s prayer being prayed, one cry heard by those in the boats was, “Save one life! Save one life!” Boat after boat… thought about going back to aid those in the 28 degree water, but were talked out of it fearing they would be overthrown by the masses in the water. One did go back though, Fifth Officer Lowe. He thought he might wait and let the crowd “thin out,” but in fact, he waited too long. Even still he did find Steward John Stewart and another unknown gentleman and 2 collapsible life boats with a dozen men still alive, as well as Mrs. Rosa Abbott.

Lowe knew what others forgot that day, that his rescue could not come without his helping others rescued. Molly Brown knew the same. She begged the crewman from their lifeboat to return to aid those in need. When denied, she knew that to stay warm the women would also have to row along with the men in the boat and she carried on until they were allowed to. She wrapped her coat around the legs of a man who sat beside her shivering uncontrollably as she rowed into the night. But those that really captured my attention on the Titanic, were the crew. In Daniel Allen Butler’s book, “Unsinkable: The full story of the RMS Titanic” he notes that, “… it was devotion to the duty, a sense of responsibility, obligation to other people, a knowledge that people were depending on them that caused so many crewmembers to stay at their posts, even at the cost of their lives.” There is no greater love, a love for their fellow men and women. I love what Butler wrote of the crew, “if there was a lasting legacy from the crew of the Titanic, something genuine, meaning that would transcend cliché and platitude… that they could leave for their children and grandchildren… it was their willingness to follow men who were doing what was right and noble and good, and in doing so become right, noble and good themselves.”

Some call it crazy, others call it sacrifice. A kind of sacrifice rarely seen, but when witnessed, it captivates our spirit, it makes us too want to do for others, to be selfless for others, to risk it all without regard for our own gain, to step in when stepping in might not seem popular or easy. Isn’t that what hope is all about? You and I in the icy water as our ship is going down near us calling, “Save One Life” desperately hoping, longing with all that is in us that someoneŠ just one someone, will come to our aid.

I think back on the Titanic moments in my life – those times when I hit an iceberg or when I sunk altogether. As someone one who grew up with a mother who struggled with depression, I know all-too-well what the sinking of a metaphorical ship feels like.

That was part of my survival and my growing up. Someone stepped in; someone lent a hand; people came to my aid. My support system was quilted together by people who surrounded me at times when I felt my ship was going under. Whether or not they knew of my mother’s battle or the challenges that came with living in a pastor’s family, or others that presented themselves as an adult… eating disorders, deaths of my sister, parents, close friends… fear disappointments, loss in all our lives….others were there.

I received that aid time and time again, from friends on my street, in my choir, sitting near me in class, in Sunday school and from teachers, volunteers, aunts/uncles/ cousins, pastors and youth directors. As I look around I’ve continued to have that in my life: blessedness… blessed friends, family,from my best friend Ron and the dangerous duo- Max and Zach, countless folks I’ve met along the way. Names and faces continue to be added to my list. You are on it if you have opened your stories and yourselves to me, have put your arms around me, have laughed and cried with me and drank countless cups of coffee with me, have written songs, edited books, showed up to concerts, eaten many meals, played at the park, gone to the movies… and on it goes. You’ve been present for moments of despair, loss, shame, hope, joy and healing… you were simply agents of loveŠ living love.

And so it goes, each day we all have a chance to put someone else in a lifeboat. We all can huddle together and be on the lookout… we all can simply save one life and in doing so, what a wonderful funny little twist, our lives are saved as well. Isn’t that what really happened Easter morning… the disciples finally really got it.. what real sacrifice looks like… not death at all… real living love.

Following that first good Friday, we find the disciples in a room, huddled together, hanging onto each other for dear life. They are presented with the wonderful news that you and I can’t help hearing the story through. God owns the Omega as well as the Alpha. Light has the last word.

Take care of your soul, friends,
Be yourself,
Enjoy the journey
… and celebrate the simple things of life… like more ice cream!

Celia Anne


Summer rain… It was sunny when I left the house the other morning. It looked so good that I even grabbed my costly sunglasses as Jesse the dancing outlaw would say. Ok, I got them from the Dollar General for $6 bucks but they make me look hot! I saw the clouds roll in but the sun was still breaking forth so I didn’t think anything of it. Not much later, it was pouring.

