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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

Thankfulness, Day 6

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 19, 2010

Today I’m thankful for two things: The Cinnamon Stick and music. Tonight those two things came together in a fun-filled, family friendly evening.

The Cinnamon Stick is a new coffeehouse and sandwich shop in downtown Batesville (a couple of doors down from the Melba Theater) that features local bands and all kinds of neat stuff. Tonight the bulk of the worship band from our church (Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville) played and sang. They did some Beatles, a few other oldies and some worship songs. Sean Roulier on a jazzed-up, Jars of Clay version of “It is Well (With My Soul)” was surprisingly enjoyable! (I say surprisingly because that old hymn is one of my top 2 or 3 favorites, largely because of the story behind it, and I was afraid I wouldn’t like “Sean’s version” – I have never heard Jars of Clay’s rendition, but Sean’s mom says it’s great.)

Randell, Tommy, Angela, Sean and Becky

Last night at the Stick, the Fellowship kids had karaoke night (check out our pastor’s rendition of “Ghostbusters” on my Facebook page), played board games and shot some pool. (I wasn’t there, but I have seen the videos.)

Bruce and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE music and are especially fond of supporting locally owned businesses. And when great food is involved … well, what more could you ask for?

You must go to The Cinnamon Stick. Immediately. Next time you need an iced coffee, instead of McDonald’s, stir up some friends and visit the Stick. Try the Loaded Baked Potato Soup and a hot tea or latte. Bliss!

The Cinnamon Stick is open on Saturdays. I may be there when they open tomorrow. Got to start trying their hot teas – one by one.

Won’t you join me?

Come on downtown and support your local coffeehouse. The Cinnamon stick is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


Posted in Batesville, friends, fun, giving thanks, God, inspiration, music | Leave a Comment »

Thankfulness, Day 2

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 15, 2010

Today I’m thankful for runners who have gone before.

My Amazon books came today, along with my ski mask without the mouth hole (I’m prone to respiratory problems and have been looking for a ski cap that covers everything but the eyes – I finally had to order one). And since the masks were so cheap, I decided to order two, and since I wanted free shipping, I had to make the order total $25, so I ordered two books by John “The Penguin” Bingham, a columnist for Runner’s World magazine.

The books, which came highly recommended by other Amazon users, are “No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running” and “Training for Mortals,” which is mainly a logbook but includes little bits of inspiration and other nice features.

The package arrived while I was at work, so Trainer Bruce perused the books and gave me a report: They’ll be good for Lisa and me. (He was more specific than that, but I’ll save that for later.)

And because I’m eager to climb under the electric blanket (our heater’s still broken), this post is short and sweet.

Lisa and I did walk three miles tonight after I got out of class. Just so you know.

Posted in books, fitness, inspiration, reading, sports | Leave a Comment »

A month for giving thanks

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 14, 2010


I’m starting this two weeks late, but I’d like to spend the rest of the month counting my blessings, naming them one by one (or two), and posting them here daily.

The Batesville Camera Club’s theme for the next meeting is “Things I’m Thankful For.” We’re to take pictures relating to that theme and share them at the Dec. 9 meeting (see details in my Nov. 13 post).

And, while I didn’t take the picture I will post here (as soon as it’s available from my niece Catie), it illustrates what I’m thankful for on Sunday, Nov. 14.

Today, I’m thankful for my new sister-in-law, Lisa.

She is a direct, specific answer to one of my most-heartful prayers. No, she’s an answer to two prayers. Aww, I could probably stretch it to three:

No. 1: When I began getting to know Lisa a couple of years ago and suspecting that my brother may end up marrying her, I quickly realized that she’s a very special woman. She’s a great mom to her kids and now a great wife, stepmom, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law to my family. I’m thankful for a wonderful sister-in-law. I had prayed that we would be close as family members.

No. 2: My best friends live in California, and I see them every few years at best. I had prayed for a good friend locally. And, while I don’t expect to magically become BFF’s with Lisa (friendship takes time and can’t be forced), I see a good future for us. JT, you treat her like a queen, because I want her to stick around for a long time! Since Bruce and I moved here in May and JT and Lisa were busy expanding his house so that Lisa and two of her three kids could move in (they got married in July), we’ve all been busy and Lisa and I haven’t spent a ton of time together, but not for lack of desire.

No. 3: Today, over lunch, the subject of walking or running came up. I was so excited about the decision we made, I can’t even tell you how the conversation started. Result: Lisa and I are going to be walking buddies and then running buddies (she wants to run a marathon – I told her I’m good for maybe a half-marathon). I have gotten way overweight and have realized that in this stage of my life, accountability is going to be the key factor for me.

