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Sunday, April 2, 2017

Grandaddy's Memorial Service

I was touched to hear the stories shared at Grandaddy's memorial service a few weeks ago. From some of my mother's cousins to the manager of their trailer park to my own sweet family -- each story was a tiny picture of the impact he had on those who crossed his path. 

Brian, the kids and I had come up with quite a list of things he "always" said. Some were funny, some old-fashioned, some were just distinctly "Grandaddy."  After many humorous and personal stories, I was the last to speak and closed with the two or three things he asked us over and over. I hope you are encouraged as you read:

He asked so many times over the years, “Why on earth did you and Brian take me in?”  

I answered him dozens of ways. I figured since he kept asking, he didn’t really get it. At first, I couldn’t honestly say it was because I loved him, because truthfully, I didn’t really know him.  Of course, we’d visited over the years -- he lived in a different state and my birthmother died when I was young, severely weakening that family tie. But we didn't visit terribly often and not long enough to truly know one another. So I might say, “You’d help me if I needed it, wouldn’t you?” And he’d be satisfied for a while. Then, not too many days or weeks later, he’d ask something along the same lines again.  By the end of those 12 years, my answer could honestly be “because I love you.” 

I got to know him and I loved him.  

I learned that even though he barely finished 11th grade, he was very, very smart.  I learned that we both enjoyed Southern cooking and fresh cotton candy.  I learned that he could fix just about anything. That he was comically-frugal when it came to spending money on himself and surprisingly generous when it came to the family.  He told some really wild tales of what his life was like before he met Grandmother. Many can’t be repeated in mixed company. And he told some precious stories that explained his love and devotion to her. I got to know my own mother in a way that I never had before. 

He adored the kids.  One time I needed get something done, but Ava was hungry, so I plopped her in his lap and gave him a bottle. He laughed and cried at the same time when he said he’d never even done that for his own child. I learned that after my mother died, he went through a spell of about six weeks not being able to speak.  Actual laryngitis brought on by his unspeakable heartache. I watched him read to my children when they were little and I watched him patiently listen to them read when they were just learning. When they were learning how to ride bikes with no training wheels, you can hear his voice cheering with the rest of us on the video. I learned that he was always game for an adventure — we went on road trips; we went camping and walking; we roasted hot dogs out back and marshmallows in the fireplace. He even let us set up the Wii game in his room so he could watch the kids play and he even bowled with us a time or two. 

Now, I’m not saying everything was always moonbeams and rainbows.  Anytime, you share a house with someone, there’s bound to be conflict and troubled spots and we had our share. In fact, some things were very, very hard. But if there were times he ever thought he stepped out of bounds or hurt my feelings, he would apologize through tears the next day. These are things you do for people you love. You go through the troubled spots, apologize when you need to and move on to the next adventure together.

So by the end of 12 years, I could genuinely say, "Because we love you. We want you to feel loved and be well cared for and have joy in your final days. That’s why you are here. We love you." And then sometimes, when we’d leave or even just to say goodnight and “I love you,” he’d look up and say, “You do?” Like he didn’t fully believe me. I think maybe losing his parents at such a young age left him longing for constant reassurance of love.

As Brian said mentioned in his remarks, Grandaddy became a Jesus follower in his mid-90s. and along the same lines, over the years, he would ask about the love and forgiveness of Jesus. If he asked us this once, he asked a dozen times, “Does the Bible really say we’re forgiven of ALL our sins?”  

"Yes, Grandaddy. Once and for all. Forever. Forgiven forever.  God loves you that much. Nothing you’ve done can make Him love you less." It was really hard for him to believe.

At the end of Romans, the Apostle Paul asks, "Can anything separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or are threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is our through Christ, who loves us."

It's a great reminder that no matter how people might fail us, God's love never will.

Some of the words to the last song Darrell’s going to sing are about being revived again - asking for our hearts to be filled with love.  We ask those things so that we can show love to any and all who are put around us. Even when it’s hard and even when they need a lot of convincing.

Whether we’re 3 or 103, one of the main things we desire in this world is to know that we are loved. To truly believe we are loved. Well, Grandaddy was loved and he always will be. And I hope that where he is, he’ll never doubt it again.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Don't Wait

In the last few years, when I hear that someone has died – anyone -- old, young, tragic or expected – I automatically think, “I wonder if they knew Jesus?” or “I HOPE they knew Jesus!”

That was the case yesterday when I heard that a colleague of Brian’s died in a plane crash. The man was piloting a plane for he and his daughter (a twin) – coming home from a Fall break vacation.  I had three thoughts that went through my mind so fast! 

The first took my breath away – thinking of the wife and other twin son that are left behind to figure out how to live life without their other halves.  In an instant, our lives can be upended. We think we have a routine or some idea of how today or tomorrow might go and then BAM!!!! A new normal. Nothing’s EVER the same. Pray for those terribly heartbroken souls! Pray hard.

My second thought was like I suggested: I wonder if they knew Jesus? Because, the reality is this: if they did, they are dancing in His presence as I write this. And I believe the Bible when it says – there is no more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears and they won’t even need the sun because Jesus will shine more brightly than we can imagine!  What a sight.

