Death and Taxes πŸ’”

Earlier today, standing in my driveway, I watched a shower of golden-yellow pecan leaves falling in a lovely, slow circle. It was my first moment home since my brother Dave died. We buried him yesterday.

Autumn is coming, and usually, I love it. But it brings with it, this next October, both Dave’s birthday and within a few days, mine. I’ll miss him especially, then.

I’m told that in the late summer, when things are hottest, and water is scarce, trees pull back from their leaves to conserve moisture. This causes the foliage on deciduous trees to die, and tumble to the ground. It’s a process.

Healing after loss is also a process that my big, blended family understands all too well. We came from three different roots, and as Dave said at our last funeral gathering, not yet two years ago, all of the six children in our family were orphans of one sort or another. That coming together and growing out of difficult circumstances is part of what makes us beautiful, to me. There’s more to that thought, but I’ll stop there.

What I will say is a few, brief things about Dave. He’s not my biological brother, but we’ve been siblings since he was five years-old, and I was two. He was always kind to me, and I loved him. We rode motorcycles together as kids, and he jokingly pulled my pigtails until my head jerked from side to side when he asked me to go with him. I always went.

Dave’s smile is what I remember, even in the hard times. He was witty, and he made me laugh. He famously loved music, statistics, sports, travel, wine, and life, among other things. He adored his wife, Teresa, and his children. He was intelligent and beat all sorts of odds. He was well-educated, in spite of school struggles.

For decades, Dave dreamed of moving to the hill country, specifically to Wimberly, Texas. This past January, he and Teresa did just that. They were living the dream, literally. His Facebook page is strewn with photos of happy memories in their new home, with his family, some just a few short days before he died.

A peek at Dave’s Facebook profile’s will also tell even the casual observer that Dave was passionate about politics, and that is why my title today mentions taxes. Some of us agreed with him, some of us are apolitical, and some of us hid his posts. But we all loved him, no matter what. Our diversity, and our respect towards one another in those differences, is another thing I like about our mingled family.

When my sister Allison died suddenly nearly twenty years ago, I learned rather dramatically that humans are never guaranteed the next conversation, let alone the next breath. When Dave died suddenly this past Tuesday, due to apparent heart issues, that same lesson was underlined. For that reason, and others, and with Teresa’s hearty endorsement, I’m loading up her plant babies from the funeral, I’m throwing the same bag I packed to stay with my dad into my car, and I’m leaving in the morning to drive these newly-acquired, leafy gifts to their mama. She didn’t have room to take them when she left today, and they certainly need her green thumb more than they need me to water them until she gets back. I’m leaving at first light, and I’m excited. Teresa is incredibly kind to me, also, and I’m grateful for her friendship.

So Dave, here’s to you. We meant to come to see your new place sooner, but we didn’t get the chance. I’m making time now. We’ll talk of you tomorrow, and we’ll miss you like crazy.

But for now, dear brother, goodnight. May you rest in peace. ❀️

Taken on our trip to Lake Tahoe years ago. Allison was gone by this time. Left to right: Sheila, Tim, Teresa, Dave, Stephanie, Barry, Dee Dee and Dwayne. Kelly was sick on this day. We missed her, and we love her dearly, too.

I was calling

For the last time

We’ve been here before

They found pictures in the snow

I can tell your eyes

Looked beneath the blue

I walk underneath the trees for the first time

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Opportunity πŸ’—

The days are just tumbling by, and both May and June are gone. In the United States, we celebrate women with children each May. We call our holiday Mother’s Day.

On Mother’s Day this year, I attended worship. The pastor giving the message asked a panel of moms various questions. The first question was this:

What is the greatest joy of motherhood?

All of the answers were excellent, but I didn’t hear mine:

To me, the greatest joy of motherhood is the opportunity.

Happy belated Mothers Day, fellow travelers. πŸ™‡β€β™€οΈ

My family, artistically designed by my neighbor, Nancy Lane Santillan. Etsy shop: Firefly Graphic Design.
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Wrecked πŸ’₯

This book, I found accidentally, but what a treasure. I love people and their stories, and Jackie Hill Perry’s is beautiful, on several levels.

The College Guy told me to check out Hill Perry’s hip hop, which I did. This caused me to Google her, which caused me to find her book. I’m glad.

Chapter eight of Gay Girl, Good God, beginning on page 67, is wrecking me in a good way, as my neighbor Nancy says. It helps refine my understanding of what I call My Miracle. Parts of chapter twelve wrecked me all over again last night. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.

Nancy is one of several, strange connections that led me to visit UPPERROOM in Dallas for church on June 30. That day’s speaker also wrecked me in a good way. The message was called the Emerging Church. I was there, and most of it, but not the entire message made it to their podcast. This talk also helped me process things in a way that made sense for the first time.

And this song, lately. The worship team at another church I visited sang it. Sometimes, I play it on repeat.