I have been successful with weight loss (at least temporarily) in the past with other methods – sheer force of will and a formal support program (Weight Watchers, more than once), but I no longer suffer from the delusion that I can do this on my own.

I also know that my obsession with food is a form of spiritual bondage. I’m working on that, too. (I told Lisa, though, that when I’m working out I tend to make better food choices. It’s psychological.)

With the accountability, it helps that those who are going to be holding my feet to the fire are like-minded spiritually. Lisa and I talked a lot about God as we did our brisk three-mile walk this afternoon. He has worked on the heart and character of each of us over the years – in different ways but for the same reasons: to make us whole and to mold us to his character, so that we can bring honor and glory to Him.

Besides Lisa, I have to thank the Lord for Betsy. Sweet Betsy has already become a wonderful friend this year. When Bruce and I sit in our “normal seats” at church (when we don’t decide to move outside our comfort zone and sit with people we don’t know), we sit behind Betsy and her husband, Tommy (he plays in the worship band, so they have to sit in an easily accessible spot). They came to our party last week, and she even brought homemade cookies!

Despite the fact that she is petite (a good, swift puff of wind would blow her away), Betsy likes to eat, but she likes to eat healthy. I do, too, in theory, but I’ve been so hit-and-miss with that over the past few years. She has already encouraged me just by her example.

But even more, she and I talked about running last weekend. I told her the reason I had chopped off my hair and bought running shoes was that it’s time to quit messing around and get fit again. She told me some positive changes she has made over the years, including cutting out soda pop. (I’ve been a diet Coke fiend but have cut back quite a bit this year already.)

This morning when I saw Betsy, she asked if I had done any walking this past week. My first thought was, “Oh, crap! Why did she have to ask me that?” I fumbled around with an excuse, but later I realized that on the only day I had daylight, I did walk. It’s too dark to walk by myself in the mornings, and this past week it was too dark each evening when I got home (what with my class, visiting a sick friend in the hospital, working a bit of OT).

That is why I am so very, very grateful for Lisa. Now I will have someone to walk with each day, and then run with when we get to that point.

But back to Betsy: Even though I was uncomfortable answering her question, I’m so glad she asked. Betsy cares enough to stick her neck out. She had the courage to try to hold me accountable.

After all, isn’t that what I said I needed the most?

God is good, and he has given me two special women to walk this journey with.

Thank you, God, for Lisa and Betsy.

Posted in Batesville, camera club, family, fitness, inspiration | Leave a Comment »

The Lord is her Shepherd

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 9, 2010

Have you ever seen anything sweeter than this 2-year-old reciting the 23rd Psalm? Some adults can’t even recite this passage!

Posted in God, inspiration, religion | Leave a Comment »

Give thanks

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on October 14, 2010


I wasn’t planning to post tonight, but I ended up online and just had to take two minutes to say this:

Wherever you are in your journey, whatever circumstances you’re in  – whether difficult, easy or somewhere in between – take a moment to stop and thank God for your life.

Life is precious. Be grateful for every breath you take.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12

Posted in family, God, health, inspiration | Leave a Comment »

Raise your hand if you love Jesus

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on September 12, 2010

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” – Psalm 95:6

God wants us to worship … HIM.

He talked about it countless times in scripture.

Type the word “worship” in the search box at, and you’ll get 250 hits. A quick scan of those results reveals verses on worship from Genesis (Abraham and Isaac) to the last chapter of Revelation (John and “the angel”).

In Exodus, God told Pharoah several times, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” Because Pharoah wasn’t listening to God’s messenger Moses, God had to step in and show Pharoah that He meant business. (Remember the 10 plagues? Not pretty.) God finally got His point across, and the people went. (How long it took them to reach the Promised Land is another story.)

The Israelites worshipped. And they complained. He blessed them. And they complained.

Just like the Israelites, we don’t always get it right. Yet God blesses. This side of heaven, our worship will never be perfect, just as no other aspect of our lives will be perfect.

Yet God blesses.

Even though our worship isn’t perfect, God still wants it, and when we do it, we grow closer to Him. (That’s His real purpose, after all.)

But what does it mean to worship?

I’m no theologian, but I know that worship should be about God and not us.

I’ve been particularly convicted lately about how I worship on Sunday mornings, during the “worship” part of the service.

Bruce and I moved to Batesville in May, and we visited two churches back and forth for a few weeks before settling on Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville.

Doctrinally, the churches are the same. The music styles are the same. The people are the same.

But we couldn’t help comparing – both by contrasting the music at the two churches and by comparing those two to the music at our church in North Little Rock, Fellowship North.

