Monday, August 1, 2016

How did we end up here?

     I shared a post yesterday on Facebook about my husband and son being invited to play on The Grand Ole Opry in several weeks. I have been asked several times how we came to know Carson Peters and how Ben and Eric came to be part of the band that was invited to play on stage in Nashville.So, here it goes.
     Three years ago, this month, a nine year old fiddler walked around Felts Park in Galax Virginia searching for young musicians to form a band to compete in Youth Band competition. That fiddle playing nine year old was Carson Peters. Carson, Ben, and three other boys walked on stage less than 12 hours later and took 1st place. Carson couldn't stick around because he had somewhere to be, an interview with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show.
     We didn't spend a great amount of time with Carson and his family that year but enough to know that he, his dad, Jamie, and mom, Robin were people that we liked. The next year, same time, same place, the same boys pulled off another first place win. Our families spent more time together, enjoyed each others' company, and bonded over the mutual love of music that our boys like to play. We live in North Carolina. Carson lives in Tennessee.  Eric and Ben had their own band. Carson had his own band.There weren't many opportunities , but every once in a while, the boys would have an opportunity to play together.
     Last year, for the third year in a row, Ben, Carson, and another boy from the original 5, Austin Tate, joined with two others and took home another first place win. While in town, Eric would join in at times and play banjo. The sound was good and almost effortless. They are all truly talented musicians. Since last summer, when there were times that two of Carson's band member's couldn't make it to a show, Eric, Ben, and Austin would fill in
     Several weeks ago, Jamie asked Eric if he could possibly be free to play on August 12th. Coincidentally, August 12th is during the Galax Fiddler's Convention, when Eric and Ben spend many hours every second weekend in August every year. Not knowing any details, Eric happily said yes. It wasn't until days later that we knew the "gig" Jamie was talking about was the Opry. Carson first played on the Opry at age 10 so this isn't his first or even second time. For us, this is a BIG STINKIN DEAL !
     Eric and Ben love to play music. It's their thing, it's just what they do. I know I am biased, but they are very good at what they do. I am sure that neither of them ever thought that this opportunity would present itself. Both of them have respected that Carson had his own band and they stay busy with theirs. Nonetheless, here we are. In less than 2 weeks, we are traveling to Nashville with a family that we have grown to love and my two boys get to perform on a stage where legends have stood. Excited doesn't begin to cover it. We are Opry bound !
    

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Come September

     I am a stay at home mom. I have been since my oldest , Ben, was born. It hasn't always been financially easy but I was passionate about being at home with my children. Sacrifices have been made through the years, sometimes large ones, so that I could remain home. There have been times when I have considered finding part time or even full time employment for a second income. It just never worked out and every time it didn't, I took that as a sign from God that it wasn't the right time.
     One day last summer, probably around this actual time, I was cruising through Walmart and stopped to chat with a woman that I had been bleacher buddies with when Ben played baseball. Amy is the teacher for the Toddler Time program at First United Methodist in Pilot Mountain. Amy knew that I had been subbing for Mount Airy City schools. I can't remember if she knew that I had been a substitute teacher since 2005. I was basically a career sub. She asked me if I would be interested in subbing for her in the coming school year.I specifically remember saying " I don't know Amy. Babies aren't really my thing." She talked me into giving it a try and gave me an out by saying, "if you don't like it, you can always decide to be taken off the list."Well, as it turns out, babies ARE my thing !
     The atmosphere there is totally different from anywhere I had worked before.Before class every morning, the staff meets to pray together. The children arrive with upbeat tunes about Jesus playing in the background. At snack time, the children, even the one year old toddlers, bow their head and say grace. There is learning happening there but with a massive amount of play mixed in. I essentially got paid to play with babies for half a day and I loved it more than I ever thought I would.
     What I found there were children still young enough to have not lost their innocence. There were no bullies. There was no cursing. There was no open defiance. There were just little bitty sweet souls who wanted to be held and to play. After so many years of subbing older children, I had forgotten how much fun that age was.As the year wore on, I found myself not wanting to sub for the city schools and would jump at the chance to sub for the preschool. I had found my happy subbing place.
     In April of this year, Amy told me about a program that her church , First Presbyterian of Mount Air, was creating. It was going to be very similar to the program she was teaching and she asked me if I would be interested in applying for a job. Seriously? Ummm...yes ! THIS was the job I had prayed for many times over the years. THIS was the stay at home mom's dream.I interviewed on May 3rd and was offered the lead teacher position shortly thereafter. I am getting paid to play with toddlers. Of course there is a little more to it than that, but still, I get paid to play with toddlers 4 half days a week ! I have every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off. I have 3 hours per day after work and before I pick up my children from school every day to run errands or go home and decompress before my afternoon gets crazy. I have summers off with my children because the program follows the city school schedule. I am contributing financially to the household and still will be able to be home when my children need me.
     I have always been a fan of trusting God to give me what I need when I need it, and this is just another huge example of his mercy, grace, and provision.Of course all of the other jobs I had pursued over the years had not panned out.None of them were meant for me. THIS one was meant for me and somewhere along the way, God put me in Amy's path, opened doors that I was aware of and even not aware of, to prepare me for this. Words cannot express the depth of emotion I get caught up in at times when I think about how it all happened.
     Come September, I embark on the next chapter of the book being written just for me. Come September, I will be allowed to pursue a passion that until last year, I did not know I had. Come September, I will walk the path that God has led me to with humbleness and obedience. Come September, I will still be the stay at home mom that God has generously allowed me to be but I will also officially be a teacher.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