“You wear the scars for all my mistakes, and that part just wrecks me.”

So there you have it, my update for today.

I’m in, Jesus. I’m Yours. You are faithful and you are gracious, and I’m just grateful.

Keep wrecking me.


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You’re My Person πŸ‘«

My husband doesn’t read this blog, but he’s my person.

We’ve got barnacles and we’ve got problems. Our family is a mess right now.

But thanks be to the living God, the gospel is true. Grace is real, and boundless. The east is a long way from the west. Because of Jesus, I am not condemned. Therefore, there’s always hope.

So, yes. He’s my person. And that’s me standing beside him.

Happy Anniversary, Barry.

Thanks to one of my neighbors, Nancy Lane Santillan (Ennis, Texas)

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It’s Our House πŸ‘

Here is a peek at graffiti I happened to see on June 30 while picking my way through an alley to my car from the Spiral Diner in Dallas. At first, I found this expression amusing, hence the effort of pulling out my phone to memorialize. But I also found it to be thought-provoking, as art is intended to be:

Of course, this all could be tongue in cheek, and credit to the artist above.

Some might put my dad into the category of being rich. He attributes his success to luck combined with need and fear of failure. He also describes himself as a big fish in a little pond, which would be more accurate, in my opinion. But if I could use only one word to describe my father, it would be generous.

Both my family and I, along with other assorted people, traveling outward in ripples, know first-hand of my dad’s generosity. Some remain nameless, as complete strangers.

Sometimes, I go to breakfast with my dad. On one such day this past April, as we drove home, we chatted. Since the death of my step-mom, Carol, Dad struggles with whether or not to keep his large house. As I’ve told him and others, I support the general idea of you doing you.

The pendulum of this house question swings back and forth in my father’s mind. On this occasion, he was pondering keeping his house. But my dad also likes to say he is Nellie Cox’s son, and therefore, he hates waste. Nellie was Dad’s mom, and my grandmother. She was frugal, and she taught her son that one spends money, but never squanders. His thought was that living alone in a big house could be overdoing things.

On an occasion when Carol was still alive, toward the end of her life, this question came up. Dad fully intended to die first, so he asked her about keeping their house. If he died first, he wanted to know, would she keep the house? Here was her reply:

Of course. It’s my home.

My father is eighty-three years-old. On this day in the car, chatting with my beloved Dad, I desperately wanted him to be the one to make this decision. It would be a huge thing, and stressful to sell his home of many years, uproot, downsize and readjust. On the other hand, far be it from me to discount the teachings of Nellie Cox, because I happen to be her granddaughter, and I concede to frugality and sensibility on occasion, myself. So, not having anything better to say, I borrowed from Carol’s answer, and I said:

It’s your house, Dad.

My dad’s head snapped to attention, and he looked at me, and said, resolutely and without a second’s hesitation:

It’s our house.

After surprise, my heart was instantly warmed, because I never saw Dad’s house as our family’s house. But he does.

You see, my dad is gifted in matters of business, and he’s an achiever. He built himself up from literal dirt and true poverty, combining hard work and persistence with that serendipity he mentions. And he sees his resources, whatever they may be, as a way to benefit others. But thanks be to Nellie Cox and to God, Dad is not wasteful. And I admire him for that balance.

So, since I missed posting on both Mothers and Fathers Day, let’s just call this my July the Fourth offering, shall we?

And here’s to you, Dad. I’d certainly rather eat at Spiral Diner than eat someone rich, whatever that means. And I proudly say that you are wealthy in other ways, besides money and things.

Enjoy, Dad. You’ve earned it. And if you should choose to sell your house and move into that tiny place you talk about, it won’t change a thing for me. I’d love you just the same if you didn’t have two nickels to rub together.

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One Year

It was one year ago today that a quiet, almost invisible event cracked my world open to its molten core. I’m thankful because I needed waking and breaking, and in the aftermath, those two things certainly happened.

Yesterday, I stood in a church I never would have visited before my life-changing incident. I’ll be processing that visit for some time. But at the most basic level, for the first time ever, I didn’t feel like the oddball in the room. And I have no idea what to do with that.

Currently, I am not a church member anywhere, and I’m completely comfortable in that state.

One thing’s for sure: When I’m with Jesus, I’m home. And that can happen almost anywhere.
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Bare Bones: Three πŸ¦΄

My bare bones theology now includes that God exists as three people. I know them, and I can’t deny someone I’ve met.

There’s a father. There’s a son. And there’s a Holy Spirit. They’re all one God. Don’t ask me to explain that any further, because I can’t. But I live in here, so I should know.

I trusted Jesus Christ on faith. And then, He moved in, as the Holy Spirit, and showed me in one thousand secret ways how real He is. And those three God people started to come together for me in a cemetery, walking among the tombstones, where I rose out of ashes, alive and free. How much sense does that make? To me, not one bit.

But there you have it.
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