I just have a lot to say.

Archive for the ‘AT LONG LAST’ Category

October 23rd, 2014 by

Love Languages

My friend Cindi’s love language is cream of chicken soup. Her husband Michael’s love language is winning. The reaction from their combined love languages looks like this:

(Click here to see Much Ado about Very Little.)

Maybe Maria von Trapp and I need to start at the very beginning.

It’s been over a year now that I’ve been meaning to tell you this story. It happened soon after Labor Day 2013, right after my twin daughters left for two different colleges. Before school started, they took me kicking and screaming to the Verizon store to get an iPhone. Actually, Abby got an upgrade, and I inherited her old one.

Picture me at sitting at the kitchen table at The King’s Inn at Lake Eufaula on Labor Day, bemoaning my sad state of technophobia to my friends who are Early Adapters of Technology. We make each other laugh, but we do not see eye-to-eye. They move quickly; I move slowly. They like new (Michael more than Cindi); I like old. However, we all err on the side of overreaction. We all figure a hearty guffaw trumps an understated giggle every single time.

With my hands flinging, I wailed, “I just want a phone that plugs into the wall in the kitchen! I just want a phone with a long curly cord that will stretch across the room! I just want a phone that I can lean on my shoulder and talk on while I’m washing dishes! WHAT WAS SO WRONG ABOUT THE GOOD OLD DAYS?!”

We cackled until the laughter triggered asthma attacks, parted ways, and returned to the Real World.

Later in the week, Michael stumbled across a handset advertised online that plugs into an iPhone. It’s big and clunky and fits nicely on a middle-aged mom’s shoulder, while her iPhone is tucked safely and snugly in her jeans pocket.

He chuckled to himself and purchased the darn thing.

(He likes to win, remember. He likes the last laugh.)

We didn’t see each other for a couple of weeks. Michael the Impatient Hare couldn’t wait any longer to see my reaction. He made Cindi take my gift to handbell practice one Sunday afternoon and told her to record me as I opened my surprise (on her iPhone—the latest version, duh.)

I was delighted, thrilled, overcome.

Honestly, I haven’t used it. It sits on my desk in my little home office, where I listen to Pandora as I pay bills, play on FB, and avoid household responsibilities. I smile at it several times a week. It makes me feel all warm inside, just like Cindi’s homemade cream of chicken soup makes me feel.

It is, to quote Hannah Montana, the Best of Both Worlds.

I suppose my love language is sacrificing my dignity for your merriment.

Take me home, Lord Jesus!


June 5th, 2014 by

Coran’s Ears

This story is not about Celeste. It has words in it like I, me, and my, but only because it is told from my perspective. (See, there’s one of those words again!) The story is about a little deaf boy and a mighty God. Please, just hear that.

Sister Betty placed the children in two straight lines out the door and down the steps in the front of Hamilton Mountain Baptist Church in St. Mary Parish, Jamaica. The older girls helped organize. They put the littlest ones first. The older boys slunk to the back like they were too cool to be there. But they were there.


At Sister Viney’s direction, the children marched two by two into the church singing, “We are ma-arching in the light of God. We are marching in the light of God.” They pledged allegiance to the Jamaican flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible. They sang the Jamaican national anthem. By the end of the week, the American kids knew every word: Jamaica! (boom!) Jamaica! (boom!) Jamaica, land we love!

It was 2010. My twin daughters were 16 years old and had just finished the 10th grade. We went with our church youth group to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, to lead Vacation Bible School at a couple of local churches. (I know. American students are lazy . . .


. . . and only use Vacation Bible School as a way to get to Jamaica . . .


. . . but just for the “vacation” part . . .


. . . I know . . .


. . . I’ve heard.)


On Monday, we had about 50 children show up. By Friday, as word spread among the Jamaican children, there were over 200. Cory was there on the first day.  I don’t remember the first time I saw him. I don’t remember when I realized that he couldn’t hear or speak or sign. Most likely, he could not read either. But he could dance. And had a smile that lit up the church. He was flanked by two friends. They looked after him and spoke for him. The three of them came every day.


