Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Long Absence

When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I didn't realize how prophetic the name of it would be. Since my last post (oh so long ago) I have come to realize the true meaning of Traveling Through.
We are traveling through this life, looking toward a better place, a better home, a better way.

On June 17, 2012 I had a heart attack. It was my 2nd confirmed heart attack and I knew right away what it was. Just as the time before it was one clogged artery, everything else was good. However, this time I had to make the changes I had refused to make years before. So I did.

You would think that I would have had plenty to live for with the first one. An awesome husband, 5 beautiful children, other friends and family. That time my mom saved me. She forced my stubborn butt to go to the hospital. But I couldn't save her. The following year, 2005, Mom died of cervical cancer. That was after my Uncle Kenny, Mom's younger brother, had died of a heart attack in July of 2004. In 2006, Grandma joined them in heaven.

The fact is we are all just passing through. The Lord says our lives are but a vapor, and while it seems like a long time to us, it really isn't. As we grow older, time seems to speed up, but the reality is that it is just our awareness of the shortness of our time here on earth. We spend our younger days and years trying to build something, trying to raise our kids, and we spend our older years realizing we were too focused on things that don't matter.

So as you read this, think about what you deem important. If it doesn't include loving your spouse, your kids, your parents, or others then re-think your priorities. Take my word for it-we are just traveling through.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Joys

I know, it has been awhile. Too long. No excuses, just neglectful.

2011 had so many ups and downs, psychologically, emotionally, physically. But just like every other year we made it through.

For us it will be considered the best year ever because of one thing-our first grandchild! Bryan James Berry was born to our son Ricky and his beautiful wife, Jennifer, on December 7. That day is significant for so many reasons-Pearl Harbor Day is foremost in people's minds. For Chris and I it was the day we originally planned on getting married. We ended up getting married November 12 because the preacher who was going to do our wedding had a disagreement with the preacher whose church we were going to use. Great example, right?!

But December 7 is significant to Ricky and Jennifer for another reason. Ricky is a youth pastor at a small church in Crandall. Last February one of Ricky's youth died in a gun accident. Ricky and Jennifer were especially close with him because they had both grown up with him as well. Small towns are famous for these kind of things. The first Bryan had also dealt with many hard knocks in his young life. His parents divorced when he was young, his father constantly threatening and abusing his mother even afterward. His older brother fell into his father's sphere, and left under bad circumstances. Then his mother was diagnosed with cancer and fought the good fight for a couple of years before she gave in to it. Bryan was left with his elderly grandparents. Six months after his mother's death, his grandfather died. So by the time he was fifteen, Bryan only really had his grandmother. Through it all, this Bryan kept a smile on his face and a sense of humor. His last paper for English told the world he knew he was loved by the people around him and by the Lord. He was excited about the future. Six months later, Bryan was looking at the gun his grandfather kept to protect him and his mother from Bryan's dad, and...well you can figure out the rest.

As a mother, I was worried about how this kind of grief would affect Ricky and his walk with the Lord. Looking back, I can say that Ricky and Jennifer grew, actually they leaped, into the role God wanted them in to help Bryan's friends and the rest of the youth group. The small group of kids grew and through their shared grief they learned to trust in the Lord.

In March, Ricky and Jennifer found out they were pregnant. Due date was Thanksgiving Day. They worked hard to help the kids and put up with some really ridiculous behavior and expectations from their pastor. Thanksgiving Day came and went. Finally the doctor decided they needed to induce on December 6. Through the night, Ricky stayed with Jennifer. Still no baby. The next day, all day. Finally the decision was made to do the c-section at 9 pm on December 7. The surgery was quick and there were complications. We almost lost Jennifer. But she came through and is doing well. Bryan James is named after the Bryan whose birthday he shares. Yes, December 7 would have been the first Bryan's 17th birthday. The Lord replaced sadness with joy and gave us all a beautiful little boy to love and cherish and tell about the special young man he was named after. Our Bryan's middle name isn't after anyone in particular, James was given to him because that is Ricky's favorite book of the Bible. So our Bryan has a special angel in heaven and is protected by the Lord. He is highly favored. We know this because Bryan's birthmark was a cross on his forehead.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Unconditional Love

I wrote the following about three years ago. This slice of life nugget won my husband and I dinner for two at a French restaurant in Dallas. Our daughter, Tresa Lynn, is now 20. She has Down Syndrome. She has given all of us incredible joy over the years, and continues to be an inspiration to us and many others.

