Throwback Thursday {back to school}

Florida schools started this week. I grew up when schools started after Labor Day and got out just before Memorial Day.

Girls had to wear dresses until somewhere around Junior High when pants were allowed if the temperature got below a certain number. That was in Arkansas. Then I moved to Baltimore where the male teachers had ponytails and wore jeans and Patchouli and liked hearing my “accent”. What accent?

1st grade and perhaps my worst school picture EVER

1st grade and perhaps my worst school picture EVER

It will soon be time for school pictures. Mama always gave me one of those home permanents in 1st and 2nd grades. They stunk and never lasted long. My hair was nothing like hers which caused her much frustration. She eventually gave in to my desire to let it grow under a few conditions: keep it brushed and off my face. Somewhere around 5th grade I was ready for this responsibility.

2nd grade

2nd grade

I can’t remember the names of all the school I attended, only the places.

kindergarten: New Orléans

1st & 2nd Grades: Pine Bluff, Arkansas

3rd & 4th Grades: Alexandria, Louisiana

5th Grade: Oklahoma City & Shawnee, Oklahoma

6th, 7th, part of 8th: Fayetteville, Arkansas

2nd semester 8th grade: Fort Smith, Arkansas

9th Grade: Baltimore, Maryland (two schools; 1 in the city and 2nd in the county)

10th Grade: Fort Myers, Florida & Salt Lake City, Utah

11th Grade: Fort Lauderdale, FL & Beaumont, TX

12th Grade: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Somewhere around 5th grade with glasses and hair getting longer. But it's out of my face :)

Somewhere around 5th or 6th grade with glasses and hair getting longer. But it’s out of my face :)

Junior High and contact lenses!

Junior High and contact lenses!

The day before preschool pictures, our son’s teacher met me at the door. Never a good sign. He and a friend had gotten hold of scissors and taken a cut on each others bangs. That always makes for good photo’s.

Jonathan age 3

4th grade

4th grade

Looking at our kids school pictures bring back a flood of emotions. That wistful feeling of realizing how fast the years have gone and asking if we cherished the moments enough.

With my school years being marked by moving it was with intention we wanted more stability for our children. Henry worked hard to provide the kind of schooling we wanted for them and to make a way for me to meet them after school. His work provided the opportunity to be the shuttle mom to their games and late practices and field trips. It wasn’t just a gift to our kids but to our family. One we never took for granted and one we shared with friends. A gift for which we still give thanks.

Our daughter, 1st grade

Our daughter, 1st grade

And her daughter....oh, my!

And her daughter….oh, my!

Now we start with the granddaughter and my heart yearns to be the one in the car line for her, ready to hear the stories of the day. Distance requires we settle for delayed stories and rely on technology to share photo’s. It requires more intention to close the space of miles.

Facebook has been flooded with back to school photo’s and ice bucket videos this week. I’m seeing photo’s of the kids of those who rode in our minivan to after school games and I’m trying to choose to feel grateful rather than old. The grateful part is easy but that old feeling gets heavier. But I still flip through the photo’s because  of the gratitude. Because of the blessings then and now. So let’s see those school pics, friends. Would love to see some of your favorite.


In the big yellow house by the lake

It was a week set aside for good things. Good weather, good friends, good words, new experiences that would mark our lives and leave us marked by the good we’d experienced.

Instead, it started with change and sadness. Then it rained chasing our outdoor plans inside. Schedules started bumping into each other and expectations were realized when they weren’t met. Feelings were hurt and sleep was lost and anxiety crept in for performances to be made. Because even on the mountain, in the midst of creations splendor surrounded by your most loved family, life happens. We show up. All of our battered, messy and imperfect selves show up.

And then grace.

lake house

around the lake

around the lake

Marian says put your truth on the table. So we did. Mostly calm and quiet words from this woman who is rarely calm or quiet. And grace was given and hugs shared and tender places soothed because our love is deeper than feelings.

kk uncle J iphone


silly family photo

men folk



Somewhere in the midst of the coming and going, the earlier-than-I’d-like mornings and later, noisier nights grace was surrounding us all. It came out in loud laughter and a few tears and old stories and new revelations and friendships healed and renewed. Grace does what it does: it smooths the rough edges of self and touches the others pain. It reaches out to accept the hug and it says “I choose you”. Just because.

In this big yellow house by the lake, our annual rental with ever-changing family members and friends, the week spent at a bible conference (of all places!), life follows us. We’re reminded of the challenges of coming together and we remember the ebbs and flows of others and we beg grace from each other. We learn the truth in the words of Jesus when he said His grace is sufficient because it is. It’s enough.

Adding my voice to Meredith Bernard‘s #Woman2Woman link-up. 