By the world’s standards, the music at Fellowship North is superior. We got used to professional-sounding instrumentals, vocals and performances. The music at the other Batesville church is more like that of FN. Not that the music at our new church is bad; it just isn’t as “full” – robust, maybe? We do “enjoy” it.

I was talking to our new pastor today about this topic. I haven’t been able to explain the difference in “music quality” among these three churches except to theorize: Maybe it’s because of stronger voices (and more voices) on FN’s worship team. Maybe it’s that FN has more instruments. Maybe it’s the acoustics (FN meets in a “church building,” while Fellowship Batesville meets in a converted movie theater and the other church meets in a former retail or warehouse space – I forget which). Today I thought of another thing: The worship leaders at FN tend to be a little more “dynamic,” more emotional, more showy – although showy is not quite the right or fair word. Demonstrative, maybe?

One day a few months ago, our three worship leaders at FN used part of the service to explain where they were coming from. Each one of them – Josh, Dena and Russell – expressed a desire to use their talents to glorify God and lead the congregation to worship Him, as opposed to having themselves or the “team” be at the center of the spotlight.

Yet I tend to worship the voices, the huge talent – not the God that created them. When I catch myself doing that, I remind myself that He is the source of their talents and that they wouldn’t be there if not for His gracious gifts.

But I still find myself doing it. I am emotionally connected to music. I love all kinds, from country to opera. In a “worship service” – which should be any service where Christ followers gather – it’s hard not to focus on the music when the music is lovely and moving and full of godly sounding words.

Here’s what Rick Warren says in The Purpose Driven Life:

“Today many equate being emotionally moved by music as being moved by the Spirit, but these are not the same. Real worship happens when your spirit responds to God, not to some musical tone. In fact, some sentimental, introspective songs hinder worship because they take the spotlight off God and focus on our feelings. Your biggest distraction in worship is yourself – your interests and your worries over what others think about you.”

Which brings up another point: “What others think about you.”

I didn’t grow up in a church of raising-your-hands-in-worship. It’s hard – even after attending a church for 16 years (FN) where no one looks at you funny if you do – to convince yourself that God won’t think it’s odd at all if you lift your hands to worship Him. The Bible tells of many methods used to worship the Creator – dancing, singing, praying, playing instruments, giving offerings …

At Fellowship North, a church where I felt more at home than at any church before it, I witnessed the raising of hands in worship almost every Sunday. The upraised hands were few on some Sundays, but they were present. Some occasions led to more hand-raising than others, but the point is it was normal.

On any given Sunday, I might have a conversation with myself (and sometimes with God) that included one or more of these phrases:

“God, I want to raise my hands.” (“Just do it.”)
“People would see me.” (“So?”)
“It would feel funny.” (“Only the first couple of times.”)
“People would think I’m weird.” (“Isn’t my opinion the only one that really matters?”)
“I want to raise my hands in worship, but it just isn’t me. I wasn’t raised that way.” (“I’m raising you different now.”)
“Someday I’ll do it.” (“I can wait.”)

God is so patient with His kids.

A few days ago I discovered that my new pastor had a blog when he was in seminary. He hasn’t posted since 2007, but, as I told him, truth doesn’t really have a time limit (I’m very profound sometimes). His words from 2004 spoke to me six years later. Click here to read what John Mark wrote about Sunday morning worship (scroll to Nov. 25, then back up to Nov. 29).

I read those posts just a few days ago, and this morning my “worship” was a little more God centered than Me centered.


One manifestation of that: I raised my right hand … maybe halfway (I had my eyes closed, so I couldn’t tell for sure).

Did I feel self-conscious? Yes, a little bit, I have to admit. But mostly not. I mostly cared what God thought of me, not what others might be thinking. Fellowship Batesville is smaller, so I don’t think there are as many hand-raisers as FN has.

Maybe we can change that. I’m not saying that every member of every church has to be a hand-raiser. But for someone who thought she wasn’t a hand-raiser to be becoming a hand-raiser, it’s something I’ll want to ruminate about. How many people in our churches don’t lift their hands to God, not because they’re not-hand-raisers but because they’re afraid someone will think they’re weird? Or fanatical? Or – horrors – charismatic?

When we care more about what God thinks about us than what other people think about us, we’re inching closer to Kingdom thinking.

Anybody want to high-five me on that?

Posted in God, inspiration, music, religion | Leave a Comment »

Random thoughts 01/10/10

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on January 10, 2010

I was writing an e-mail to a college roommate this afternoon when I realized that if she clicks the link below my signature and goes to my blog – which she’s likely to do because we haven’t been in touch since I started the blog – she will see very few recent posts.

So, even though I can’t seem to form a coherent thought lately, you need to know that I am not dead.

