Katie, Colton, Conner & Jeff

Katie, Colton, Conner & Jeff
My soul mate, Jeff, and Katie, Colton and Conner, the three gifts from God that call me "Mom"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11 -- Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

There are moments in life that stay with us forever.  Happy moments, such as being baptized, or the birth of our children, or our marriage.  Days filled with laughter and happiness, that we carry in our hearts always.  Sad moments, such as losing a loved one, betrayal by a friend, or devastated dreams; broken hearts and tear-stained cheeks.  Then there are moments that change us forever.  There are those events that we know will never allow life to return to its former state; those moments that shake us to our core and cause us to question.  Why?  How?  Questions only to be followed by sorrowful "if onlys" and "what ifs," that would never be fully answered.

September 11, 2001 was such a day, and the horrific events of the day were such events.  All of us, who were old enough to fully experience that day, know the gut-wrenching pain felt on that day.  It was a day when we saw the magnitude of horror that man could do to a fellow man, and on that day, we saw hope in the sacrifice that men and women did for their fellow brothers and sisters.

All of us who remember the day so well, also well remember where we were when, as Alan Jackson so descriptively wrote, "the world stopped turning".  I was in a car, heading to our office in Franklin.  The car radio's music was silenced, as news of a plane crashing into one of New York's World Trade Center towers was announced.  There was confusion, and question on the air.  As I continued my drive south, I thought about the people on the plane, and wondered if there were any survivors.

By the time I reached the office, there was a group of co-workers huddled around a computer screen.  I remember Jeff telling me that a second plane had hit the second tower of the World Trade Center, and there were more planes believed to have been highjacked.  The nation was on emergency alert.  This was a terror attack on American soil.

Unsure of how the events of the day would continue to unfold, Jeff sent me back north, to get the children.  He said he would feel more comfortable if we were all at home together to ride out the horror of the day.  So, I packed up my work things, and got back in the car, just as news of the crash at the Pentagon aired.

As I drove back toward Nashville, I felt numb.  News of the towers falling seemed surreal.  How could these huge towers just fall?  How many people were trapped?  People were actually jumping?  How could this be?

I remember arriving at the boys' school, along with many other parents.  I collected two very surprised little boys -- Colton in 2nd grade, and Conner in pre-school.  I shielded them from the news as much as possible, saying we just decided to have a day at home together.  We picked up Katie, and got home by late morning.  As we ate lunch, I purposely kept the television off.  I somehow wanted the innocence that my children felt to last, although I knew it could not.

By the time that Jeff got home, we put a movie on for the children in the playroom, and we went to the other end of the house to get an update.  The news was unbelievable.  We had friends in New York with MetLife, and no one could get any information on their statuses.

Jeff and I were glued to the television, when we realized that we were not alone.  Six little eyes were behind us.  The innocence of their childhood was changed.  We carefully and generally explained that something bad had happened, and that many people were hurt.  I remember Colton's little face, asking me such a poignant question -- "Mommy, why would anyone want to hurt other people?"  It was almost too much to take, and I remember just hugging him and crying.  Little Conner was too young to understand, but he clung to me tightly, as well.  Even Katie understood that something was very wrong.  It was as if Jeff and I just wanted to cocoon our little family away from the rest of the world. 

By evening, prayer vigils had been set across the country, and the five of us headed to Madison Church of Christ.  I remember so clearly the faces, blank with shock; the tears; the sobs; the holding hands; and the prayers.

The days following were filled with hope, as survivors were found in the rubble.   The days were filled with happiness of finally hearing from so many of our friends in New York.  The days were filled with immense sadness of the reality of the loss of that day.  The days were filled with fear of what would come, as a result.

Yes, 9/11/01, was a day that we were forever changed, as a nation and as individuals.  It was a day that brought us together as a nation and as individuals.  It didn't matter the color of one's skin, or the lifestyle one lived, or the size of one's bank account.  We were all united, and we were all Americans.
I remember thinking that unity, love and compassion were probably some of the very few positives that had come from the tragedy.

So now, fifteen years later, we remember.  For some, it is a daily struggle to continue living without loved ones that perished that day.  For some, today is a hateful reminder of such massive loss.  For many, it should be a day to remember that unity that the tragedy inspired.  But we don't always want to remember.  Maybe we should.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day?? IDK. Maybe . . .

July 4th.  Our nation's Independence Day.  So much more than fireworks, cook-outs and outings on the lake.  The day that the American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and declared their independence from Great Britain.