Five-Minute Friday {tell}

Remember that expression from childhood, tattle-tell? There was always someone who couldn’t wait to go tell a wrong they’d seen done or had done to them. We didn’t like them much, did we? Probably still don’t.

We’ve learned new ways of telling those wrong things. We’ve learned about owning them and changing them and that was last night.









We are at a conference this week. We’ve brought men from our Adult Rehabilitation Centers from the southeast and we’ve gathered at this place of beauty in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. We’ve come to hear stories about Jesus and God and hope and change and new life. We’ve come to create new habits. We’ve come to learn. To share. To accept.

Last night was our night. The night in the week dedicated to these men telling their stories of redemption and grace. To sing songs God has given them about putting away the slick talk for a new walk.

ARC night


Their songs are our songs and their stories our stories and I never want to forget that I, too, am a sinner saved by grace. We’ve had different stones along our paths, them and me. But stones none the less so my heart pounds when they tell their Amazing Grace stories because it’s our story too. Me and you. An offer to be saved by God’s amazing grace.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for Five-Minute Friday. Join the blogging party by adding your story. Click here.

When Hope Floats

Whoever thought hope could float on the foaming fizz of root beer? A styrofoam cup filled with vanilla ice cream and a can of Dr. Brown’s Root Beer. It was so simple, said Corbin. Here we were scooping up servings of hope that tasted like more.

Aaron waited till the end to get a second portion. Just the ice cream for him. This isn’t his first taste of hope. He’s been here a few times and had his share of portions only to run out and I’m not sure exactly how one runs out of hope but it happens. It must or why would they come back empty?

chalkboard sign

He was sitting in the outer room waiting for his paperwork to be processed. He didn’t see me come from behind but he felt my arms wrap around his shoulders and his head dropped. Some have said this is the hard part. The bottom. He left full of hope and promise, ready, feeling healthy and healed but…here he sat, again, at least 40 pounds less of him, his jeans staying up by some kind of magic of the will.

ice cream

Root Beer Floats cropped

Maybe he didn’t run out of hope. Maybe we were his last hope. We are good at trying to do it all ourselves as long as we can. Fix it. Mend it. Numb it. Deny it. When all of our do-it-yourself plans haven’t worked we give up. Maybe giving up is where hope begins.

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
 and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
 out of the mud and the mire (out of addiction, self-pity, depression, pride, loneliness). 
He set my feet on solid ground
 (gave me another chance) and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing (and a root beer float),
 a hymn of praise to our God.
 Many will see what he has done and be amazed (at the change in me).
  They will put their trust (and hope) in the Lord.” Psalm 40, with paraphrase

Up on the mountain {today}

Up on the mountain Where Your love captured me

Where finally I am free, This I know

Up on the mountain, Where You taught my soul to sing

Amazing grace, The sweetest thing, This I know

And then the storm rushing in And here I am again

This I know

David Crowder,This I Know

around the lake  lake


around the lake

We go up to these Smoky Mountains, every August. Our tenth consecutive year that we’ve packed our schedules, our uniforms for required times hanging next to our T-shirts and shorts for most days. We’ve gathered up all variety of power cords and loaded up the SwaggerWagon with a good play list and promise.

Growing up in the church you hear things like “mountain-top” experience so when you go to the mountains you go expectantly. My expectations start like this: the days will be too rushed, too much to take in, not enough time to sit with friends over homemade pie and pleeeease, God, let the technology work during the program.

Some time later, not until we’re on the road, do my expectations turn, just a little, to thoughts of refreshing.

I play it safe by keeping personal expectations in check. I play this tape in my head: it’s going to get loud, you’re going to feel like a mama hen being pecked by people you love, just remember YOU LOVE THEM. And remember, when you need to escape to your room a little early, it’s okay.

family christmas  family christmas

with Tim




lunch time at the falls

I’m this extrovert who turns a little introvert to survive the week. I want nothing more than to have this mountain-top experience with our family, to stay up laughing at the same old stories and creating new ones.

I want to have a morning with Marty in a quiet corner where we can speak a little of our hearts. But we’ll be pressed in from all sides. “This isn’t vacation”, my mind continues to remind me.

It is beautiful. It is peaceful. It is reviving and tiring all at once. It’s the kind of tiring that comes from pushing aside the comfort zone and keeping open house. The kind of tired when you fall into bed at the end of day and think, this was good.

Presumed expectations of others want to climb this mountain with me and I struggle to hear the truth of the mountain. The truth that sings this song, “Amazing grace, the Sweetest Thing, this I know”.

Up on this mountain there will be family and friends, new faces and old to hug and hold. There will be meals to fix and orchards to order homemade pies. There’s Clyde’s diner waiting for our Sunday breakfast order where we catch our breath before the others arrive.

