Author Archives: Carla Moore

Dear Me



Sitting on my desk is a photograph that, for me, encapsulates 1993. In the kitchen of our old home in San Marcos, Texas, John is on his knees playing with four-year-old Jordan and 18-month-old Jacob. John has pulled the backs of their t-shirts over the tops of their heads. Jordan’s fading chicken pox marks are visible on his little belly, and his face wears a delighted grin. Jacob’s chubby cheeks are curved up in an uncertain smile as he reaches to push his shirt away. John has an arm around each of them, looking down and being silly. They were my world in 1993.

I vaguely remember the first World Trade Center bombing that year. I remember the Waco standoff between the FBI and David Koresh’s group of followers, and I remember Bill Clinton. But I couldn’t tell you many more of 1993’s events. My world was wrapped up in my home, my husband, and my children.

Twenty plus years have passed. I look back with a bit of embarrassment about some of the things I said and did and thought. Things that seemed so important then are now less earth-shattering. I see some improvements I’ve made and I see many that I am still working on. Each year that passes proves that life must be a journey of continual growth: in faith, knowledge, and well-doing (2 Pet. 3:17-18, Eph. 4:14-16). I hope and pray that I was receptive to the wise women around me who wanted to help me along. I still need those wise women!

Now, if I could communicate with the 25-year-old me, what would I want her to know?

Dear Carla,

You married the most amazing man (and he will just keep getting better and better!) Moving to Dripping Springs is a good decision. The internet is about to change, improve, and complicate your life all at the same time. You’re going to have another little boy in a few years (I know you want a little girl, but boys are the BEST and God knows what He is doing!)  Don’t use credit cards. Don’t despair: there will again come a day when you can grocery shop without little tagalongs. Go give Meemaw one more hug and let her see the boys again – she won’t be around much longer. Laugh with Grandma some more: Alzheimer’s disease is a thief. And here are a few more things I’d like to remind you of:

  1. Your spiritual life is in your own hands. I know you’re reading Bible stories to the boys. You’re busy preparing them for Bible class; making sure they have their little Bibles and are dressed like their Daddy. I know they climb around on your lap during worship services, needing tissues and discipline and Cheerios. I know it’s nearly impossible to hear what is being said from the pulpit. But you need to take more time to feed yourself spiritually. Yes, you have laundry and projects to finish – but they will still be there after you sit down to absorb lasting truths from His word. The boys are young, but truthfully you are still young in your own spiritual growth, and you should desire to grow just as they are growing (1 Pet. 2:2).

    Don’t be afraid to teach Ladies Bible classes. Face your fear of being separated from the boys and go with John on some mission trips. Pack them up and take them along when it’s possible – yes, they might not sleep, they might get out of their routine, and it might not be easy, but you will all grow spiritually as a family!

  2. Marriage is great. But where you are right now is sometimes difficult. Your time and attention is divided. You are busy with things that won’t seem to wait. And in your marriage relationship, you have the power to defuse silly disagreements.You can make the choiceto be too sensitive and then to become angry over trivial things. It might escalate into an argument, and then into several days of disharmony. I know that isn’t what you want! “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger,” (Prov. 15:1). “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense,” (Prov. 19:11). God wants harmony, compassion, kindness, humility, forgiveness and love in His body (Eph. 4:2-3, Col. 3:8-15) and He wants those characteristics to exist between you and John. The devil would like nothing more than to come between you – don’t give him a foothold!

    Make sure you continue to grow as a couple. Before long, the boys will start leaving home and beginning their own families and it’ll be just you and John again. You’ll miss your boys so much that you’ll ache, but you’ll be so thankful that your best friend is still by your side and you will still enjoy life!

  1. Every day with your boys is important. You’re teaching them Bible facts: the books of the Bible, the apostles, the periods of Old Testament history. Those are great, but I’d have to say it is even more important to teach and modelfor them the attitudes that God wants us to have. They may be able to recognize and refute error, but if they don’t have love it is worthless (1 Cor. 13:1-7). They may become powerful speakers and preach the truth, yet if they are harsh and critical, and unable to see their own faults, they will also be judged harshly (Matt. 7:1-5). I hope you’ll spend more time modeling godly attitudes.

    You think those little boys belong to you, but they really don’t. The Lord has only entrusted them to your care for a little while. Walk carefully with them (Eph. 5:15-16). You’re tired of hearing people say “Enjoy every moment, it goes by so fast!” But I’m here to tell you that it’s the truth. They won’t always want to sit on your lap or be rocked to sleep. And very soon the day comes when your turn is over and they want a different hand to hold. But don’t worry! Those little girls that you and John have been praying for are being taught to love and honor God. They have become amazing women who bring you so much joy and love and friendship. God is so good!