But what is independence?  Simply defined, independence is freedom from outside control or support.  So, in reality, is independence -- whether on a whole, or individually, truly attainable?  I don't know.   From the time we are born, we are (hopefully) learning various forms of independence.  From learning to walk unassisted to learning to talk and dress ourselves, our dependence upon others lessens -- or does it?  Again, I don't know.

Humans are, by nature, self-centered creatures, and that nature often is dependent upon other people or other things. We want what we want, when we want it.  Think of a baby.  He cries because he's hungry, and he wants food now.  He screams because he is wet, and he wants a dry diaper now.  He wails because he wants attention, and he demands it now.  Of course, we expect that from an infant, but does it really go away, as we age?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

A few days ago, I witnessed such a display of selfishness at a pool.  A sweet little girl was so happy to be enjoying an afternoon of play and fun at a beautiful, resort pool.  She splashed on the steps.  She danced to the music on the clubhouse radio.  She was having a grand time, until her mother began packing up, indicating that it was time to leave.  The sweet, charming nature of the little dark-haired girl was immediately replaced with a devilish brute of a child that screamed and stomped, "I don't want to go!"  The screaming and stomping went into a full-fledged fit, and the mother begged and pleaded with the child to calm down.  (Of course, my parenting style would have been a bit different, perhaps, truly giving the child something for which to scream; but that is another topic, for another day!)  Seeing this child in the throws of a tantrum was not pleasant, but it reminded me of how, so often, we base our happiness on others and our dependence upon them.  This child was dependent upon a mother who had chosen a time to leave the pool.  The little girl knew she couldn't stay there alone, but rather, would try to dissuade her mother to remain.  She was exerting her independence in the only way that she knew.

Is this really so different than our actions, sometimes, as adults.  We want what we want when we want it, and it is usually NOW!  Although, hopefully we do not throw tantrums (right!), we do often resort to a variety of tactics to get our way.  We are also dependent upon things, people, addictions, whims, desires.  You name it, and we are dependent upon it.  Our happiness depends on a good job; a handsome boyfriend; a fast car; a strong, investment portfolio; an Ivy-league education; the proverbial house with a white-picket fence.  We thrive when we are able to keep up with the Joneses, or the Browns, or the Kardashians -- whoever the familial flavor of the month currently might happen to be.   So, if our happiness and livelihoods are so dependent upon such, are we truly ever independent?  I would say, no.

Some dependence can be healthy.  I depend upon my husband for so much.  He is my best friend; he's the father of my children; he's the main financial provider for our family.   He also depends upon me.  It's a partnership.  I depend upon my friends, and they, in turn, rely on me.  It's what we do -- we "do life" together.  I depend upon my church family, and we hold tight during troubled times.  A "village" can take on many forms, but villagers depend upon one another.

As I think of this Independence Day for our country, I am sad.  I'm sad because I still believe that we live in the greatest country in the world; however, this country has declared its independence from God in so many ways.   So many of us in this country have simply pushed God aside.  We live by our own rules, and God's way is seen as old fashioned and outdated.  So many of us have lost any perception of a need for God.  We seek to be free to do what we want, and to be whoever we want to be.  It's our right.  It's our freedom and our perceived independence, and it's in those freedoms and liberties, that many have become liberated from God.

In contrast, true freedom or independence comes only in a dependence in God.  Things will fade, rust, and lose usefulness.  People will disappoint, desert, or even die.  We will often fail ourselves miserably.  We simply cannot keep all of the balls in the air -- no matter how much we pretend to be in control of every minute of every day of our lives.  It is only when we gain a total dependence upon God that we can finally gain the freedom and independence we truly desire.

So, tonight, on this 4th of July, I am indeed thankful to be a citizen of this great United States.  It is a blessing; but leaders flounder; governments fail; and countries fall. I'm more thankful to have the freedom that only comes from total dependence upon the Father.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Waves of Sorrow on Shores of Peace

There is nothing more soothing and calming to my soul than to sit by the ocean, watching the tides roll in and back out again.  Each wave is unique.  Some waves crest quickly, and come in with a soft whisper.  Others build slowly, pounding with a sudden climax, reaching far up into the shore.  The ebb and flow of the waters never stops.  These have exited since creation, and will continue until God chooses to end this world.  

Yesterday, we visited a local congregation to hear a preacher friend speak there.  It was a great lesson, and one specific thing touched my heart.  He noted that all of us have a “hole” in our heart.  This hole may have come from a past hurt or loss.  It may have come from guilt.  It may simply be emptiness.  From where?  We do not really know.  These “holes” often become such voids that our lives become very challenging.   Our friend mentioned that these holes could only be filled by a relationship with Jesus.  What a remarkable thought.  Only the Savior can provide the fulfillment to such voids in our lives.

