Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cars vs. Queens: It's all in the interpretation

Tonight while helping Erica get into her car seat, I saw some lightning in the sky and asked Daniel if he saw it. Erica decided to get into the conversation by mentioning "Lightnum McQueen" from the movie, Cars (which she hasn't seen and has only heard kids talking about at her preschool). Actually, I thought she was just mispronouncing the first part of his name. Turns out, she has a whole other interpretation of that character.

Erica:  I'm going to get a "Lightnum the Queen."

Me: (laughing) What are you going to get, Erica?

Erica: Yeah, Lightnum the Queen. (pause). Aunt Nette, will you get me Lightnum the Queen for my birthday?

Me:  Yes, I will! Bye-bye!

I kept laughing about it all the way home (to which Daniel suggested that I needed to blog about this conversation). I guess for three-year-old little girls, it always come back around to royalty!

Of course, I wonder where I'll find what she's asked for and if she'll be disappointed when she figures out she's talking about a car?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy Anniversary: A Tribute

What do you do on your parent's anniversary when one of them has gone home to be with the Lord? If you're me, you give a tribute to 48 years of love and devotion and you surround the remaining spouse with love and celebration.

I wrote the following blog three years ago, on their 45th anniversary. It is a love story worth telling again, so I will:

My dad grew up in Oklahoma and went to Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the late 50s - early 60s. In 1962 (I think), after graduating from seminary, he packed up all his belongings in his car and moved to Long Island, NY, to be a church planter pastor. He had been bitten by the urban ministry/church planting bug as a summer missionary in Chicago and Detroit during college and was following God's leading to the mission field in the Northeast.

My mom grew up in Maryland and graduated from Carson-Newman College before heading out to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth. She and Dad were there at the same time, and even casually knew each other, but Mom was determined not to marry a preacher, so she moved back to Maryland after graduation to work at the Baptist State Convention Women's Missionary Union.

Their family and friends had pretty much written them off as a confirmed bachelor/old maid, since they were in their mid-20s and hadn't gotten married. Then, as God's plan would unfold, He helped them show everyone that He is in control.

At that time in the early 60s, the Maryland and New York Baptist Conventions were combined, so there were many opportunities for attending the same meetings and having mutual friends. It was some of these mutual friends who decided to play match-maker with Nancy and DeLane, and they had their first date in the summer of 1963. By December, they were engaged and were married on a snowy Saturday night at Oak Grove Baptist Church, in Bel Air, Maryland, on February 28, 1964.

Dad likes to joke that since it was a leap year, he was pushing for getting married on February 29th, so he'd only have to remember their anniversary every four years. I know he was joking, because I have never known my dad to forget his anniversary or any special dates related to his wife. Oh, they had other things that made each other mad, but forgetting important dates didn't seem to be one of them!

So, now, 45 years later, I am so thankful and proud to say that my parents have been married to each other this long and are still very much in love. They have had to deal with many challenges over the years, but they have been a real example of faithfulness to each other and to the Lord, and have shown me love in action throughout their marriage. This past year, they gave of their time to help younger married couples through the "Fireproof" series at their church. I know that the wisdom and love they shared with those couples helped to enrich those marriages and will hopefully be a lasting example for years to come.

I am so thankful that God brought DeLane and Nancy Ryals together in marriage. There are five people who wouldn't be alive if it weren't for their love. And I am thankful that they had so many years together and that even though "death did them part" the love is still alive and we can celebrate that long-lasting love.

Tonight, our family will get together for dinner. We will hear stories and look at pictures. We will eat some frozen yogurt (a favorite treat of both the bride and groom, but especially the groom). We will remember and be thankful for 48 years of marriage and the Lord's blessing on every minute of those years.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Slow down, you move too fast!

I remember when my sister was learning to read and she came upon the words, "Whoa, whoa," in a book about a horse. Reading out loud, it came out as, "Wo-ah, wo-ah!"

I am feeling like I need to yell out, "Wo-ah, wo-ah" about our life right now. It's all good stuff and I am so thankful for all of the blessings that God has given us. But, please, can we slow down, just a bit? This is what I'm talking about: 
  • Daniel will take his ACT and SAT tests this Spring, in addition to two AP exams for history and English, on top of final exams in May.
  • At the end of March, the Silver Jazz Band will travel to Savannah, Georgia, for a band competition and Daniel will be playing drums. In the car on the way to school this morning, he was talking about the band trip next Fall to Orlando/Universal Studios. "It'll be my Senior band trip!" 
  • We've already been to visit two colleges and there will be more visits in the coming months (I guess . . . he hasn't let us in on where those might be yet).
  • In August, Daniel will start the last year of high school (yes, it's called Senior year).
Please don't hear me complaining or think I am not wanting Daniel to grow up as he should. All I'm saying is that maybe we could slow down the pace, just a bit?