  1. Take care of your body. I know you love to cook and bake and feed John and the boys. You love to make them happy with food. But you’ve put on some weight and it’s beginning to affect your self-esteem and other areas of your life. You’re missing out on things and you don’t even know it. You won’t always be able to get around as easily as you do now. There’s still no magic weight loss pill in 2013. You need to learn to eat appropriately and be more active. Of course, you are still valuable to God – He sees your heart, not your appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). But I know you, and your self-confidence will be affected and your work will suffer. Make a few changes now and you won’t regret it.

Count your blessings, Carla! They are many. Deepen your relationship with the Lord. Strengthen your relationships. Don’t be so critical. Develop your talents. Let go of old hurts. Be more of a servant. Say “I’m sorry” more often. And be thankful!

Just Keepin’ It Real


Yesterday I told a sweet friend that her husband needed to be a preacher. We’ve known them for several years, watching them grow from early marriage to a family of five, and seeing them both mature leaps and bounds in their biblical knowledge. But she laughed a little bit (and cried a little bit) and said, “I could never be a preacher’s wife!” This made me start thinking, as I often have before: what does that really mean?

There are some people who think preachers’ wives belong in some high place on a pedestal. That we always carry a Bible tucked into our pockets (and can quote on demand) and never have an ugly, vengeful, prideful thought in our heads. Our marriages must be a haven of bliss – we’re married to a preacher, after all! We act demurely, always with dignity, and we speak just the right words at just the right moment. (These people haven’t met me!) 😉 Oh, and we never forget to clean the light switch covers and the floor behind the toilet. Twice a week! And then there are those who believe quite the opposite: preachers’ wives are hypocritical gossips who don’t control their children and spend too much money on clothes. And, they whisper, just where did that money come from, hmmm?

I’m sad that there are preachers’ wives who perpetuate both of those stereotypes. There are some who seem to enjoy being on that high pedestal, being set apart and admired. Let me tell you, I’ve seen some of the “high places” that the Bible talks about – and as they are usually cultic worship sites, I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t want to be put there. Then others absolutely rebel against the idea of having any responsibility as the wife of a preacher. “I can’t help it, I am who I am…take me or leave me!”

I can’t speak for other wives in ministry, but I don’t fit in either of those categories. But because I believe in keeping it real, I can tell you the honest truth about who I am, after 32 years of experience as a preacher’s wife. I’ve made a lot of mistakes – a LOT. Some of them carried hard consequences. More than once I’ve pretended to know more Bible than I actually did, because I wasn’t in the Word like I should have been. There have been times I’ve been full of resentment about expectations I thought were unfair; hard-hearted and unforgiving toward a fellow Christian. I’m crazy about my husband, but there has been conflict, and we’ve hurt each other. I forget to be thoughtful. Sometimes I just don’t want to assemble with the church, and I don’t exactly know what is wrong with me. I’ve been harsh and critical in my judgment of others, impatient when they didn’t think just like I did or make the same choices that I made. There are times I struggle with doubts and questions. I know this is hard to believe (⇐sarcasm, another of my flaws…) but sometimes I give my opinion when no one has asked for it! And that’s a non-exhaustive list of my flaws!

In short, I am an ordinary woman. It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am far from that perfect pedestal wife. And I think there are far more of us “ordinary woman” preachers’ wives than there are the pedestal kind. I know that God doesn’t expect my light to shine brighter than any other Christian’s light simply because I am a preacher’s wife (although I may be presented with more opportunities to shine His light.) What I have to say carries no weight of importance – only what God says. Every day I am thankful that He has forgiven me and does not remember my past. Every day now, I open His word because I love Him more than I ever have, and I want to know more about who He is. Despite my mistakes, my resentments, unforgiving attitudes, and doubts, I know His mercies are new every morning and if I lean on Him, He will help me through the day. He promised to draw near to me as I fight against the one who wants me to continue struggling, and I trust Him to keep all of His promises. I’ve seen His faithfulness over and over to me, even when I was not full of faith toward Him. I am not who I once was – or pretended to be.

I wanted to tell my friend yesterday – you already are a “preacher’s wife”. And friend, you know who you are and if you happen to read this – your humility and tender heart are beautiful to me, and I know to God also. You are just the kind of “preacher’s wife” that the world needs. Preachers’ wives are just women who question and struggle and stumble. Anyone who tries to make you think differently is not doing you any favors (and isn’t being very honest.) Don’t be afraid of who you think you aren’t – be confident in who the Lord knows you are. He builds us up, He heals our wounds, He lifts the humble. “…The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love,” (Psalm 147).