This year has been a particularly sorrowful season.  From the loss of a precious young woman, that I loved as my own child; to the death of a good friend and colleague through a senseless disease; to the suicide of a young man, who saw death as the only way to escape the pain of this life; to wonderful parents and friends simply struggling to face the hurts from it all.  Simply trying to make sense of the sorrow.  Simply trying to find some peace.  Simply trying to go on.

Waves of sorrow crashing down on us can paralyze.  Hurt can overwhelm.  Pain can physically sicken.  Grief can cause anger, doubt and fear.  Those waves of sorrow are much like the ocean waves.  Each one, unique in a sense.  Each one, with its own set of circumstances.  Each one, breaking our hearts.

Yet, when we have a relationship with the Lord, those waves do not drown us.  They truly may pour over our spirits, but they do not flood out our faith.  Those waves crash upon us, and they beat us, and they hurl us on jagged rocks of questions that may never have answers.  Those waves of sorrow have existed for most of time.  From Eve realizing that her oldest son had murdered his brother; to Job’s imploring cries for mercy in his infirmities; to Mary watching her beloved Son pierced with nail and hung on a cross.  And . . . they will continue until God chooses to send our Jesus back to earth. 

But, to a Christian, those waves don’t define our lives.  Jesus is there to help, to rescue, and to fill those "holes" created by life's sorrows.  Those waves don't defeat us because we live – or should live – on the shores of peace.  Peace, in believing that we don’t truly see the “big picture.”  Peace, in understanding that this life – and all of its sorrow – is temporary.  Peace, in the hope for tomorrow – and for eternity.   Peace, in knowing that God is in control.  

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Soldier's Effect on a Little Girl

So much of the significance of Memorial Day in the United States has become lost in cook-outs, boating on the lake, and fun times, noting the "official kick-off" to summer.  In my opinion, we, as a country, do not show proper respect and honor to the men and women who serve in our military.  Opinions creep in about our personal feelings about war; what we think is right or wrong; placing ourselves in a position of judge and jury on so many issues, of which we have no personal knowledge or experience.  We critique those who have served, and the wars and conflicts in which they served.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but in times of war, many times difficult decisions have to be made.  Certainly, there are numerous wars, in looking back, that might have been avoided -- perhaps, should have been avoided.  But Memorial Day, should not be a time for accusations, protests, or defacing military monuments.  Memorial Day is a time for remembrance of those men and women who have served this country -- for YOU; for ME; for all of us.

Throughout my fifty-one years, I have known many that have served in the military.  My uncle L.T. Eastland, served in WWII, and I am honored to have his Purple Heart medal.  My father-in-law, E.L. Sweet served in the Pacific during WWII.  My father was drafted for the Korean War, but became ill at Fort Jackson, SC, receiving an honorable discharge and never going to Korea.  My uncle, Robert Blaylock, served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.  I still have the beautiful dolls that he sent me, from the area following the war.  

I don't think I really ever grasped the true magnitude of the respect and honor due those who have served us, until I visited Arlington National Cemetery a few years ago.  The hills of military graves roll as far as the eye can see.  It is a quiet place for respect and remembrance.  It was especially moving to me because my sweet friend, Monika, had buried her precious son at Arlington, only weeks before I was there.  Ryan Maddux Lawrence was a dynamic young man with a bright life ahead of him; however, his willingness to serve, and his love for this country, changed the journey of his life -- and the lives of those who loved him.

As a very little girl, I did not really understand the aspect of war.  In the late 1960s, I saw black and white images of soldiers with guns, fields of rice, and Asian people in strange hats on television.  I saw images of young protestors that were against the war.  I heard the slogan, "Make Love, Not War," but I truly did not understand what it all meant.  However, I did understand that the war meant that a handsome young man from our church was going away, and everyone was very concerned about it.

I remember a beautiful young woman named Dottie that was dating a handsome boy named James Edmund Peay.  They were young -- in their early 20s, and so happy.  Dottie was a teacher, and they were going to get married one day.  I remember hearing my parents talk about a "draft number" coming up, and a quick marriage, only a couple of weeks before the young man, "Jim," left for army camp.  I remember the young girl coming to church alone, and I remember the happiness being gone from her face.