Here’s my third thought that threw me in a tailspin:  when am I going to move that eternity-changing question to the front of my conversations with people?

“Hi! My name is Kristin. Do you know my friend, Jesus? If you don’t, would you let me tell you about Him?”

Now, by this time, I’ve lost ¾ of you. I’m afraid some Christians (and probably me many times) have given Jesus a bad name. I lose my cool. I judge. I compare. I even swear sometimes. (Please don’t tell my mother.) I gossip. I jump to conclusions. I’m so selfish, it’s a wonder there’s room to breathe in my house sometimes.  But see, my friend Jesus, is NONE of those things!  I screw up a lot!!! But Jesus does not.

He loved me so much (even in my most dirtbag moments) that he gave everything SO THAT I could live with him forever. If you’re waiting for the God of the Bible to judge you, to punish you, to shake his finger at you – then you’ve gotten a skewed version of His story. And I’m so , so sorry if I was part of that bad retelling.

I’ve got to tell you. I have two sons whom I adore as much as a human could adore another thing. And I WOULD NEVER LET YOU HAVE THEM!!!  But, this Jesus…he willingly obeyed his Daddy to save me. To save them. To save you. SO THAT – we could live with Him forever. All of us. Forever.

I know there are a LOT of religions in the world. And I respect so much those who are trying to find their way. But how many of them have a God who gave their only son to take our many, many failings and redeem them into a beautiful life of sacrifice and service and LOVE – above all, love?

Christianity actually repulses some. And I really get it. I heard some stories from some Jesus-followers that make me want to turn another way. But I believe they had the wrong story teller. Jesus is a God of compassion and grace and forgiveness and love – above all, love. If you’ve never heard THAT part of the story…

Hi. My name is Kristin. Can I take a few minutes and tell you about my friend, Jesus?


Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I'm kind of a stickler about seat belts. Ask my friends and they'll tell you I don't bend the rules much when it comes to who sits in the front, which kid is in which forward-facing, lap-belted or latched booster or highback seat with or without headrest.  It matters. It's important. It can save my babies if we're in a terrible accident.

My kiddos and I have spent many, many hours in the car in their young lives between traveling to visit out-of-town family, to and from Granddaddy's doctor appointments and our many fun outings too.  They know the seatbelt drill so well that I sometimes laugh when Brian hops in to drive and asks, "Is everybody buckled?"  Of course they're buckled....they've been buckling since they were born.

So when a lady saw Ava out of her seat belt in our Excursion this morning, she rolled down her window to flail her hands and yell at me "to get those kids in seatbelts!!!!!"  I kind of came unglued.  We were on the highway by then, so I couldn't yell back my side of the story. I find that some of my most anxious, angry or heartbroken times in my life are when I feel like I'm doing the absolute best that I can and it's still not good enough for...fill-in-the-blank....Brian, my kids, myself or the lady in the van behind me.

If I had time to flail my hands and scream back, I would've said something like this:

Thank you for showing concern, but you don't know the rest of the story.  You see, we have a recently adopted son who occasionally gets aggressive while he's in his car seat and will lash out at whoever sits next to him.  After he repeatedly smacked, hit and pulled the ponytail of my 7-year old daughter, I finally told her (while we were at a full stop at a red light,) to climb to the safety of a back row seat. 

That's what the lady saw. But there's so much more to life than what we see. People, sometimes you just need to say, "I'm sure they're doing the best they can." Or, if you must intercede, could you please start with, "Can you tell me the rest of your story?"

So that lady did teach me a lesson today. It just had nothing to do with seat belt safety.

More listening. Less screaming parenting advice from the window at 35 MPH.  Point taken.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mama's Version of "I Spy"

I just laid little Yobie down for a much needed nap. Though I'm pretty sure I needed it as much as he did. As I begin my usual struggle with ought vs. want, I begin my own version of "I Spy."

I spy the coin jar that's still on the floor from digging out popcorn money for the kids this morning. I ought to put that away.

I want to read my book.

I spy the wrestling t-shirt and medal still laying on the table from this Chase's nightly wrestling camp this week, plus a stack of library books. I ought to put those in his room.

I want to take a nap.

I spy the kitchen floor that's needed a good mopping for a few days now. I ought to sweep and mop it.

I want to take a long, hot bath.

I spy half a dozen miscellaneous toddler toys and books strewn about the foyer, living room and kitchen. I ought to put those away.

I want to have a cup of coffee and some of my Aunt Betty's peanut butter fudge with a friend. ANY friend.

I spy my own stack of books on this end table: a Bible and a devotion book. I ought to spend some time there.

I want to WANT to spend more time there.

I could go on with all the oughts -- dishes in the sink, a pile of mated socks on my bed, five days' worth of mail stacked by the computer, four boxes of Christmas decorations looming just outside the storage room door, piles of other things looming just INSIDE the storage room door blocking the way for previous boxes, garage needs to be swept, and the front walk needs to be shoveled. 

The list of oughts is long, varied and never-ending. My list of wants rotates among the aforementioned items and also is never-ending.

If you're hoping this ends with something profound, you'll be disappointed. 