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This past weekend I watched my youngest son as he stepped out onto the surface of a snow-covered frozen lake, one hand clutching the hand of the woman he loves and the other hand, deep in his pocket, clutching a tiny box that contained a promise for the future. John and I watched them as they laughed and skidded their way to the center of the lake, snow giving way to dark gray ice with a matching sky above. From fifty yards away, we saw him hand his camera to a bystander, turn back to his love, and drop to his knee. We knew it was coming (who didn’t?) and when this moment came, I fully expected to see his life flash before my eyes: my cheerful, happy baby with his thumb firmly embedded in his mouth…his blonde chili-bowl haircut…his way of happily commanding attention in a room full of large teenage football players. But instead of seeing a parade of pictures of Micah, images of our own marriage played through my mind.

This continued as the evening went on – as we celebrated with them, prayed with them, and heard their joyful phone calls to family and friends back home. We sat across a table from them in a restaurant and listened to them as they made their plans for their wedding party and wedding songs and wedding places.


I could not recall some details of our own wedding planning – though I remember invitations and flowers and cakes. Watching Micah and Courtney, I could not help but think of the words to the song “Then”:

“We’ll look back someday, at this moment that we’re in,

And I’ll look at you and say –

‘And I thought I loved you, then…’”

The fun of setting up our own little home, just the way we liked it, with a monthly mobile home payment of $202.89. Buying and paying down my parents enormous Oldsmobile Delta 88 four-door sedan. Snuggling on Sunday afternoons on the old hand-me-down family furniture, cooking all kinds of John’s favorite things. Gaining weight. Figuring out how to pay for school, juggle family time during holidays, and learning the hard way about keeping the car tires aligned. The all-encompassing, overwhelming love for babies, sleep deprivation and desperate desire to protect them. Uncertainties and insecurities. Faithfulness. Are we making the right decisions? Losing our grandmothers. Where do we want our boys to grow up, make friends, go to school? Fourth grade performances, football practices, stomach viruses, good (and not so good) friendships, making time for a date so we can remember who we are together. School board campaigns, not-so-smart decisions, secrets kept and confessed and forgiven. High school graduations, birds leaving the nest one by one, figuring out how to help pay for college, job changes, hurting together as we watched our parents’ health decline. Grieving with our grown children in their losses and struggling with them in health issues. Losing my dad. The birth of beautiful grandchildren.

Bits of 32 years in a paragraph. But woven all through every struggle, triumph, joy, argument, excitement, achievement, loss, confession, physical change, emotional strain; through the brightest of days and the darkest of storms, there has been the deepest love that has grown exponentially. God has walked with us through every event, and we have praised Him and talked with Him every day. I’ve held the same hand for more than 32 years as hands larger than ours guided our steps. Only recently has my husband begun to show signs of age – deep laugh lines around his eyes and mouth, graying hair dignifying his already handsome face. 32 years ago, I would not have thought it possible to love him more than I did then. 32 years ago, I think I might have laughed to think he would be more attractive to me at 52 than he was at 20. But it’s all true.


I never want to detract from the love that Micah and Courtney share now.  It’s real and deep and true. But I have an idea of what’s ahead for them, and it’s even better than they imagine. Experiencing life and love together, with the guiding hand of God, with His love and blessings raining down upon them in whatever they encounter – they have so much to look forward to! Praising God for His gifts of love, marriage, family, memories and blessings that flow from one generation to the next!

Lots of Lasts


It’s our last child’s last day of high school. Our last hurrah with DSISD. John and I have sat through our last child’s last award ceremony, his last FFA meeting and last Ag Boosters banquet. It’s our last week of our last child not studying enough for his last set of high school finals. He’s paid his last class dues. We’ve written our last check to the lunchroom (where current lunches cost considerably more than Micah’s grandfather’s seven cent lunches) and, this morning, received our last e-mail (well, maybe) from the Dripping Springs Independent School District, reminding us about caps, gowns, graduation practices, returning textbooks, senior pictures, and overdue parking tickets.

It’s kind of a big deal. And it’s got this mama’s heart feeling a bit nostalgic and reflective.


During the past twenty plus years of schooling, our three boys learned a lot of “book smarts” and made a lot of changes. They went from simple addition to calculus and trig, from reading sight words to (trying to comprehend) Shakespeare. They learned to dribble a basketball and hike (or throw) a football. They dealt with separation anxiety, kids that weren’t always nice on the playground, and occasional less-than-stellar report cards.

Typical of any student’s senior year, we were asked to provide a list of Micah’s accomplishments and awards throughout his academic career. We’d done this same gathering and assembling for Jordan in 2008 and Jacob in 2010. Grades, scholarships, ribbons, medals. And they received all of those. But wouldn’t it be great to be asked for a list detailing what our kids have learned that we are most grateful for – those things that really have little to do with academics?

They learned to shine their bright lights in a dark world, and they learned – and saw for themselves – that light is far more powerful than darkness. They learned that they didn’t have to conform to the world to be accepted, appreciated, or liked. They learned from private – and not so private – mistakes. They learned to live in the world, but to not be of the world.

With every group project and sport they participated in, they learned how to get along with people, how to work as a team, and that the world doesn’t revolve around them.