And as my grandmother used to say, "If wishes were horses, beggars could ride." Yep, that's what I thought. I'll just buckle my seat belt and hang on for the wild ride!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Favorites: Corporate Worship

A couple of weeks ago, I had back-to-back worship experiences in one weekend. On Saturday morning, sixteen people were sitting in a church classroom. Worship leaders, musicians, servants of the Lord. They had gathered for a worship seminar. It was the first one done by the organizers, but hopefully it will not be the last.
I will sing of my Redeemer -
Tell about the grace I've known
Here on earth with those forgiven,
And one day around His throne.

I will sing of my Redeemer,
Lift my voice to praise my Lord!
Ransomed by His blood and mercy,
I am His forevermore.
I was there with them giving support and helping with behind-the-scenes tasks. One of the graces I've known is how God has given me this wonderful job that allows me to use the gifts and life experiences that He's given me. The added bonus is getting to hear these worship leaders singing worship songs and getting to lend my voice out in the hallway.
In need of grace.
In need of love.
In need of mercy raining down
From high above.
In need of strength.
In need of peace.
In need of things
That only You can give to me.
In need of Christ, the perfect Lamb,
My refuge strong, the Great I Am.
This is my song, my humble plea,
I am Your child, I am in need.
There were needs in that room. There are always needs wherever people are gathered. Worship leaders don't get to worship corporately outside of the spotlight very often. Their hearts need grace, peace and strength. They need Christ, the Perfect Lamb.

The next day was Sunday. Probably my favorite day of the week. I am typically running late to the worship service and that day was no exception. I got there and found my sister, brother-in-law and niece and joined them on the row. The congregation was already singing "Praise Him" and as I started singing along, Erica came over and wanted to "stand" by me to sing (since she's three, she stands up on the chair, but I picked her up and held her on my hip). She held the bulletin up for me to see and was singing the chorus of the song with great gusto. I couldn't help but just look at her and sing, matching her enthusiasm for a song I already know and love.
As long as the sun awakens the day,
Praise Him, praise Him!
Sing to each other and lift up His name,
Praise Him, praise Him!
What a precious memory that is for me! I hope that I get to share in lots of other corporate worship settings with Erica and Mary Lane as they grow up.

Corporate worship doesn't have to happen in a large sanctuary. It can be wherever the worshipers are gathered:  in a classroom, around a hospital bed, at a campsite, before a baptism by a river in a country where it is a great cost to take that step. I want to keep on singing with my fellow believers and can't wait until we all get to worship corporately around the throne of God!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hymn Sunday: It Is Well With My Soul

This well-known hymn has a lot of meaning for our family. It has been sung at funerals on my father's side of the family (parents, two brothers and his own). In college, a friend of mine always choked up singing it at church and it became a favorite for me during that time as well. 

The story of how Horatio Spafford came to write the hymn is also well-known. It was writ­ten af­ter two ma­jor trau­mas in Spaf­ford’s life. The first was the great Chi­ca­go Fire of Oc­to­ber 1871, which ru­ined him fi­nan­cial­ly (he had been a weal­thy bus­i­ness­man). Short­ly af­ter, while cross­ing the At­lan­tic, all four of Spaf­ford’s daugh­ters died in a col­li­sion with an­o­ther ship. Spaf­ford’s wife Anna sur­vived and sent him the now fa­mous tel­e­gram, “Saved alone.” Sev­er­al weeks lat­er, as Spaf­ford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died, the Ho­ly Spir­it in­spired these words. They speak to the eter­nal hope that all be­liev­ers have, no mat­ter what pain and grief be­fall them on earth. The tune, written by Philip P. Bliss, is named af­ter the ship on which Spaf­ford’s child­ren per­ished, the S.S. Ville de Havre. Iron­ic­al­ly, Bliss him­self died in a tra­gic train wreck short­ly af­ter writ­ing this mu­sic. (taken from

One of the things I have always liked about this hymn is when it is sung in four-part harmony, and the lines of the refrain are echoed. Funny thing is that as a soprano, I'm never really sure if I'm supposed to sing with the lead or with the echo.

Besides singing the first verse and refrain at the end of my dad's service, my other most-recent memory of singing this hymn was in December at the Ryman Auditorium during Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God" concert. The entire congregation sang together, a capella, and instead of making me sad at the memory of my dad, it was encouraging to lift my voice with the hundred of other voices and know that it truly is "well with my soul."
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Love of God

After listening to Ebenezer: The Lord Has Brought Me This Far by Dave Hunt, as well as some other CDs recently, I am inspired to try to share a hymn with you on a weekly basis. I think it will be on Sundays, but since this is "Love Week" (in case you haven't checked the calendar, tomorrow is Valentine's Day), I wanted to post this one today. It's about a greater love than any human can give another. And when I hear/read the last stanza and let the word picture form in my mind, it totally blows me away. Every time.