SHUT UP !

     I have two children. Both are teenagers now but they are only 14 months apart so there was a time when I had two very small children to look after AT THE SAME TIME. Only one of my children has had to have stitches. When Ben was a toddler, he ran everywhere instead of walking. One morning I was sitting on my bed as he came hurling himself into my bedroom with a blanket over his head. The next 3 seconds are a blur.He trips over the bottom edge of the blanket, falls, and hits his chin on the bed rail. I was within arms length of him when he fell. I reached for him but it was too late.It all just happened so fast.
     Both Ben and Cara have had strep throat and I waited it out to see if it was viral because fever seemed to be the only symptom. Both were eating and drinking normally. Both were playing and behaving normally. Both had strep and I didn't catch it until DAYS later.
     Life doesn't come to a grinding halt just because you have two small children. Meals still need to be prepared. Laundry still has to be washed, dried, folded, and put up. Bills still have to be paid. Shopping still has to be done. I do not know exactly how many times I took my children to Walmart with me. It must have been bunches because I still to this day have horrible flashbacks. I remember many times when I would stop to get something off of the shelf or be looking at an article of clothing on a rack and 3 or 4 seconds later, I would be chasing one or both down a grocery aisle or rummaging under clothing racks to fish out a child or two.
     Several days ago, a 4 year old child fell into a gorilla exhibit at a Cincinnati zoo. Ultimately, the gorilla was shot and killed and the boy is safe and doing fine. All of the sudden there are hundreds of thousands of perfect parents and wild gorilla experts coming out of the woodwork, spouting opinions based on feeling , not facts.
    The mom has been judged by perfect parents everywhere as being negligent. Do you personally know her? Do you spend time with her and her children and observe her being negligent on a regular basis? No ? SHUT UP ! Were you there to witness the events as they took place? No? SHUT UP? Have you never lost sight of your child for even a second ? No? LIAR AND SHUT UP! You can say a million times that YOUR child would never had been the one to fall into the exhibit. You can say that YOU are a better parent. YOU are judgemental and ignorant to the world around you. Parenting small children is no joke and if you have never witnessed your child almost come face to face with disaster while you stand there helpless to stop it, it has nothing to do with your parenting skills. You better hit your knees in gratitude because you have been blessed.
     The zoo officials have been judged by hundreds of thousands of people who apparently identify as wild gorilla experts. How many years have you spent with gorillas in the wild to observe their behavior? Zero? For real? SHUT UP ! How many years have you worked at the zoo? Zero? SHUT UP ! How much experience do you have shooting 450 pound gorillas  with tranquilizer darts? None? SHUT UP!
     This country is suffering from an epidemic of judgement and condemnation based on how they feel and one or two facts. Too many have an opinion and are quick to shout it out without waiting for confirmation or research. Too many assume incorrectly that their opinion trumps fact. STOP IT !  Stop  being so self absorbed, self righteous, and stupid. SHUT UP !
     I know it may be too much to ask , but, how about we extend the mother and the zoo in question a little mercy and grace? How about we as a society recognize that NONE of us are perfect and we ALL make mistakes. Fortunately for us all, not many mistakes end in death, but sometimes they do.How about we give the benefit of doubt? How about we stop judging people for making split second decisions that do not line up with what we THINK we would do? Fact : YOU weren't there. Fact : You did not witness the event. Fact: You aren't a perfect parent either. Fact: You aren't an expert on wild gorilla behavior. Fact : You should SHUT UP !