Up on this mountain there will be grace. Grace to sing of His amazing love for the anxious ones like me.

Five-Minute Friday {fill}

This is how community works: when one sweet lady spent four years nurturing other bloggers with an open house she held every week and called it Five-Minute Friday, when this sweet woman felt the call to step back, she didn’t close the doors to all who’ve come to share their stories. She simply called on another in this expanding community, another Word-loving, God-reverencing woman to open her doors, and she did. Welcome to Kate’s place where we’ll be linking up as she give the word prompt and says


empty tea cup

Filler’ up.

We’re packing up the minivan to head north so ‘filler’ up’ with miles and miles of highway that will give way to winding roads that climb and wind around hills growing into mountains.

Filler’ up with that Carolina Sweet Tea and barb-b-que and that little spot by the creek where the water runs loud.

Filler’ up with the sounds of little girl giggles and big girl laughs and nights spent with family talking all over each other getting louder and louder because that’s how we do it in this family.

Filler’ up with the blooms of Black-eyed Susans and Crepe Myrtle’s and those other ones I can’t name, the ones that can’t survive our Florida heat.

Fill me up, Lord, with the refreshment I need. The time of being together, the presence of family, right there, the kind I can hug and watch their eyes.

Fill me up with the refreshment of your creation, your word, your spirit.  But first, empty me of me.


Throwback Thursday {up on the mountain}

It’s a big trek from South Florida to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. More than a day by car, though when the kids were kids we’d push it to do in a day. Seems we were always up against the start of school and this mama needed a day of rest (and laundry and preparations) before heading into a new school year.

Our first year at this big lake surrounded by rising mountains, was at the invitation of my brother to share a house with he and his wife and plus our cousin and her family.  And so it began; escaping to this mountain in the thick Florida heat of summer to breathe in a cool morning and not break a sweat walking to the car.

1990 the Mc-Hudson tribe

1990 the Mc-Hudson tribe (minus Henry who was taking the photo)

Most of the houses have spent many a summer around this quiet lake. The first one we all shared was a basement apartment with bedrooms feeling a bit like bat caves: dark and damp. We hauled the kids bikes up so they could ride to the youth programs. This week is set aside for a bible conference in our denomination. Then we went just for vacation, not as delegates. These days it’s part of our job.

We didn’t make the journey every summer but enough times for our son to want to meet up with us as often as he can, making the 8-hour drive from Memphis. It holds memories of the grandparents taking them to the outdoor performance of Unto These Hills, the story of the Cherokee Indians Trail of Tears. Of horseback riding and white water rafting. Of sharing the Big Red House with a total of 13 family members one summer, a real His Mine and Ours.

Hudson boys NC

Yep, 13 of us in this house for a week.

Yep, 13 of us in this house for a week.

a new cousin joins us in '92

a new cousin joins us in the Big Red House

extended family

extended family

The year we scoped out the film site of the bus wreck in the movie The Fugitive

The year we scoped out the film site of the bus wreck in the movie The Fugitive

Of walks around the big lake in the cool evenings and seeing friends we last met here last year.

One summer Henry and our son went hiking the Appalachian with a friend and his son. That shortened overnight hiking trip made many a sermon illustration as the rain crept into their tent at night soaking and freezing them all.

around the lake

The past 9 years we’ve taken men from our ARC. No matter their age, they’re as excited and enthused as our son was in his youth. The men will go to the same stable for horseback riding and the same river rafting.

We’ll share a house with my brother with an annual changing array of family members. (We’ve upgraded our housing considerably.)

The really old and really dusty house we never stayed in again.

We never stayed in this house again.

the last of the cousins to join us

the last of the cousins to join us

lake house

Our annual rental that fits our family and friends to a T

the granddaughter joins us now

the granddaughter joins us now

At times it will be faster than I’d like rushing between morning meetings and afternoon activities. But the voices of friends and family will warm my soul clean through and it will be good.

We leave in the morning, fixing our eyes on the mountain. The mountain that will bring us together, refresh up our weary hearts and remind us we are His and He is ours.

Lake Junaluska

I bought this apple {for mama}

I bought a green apple dish. I’m not fond of green, nor do I collect apples but mama did. Mostly red ones. So I bought it. Because of her, no other reason. I bought it for a mama who has dementia or Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure of the difference or if it matters.

green apple dish 2

Updates from my sister take us further into this dark place and I can only imagine how much darker it is for mama. Though now, with her memory so gone, maybe things are brighter for her. She isn’t struggling as much to remember what she once knew she’d forgotten. Life is easier for her in that way. I want to believe that.