I also remember my mother crying one day in the kitchen.  I remember driving to Franklin with my parents, very quiet.  I remember standing in a line, down a sidewalk, at a house, close to the square in Franklin.  I remember going up the front steps and holding my mother's hand.  I remember the darkness of the house, and the muffled conversation.  I remember hugging my daddy's leg because this place made me feel strange.  I remember him picking me up and catching a glimpse of Dottie in the next room.  She was crying and wearing black.  I remember getting closer to her, and seeing Jim, lying in a box beside of her.  As we got closer, I could see him clearly.  His skin seemed darker, and there was a netting over his face and hands.  He wore a uniform.  As Mother and Daddy talked with Dottie, I remember looking at Jim's hands.  They were covered with scrapes and scratches.  I remember staying with my grandmother a day or so later, while my parents went to his funeral.  I remember their sadness, telling the young man's bride, Dottie, had worn her wedding dress at his funeral. 

I was not quite four years old, according to records that I found today online.  James Edmund Peay was born in 1945, and he died on January 7, 1968.  He was twenty-two years old.  For me, to be only three and a half years old on that cold, winter day in 1968, those memories have always been with me.  I always knew that this young man paid the ultimate sacrifice, but today, seeing his record -- and photograph -- online, truly made me remember.  Dottie continued to be at church following his death, but eventually, her life took her elsewhere.  I often wondered what happened to her.  I wondered if she ever remarried or had children.

So, this morning, that young couple came to my mind.  With technology, I searched online, and found some records on that young man from Franklin, Tennessee.  I also read a testimony of a fellow soldier, stating that Jim was the first Christian influence he experienced in the service.  Wow!  What a legacy


I also found an article from 2014, where a memorial bridge in Williamson county was named in his honor.  According to the article, Dottie had a different last name, so it is my prayer and hope that she found happiness in her life, following such a tragedy.


So, today, I thank U.S. Army, Specialist, James E. Peay for his ultimate sacrifice for this country; for YOU, and for ME. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

For Lexi

Writing has become such an outlet for me.  When I'm happy, I write.  When I'm sad, I write.  I just write. 

This week has been one of the hardest in my life.  On Tuesday, I sat with one of my dearest friends in an absolute nightmare.   I held her hand and rubbed her back, as life support measures were removed from her sweet nineteen year old daughter.  I saw first hand the worst fear that any parent has, and it will be with me for the rest of my life.

This baby girl was so wanted.  She was so loved.  She was such a blessing.  I hope she knows the effect that she had on the world.  The lives that she touched in her short time on this earth.

Tonight we will celebrate the life of Faith Alexis Wade.  There will be tears.  There will be laughter.  There will be unbelievable sadness, and there will be joy.  We have love because of FAITH.  We have hope because of FAITH.  Our sweet FAITH may be gone, but our faith in a loving Father, our hope in Jesus Christ, and our love for one another will sustain us in the coming days.

So, Lexi, this is for you.  Your "Darlena" wrote this the night you left us, earlier this week.  

“In a While”
(For Lexi)

So tonight, as the rain pours down,
My heart is broken; my tears fall to the ground.
The thought of you being gone is just too surreal. 
I don’t know what to think.  I don’t know what to feel.

The darkness came so quickly, and the sun went away.
What I wouldn’t give for a small glimpse of yesterday.
There you’d be -- that little girl with flowing, strawberry curls,
China skinned legs, with lacy socks, adorned with beautiful pearls.

Sitting sweetly in the church pew, up on your daddy’s lap --
Or snuggled close with your precious mommy, taking a little nap.
You’d be splashing in the backyard, or shopping at the mall;
Trick or treating in the park, or at camp, playing whiffle ball.

So many things left unsaid, undone.
So many things finished, really before they’d begun.
Nineteen years to be part of my heart –
Loving you from today, all the way back to the start.

That little girl, with those big, bright eyes, grew up and went away.
Oh, for just one more hour of hugs – Oh, for just one more day. 
But life was just too much for you – Too much for you to take.
Too hard to keep under control -- The ups and downs of life, they took their toll

Who knew the “best day of your life” would simply be your last –
There would be no more time for a future, but only memories of the past. 
So I will trust that there’s a reason that God took you home –
I’ll trust you’re at peace, and you are not alone.

You are with all the loved ones and friends that have gone on before –
They were waiting to welcome you at the waves of Heaven’s shore –
Where there is no more pain, and there is no more grief.
Where there’s only perfect joy and welcoming relief.

And so I stay here, left behind, without you, baby girl.
I’m not sure how to go on living, without you in this world.
But I know that I will somehow, because you will always be in my heart.
And one day in Heaven, I know then we will never more part.

So until then, my angel, soar high and be free.
This earth’s chains are gone – you’ve entered eternity --
So sit and talk with God, and smile your pretty smile –
And know that I’ll see you again, in a while.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Today (A Mother's Perspective)

Last night, I dreaded for the night to end because I knew it was the last night my oldest son would be home – for a while.