With every closed door, they learned how to deal with disappointment, and how to look for and develop their other talents. When they found those talents, they learned tenacity. They learned that persistence pays off. They learned that life (and judges, coaches, referees, and officials) aren’t always fair, but that you have to pick yourself up and keep going with a smile and a good attitude. (I think they’re still learning this.) (Let me just be honest: so am I.)

The boys learned that almost everyone appreciates a genuine smile and a hug. They learned to ask for help from their teachers. They learned that John and I can’t do everything for them, and they realized that they didn’t want us to. They’ve learned to be patient with people who don’t think exactly like they think, and that unlikely friendships can be unexpectedly rewarding.

They have learned that God uses other people in surprising ways to reward and acknowledge their hard work.  They learned that people notice and appreciate kindness, respect, and good manners. They likewise learned that people are hurt when there is a lack of kindness, respect, and manners. They learned consequences when they sometimes procrastinated and neglected responsibilities.

Today, we are especially proud of our “last baby” Micah. We recognize the man he is and continues to develop into. We are grateful for the struggles, challenges, and rewards that came through these years of public education – we are glad that he can read and write, but we are most thankful that those struggles, challenges and rewards have helped to develop him into someone who can shape the world around him. We pray God’s richest blessings to be upon him!





A Big Slice of Humble Pie



Last week I gave a lesson on the need for both humility and self-esteem. The result for me (that didn’t really hit me until yesterday,) was a big slice of humble pie, and a little voice inside my head with the question: “did you even hear yourself?”

It was not a good presentation (and I am not, NOT, NOT fishing for reassurance, so please don’t go there.) I stumbled over my words. I tanked on trying to explain “asceticism” and tie it in to the lesson. My power point wasn’t readable. I relied too much on my notes. I was boring. (Wow, there are a lot of “I’s” and “my’s” in that paragraph…my first hint that something is wrong!)

So, I’ve been fretting over it ever since. There are a lot of other frets that took up valuable brain space (and heart space) last week, too. Like my fret about my continuing fight against fat, and how I looked, and how my clothes fit (or didn’t), and hating my glasses and how I have to forever take them off and put them back on and how they make my eyes look like I’m ogling the person I’m talking to…and how my scaly heels needed a good pedicure (just keepin’ it real, y’all!) And then, did I hurt someone with my words or opinions given in the afternoon forum that same day? Did I mention that the reason I have these opinions is because I’ve made these mistakes and learned from them? Does someone think I’m a hypocrite? (Wow, do preachers wonder these things every week??) Will someone think less of me if I admit these insecurities? Will someone think I’m somehow disingenuous if I write about my own lack of confidence and humility – and then post it publicly? Fret, fret, fret.

Wow, lots more of those “I’s” and “me’s” and “my’s”.

Back to the lesson last week. What I was trying to relay to the audience was that our confidence and self-esteem shouldn’t come from how we think others perceive us…or from things or looks or smarts or from the admiring masses. Our humility shouldn’t be “pretend” – all the while enjoying the attention that our “modesty” attracts.

The light bulb came on yesterday morning. I already knew that the more I focused on me, myself, and I, the more Satan could distract me from my task at hand. But what really hit me yesterday is how he REALLY uses it against me when the me, myself, and I isn’t a matter of pride at all, but rather disappointment with me, myself, and I. My self-esteem had taken a hit because I was not pleased with how I might have been perceived or misunderstood. Basically, I was simply preoccupied with myself.

In last week’s lesson, I tried to convey that Godly humility looked like the heart of a servant, like Jesus. That humility says “I came not to be served” (or, I suppose, “liked”, or “admired”, or “fawned over”) “but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).  Humility is doing “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” but counting “others more significant than yourselves,” (Philippians 2:3-4). Hard for me to do, when I’m only focused on myself.

I hoped to show that regardless of how we look or sound to the world around us, God sees our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The Maker of the universe knows me better than I know myself, and the precious blood of His only Son redeemed me. I am a daughter of the King (Romans 8)! That, truly, is the only confidence I need. Feeling like you’ve presented something with clarity is a good thing. Complimentary, supportive friends are nice, too! But I think they’re the “gravy” in life. My confidence and self-worth has to come from God.

“Physician, heal yourself” came to mind yesterday morning while cleaning the kitchen and thinking of the things I wished I’d said and done differently last week. How sadly ironic. Did I even listen to my own words? I know I believed them. But did I apply them to MYSELF last week?  Evidently not.

I’m trying, now!




On my heart: I’m thankful for so many things about the last few days.

I’m thankful John, Doug and I had returned home from Israel.

I’m thankful John was home after he’d been gone all week.

I’m thankful that Mom was always a strong advocate for Dad’s health and dignity.

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I’m thankful that Dad had sweet, funny, and engaging table-mates at mealtimes at Hill Country Care – June, Maggie, and Anne.