The Love of God

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win.
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.

When years of time shall pass away
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here, refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure shall still endure,
All measureless and strong.
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race –
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill
And ev’ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure –
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Words: Fred­er­ick M. Leh­man; he wrote this song in 1917 in Pas­a­de­na, Cal­i­fornia, and it was pub­lished in Songs That Are Dif­fer­ent, Vol­ume 2, 1919. The lyr­ics are based on the Jew­ish poem Had­da­mut, writ­ten in Ara­ma­ic in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Ne­hor­ai, a can­tor in Worms, Ger­ma­ny; they have been trans­lat­ed in­to at least 18 lang­uages.
One day, dur­ing short in­ter­vals of in­at­ten­tion to our work, we picked up a scrap of pa­per and, seat­ed up­on an emp­ty le­mon box pushed against the wall, with a stub pen­cil, add­ed the (first) two stan­zas and chor­us of the song…Since the lines (3rd stan­za from the Jew­ish po­em) had been found pen­ciled on the wall of a pa­tient’s room in an in­sane asy­lum af­ter he had been car­ried to his grave, the gen­er­al opin­ion was that this in­mate had writ­ten the epic in mo­ments of san­ity.
Frederick M. Lehman, “History of the Song, The Love of God,” 1948
Music: Fred­er­ick Leh­man; ar­ranged by his daugh­ter, Clau­dia L. Mays (MI­DI, score).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Favorite: Surprises!

A few weeks ago, my sweet friend, Ruth stopped by my office to bring me a present. It wasn't my birthday (yet). In fact, it was just a regular January day. Ruth told me that she was bringing me a January Surprise. It was a painting of the Bluebird Cafe that she had done for me, which I love (the painting and the place)!

A little more of the back story is that back in November, Ruth and her daughter and I went to a craft sale at The Station Inn near downtown Nashville. There were lots of vendors with lots of cool, hand-made stuff, and we all found fun gifts to give friends and family, and were creatively inspired to make some things of our own. At that sale, we saw a painting of the Bluebird Cafe (one of my favorite places in Nashville), but it was large, and cost more than I needed to spend, so I got the name of the artist and went on my way.

Well, Ruth was evidently inspired that day, and decided to make me a painting of the Bluebird Cafe! What a thoughtful friend! And it warmed my heart so much for her to surprise me with it on an ordinary January day! Because if you didn't know this about me, I love surprises (good ones, of course) and I love gifts (small or large, store-bought or hand-made). It just make me feel very special and loved!

So, I wanted to share the love and reciprocate with a special "thank you" for Ruth. I knew that Anderson Design Group had done a Bluebird Cafe print and I thought I had a post card of it somewhere. Long story short, I didn't have one on hand, but I finally was able to get what I needed to create the card that I was envisioning in my mind. Here's how it turned out:

I could also say that some of my favorite things are the Bluebird Cafe, card-making, and the Spirit of Nashville prints, but I'll save those for some other Friday Favorites!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Birthday Fun

My birthday was a workday, but it was an unusually quiet Friday at the church house, so Jeanette brought the girls by for a few minutes. It was fun to have some birthday visitors!

I wish I had a picture of Mary Lane "sashay-ing" across the church lawn in this get-up (she had a ponytail on top of her head for a few minutes before she pulled it out).

My little office "helpers"!

Erica can write her name (needs a little help with the "C")

Erica thought it was cool to get a bulletin "hot off the press"

Sherry and Maddie brought me a yummy cupcake treat!
 That night, our family was invited to the Tusculum Hills Baptist Church Strider's Club Banquet. My parents have walked on the indoor track there for over 13 years and as part of the program, my dad was remembered among the other walkers who had passed away during the previous year. We appreciated the tribute to Dad and also enjoyed the dinner and the entertainment:  a Barney Fife impersonator.

On Saturday afternoon, we had our family birthday celebration at Mom's house for an early supper. Earlier in the week, Erica had asked what kind of birthday I was going to have. I told her to pick it out for me and I loved the "ballerina princess" theme that she chose!

Don't mess with this Princess!

Princess Sisters!

There weren't enough princess tiaras to go around (and Erica wanted to take this picture).

I guess he thinks we won't know who it is wearing that backwards tiara!

They put a question mark, but I held up my hand to show how many fingers I am this year!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sister Saturday: Guest Blogger

Yesterday was my sister's birthday.  In honor of Nanette, I am writing a guest post today about sisters.  It is extra cool having two girls because I think about many ways that Erica and Mary Lane will benefit from having each other, just like Nanette and I do. 

Nanette and I shared a unique childhood growing up in the Metropolitan New York area as missionary kids.  Our little town in NJ had very few families who shared our faith.  Even with that challenge we thrived because of our parents' commitment to raising us to know the Lord.  We had an amazing time learning about other cultures by attending many churches as part of my Dad's work.  I remember giggling through some pretty interesting weddings and church services with Nanette.  We had a terrible habit of laughing (loudly and partly out of nervousness) in new or uncomfortable situations.