I COULD say, "Inch by inch, everything's a cinch." Putting a few things away will make a big difference.
I COULD say, "If I spent time with Jesus, then everything else will fall into perspective."
I COULD say, "Nap now while you have the chance."  The rest will still be there when you wake up.

The truth is, I spent some time on Jimmy Fallon facebook page and actually smiled a little to myself and even laughed out loud a time or two. Just keeping it real, people!

And now I hear the baby.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Arnold Memory Book 2013

Click here to view the 2013 Arnold Memory Book.

Here's hoping you'll be a part of our 2014 year in review!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Traditions

In my elementary-school years, I could set a clock by our Christmas traditions. (Go back to a favorite memory of delivering presents with my Dad here.) On Christmas Eve, we spent the afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa's (where the tree had large, multi-colored lights), then off to 5:00 children's Mass at St. James.  Then we'd spend the rest of the evening just across the street at my mom's parents' (where the tree always had silver icicles!) I'll always remember the peppermint sugar sticks Mom Elmore put in a fresh orange as a treat.  Then the next morning, we'd find that Santa had come and we'd have to open up quick and then clean up quick before both sides of the family came to have a country ham breakfast and spend the day at our home. 

Now that I have my own children and we don't live so close to the grandparents, we've come up with our own traditions. (Mostly stolen ideas from friends!)  For one thing, Santa brings the kids a box of super-sweet, sugary cereal each year -- one of their favorites! Another is that we let the kids sleep in our room on Christmas Eve. They think it's really fun, but we really do it to keep them all in one spot so we can go in for surprises together. I don't want to miss ONE look of joy! I remember sitting on the steps when we were young waiting for Mom and Daddy to get their coffee before we were allowed to go in the living room. I've kept this part of Christmas intact!

We have other traditions, but I recently stumbled upon a writing assignment of Sammie's on this very topic.  I'm so happy that these have found meaning to her already. Enjoy a couple of other traditions in her own words. I know I did!

Holiday Traditions

Every Christmas, we have our own special traditions. the first tradition is every Christmas Eve, we always have yummy Chinese food. We get sweet and sour chicken, steamed dumplings and kung pao chicken. It's a fun tradition because it's delicious.

Another fun tradition is we hide the pickle. We hide a lime-colored glass pickle ornament in the tree and whoever finds it first gets to open the first present. Families around the world have made this tradition for many years. A couple of my friends said they do this every year too. It's very interesting and fun to see who finds it.

The last tradition is we put baby Jesus in the manger. In our large nativity set, there's a dirty manger for baby Jesus. Before the Christmas holiday, we wrap Jesus up and put him under the tree. On Christmas morning, the youngest in the family gets to place him in the manger. This is a valuable and precious tradition because it represents our families Christian religion.

As pleased as I am that she loves these things. I hope that being with family is the most important and meaningful tradition of all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Eyob's American Name is Joseph

It took some discussion for us to decide on it, but there it is: Joseph.
It’s a family name on both sides of the family for one thing. I LOVE that!
And for another, like Eyob (which means Job, as you may recall) it’s a very solid Bible name.  In fact, the very morning after we had discussed Joseph as a possibility, I ran into a friend. I’d been lamenting about some traumatic adoption stories I’d read – if I haven’t mentioned, adoption is a broken process in so many ways. She came to tell me she’d been thinking about me and wanted to encourage me with a story from the Old Testament. You guessed, the one about Joseph.

You see after the gorgeous coat and before he was named second in command in all of Egypt, he’d undeservedly landed in jail. But when he had the chance to talk about that time what Joseph said was, “Evil was planned against me, but God used those plans for the good.” I’m not one to get all goose-prickly, but I did in that moment! It’s one of the BEST stories of the Old Testament. Take a look, if you’ve never read it.
Since Sammie was little, Joseph and his coat of many colors has been a favorite story in our home. (Thank you, Donnie Osmond.) 
Also, I find it interesting as we come upon this Christmas season to remember that Jesus’ earthly father was named Joseph.
I had the joy of singing a duet at a Christmas Eve service a few years back. I had heard the song “Mary, Did You Know?” plenty of times before. This songs mixes that favorite with one I hadn’t heard called “It Wasn’t His Child.”  Julianne Hough and Phil Vassar recorded it several years ago -- Youtube it for yourself – it’s so worth it. But here are the lyrics for that part of the song – maybe you can see why it touched me so then and now:
He was her man, she was his wife.
And late one winter night, he knelt by her as she gave birth.
But it wasn’t his child.
And still he took him as his own,
And as he watched him grow, he brought him joy.
He loved that boy,
But it wasn’t his child.
It wasn’t his child.

Like a father he was strong and kind,
And I believe he did his best.
It wasn’t easy for him. He did all he could.
He grew up with his hands in wood.
And he died with his hands in wood.
It was God’s child.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the lamb

He was her man, she was his wife.
And late one winter night, he knelt by her as she gave birth.
But it wasn’t his child.
It was God’s child.

If you’ve never read that story, it’s one of the BEST stories in the New Testament. Then, read the rest. It has a great ending.
Merry Christmas, everyone!