She has fallen three times in less than two weeks with no particular reason as to why. It meant a trip for blood work and there the struggle became most difficult for my sister. Mama doesn’t remember how to get in and out of a car and screamed when the blood was drawn. I’ll spare you some of the other events of what was once a simple trip. It was less than three years ago when I took her for medical tests and my biggest concern was her getting away from me when my back was turned answering questions.

The latest news of her losing weight signals the disease entering another stage, one taking her further away from this life. Mama struggled with her weight most of her adult years. But this isn’t good news. Not now.

I think of the family we’ve lost in the past six years. Both of Henry’s parents, my uncle who was such a part of our lives, all of them in better shape than mama. Their bodies gave out and hers, well, it’s hard to understand. In fact, I don’t understand it. Not at all.

green apple dish

I bought this apple. This green that looked much darker than I remembered it looking on the website. This dish that seems to be a bit awkward amongst the pottery pieces on my shelf. A new piece that has nothing to do with the collection of apples she had in her house. Yet, I look at it and think of her. Another thing I don’t understand.

Paul of the bible writes of some kind of handicap or disability or limitation. Something that caused him aggravation at the least. Enough that he asked God to take this away. Three times Paul begged God would take this away. Three times God said no. Bigger than God’s “No” is his grace.

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”2 Corinthian 12:7, the Message

Grace is only given when we need it. I believe it often looks like tears or smiles. It can be hidden in the faded photos crammed into boxes. This grace that is enough. For me.



Five-Minute Friday {begin}

On Lisa-Jo’s last day of hosting this party of brave bloggers to take up her challenge to write for 5 minutes on the word she gives, on her very last day, she chooses Begin. Perfect. 

GO (just don’t hold a stop watch to me)

Begin. It brings to mind the timed tests in Jr. High School. Remember? The papers were handed out face down. The all important sharpened pencil at the ready waiting for the teachers, “GO”.



I do believe that clock was the loudest and I couldn’t keep from looking at it every few seconds as my palms grew sweaty with anxiety. This begin was always followed at a prescribed time by the word, “STOP”.

There’s another Begin my mind goes to, one of more pleasant lingering and one that knows no Stop.

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi”

That’s the one. The Begin that makes me smile and sing along.



around the lake


One week from today we Begin an annual trip that combines work and family time. A trip that squishes together  those two kinds of Begin for me. A bit of anxiety for a work schedule we must juggle with the extended family coming to join us where family time and fun are their only schedule.

I know I won’t be able to completely let go of that but my heart wants to lean in to the Begin that doesn’t have an ending. The one that is sung and followed along and brings others in to its sweet tune. I know a little granddaughter that will be glad to sing along. Let’s begin.


Lisa-Jo has passed the baton of FMF to another and the link-up’s will continue. To join today’s free write blog fest click here.

Middle Ground

I’m living in middle ground.” Micha Boyett, author, Found

AWOL [Absent WithOut Leave; didn't return by curfew]

ATL [Asked To Leave, typically due to intoxication or other serious infraction]

LWON [Left WithOut Notice. He told someone he was leaving but no exit plan was made and no staff notified.]

It’s one of the first things I look at in the morning. A night log is placed in my box every day with notations on it as to anything eventful at the Center during the night. There’s only one place I look and that’s the first section that will have names listed of men not returning.

Sometimes those words barely cause a flinch and other times it’s a sadness that settles in my heart. The reasons are different. Most times I am numb to it which is contrary to what we teach. It’s not honorable but it’s how I get through this middle ground of joy and grief.

Joy-filled monthly celebrations marking months and years of sobriety. Happy seeing the inner change become visible as the old is shed like a moth emerging as a butterfly.


It was J’s first time with us. A tall man with a gentle smile he sat near the front in my bible class.  He was quiet but laughed in the right places, a silent smiling laugh. Were you to see him on the sidewalk, like most of them after a time of rest and good food, you’d be likely to think him a white-collar professional than an alcoholic. He read the scripture one week in chapel. As you’d expect, a quiet reserve.

Next to him name on the night log: LWON. How does a man I barely know cause such sadness in me? I don’t know where he’s from, if he has kids, what kind of work he does, nothing. And still, my heart sighs with knowing he’s gone. Too short a time. It’s not good. Never a good sign.

It’s that middle ground I’m straddling between joy and grief. It’s like standing on the teeter-totter trying to keep it balanced. A shift this way or that, cheers or sorrow.



It’s the same in all of life this balance of living. Living in the before, where memories comfort and the after, when hope and faith paint a better picture. Living in the now with mama is sad and ugly but living in the after, there I see her restored and whole, her mind sharp as ever and she is released to praise again.

Living in the now is today’s reality. It’s not where I  prefer, at times, but it’s denial that turns away from today. Today is middle ground and I am caught there. Caught between the glossed over past and a future built on faith. Caught in a today that is bright with promise.

grateful yellow


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