I couldn’t believe I was finally bringing her home. This beautiful baby girl was finally in my arms and away from all the nurses, doctors, and more importantly, all the tubes she had lived with for her first two weeks. After four boys, I finally had my girl.
                Her large round blue eyes looked at me quizzically from out of the heavy yellow blanket I had wrapped her in while we waited for the bus to take us home. She was going to meet her brothers for the first time. With her little face and pixie nose she didn’t look like she had Down Syndrome, the tests said that. I flashed back to the day I found out I was pregnant for the sixth time in eight years and the prayer that I said. “Lord, please give me a girl who will be a little girl forever.” They say you get what you pray for, little did I know then what that meant for our lives.
                Grief is the first step in the process of having a special needs child. Grief for the loss of the child you thought you would have because that child doesn’t exist. But grief turned inward can become self-pity, and that does no one else any good. The immediate concern was getting home with this precious gift and let God work.
                The temperature was in the 40’s in that little German town, as we waited for the bus. It was May 1, the second biggest holiday in that culture, so the bus schedule was different. It was an hour of waiting to board the bus. No one knew we were coming, they thought it would be only me.
                As I walked up the two flights of stairs to the army-approved apartment we lived in, my baby girl slept. She did that a lot because she had a hole in her heart. She was tiny, weighing less than 7 pounds. Compared to her brothers when they were born, she was a china doll. For what I knew at that time, she was as breakable as one.  I opened the door and walked into a room of boys-my husband and my sons were sitting in front of the television watching an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  My husband tall and blond, with a baby face that never showed age, set his guitar down against the couch when he saw me walk in, surprised. As I sat the baby carrier down in the middle of the livingroom floor, four faces looked up at me and then down at the new addition to our family. The oldest, age 7, had been so anxious to see his sister and was the first one beside her. He gently unwrapped the blanket from around her face, the other boys joining him. Our youngest boy, only 18 months old, seemed bewildered by this new little person.
                All four boys gathered around the little miracle and touching her face, her little hands, taking off the booties and checking out her toes. They touched her face, speaking in their young voices about how beautiful she was, how little she was, telling her how much they loved her, as if they knew this one would need them her whole life. Through it all my little angel slept peacefully, the poking and prodding and loving voices not disturbing the peace and joy she carried on her face.
                That was eighteen years ago, and the love, peace and joy that radiated from her face that day has not changed. The love that of her brothers  is still as deep as it was that first day home. Because of her, many people have learned what unconditional love is. She is a miracle, a gift from God. While there have been hard times and fearful times, there has always been joy. God answered a simple prayer, and brought joy into the world.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Waves of Life

In life, ebb and flow is the one constant we can count on. One day you are on the mountain, the next at the bottom of the hill. These cliche's describe just what life has been like in the last several days.

We never know when the "things of life" will pile up on us. It just happens. Before we know it, we are snowed under with issues and problems.

This last week it has been issues with people who do not like what we represent, two deaths, a friend dealing with the possible end of his son's marriage (totally unexpected and unwanted), Chris' back went out just bending over and picking up something (and this is in the parking lot as we are walking into our niece's baby shower), then this morning finding our cat sleeping eternally in the back yard. That was the one that caused me to snap.

It is normal to lose a pet, but Rowdy wasn't that old. He was 7 and so full of personality. He loved to roam the neighborhood (even though he didn't have anything left to prove-we took care of that). He also refused to drink water out of the bowl, choosing the faucet instead. And that had to be turned on a certain way, or he wouldn't drink from there either!

One of Rowdy's favorite things was to walk over to the dog's bowl after the dog was put into his bed for the night and eat a piece or two, the whole time watching the dog as he ate. Mocha would just watch him, you could almost see him saying, "Just wait until I get out of here" while Rowdy seemed to smile and saunter away with the regalness so well known to cats.

A couple of years ago, one of Rowdy's late night trysts almost got him killed. He managed to make it home and literally slept on the end of our bed for two days. We thought he was gone several times, but he lived to prowl another day, only losing an eye to whatever it was that happened.