Because of our vastly different temperaments, Nanette and I weren't always the best of friends through the teen years.  When she left for college, "1000s of miles" away in Nashville, my appreciation for her grew and we connected on a deeper level through phone calls and letters.  After my freshman year of never fitting in at Samford University, I joined Nanette in Nashville when I transferred to Belmont.  Our friendship and dedication to one another grew immensely.

I could go on and on about the times we've shared, but I will skip ahead to this past year and try to describe how priceless it was to have a sister to share the month of October 2011 with.  We stumbled into the month, continuing our regular routines of working and parenting, and WHAM -- October 4th came.  Dad entered the hospital and within two days was in ICU, unresponsive, and expected to die any hour.  Nanette and I had many hours together either in the hospital, loving on Dad, supporting and advising Mom, or just staying connected every hour by phone or text.  My love for her grew to a new level during the time when Dad died on October 13 and through the time of his memorial service and continuing now as we walk through a long season of grief together.  Of course we never know the day or the hour that any of us will die, but I have a strong sense of hope for my children knowing they will have a sister who will hold their hand through the death of their parents.

OK, enough heavy stuff.

Fun Facts for Sister Saturday:
  • Nanette is 31 months older than Jeanette.  Erica is 22 months older than Mary Lane.
  • Erica shares many "firstborn" traits with Nanette.  Mary Lane shares many "youngest" traits with Jeanette.
  • So far in our personalities, Erica is the brainy one like Nanette was as a child and Mary Lane is much more happy-go-lucky like Jeanette.  Of course that could all change, because Nanette and I agree that we have reversed personalities in our current stages of life.  Who knows?  
It is just the coolest to share the sister experience.  Love you, Nanette!!!!!!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Birthday Letter

Because it's my birthday and I often received letters from my Dad on my birthday, I thought I'd write one to him today.

Dear Dad,

It's my first birthday without being able to hear you sing "Happy Birthday" to me. I kind of feel like you were probably singing it today, but I just couldn't hear you. It made me smile when Mom sang to me on the phone this morning, although I was also thinking about how her soprano voice sounded like it needed your baritone along with it. She told me what you would have said, that my parents love me and are proud of me and are thankful that I was born. You never let me forget that I was a much-wanted child and that the day I was born was a special day in your lives. As I told Mom this morning, thank you for having me!

While I couldn't hear your voice this morning, I heard loud and clear from my Lord in my devotional reading for today:

"I am with you and for you. You face nothing alone--nothing! When you feel anxious, know that you are focusing on the visible world and leaving Me out of the picture. The answer is simple:  Fix your eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. Verbalize your trust in Me, the Living One who sees you always. I will get you safely through this day and all your days. But you can find Me only in the present. Each day is a precious gift from My Father. How ridiculous to grasp for future gifts when today's is set before you! Receive today's gift gratefully, unwrapping it tenderly and delving into its depths. As you savor this gift, you find Me." (Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, pg. 36)

Dad, I remember you telling me lots of times how you were "with me and for me" and I know you got that from the Bible. Lots of the scriptures that I know and love today were spoken and read to me by you throughout my life and I am so thankful for that gift that you gave me. You also gave me my introduction to Jesus and helped me grow to know and trust Him as my own Savior and Lord. Thank you for that as well!

Today has been a great day and there have been many precious gifts throughout the day:

  • I got to see a beautiful sunrise out of the windows at the Christ Church indoor track as I walk/jogged my two miles.
  • Starbuck's for breakfast and Jersey Mike's for lunch:  all for free!
  • Gifts and treats from co-workers and friends, as well as family.
  • Being serenaded with the birthday song via telephone, text and in person, from as far away as New York (Randel) and as close as my den (Daniel).
  • Having a visit from Jeanette and the girls during the morning at the office. Seeing Mary Lane "mosey" across the church lawn wearing her hot pink tu-tu, a pink scarf, with a paci in her mouth and a "Pebbles" ponytail on top of her head was priceless! Erica and Mary Lane both made themselves at home and could have probably taken over my work at the computer for me.
  • Hearing from over 100 friends/family via Facebook posts, emails, e-cards, texts, cards and phone calls. I have "felt the love" today.
I miss you, Dad, and I wish that I could celebrate my birthday with you, but that's not our reality. One way that you are with us as we celebrate is that tonight is the Strider's Club banquet at Tusculum Hills Baptist Church, where you used to walk miles around the track (and Mom still does). They will be paying tribute to you tonight, so our family will all attend.

Thanks for still being "for me" and for letting me know so often throughout my life that you loved me. There's no way I could ever forget it now!

I love YOU, Dad!