Cory is on the left.

My girls and I left Jamaica thinking of ways we could have sneaked him out of the country. For two years, my girls talked about him and prayed for him.  Had he been born in the USA, he would have had access to top-of-the-line medical care as a baby and extra assistance in school. In Jamaica, he no longer attended school. The teachers did not know how to help him. What kind of future could he have? What kind of job could he ever hold?

We put his picture up as our screen saver.

In 2012, our youth group returned to Jamaica. Abby, Emma, and I returned to Hamilton Mountain Baptist Church. Would he come to VBS? Would we ever see him again? We couldn’t wait to get to church on Monday morning.

“Mama! He’s here!!!”

He was again flanked by his friends, who insisted that his name was Coran. Evidently, he was now much too mature for a nickname.


Coran is on the right.

I spoke to Viney about him. I said basically, “I’m not anybody. I don’t know a thing about hearing impairment, but I know we serve an awesome God, and we live in friendly countries with helpful people. I am just a plain ole mama, but I would like to try to get help for him. What do you think? Would you help me?”


She agreed, but neither of us knew what that looked like. I imagine we both thought that was the end of that.

Fast forward to spring 2013. I was googling late one Friday night. I was not thinking about Coran. I was thinking about summer opportunities for my girls, when I stumbled upon a missions organization that supports a deaf school in Montego Bay, Jamaica!! They send teams there to play with the kids and do construction. THEY SEND MEDICAL TEAMS FROM VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY TO TEST FOR COCHLEAR IMPLANTS!!!

I emailed the website that night and heard back from the director first thing the following Monday morning. He said they could test Coran, if he could get to the school, about 3 hours from his home. I contacted Viney and asked her if she could get in touch with his mother. She did, and Coran’s mom got excited.

For various reasons, the trip kept getting postponed. I emailed back and forth all year with two new friends, Kim (from Vanderbilt) and Jaime (whose non-profit organization is funding the testing). I was so fretful. I was fearful of letting his mama down. How dare I interfere and give her hope and then crash it?! Who do I think I am, messing in people’s lives and emotions?

Finally, it appeared the kinks had been worked out, the wrinkles had been smoothed, the way had been prepared.

I emailed the parents of the kids in my church youth group, whom I had accompanied to Jamaica on the two trips. I asked for prayer and donations. I told them I wanted to wire money to Viney to pay for any expenses she would incur getting Coran to the school. That afternoon, I held a check 10 times larger than I anticipated any one person to give.

Our communication is comical. I cannot call Jamaica from my cell phone, but I can text there. Viney’s calling plan allows her to call the States, but her internet connection is unreliable. So, I email Kim, Jaime, and Dian (the principal at the Jamaican Christian School for the Deaf, which is run solely on contributions). I text Viney with the info that they give me, then she calls me and Coran’s mom to update the other. Sometimes, Viney gets so excited and talks so fast that I thinks she lapses into patios (a blended version of several languages that the Jamaicans use to speak to each other). Occasionally, I have no idea what she is saying. She will ask, “You know?” And I say, “Yes.”


On next Thursday, June 12, 2014, Viney, Coran, and his mom are going to the deaf school, so the 13-year-old boy can meet with the audiologists from Nashville, Tennessee, TO TEST FOR COCHLEAR IMPLANTS!!

Isn’t that crazy?

I have lived on the verge of tears for a week.

I am telling you all of this, just because. Because it’s a good story, and I like to tell good stories. Because you might want to pray. Because I want you to be encouraged. Because I get so downhearted sometimes because life is so stinking hard and scary and and then God answers a prayer that I didn’t even believe when I prayed it. Because I struggle to believe and the cute little deaf boy whom I met 4 years ago at VBS in a foreign country is getting tested for cochlear implants next week.


After that, I’m back to not knowing. What does it mean if he’s a candidate? What does it mean if he’s not? Would he come to the United States for implants? Could he attend the deaf school? What difference will all this make in his life?

I don’t know.