I’m thankful to have learned some really practical things that help grieving families (especially large packages of Kleenex pocket packages, Ziploc bags, and paper goods!)

I’m thankful for thoughtful people who bring what seems like the entire grocery store – including Cokes, Keurig cups, and bottled waters.

I’m thankful for laughter through tears.

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I’m thankful for thoughtful daughters-in-law who jumped in and helped with things that I didn’t even know we needed help with.

I’m thankful for beautiful weather while sitting at my father’s graveside.

I’m thankful for an honorable, meaningful service with so many words that captured Dad’s essence.

I’m thankful for the opportunity we had to look through Dad’s writings and notice things we’d seen before but had forgotten about.

I’m thankful to hear of so many kind things he had done for others in the past.

I’m thankful for a family gathering of those who knew him best, laughing about his quirks and sharing memories.

I’m thankful for a cohesive, loving, united family.

I’m thankful that my brother loved my Dad and always respected him.


I’m thankful to have seen Mom ministering to the staff at Hill Country Care, and seeing how they love and respect her and how they came to surround us with tears on their faces.

I’m thankful for a father who wasn’t careless with anything: his possessions, the way he treated Mom, and his responsibilities as a father.

I’m thankful for good friends who stopped their hectic and eventful lives just to bring us cinnamon rolls, or barbecue, or coffee cake, and to hug us tight.


I’m thankful for arms around us and prayers on our behalf.

I’m thankful for tears.

And for waterproof mascara. 🙂

I’m thankful to have witnessed how much people respected Dad.

I’m thankful to have no fear of death.

I’m thankful that Dad never lost the ability to pray, or sing songs of praise.


I’m thankful to have heard Jordan’s wise words and reflections, and all of the grandkids’ memories of their Pawpaw.

I’m thankful for Dad’s legacy of faith, wisdom, steadfastness, and love.

I’m thankful and humbled by dear friends who came from so far away to pay their respects to Dad.

I’m thankful for how much my parents loved and depended on one another.

I’m thankful for the comfort that comes with the thought of his reunion, however it happens: with his father and mother, his old college buddies, preacher friends.

I’m thankful for the comfort that comes with imagining what his soul may be seeing and experiencing right now!

I’m thankful for peace.

I’m thankful that my Dad knew where he was going.

I’m thankful that he was ready to go there.

I’m thankful that I saw recognition in his eyes when he saw me on Thursday night.

I’m thankful that for years, I have witnessed Mom’s tender care of Dad, but especially on Thursday night, as she held him and whispered to him.

I’m thankful that I got to tell him one more time that I loved him, and unexpectedly heard myself call him ‘Daddy’, even though I haven’t called him that since I was tiny.

I’m thankful Mom wasn’t alone.

I’m thankful that death came quickly.

I’m thankful that he wasn’t hurting.

I’m thankful for the memory of his left hand, lying still on the sheet, yet thinking of the thousands and thousands of good, helpful words that left hand had written; of holding my hand, and Mom’s hand; of holding chalk to a chalkboard; of driving to Ruidoso and Colorado and around Maine and New Hampshire and all over Texas.

I’m thankful I was there when he drew his last breath.

I’m thankful that my Dad is strong again.

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Still Dad


Dad loved golf, Mom’s chili, browsing in Goodwill, homemade ice cream, and perusing house plan magazines. He was a great whistler, played a mean game of basketball, and was – hands down – the best and most practical Old and New Testament survey instructor. I wish you could see his notebooks (as Jordan recently noted, filled with notes taken long before Google, eSword, or Logos.) He took time to think through an answer before he gave it. He was a prolific and talented writer. He was honest in his evaluations, and that probably frustrated one or two former students! He was confident, witty, fair-minded, reserved, intelligent, and well-respected.  As a boy, he sang soprano (yes, soprano!) with the Fort Worth Boys Choir. He got up in the wee hours of the morning to take care of his neighborhood paper route for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and often spent his nickels and his Saturday afternoons at the “picture show” watching westerns and World War 2 newsreels.
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Most of those interests and talents, aside from his affinity for Mom’s chili, homemade ice cream, and whistling, have faded by now. Dad has some form of a cognitive disorder, sometimes called dementia – but I don’t like that term. It makes him sound as though he is demented – and he is not. He still loves my mom. He still knows who we are. He dresses for worship just about every day. He still wants to teach. He is still funny: recently he had taken a fall in his bedroom. As we walked into the room to help him up, Dad, flat on his back, stared up at John and said “I always did look up to you!” We all burst out laughing. He is still Dad.

A recent novel (and subsequent movie) called Still Alice by Lisa Genova captures the story of a 50-year-old woman living with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and its impact on her loved ones. The story hit home. The fictional character Alice is a doctor of psychology who taught courses in cognitive psychology, researched in the field of linguistics, and lectured publicly. The disease was detected early enough for her to be cognizant of the inevitable frightening outcome.