Disclaimer : I made some pretty harsh snap judgements when I first read this story. I pretty quickly realized that since I was not there and didn't have many facts, I had no right to do so. When I say we as a society, I am preaching to myself as well. This was also a reminder to MYSELF to shut up the next time I make judgements because I do not have the right. It was a reminder to MYSELF to NOT be self absorbed, self righteous , and stupid. It was a reminder to MYSELF to always give the benefit of the doubt and to offer mercy and grace instead.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Guns in the restroom

     I shy away from posting anything political on social media because I despise the nastiness that usually ensues. I only discuss politics with my husband, my children, and a few close friends. Although this blog post will be shared to Facebook, I still will only discuss politics with those particular people. I will not debate what I write on my personal blog. Written below is MY observation and you can agree or disagree with it. One disclaimer down, one to go. I HATE labels and stereotypes with a passion but for the purposes of this observation, I will use the words liberal and conservative. Yes, I do know that not everyone who identifies as a liberal feels the same as I am going to portray just as I know that not everyone who identifies as a conservative feels the same as I am going to portray. ( the very reason that I hate labels and stereotypes) I am just calling it as I see it. Below are examples of made up conversations between a liberal ( L) and a conservative (C)


Subject : Gun control
L: Did you watch the news this morning?
C: I caught a little bit of it, why?
L: Did you see what happened in Oregon, the school shooting?
C: Yeah.
L: Ridiculous is what it is. When is this country gonna wake up? How many children have to die at the hand of some lunatic with a gun before something is done?
C: You do realize that not everyone who owns a gun is a lunatic waiting to shoot up a school right?
L: Yes, but you realize that the laws we have now just makes it easier for a lunatic to get a gun?
C: I realize that if someone intends to harm a lot of people at one time, and a gun is their weapon of choice that there isn't a law that can be made that will stop them from obtaining a gun, legally OR illegally, and carrying out their plan. Lunatics don't follow the law.


Subject : Allowing someone to use the restroom of their choice
C: Did you watch the news this morning?
L: I caught a little bit of it, why?
C: Can you believe what Target has done, letting men use the women's bathroom?
L: Yeah.
C: Ridiculous is what it is. When is this country gonna wake up? How many children will be molested by some pedophile before something is done?
L: You do realize that transgender does not mean pedophile right?
C: Yes, but you realize that allowing men to use the women's restroom just makes it easier for the pedophiles to get to their target?
L: I realize that is someone intends to harm a child in that way, there is no law that will stop them from doing it. Legal or illegal, they will find a way to carry out their plan. Pedophiles don't follow the law.


Different subject, same argument. Around and around in circles we go. I can only imagine the conversation that will take place when a pedophile walks into a women's restroom and attacks a woman by gunpoint. I have halted listening to and reading any and all arguments for or against either subject. My opinion on both is this ; the gun toting lunatic and the restroom pedophile are equally evil. Their plans are to harm a fellow human being. Both will find a way to do so regardless of any law passed, past, present, or in the future. Both will answer for their actions, if not on this earth, then on judgement day. My hope is that they answer for their actions on earth AND on judgement day.  I live IN this world, not OF this world, therefore it is not my duty to judge those OF this world. Only God has the authority to do that and I will gladly let him have that job. As for me, I want nothing else to do with it !