But I believe.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Isaiah 35:5






June 3rd, 2014 by

And Now I Am 49

Like most little kids, all I aspired to be was 16 years old. I longed for it and counted down to it. I thought 16 was the greatest age possible. Even when I was older than 16, I would have told you that being 16 was as good as life gets. Oh, the independence and the freedom that comes with driving. And dating. And general flirting turned up a notch or two because of those other things. I swung my keys and flung my hair. As perfect as being 16 turned out to be, it got even better. My high school football team progressed week by week in the playoffs and eventually beat Carver High School of Birmingham for the 4A state championship at Legion Field on the first Saturday of December, 1982. The football players were my friends. Honestly, it was the all-out funnest year of my life.

A kindred spirit of Peter Pan, I wiped away a couple of tears when I turned 20. I was a little sad about turning 30. I grieved so over my 39th birthday that turning 40 was no big deal. (My friend Catherine still accuses me of partying every day for 3 weeks. So, what’s your point, Catherine?)


The jealous Catherine flocked me!

Probably the hardest birthday for me yet was my little-big sister Starla’s 50th. I struggled with it much more than she did. “HOW CAN I HAVE A SISTER WHO IS 50 YEARS OLD?!” Starla was almost 9 years old when I was born, so our ages fall in the same decade only once every ten years.

After 16, my favorite age was 41, simply because I was the same age as Delta Dawn. All year long I sang, “She’s 41, and her daddy still calls her ba-a-by.”

At 44, I was pensive, since my daddy died when he was 43, and it’s just plumb weird to be older than your parent.

And now I am 49.

And I like it.

Generally, I have enjoyed being Celeste in my 40s. The exhaustion of the babies and the sleepless nights and the potty training and the little kids’ temper tantrums was behind me. Since my parents and grandparents had already died, I had that exhaustion behind me as well. Yes, I’d rather have a healthy-minded mama than a dead one. My point is the hard work of taking care of everybody and the Never-Ending Questions with No Answers were–as far as I know–over before my 40s began. (As Little Granny said, “Don’t nobody know.”)

Even with all that exhaustion in the past, life as a 40-something was difficult. Life is always difficult. But I like being 40-something.

I like that the older Celeste is not as quick to judge as the younger Celeste. I like realizing that everybody’s life is complicated, and I don’t know the answers to other people’s lives any more than they know the answers to mine. I like that I have learned not to raise my eyebrows and whisper, “Well, if that was my child . . .” or “What she ought to do is . . .” or “If he had only . . . .”

I like when I choose not to gossip. I’m not going to say I never do. As soon as I boasted that, someone would overhear me trash-talking a Beloved. But the desire diminishes every year, because I don’t like the way it makes me feel.

I like grasping that I ain’t no better than nobody else. I like not caring whether friends are white or black or poor or rich or skinny or fat. I don’t want to be friends with people who are selfish or angry, but that is their problem. I like comprehending that is their problem.

I like acknowledging that I am not the prettiest nor the most organized nor the best mom with the cleanest house with just the right amount of clutter to look like the children had a playful childhood and are not too stressed and WWWAAAHHH!!!! I like not minding too much that I am not those things. (I do like flaunting that my mousey brown hair with subtle highlights is real, though. *Boo-ya!* Or, as we said back in the day, *In your face.*)

I like not getting bent out of shape—quite as frequently—about things that don’t matter. Conversely, I like speaking up for things that I see as wrong or for people treated unfairly and not always fearing that I am hurting someone’s feelings by telling the truth.

I like accepting that the world would keep on turning without me. Hard as it would have been for the younger Celeste to believe, my church and my children’s schools would not have ceased to exist without my activity. I still like helping, but I like laying down the burden of fixing everything.

While I say “yes” a lot, I like that I can say “no” (when I can’t or don’t think I would do a good job or just plain don’t want to) and not feel a smitch of guilt about it.

I don’t seize the day quite so often. Frankly, I’d rather savor the day.