“My reality is completely different from what it was not long ago. And it is distorted. The neural pathways I use to try to understand what you are saying, what I am thinking, and what is happening around me are gummed up with amyloid. I struggle to find the words I want to say and often hear myself saying the wrong ones…my short term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. I’m losing my yesterdays. If you ask me what I did yesterday, what happened, what I saw and felt and heard, I’d be hard pressed to give you details…I often fear tomorrow. What if I wake up and don’t know who my husband is? What if I don’t know where I am or recognize myself in the mirror? When will I no longer be me? Is the part of my brain that’s responsible for my unique ‘me-ness’ vulnerable to this disease?”

It’s impossible to know how far into this journey we have come, and how much farther we have to go. When did it even begin? Two or three years ago, those of us who are close to him noticed him repeating himself, or grasping to find a word that he wanted to use, but we brushed it off as Dad simply growing older. Of course, Mom saw much more than Doug and I did. But we didn’t want to believe anything was wrong. I didn’t want to talk about it. Yet, almost against our will, we have learned a lot in the past 18 months. Perhaps some of you who are facing the same daunting diagnosis may benefit from knowing what we’ve learned.

Denial is not helpful. I’ll never forget the Sunday morning that Mom called me, crying. She was juggling too much, trying to finish printing Sunday morning’s bulletin, struggling to meet Dad’s needs and answer his questions and get to Bible class on time. I felt ashamed that I had not seen (or had not wanted to see) her rising stress level. She had been trying, in various ways, to tell us that something was wrong. But because she didn’t want to interfere with our lives, she was reluctant to ask for help. Now, I wish that we had sat down with her earlier, and said “What are you seeing? How can we help? What do you need?” It seemed that putting a voice to our fears made them more real, and it hurt. But it hurts more, now, to know that she needed our help earlier and we did not do all that we could have. Those of us who are masters at procrastination and denial need to know that we are only making the disease more difficult for our loved ones and for ourselves.

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Memory loss isn’t all bad. One of the earliest visits with Dad’s neurologist was painful to witness.  He asked Dad questions regarding dates and times that would be simple for you and me, and yet Dad couldn’t answer them. It was evident that he was embarrassed. It hurt me to see him hurt. And yet, by the time we got to the foyer of the building, he had forgotten the questions and his embarrassment. So, there are times to be thankful for memory loss.

Creating good memories for our children is vital. Dad can’t remember what he did yesterday, but much of his long term memory is intact. He can remember his childhood on Harrington Street, playing baseball with his buddies and those friends from his church group who influenced him. It brings a smile to his face to talk about his childhood, because it was happy. Not perfect, of course, but he was loved and cared for and taught truth. I’ve often thought – what if he didn’t have those happy childhood memories? There would be fewer memories to bring him joy now. I’m so thankful for Dad’s parents, my Meemaw and Boompah, and their family trips to Colorado and New York and the memories that they unknowingly crafted for Dad to enjoy in these later years. I’m thankful for Dad’s good school friends and college friends. We can say something about “Vinzant” or “Clyde Alderman” and I know he will smile.

If someone has influenced you, or taught you, or helped you – tell them now. In June of 2013, we had a 50th anniversary party for Mom and Dad. Using social media, we asked for – and received – many notes and cards of love and appreciation from former associates, students, longtime friends, and family to be put in a memory book for them. It meant so much to Doug and me, and especially Mom, to be able to read those affirmations of their worth over the years. Dad, though slipping away at the time, was able to read and recognize and understand the significance of those notes. So many times we have been thankful that we had that gathering of loved ones, so that Mom and Dad would see how much they have meant to so many people over the years. I’m so glad we didn’t wait to give them this tangible evidence of love.

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The caregiver needs more help and attention than the patient. Mom is with Dad 24/7/365. Because of her love and care, he doesn’t really know that anything is wrong with him. But he is reluctant for her to be out of his sight. She fiercely guards his dignity and carefully dispenses his meds and watches his diet and minds his schedule. My heart breaks for her when I consider that, at some point, she’d had her last truly cogent conversation with him (how could she realize it was the last?) When I cry, I turn to John for comfort. But when she cries, how can she turn to Dad, who would be distressed by her tears, especially if he understood that he was their source? She has no way of knowing what each day holds. And so now more than ever, she needs our help and support. She needs us to be her shoulder to cry on, and she needs us to bear the sadness with her. Before any of this began, I loved and respected her, but I do even more now because I’ve witnessed how tenderly she cares for my Dad.