Monday, November 2, 2015

Learning To Say No Like A Boss

     It is Monday morning and therefore today is the day that I wrap up or "finish" what wasn't checked off last week's "to do" list. Like most people, I am almost constantly thinking that there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do. That is a lie and I'll tell you why.
     I am a stay at home mom, a wife, and part time substitute teacher. A major portion of the population believes that I sit around and watch talk shows and soap operas all day. Sigh...if only that were true. Most days, I go non stop from 6am til after 8 pm just as if I worked a "real job". The difference is, I DON'T get paid in spendable currency.
     I am a stay at home mom because I can be, well, that, and I almost kind of have to be. My husband makes enough money to pay our bills but that also means that he works 50 to 60 hours a week which means that he brings home the bacon and I fry it up in a pan. It also means that I do EVERYTHING else and I am good at it. I make sure our children are at school every morning with everything they need for their day as well as everywhere else they may need to be for extra curricular activities. I do ALL of the house cleaning, ALL of the bill paying, ALL of the banking, ALL of the grocery shopping, ALL of the cooking. I could go on but you get the picture. Because of Eric's crazy hours, ALL that he can't do, I do.
     On top of ALL of that, I have added working out 4 to 5 times a week, cleaning the church once a month, cooking for the Wednesday night youth meeting at church once a month, cooking once a month for community meal night at church, attending and sometimes teaching a women's Bible study one evening a month, and a once weekly Bible study with a friend. I also try to fix a meal and either deliver it or have someone over for a meal once a month. I sub for the city schools and most recently have added a subbing stint at a church in Pilot Mountain, working 5 days last month.
     By mid October my datebook was a scary place and there were many days when I was on auto pilot , would crash when my head hit the pillow only to get up the next morning and start a new day that looked very much like the day before. On the evening of a particularly brutal day, my daughter and I were headed to a school function that she had to attend and I was telling her how exhausted I was and why. I was explaining to her why we probably would not be doing something that she had asked to do. The explanation included how I could not physically add even just one more thing. What she said to me in that moment changed my whole thought process. She said " And how exactly is that MY fault? Mama, you need to learn how to say no more than you say yes."
     A trip to the doctor and some bloodwork results in July made me realize that I needed to change how I take care of myself if I want to continue to take care of my family full time , now and for years to come. I will address that and what has transpired because of it in a blog very soon. Between July and now I have battled with making myself a priority and I was failing miserably. One day last week I ate only an apple for lunch and it took me an hour to eat that because I was taking bites between peeling and chopping 15 pounds of potatoes for a Wednesday night youth meal.For far too long I have made everyone and everything else more important and that must stop and stop now. It was in that moment that I decided that I do need to say no more than I say yes and declared November "SAY NO" month.
     I struggle with saying no. I hate hate hate feeling as if I have let someone down . Why can't my no just mean no? Why do I always feel the need to explain myself? I do not know the answers to those questions but by the end of this month I shall be well on my way to saying no like a boss.
     My to do list today looked like this : Drop off children at school, 2 loads of laundry, clean toilets, sweep downstairs, drop off items that have been sitting in a pile for 2 weeks at the cleaners to be repaired, take something back to Goodwill for a refund because this is the last day I can get one, take off the trash, workout at the gym, make mammogram appointment, call for prescription refill , grocery store run for 2 or 3 things, and somewhere in between all of that, put up freshly washed laundry, shower, eat lunch, plan supper, take dogs to potty multiple times, cook, pay 2 bills, scrub and pre-treat Eric's work jeans for washing tonight and probably 3 or 4 things that will come up as the day wears on. At 7 :25 I am getting into my car to take my children to school. I am wearing sweatpants,  a t shirt, and flip flops. My hair has been combed but needs a serious washing. I have on no makeup and I am not sure I had even brushed my teeth. As I put the car in reverse I get a text asking if I can sub today. I would love to say yes but just to get there on time would have meant that I would have needed to leave the house at least 10 minutes before then and in different clothes. It just wasn't possible. I quickly texted back that I could not and it took everything in me to resist a separate response explaining why I couldn't. I said no and it was uncomfortable but I stuck to it. I have crossed off  much of my to do list today and because I said no, I have nothing that I have to carry over to tomorrow's to do list. Maybe I can learn to say no like a boss. We shall see.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The simple beauty of prayer