I don’t know how emotion comes over you… sometimes I feel them roll in like those rain clouds or like an unexpected guest who just shows up unannounced. But I have cried at least once a day for past four days, not a continuous cry, but the last 4 days I have cried for a myriad of different reasons. I have had my feelngs hurt. I mean like smashed and stepped on, the kind of moments when someone on the other line sounds mean and you want to be mean in return, but instead you get nicer, but you still cry about it. I cried over frustration, when things didn’t go my way. Before I knew it I was raising my voice and I just wanted to scream, but I thought better of it so it shows up in the form of tears. I quickly poured myself a hot bath and softened my spirit with some eucalyptus sea salts and a little quiet time. I cried when a friend was so sweet, loving, kind and encouraging and it just made me cry, which made her feel like she might have said something wrong. I was in a coffee shop and quickly grabbed those faithful sunglasses. I felt like a movie star, well like a crying movie star. Glasses do not make tears stop. People continued about their day and I wondered if they saw me and thought, “that poor women” or maybe they thought, “I bet that feels good. I could use a good cry about now.”

What is it about life that makes us tear up? Maybe it’s just life. I have cried over loss, joy, fear, embarrassment, anger, all of them, at once, at times and I think it’s part of living. Sometimes the sun shines on a rainy day. There are those moments when all is well and those when we forgot a second ago all was well. When I cry over the death of my dad or my friend Kathleen, I am thankful for those tears and memories. I picture myself, long after my death, being remembered by someone who loved me. I hope they might be laughing over something we did together or something they witnessed and before they know it, tears are mixed with joy. That’s when you know you’ve loved and been loved.

So, I guess I will be ok with the rain and with the tears in my life. I’ll embrace my tears. Cherish them.. feel them and know that where we are is where we are supposed to be. Now I’m not talking about depression or avoiding life, or about always going to a dark place for a long time. I am talking about the healthy balance that tears bring. I have had moments in these last four days where I have… laughed with a friend, sat alone and had a time to reflect on my day, read in bed while everyone was asleep in the house, walked in the woods as a soft rain fell and been grateful for all the good that comes my way and those there to sit with me when I’m going through the valley, when I’m crying behind my sunglasses.

Some days you just cry and maybe that’s ok.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

P.S. When it rained that day, the windows were down in the back seat of my car. Rain in the back of your car is not so nostalgic.

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.

On being there for a friend

We have been journeying with a friend. We (Celia and Ron) are both on the preschool board at our church. One of our fellow board members Meg unexpectedly lost her husband 3 weeks ago. One of her daughters and our son Zach are in class together at preschool (she calls him Whack). Meg’s husband Jack had an accident near Memphis and was rushed to a hospital in Memphis, where he died about a week later. Our family was driving home from Louisiana when we received news of the accident. Our trip took us through Memphis, so we stopped and spent an evening with the family at the hospital. We have learned so much in the last 3 weeks. There are so many stories and lessons we could include, but we’ll keep it to a few.

Lesson 1: Make time to stop. Being there for each other is paramount. It’s not about knowing how to be there, it’s about being willing to risk awkwardness and the unknown. Had we driven through Memphis without stopping, we would have saved some time. Maybe the family would have missed our support. We certainly would not even be aware of the enrichment and the experience of God’s abundance that we would have missed. Being there was the first step on the journey of growing together. Your friends become family when you walk through the fire together.

Lesson 2: The church is a big family and a small family at the same time. When we returned home from Memphis, we talked about what else we could do to help. We have a list of people who have heard Celia sing. You are receiving this email because you are on that list. We called several churches in the Memphis area from our list. Of course, the church showed up with visits, food, prayer and support. Crisis is one of those times when we are at our best as a community of faith. Part of what we love about our lives and our line of service is that we often get to experience the connection that is ours in faith.

Lesson 3: There is ALWAYS something you can do–be creative. We talked about what else we could do beyond praying and calling friends in Memphis. We knew the family was staying at a hotel, so we got the number of the fax line at the hotel (there was no charge to receive faxes). Celia sent a daily inspirational thought to the family via fax, knowing that it would be left under their hotel room door. No phone to answer, no extra errand–a supportive thought just showed up. At the funeral visitation, Ron went through the line and introduced himself. He was just another supportive visitor until he was introduced as being the fax lady’s other half. One of the family members said to Ron, “You’re married to the fax lady?” The faxes and the thought made a difference.

Lesson 4: Get to know your acquaintances. They have a life and a story beyond your limited contact. We sat together through several preschool board meetings. We shared both good and routine moments as we have talked about the details of running a quality preschoo, but we didn’t know much of each others lives before this loss. By not intentionally carving out time together, we missed some joyful times with a delightful couple.

Lesson 5: Cherish the people you love. Your time together is a gift. Meg has since told us many things about her and Jack’s marriage. They really liked each other and had fun together. She has said that she would rather have had only ten years sharing that kind of love, than a whole lifetime of “average.” That is an easy statement to comprehend. They crammed a lifetime into ten years. MAKE your relationships great.

Thanks you for what you do for each other and for how you’ve enriched our lives. Merry Christmas–may the Christ child be re-born in your hearts this season. God’s peace . . . Celia and Ron Whitler

PS visit “in the neighborhood benefit” to learn more.