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Cognitive disorders seem to create a role-reversal. I’m not suffering under the delusion that Dad changed many of my diapers or often got up during the night when I cried (thanks Mom!) But growing up, I was confident that he loved me. I remember that he taught me. I knew he had the answers. In September of last year, Mom had major spinal surgery to alleviate the severe pain she had been enduring. She was in the hospital for several nights, so I stayed with Dad. There were a lot of things I worried about before and during that week – how would he handle her absence? How would I handle difficulties that might arise? But now I’m thankful for that time, because I know he was confident that I was there, I loved him, and I had the answers to his questions. He patted me on the shoulder and said “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” We sat on the deck and enjoyed the sunset and drank milkshakes together. Though I was fearful at the time, I’m thankful that God gave me the opportunity to serve and show love and appreciation to my Dad. “Blessings”, by Laura Story, contains this lyric:

“What if Your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if the trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights – are Your mercies in disguise?”

I am confident that God didn’t cause Dad’s illness. This life is full of struggle and sadness and difficulty and disease. But I know He cares for Dad, He hears my Mom, He knows Doug and I hurt. I trust Him. He can use these difficulties to draw us closer and reveal our need for Him and His mercy toward us. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength,” (Isaiah 40: 28-29). Dad’s “outer self is wasting away” but his “inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
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There are other things I’ve come to see. I will try to be more conscious of older people who do not have children or family close by to help. They need our attention and love – it’s very likely that they are struggling with things that are simple for those of us who are more able-bodied: adjusting their home’s thermostat, keeping the car’s battery and tires maintained, or picking up items from the drugstore or grocery store. I’ve noticed that I needed to learn how to sit still again. We’ve become so accustomed to multi-tasking, errand-running, and constant use of technology. While Mom was convalescing, she just needed me to be there and be still and pay attention. And while time flies for those of us on the go and there aren’t enough hours in the day, time passes slowly and days run together for those who spend most of their time at home. When it is appropriate, a visit is a welcome diversion for a long, quiet day – and it is a blessing for everyone involved.

Finally and truly, I have been made even more aware of my wedding vow to John – to love him through “sickness and health, for better and for worse.” Watching Mom loving Dad through the “sickness” and “worse” part has made me appreciate even more the “health” and “better” that John and I have right now. I am determined to love him more and tell him more often and not take our conversations, our laughs and tears, and our whole relationship for granted. It is precious and it is here and now and will not be forever.

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I miss the old Dad. Sometimes I see an old photo or hear his voice on an old recording and it catches me off guard, and I have to swallow the big lump in my throat. I ache for Mom and her loss that is so much greater than mine. But we count our blessings. We are thankful that he is agreeable and enjoyable to be around. We are grateful for the things that he taught us before, and for what he is still teaching us, and for the memories that we have. We are glad that he is still Dad.

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Do You Believe in Something That You’ve Never Seen Before?


I love wedding songs. An old Peter, Paul and Mary wedding song asks “Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before?” Every time I hear that song, my thoughts catch on that line in particular. What is that “something that you’ve never seen before”? I believe it must be a faith-filled, hopeful, trusting, passionate, promising kind of love. That love convinces us to trust another person with our whole heart. It persuades us to loosen the ties that bound us to our childhood and hold tightly to the hands of our beloved.
We witnessed this kind of love on Friday. Under beautiful blue skies and in the midst of a lovely pecan orchard, I could not take my eyes from our son’s face as he worked to contain the joy, peace, and pure love while his radiant bride approached on her father’s arm.
I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving as our three sons stood before us, side by side, God’s greatest gifts to John and me.

There was no bitter – only sweet! Thank you for letting me share some sweet memories from the day.



So Far As It Depends On You


Tailgaters annoy me. Not the barbecuing-before-the-big-game tailgaters, but the ones who zoom up on my tail going 65 in a 50, because their business is so much more important than my business.
tailgater Then, because I have tendencies that I am most definitely not proud of, I am tempted to slow down, which becomes even more of a temptation when someone is driving the speed limit next to me and the tailgater can’t get around either of us. (Evil grin.) But then I think about Romans 12:18:

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Practically speaking, this means I am not going to purposely antagonize the crazy-eyed guy behind me in the big 4-wheel drive pickup with the Pit Bull and the gun rack. Not because I’m afraid of him, but because I’m a Christian. (And – maybe a little because I’m afraid of him.) (Incidentally, I don’t have anything against big pickups and Pit Bulls and guns, so long as they are all controlled by sensible people.)

Seriously, though. In the middle of a chapter chock full of exhortation to actually do the opposite of what we feel like doing to people who aren’t nice to us – Paul makes sure we know that we bear responsibility to maintain peace.

This particular chapter has been on my mind a lot lately after recently finishing a study on Romans. “Live peaceably.” It’s easy to say, and I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t so easy to practice.

It means not speaking unkindly to the waiter who is slow, gets my order wrong, and forgets to refill my tea glass.

It means not taking out my frustration on the innocent sales clerk who tells me that the sweater I want is not, in fact, on sale – even though I found it on the clearance rack.