     Recently I was scrolling down my page on Facebook and stopped to read a post about prayer. Let me begin by saying I love the woman who made the post. I know her to be intelligent, funny, beautiful, hardworking, and an incredibly devoted mother. It is certainly NOT my intention to blast her or her character.This is me using my blog to share a different opinion about the subject .
     The post was as such : I read often people asking for prayers for this or that. prayer is a wonderful thing. But think about this...There is always someone in a worse situation than you are; so maybe if you pray for people who are suffering so badly and count your blessings, even though you are going through a difficult time, the love and prayers you are giving will come back to you.
     I get it. I really really do. On a daily basis, my page is filled with mountains of prayer requests and at times, it seems a little overwhelming. The post bothered me way more than it should have and I am not really sure why. Maybe it is because I am really passionate about prayer. Prayer used to be something I was not very good at. As I have matured in my faith, I decided I had to work on that. I have a long list of friends that specifically call upon me to pray for them. Why me? They know, without a doubt, that if at all possible, I will stop what I am doing a pray immediately. If not, then, then I will honestly sometimes physically write it down so I will remember to do it before the sun sets on that day. To me prayer is more than a wonderful thing. Prayer is an essential and extremely important part of my faith .
    So here is what happened when I broke apart the post in my head. Allow me to propose a hypothetical situation. I receive a call from the local hospital and the person on the other end informs me that my husband has just been brought in via ambulance and to get there as soon as I can. Upon arrival I am told that his injuries are not life threatening but he is in surgery. Later, the surgeon explains that the immediate issues were fixed but he will probably need two to three more surgeries in the next year or so to completely repair damage done. All of the sudden, the world as I know it has completely turned upside down. My husband who I love dearly will most likely endure a massive amount of physical pain in the next year. Our finances have just been blown to pieces. Not only will we lose his income, but medical bills will probably bury us. The very same day, my neighbor's 3 year old is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and according to the doctor it's really just a matter of time. They are told to make him comfortable and prepare for the worst. I know my husband will eventually recover and come home, meanwhile this family will lose their child forever. So according to the logic used above, should I not request prayer for our situation, count my blessings that my husband is going to be okay, and focus on praying for the neighbor because their situation seems to be worse than mine? To use a phrase from one of my favorite commercials...that is not how this works. That is not how any of this works.
     Philippians 4:6 says : Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. So, basically, whatever makes us anxious, whether it be big or small, worse than someone else or not, while counting our blessings, we are to present our requests to God. God doesn't play favorites. Once our requests reach his ears, he does not sit back on his throne and throw out answers to them based upon how dire the situation is. God answers prayer according to his will and his plan and in his time. He loves us all. He cares about all of our cares, concerns, situations, heartaches, burdens, and pain. ALL. Nothing is too insignificant to God and nothing should be insignificant to us either. If I scroll my page and see two prayer requests, one because a husband lost a job and one because a husband died, who am I to decide whose situation is worse ? Do I tell the wife of the unemployed husband that she should count her blessings that at least her husband is alive and she should pray for the wife who just lost her husband?  Do I tell the wife who just lost her husband to death that she should count her blessings that she will at least be financially taken care of because he had fabulous life insurance and that she should pray for the wife whose husband just lost his job?
     Yes, we should count our blessings. Yes, what we put out there comes back to us. Both statements are accurate. The bottom line is this: I am a woman that prays. Sometimes it is all I can really do for someone when I can't physically do anything else for their situation. When I get to the point that I reach out to others and request that they pray for me, I surely want as many voices as I can to be  calling out my name to God on my behalf.I would imagine that anyone who swallows their pride and uses a public forum to ask for prayer hopes for the same. I guess I could decide that another's situation is worse than mine and instead of asking anyone to pray for me, count my blessings, and hope that somebody, somewhere, sees my situation and thinks that mine is worse than theirs and that they actually take the time to pray for me. I propose that I can do both. I can ask for people to pray for me while I go to God in prayer, thank him for how richly I have been blessed and then call out the names of those not as fortunate as myself.
     I have one last thought but it might be the most important to me. This country has never been more divided. Politics, race relations, economics, and religion has pushed us all into our separate corners , foaming at the mouth to be heard and gearing up to fight for what we believe in. I can see the absolutely incredible beauty in many of us coming together to pray for others, all in one accord and all in agreement for one purpose, to reach God's ears with our voices, all calling out the same name to him who holds the world in his hands and hears our hearts. I can't call out your name in my prayers if you don't ask.
     If by chance my friend who wrote the original post is reading this , I hope that you are not angry or offended by what I have written. I do firmly believe that two people can disagree and still respect and love each other. I do respect you and I do still love you.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