I am still judgmental and gossipy and competitive and controlling. But I am less than I was. Most days, I feel I am creeping in the right direction. I like me better, the older I get.

I don’t read my Bible as much as I wish nor exercise as much as I should. Really, those are the only things I regret leaving undone as I snuggle my pillow at the end of the day. I am rarely sorry that I didn’t make it by the grocery store or finish the laundry or—Heaven forbid—not have spent enough time on Facebook.

Even if I live as long as some of my King ancestors, I have less than half of my life left. To quote the wise Jerry Reed from Smokey and the Bandit, I’ve “got a long way to go and a short time to get there.”

As I cling to being 49 and ponder what being Celeste means at being 50, I’ve got to hunker down and hang on.

Two days after celebrating my 49th birthday, my son celebrated his 16th. While being 16 may have been my funnest year, I’m not sure that Phillip being 16 will rank nearly as high up my scale.




February 22nd, 2014 by

Pinch Me, Mrs. Patmore

Mama probably had to mortgage the farm, but she let me spend the spring semester of my junior year in college at the then-new Samford University Study Centre in London, England. (Now, it is called Daniel House.) The students took classes through Samford and lived and traveled with a dozen other Samford undergrads, chaperoned by a Samford professor. Our tuition included two weekend trips (to Paris and Dublin) and a weekly trip to the West End theatre. We watched Evita before it closed and Les Miserables soon after it opened. We attended Guys and Dolls performed by a bunch of Brits and Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap. We saw one of Michael Crawford’s last performances in Barnum, before he starred in Phantom of the Opera, which did not begin until after we returned home. I still have a playbill from each of the shows and a cassette soundtrack of several of them.

I remember gathering frequently for a basket of French fries at lunchtime in a pub around the corner from the Centre. It had an American name. I think it was Lone Star.

I spent most of my time with Pat and Little Pat. “Pat” would not allow us to dub her as “Big Pat” merely because “Little Pat” was little. I have lost touch with both of them, but if I were to see Little Pat today, I would hug her and introduce her to my children as Little Pat. They would have to call her “Miss Little Pat.”

I remember studying occasionally and viewing BBC television frequently. We visited all the sites and rolled our eyes at American tourists. (We were students–not tourists!) We learned early on that Americans are quickly spotted by their shoes. Brits don’t wear tennis shoes. (Think Harry Potter.) We bought some ugly shoes at a flea market and ditched the white leather high top Reeboks. We whispered to each other on the tube, because Americans are loud.

Mr. Tait was an Englishman who was the liaison for Samford and the London centre. Since we spent the majority of our time in London with the other Samford students, he wanted to introduce us to some “real” English people.  He arranged an out-of-town weekend for us through friends.

We toured the English countryside. We went to Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. I remember seeing the grave of child who was “born in March and died in January of the same year” (on the Julian calendar). We went to New Forest National Park, near Nottingham, and wished for a glimpse of Robin Hood.

It was like an old-fashioned youth choir tour. We divided into groups of 2 or 3 and stayed in the homes of members of the local Baptist church. I remember talking late into the night and swapping American/English stories with the delightful couple who hosted me for the weekend. They liked to listen to me drag out my vowels as much as I enjoyed their quick consonants. I remember eating beef stroganoff for dinner and tackily picking out the mushrooms. They lived in a cottage with a thatched roof. I remember freezing all night long.

On Sunday morning, we went to church with our new friends.  The old church had typical English cathedral architecture; however, the modern members felt the high ceilings were wasted space, so they had the church divided in half horizontally and had a floor built over the sanctuary. I remember going upstairs to Sunday school.

What I didn’t remember was the name of the town.

Recently, I was reminiscing with my daughters about my European adventure. Nostalgic, I pulled out my scrapbook. I savored the dark, almost 30-year-old (gasp!) pictures. Since my camera was a cheap Instamatic, I bought postcards everywhere that I went. Fortunately, I bought one at the town while we were there.

Imagine my astonishment.

I honestly had no idea. Not a tidbit of a recall. Not a morsel of a remembrance. 


Looky where I’ve been.