It means that I will assume that “I like your hair better when it’s long” really means “I like your hair better when it’s long” instead of “your new short haircut makes you look like a poodle.”

It means that I will extend grace to my husband when six pairs of dirty socks pile up next to his side of the bed.

It means that I will not use Facebook, or Twitter (or any of the other social media outlets that four-year-old children understand better than I) to bait, belittle, provoke, or hurt the reputation of any soul.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

What else does it mean?

• I will choose to stomp out irritation before it blooms into anger.
• I will respond with patience to someone who should know better.
• I will treat those with whom I disagree (religiously or otherwise) with dignity, respect and kindness.
• I will not seek revenge against someone who has hurt me.
• I will include and welcome newcomers and outcasts into my circle of friends.
• I will pray for and be kind to someone who has hurt my child.
• I will view an adversary as someone loved and treasured by God.
• I will remember the positives about an individual, and forget the negative in them.
• I will expend time and energy seeking to lighten the load and enrich the lives of others around me.
• I will respect those with different dietary habits than mine.
• It means that when I am young, I will respect my elders, and when I am older, I will value those who are younger.
• I will hold myself to the same standards I expect from others.
• I will not act or think haughtily toward anyone.
• I will hurry to make things right after a disagreement, and be the first to forgive, eager to make things right.
• I will recognize my own weaknesses.
• I will overflow with a spirit of humility and fight against self-promotion and self-importance.
• I will not pout when my opinions and ideas aren’t followed.
• I will look for and focus on the endearing qualities of an individual whose personality might not knit together with mine.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples, and I would love to hear them.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Even the crazy-eyed, truck driving tailgater.

Meet An Old Lady


An old lady in the Costco parking lot got really mad at me yesterday.

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(By “old” – I mean that she appeared to be in her late sixties. My apologies to my friends who may be advanced in years – YOU aren’t old!)

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that the entire city of Austin decided to go to Costco yesterday, and there was an automobile slugfest in the parking lot. I was on the wrong side of the aisle when I spotted her pulling out, and as she was backing up, I pulled slightly forward and to the right to get out of her way.

What followed was a lot of arm waving and rude gesturing and angry eyes and words I couldn’t hear (thankfully.) As I sat there in disbelief, she laid on her horn and then gunned her fancy BMW SUV toward the hood of my car. The look in her eyes was memorable – as was the nervous look in the eyes of her passenger – a woman that looked old enough to be her mother.

Maybe she’d had a bad day. Maybe she’d just had someone shout at her. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she hadn’t started her Christmas shopping yet. Didn’t she know it’s the most wonderful time of the year??

But I couldn’t help thinking of something that my mother passed down to me (and has given to a lot of other women) – an essay called “Meet An Old Lady”. The author is unknown. It might take you a couple of minutes to read – but it’s sobering and well worth the time.

“You are going to meet an old lady someday. Down the road ahead, ten, twenty, thirty years; she’s waiting for you. You will be catching up with her. What kind of old lady are you going to meet? That is a rather significant question.

She may be a seasoned, soft and gracious lady. A lady who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends – friends who call her ‘blessed’ because of what her life has meant to them.

She may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up, cynical old buzzard, without a good word for anyone or anything – soured, friendless, alone.

The kind of old lady you will meet will depend entirely upon you. She will be exactly what you make of her – nothing more, nothing less. It is up to you. You will have no one else to credit or blame.

Every day, in every way, you are becoming more and more like that old lady. Amazing, but true. You are getting to look more like her, think more like her, and talk more like her. You are becoming her.

If you live only in terms of what you are getting out of life, the old lady gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered.

Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old lady grows larger, softer, kinder, greater.

The point to remember is that these things don’t always show up immediately. But they will – sooner than you think. These little things, seemingly so unimportant now – attitudes, goals, ambitions, desires – are adding up inside, where you cannot see them, crystallizing in your heart and mind. Some day they will harden into that old lady; nothing will be able to soften or change them then.

The time to take care of that old lady is right now, today. Examine your motives, attitudes, goals. Check up on her. Work her over now while she is still pliable, still in a formative condition. Day comes swiftly soon when it is too late. The hardness sets in, worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets, gels. That’s the finish.

Any wise business person takes an inventory regularly. Merchandise is not half as important as the person. You had better take a bit of personal inventory, too. Then you will be much more likely to meet a lovely, gracious old lady at the proper time.”

I am thankful for that mean old lady yesterday – she reminded me of who I don’t want to become.  I’ve known a lot of gentle, kind, and beautiful “old” ladies in my time. My mother and my mother-in-law are at the very tip top of the list. Gwen Worthy. Ruth Locke. Inaleen Varner. And so many, many, many more! I’m going to meet an old lady sooner than I think – hopefully she will be soft and gentle and kind and admirable.