Last night, I washed his clothes and helped him get his stuff together.

Last night, I packed a cooler and bag full of his favorite foods.

Last night, I fixed him a grilled cheese and bologna sandwich, because that’s been his favorite since he was a little boy.

Last night, we sat together, talked and laughed – again, just like we have since he was a little boy.

Last night, we binge watched the NetFlix series, Breaking Bad, that he got us hooked on over the holiday break.

Last night, I saw the same face of a little, red-haired boy, from the past, in the face of a tall, red- haired man sitting across the room from me.  

Last night, I said “good night,” and watched him go up the steps like so many times before.

Last night, I slept soundly, knowing he, and his younger brother, were both upstairs in their beds. 

Today, I got up and folded his laundry and packed away his stuff.

Today, I fixed him a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, and sausage crescents – because those are his favorites.

Today, I advised him on a political science response paper and his class schedule for the semester.

Today, I fought back the tears, as the morning passed, and it was time for him to leave.

Today, I remembered that I had given him roots, and I had also given him wings. 

Today, as he left, I hugged a grown man, but I held my little boy. 

Today, I sent a piece of my heart with him, as he headed back to school.

Today, I thanked God that He chose me to be that young man’s mother.

Today, I prayed for God to protect him and guide him, until he’s home again. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

See you, later, Nila

Tonight we honored an amazing woman.  Tonight we praised God for her life.  Tonight we loved on her sweet family.  Tonight many of us wore the color purple, her favorite.  Tonight we did not say goodbye.  Tonight we said -- "See you, later, Nila".

There will never be another Nila Sherrill.   Everyone has their "Nila Story," and many were tonight in remembrance.  But, last June, many were also shared personally with Nila.  The Madison women's ministry had chosen to have a celebration service in Nila's honor.  Several were asked to share stories about memories, friendships, and sisterhood.  I was not able to be at Madison that day, so I shared mine in a written note.  I'm so glad that I had this opportunity to share my thoughts -- and to give my thanks -- to this Godly woman.

My Nila Story

Recently, our youth minister at Donelson, had parents of seniors come up with one word that described our upcoming graduate.   I thought that was such a neat idea, and it really took some time to really come up with only one word to describe Conner.   In thinking of you, Nila, so many words could fit.  You probably have no idea what a blessing you have been in the lives of so many.  As well, you have always been such an encourager to so many, including myself.  You have been an example of a Christian wife to your beloved Jerry, and an amazing mother to my sweet friend, Lin.  You are so loved by your grandson, Zach, and he would beam this year in school each time we spoke of you – which was often. 

Again, so many years of fond memories, and so many words that could describe you, my sweet friend.  In really thinking back over the twenty years of our friendship though, the one word (although hyphenated) that comes to my mind would be “child-lover”.  As educators, we certainly have to love the children with whom we have contact – even on those trying days.  But you have loved generations of children in and out of the context of a school.  Children have been drawn to you because they know that you love and accept them.   They have also known that you have expectations and rules for them, that you expect them to follow. 

You have always made children feel so special.  I remember several years ago when you came and read a Christmas story for my class at Goodpasture.  Your creativity and imagination showed through, and the children were captivated. 

I remember you coming to me in 1998 or 1999, and asking me if Colton could be part of one of your Christmas programs at Madison.  Having been part of Summer Spectacular for many years, I was worried.  Colton was only four or so, and I knew how intense some of those practices could be.  I guess intense is the right description.  You could, honestly, be a little scary, at times.  We've all seen the "Nila look," and we all KNOW what that look means.   (Yes, we are both perfectionists, so I get it!  I can give those looks too!) 

At any rate, you assured me that he could do it, so we asked him.  I’ll always remember how he was immediately drawn to you, and fell in love with “Ms. Nila”.  He wanted to do his part right, and of course, he did!  You made that little boy feel like the most important person on the planet, and this mom has never forgotten that.  Neither has he.  Although he is now in Knoxville, he asks about you often.  I spent today looking through about fifty picture albums to find this treasure of you and him from the night of the play.  He made sure that he got the perfect corsage for "Ms. Nila". 


Thank you Nila, for loving children.  You have made such an impact on so many.

Love you dearly –


No, there will never be another Nila Sherrill.  Nila loved people, and people loved her.  As her brother ended the service, he commented that Nila had accomplished "THE BIG TWO" in life.  What BIG TWO?  She had loved the Lord with all her heart, soul and mind, AND she had loved her neighbor -- all of us -- as herself.   What a lady!  What a legacy!  What a love!  See you later!