People and shells, shells and people

     This past week I went on a 3 day adventure with my mom and daughter. If you missed it, you can catch up here :http://www.juliehmarshall.blogspot.com/2015/08/for-love-of-shells.html . As I was combing the beaches , sifting through piles, I saw something in the process that I had never noticed before. Shells are an awful lot like people. I know, it sounds like a stretch but just hang in there and allow me to explain.
     Of course, there is the obvious, all shells, just as people, are created by God . All have some of the same characteristics, yet all are unique in their own way. Some are black. Some are white. Some are multi-colored, and the rest are all shades in between. There are many different sizes, some are tiny. Some are large. The rest are in between.






Some shells are smooth. Some are rough around the edges.There are skinny shells and fat ones. There are ones that you can find hundreds of in a short period of time ( like the ones pictured above) and then there are the more rare ones that there are fewer of ( like the ones pictured here.)
No two shells are exactly alike, yet every one of them starts out the same. Seashells are the exoskeletons of mollusks such as snails, clams, oysters and many others. Such shells have three distinct layers and are composed mostly of calcium carbonate with only a small quantity of protein--no more than 2 percent. These shells, unlike typical animal structures, are not made up of cells. Mantle tissue that is located under and in contact with the shell secretes proteins and mineral extracellularly to form the shell. Think of laying down steel (protein) and pouring concrete (mineral) over it. Thus, seashells grow from the bottom up, or by adding material at the margins. Since their exoskeleton is not shed, molluscan shells must enlarge to accommodate body growth. This pattern of growth results in three distinct shell layers: an outer proteinaceous periosteum (uncalcified), a prismatic layer (calcified) and an inner pearly layer of nacre (calcified).
    As the creature inside of the shell grows, so does the shell Once the sea creature living within a shell dies, the empty shell washes up on the shore to be found by someone like me, who finds beauty in them and their purpose.The ocean is unforgiving, tossing everything inside of it to and fro every minute of every day. Shells are hard to protect the creature inside but they aren't indestructible. There comes a time when the constant pounding of the ocean will produce chips, cracks, and gouges. Just as a shell can be broken, so can we. Sometimes the constant pounding of life chips away at us, cracks our hearts, and gouges our souls.The blemishes caused by the storms of life aren't always immediately evident. At first glance the exterior still looks whole and perfect.


    















A closer look reveals the damage done to the interior.
     There are times in this journey called life that we feel washed up and abandoned upon the shore. Every once in a while someone like me runs across the broken shells that other's may leave laying and I pick them up and take them home because I see beauty in the brokenness. Every once in a while someone will see the beauty in a broken abandoned soul and love it regardless of it's blemishes and even if that never happens, God still does. Our heavenly Father created us , each one of us with some the same characteristics as everyone else, but all absolutely totally different than everyone else. He sees our brokenness even when no one else can. He sees past the chips, cracks, and gouges. He leans down, picks us up in His massive loving hands, and takes us home after the life within us ends.