Rowdy, you will be missed. Your 5 am yowl to be let out when we did manage to keep you home, your scratching on the window when you decided to come home at 6 am. Heaven must have a place for special kitties and puppies who give such joy. We will truly miss you!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bumps in the Road

Life in our house right now can be seen in two ways. Getting through the day or working toward a goal. Right now they are one and the same.
The goal: Get my husband through his associates degree while maintaining the standard of a high profile gospel singing ministry.
Getting through the day: keeping the house neat, helping him with philosophy, trigonometry, history, or biology; keeping my daughter's cold from going into upper respiratory infection, and finding time for me and writing and the website I have been contracted to create and maintain by the deadline.
All these things need to be handled every day. Just maintaining in a day is enough to wear you out, but then there are the bumps in the daily road that set you off schedule.
Yesterday was one of those days.
Practice was already scheduled for 5 pm. Not really a good time to have a houseful of company if you want to eat dinner before 8. But that was when everyone was available.
The first bump in the road was a dear friend who called soon after I woke up. Major crisis in her life that needed to be vented and talked through. Three hours later, no resolution to the problem, but she at least knows someone is there to listen.
Second bump in the road: my desk. It was a disaster area. Stacks of books and papers that made it impossible to work or stay on track. Solution: get a rolling file cart and organize and eliminate the clutter. Done. Still have to file the papers I put into the "to be filed" file, but at least I can work on my desk and they have a central location.
Third bump in the road: meltdown of another friend during and after practice. Had to be talked out and worked through, but it will get better. The hardest part of some situations in life is the fact that there is not a quick resolution or answer. In this one, it may take several months to get the answers, and then they may never come. In the other situation, the answers are there, feelings are hurt, truth is not important to some involved and it will result in something good going away because humans are by their very nature selfish and egotistical.
Isn't that the way we always see things? The other people are the selfish ones, it can never be us. But there are times that that is true. And sadly, in this case, the good intentions and protections of a friend in their love for the others are being twisted to look like she is the bad guy, all because they can't face the truth about themselves. A truth that has been pointed out to them previously, not accepted then either. A truth that many around them have seen and therefore moved away from them. The status symbols have become more important to them than what they know about people they have known many years. In other words, they have become lovers of self, not others.
The saying that "a leopard never changes its spots" is true in many cases. Probably most. It doesn't have so much to do with actions or behaviors as it does attitude. What that person thinks of themselves or others. Those things are formed early in life and most will carry that around for their life. They approach others with those attitudes, and they approach their image of themselves with it.
Fact is, people are selfish. It is a choice to put others above themselves. Our society no longer says "You are responsible for your own actions." Now it is "It isn't your fault." My childhood and teenage years had their share of angst that was outside the "Father Knows Best" norm, but that doesn't mean it is a good excuse for me to choose to project that onto others. I still know what is right and what is wrong and I still have to choose to embrace the decisions I make.
It is time for people to stop using the excuses man is giving them, and to start making themselves responsible for the choices in their lives.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I am deathly afraid of tornadoes. Don't ask me why, especially since I am not sure I would know one even if it were coming right at me. But as long as I can remember I have had an obsession about them.
When I was about 6, living in Monticello, Iowa, there was a night when we had three, one right after another. My sister and I had these cute little kids rocking chairs that we could sit in and watch t.v with our parents. Made us feel so special.
This particular night, though, the station kept getting interrupted with tornado information. So when they said there was a warning for our town, my parents got up and looked out the front window. Now before you say, how foolish, remember that parents don't always do the right thing 100% of the time. I was hysterical with fear. "Mommy, if there are tornadoes, we need to hide. Hurry, let's go to the basement." I said while tugging her away from the window. Kids, no matter what, don't interrupt your parents tornado watching. I kept screaming, and was showing obvious signs of being hysterical, so my mom slapped me in an effort to calm me down. Shocked me to silence is what it did.
My sister, age 3 1/2, was quietly and furiously rocking her little chair. "I'm not scared, Mommy. See!" and stood up. Her knees buckled from the fear she was trying to hold in. At about the same time, the town's tornado sirens went off, so the four of us trudged downstairs to the basement. We sat there for what seemed like a long time, listening to the muffled sirens, hearing the wind blow. While the basement was concrete (nothing like the root cellars some people had) it wasn't a very inviting place, especially when the lights went out. Suddenly the sirens stopped, the lights came back on, and the signal for the all clear was sounded (they had that in those days, too). We hadn't gotten halfway up the stairs, when the tornado warning siren went off again. Back down we go into the dark abyss, listening and waiting like before. All clear sounded again. So we trudged back up those wooden stairs. Then it happened again, before we could reach the door, the tornado siren blew one more time. The wind was harder this time, and we could hear the rain, tree branches, and maybe even debris from someone's house pelting ours. This time I wanted Mom to get my bird. "No can do." was her shaky reply. So we sat there, quite a bit longer this time, hearing the siren in the distance.
Suddenly, there was a loud crack. Instinctually we all looked up, expecting the house to lift off the foundations and to be sucked into the vortex that was obviously above our heads. Nothing. A few short minutes later, the all clear sounded again and we made it up the stairs this time.
Nothing was moved, nothing was changed. Paul and Mom went to investigate the outside of the house and try to figure out what the loud crack was. Debris lay all over the street and yard from tree limbs, but it wasn't bad.
The loud crack? The tornado had split a tree in our backyard, ten feet from the house into two pieces. That was the only damage for us that night. Through the grapevine we heard that some of our friends homes and farms on the other side of town had sustained damage and some streets were impassable, but our close call was just that. Close.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Iowa memories

Recent discussions on a facebook group, revived memories of a special time in my life. My earliest memory is of the JFK assassination. Not the act specifically, I was too young for that, but the impact on my mother. I will blog about this in the future, because today the memories of three years spent in northeast Iowa are foremost in my mind.
The thing about these particular memories is that what I experienced then has an impact on my life now. Then-exposure to the country music industry, now-heavily involved in gospel music industry locally. The exposure to the work-a-day life of a local musician then seems to make it possible for me to understand the work side of our weekend warrior status.
My memories are so much more than this, though. My parents divorced when I was five. My mom remarried soon after and with her new husband we moved to Iowa. Our first house was in Cedar Rapids. I have vague memories of the highway running in front of the house, several houses in a row. I don't remember a yard per se, but I do remember my school was across the street. Then one night, my parents packed up, and we moved to a cute little house in Monticello. It was early winter.
I loved kindergarten in Montecello. One morning I woke up to a ton of snow. Since I walked to school, and Mom didn't listen to the radio in the mornings, I bopped on out the door, ready for a great day of school. Halfway there, a neighbor called to me. "Where you going?" she asked. "To school" was my reply. "I'm sorry sweetie, there is not school today. Too much snow." I ran home crying, I wanted to go to school! My mom made it up to me by letting me do the dishes for her that day! It didn't take long for me to figure out that it wasn't a privilege!
That same year I got my first real pet, a parakeet named Lady. Since my step father was a bass player in a local country band, my younger sister and I had a babysitter every Friday and Saturday night. One Saturday we got into trouble for miscreant behavior the night before. Since the babysitter had promised not to tell our mom, it was a shock that Mom knew what we did. When I asked her how she knew, she said "A little birdie told me." Mom says that she caught me giving Lady an earful later that day. I took her literally. I just knew the bird had a big mouth!
Monticello was such a small town then, you could go just about anywhere by walking. One day, Mom chewed us out again for something we did when the sitter was there. So I decided we were going to run away. So Donna and I piled our favorite baby dolls and their clothes into our doll carriages. Right on top we each put a change of underwear and went on our way. The most important things in life. We went to the babysitter's house, but she wasn't there. She was at the swimming pool. So off we went.
Apparently our mom didn't believe us at first when we stated our intentions. A couple of hours later she realized we meant business and headed out looking for us. As we were crossing an alley headed to the pool, she pulled up in the car and caught us. Needless to say, we didn't sit really well for several days, and didn't see much of the out of doors either.
Monticello was where I got my first bike. Monticello was where we lived when three tornadoes came through town. Monticello is where we lived when there was a total eclipse. And Monticello was where we lived when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
I don't know what things are like there now, over forty years later. But it was a great place to be a kid.