Random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon:

  • I’ll begin Accounting II on Saturday, Jan. 16, after withdrawing last semester so as to avoid a heart attack from everything that was going on in our lives (I mentioned the latest heart symptoms in my Sept. 12, 2009, random thoughts). I decided to try a Saturday morning class because I simply hate having to rush home from work, gulp down a few bites of something and rush to class, sit there for nearly 3 hours trying to stay awake and get home just before bedtime. Besides, I’m a morning person, and that’s when I do my best thinking (if you call me after 9 p.m. – or if you’re a former roommate [hi, Di!] – you’ll understand). My class this semester will be 8-10:40 a.m.
  • I finished reading In Cold Blood, although I never told you I finished it. I mentioned it in my March 22, 2009, post (a random-thoughts post that was a LOT more interesting than this one, and a lot less depressing than the 09/12 one, so check it out), and I finished it months ago, but now I have closure since I have told you about it. 🙂 The book was great, if creepy. Killers with no remorse. And it’s a true story. I read somewhere that when Perry and Dick were hanged, Truman Capote (the book’s author) became physically ill and had to remove himself from the crowd of onlookers. Interviewing the killers, retracing the events of the heinous murders, left a lasting impression on him, and he was never the same. I believe it was his last book.
  • And this year I finally started reading the book on which my favorite movie was based – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Since the first time I saw the movie about 20 years ago, I’ve been in love with Atticus Finch (Bruce understands – I think). I kept telling myself I needed to read the book, but when I checked for it at the local library, it was always checked out. After several months (maybe even a year) of checking, I finally inquired about it at the desk, because the electronic card catalog kept saying it was NOT checked out. They said it probably had met the same fate as a lot of the other classics: Someone simply took it and never brought it back. Before Christmas, I finally checked again, and they had 2 copies! (Bruce was an English major and has many, many of the classics, but we’re not sure whether this book is in one of the boxes-upon-boxes of books that we have packed, ready to move “someday.)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Part 2 (because the above paragraph was getting long and this really should be a separate post): So I’ve been reading it, along with dealing with the usual Christmas chaos, which this year included getting new windows installed all over the house (the “2 1/2-day” job took nearly 3 weeks!), and trying to read a little of my Accounting I book to refresh myself since taking a semester off, and being tired and going to bed early. And from the very first sentence of this long-desired book, I was hooked. It just draws you in immediately, this tale told through the eyes of a 5-year-old tomboy in a small 1930s Southern town. I have to say, though, that this is one of the rare cases in which I didn’t immediately start to think, “The book is way better than the movie.” The movie is just so darned good, it actually enhances the reading of the book. When I read a book after I’ve first seen the movie, I try not to imagine the actors as those characters. Most times, the actors are too Hollywood, I guess. But in this case, I am imagining Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, and the kids who played Scout and Jem and Dill, and of Calpurnia and the schoolchildren and the neighbors. … I’m in chapter 10 or 11, and we haven’t even gotten to the rape trial yet. But it’s not slow reading. It’s written through the eyes of little tomboy Scout Finch, and it’s just delightful, because the actress they picked to play Scout is just perfect  – not Hollywood at all (please, if you know anything about the actress that will burst my bubble, keep it to yourself!). And Scout and Jem and Dill and Atticus – and even Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), even though the kids haven’t laid eyes on him yet – those are the faces I see as I read. Brilliant casting.
  • This bullet point is sort of To Kill a Mockingbird (hereafter referred to as TKAM), Part 3, but it’s technically about the author and not the book, so cut me some slack. 🙂 Did you know that Harper Lee and Truman Capote were childhood friends? In fact, Harper Lee was Capote’s research assistant for In Cold Blood. And her character Dill Harris in TKAM was based on old friend Truman. Some say Capote was the real author of TKAM, but others say it’s a ridiculous notion, the different writing styles being one clue among many.
  • (Link to info about the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.)
  • The next book I read may be Breakfast at Tiffany’s (by Capote), another book I’ve never read but I’ve seen the movie. I didn’t like the movie the first time I watched it – not in spite of Audrey Hepburn but because of her, or at least the character she played. Audrey Hepburn is delightful to watch, but I did not like Holly Golightly the first time I experienced this movie (I tend to judge people I perceive as flighty and irresponsible). Fortunately, my favorite song, “Moon River,” is a big part of the movie, so there have been times when I’ve popped the DVD into the player just to hear that beautiful Mancini tune. So, because of the wonderful song, I’ve grown to love the movie and appreciate the sadness and lostness of the main character. But I imagine this will be one of those times when the book will be much better. It has to be – Capote has written so many wonderful books, and the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (BAT?) is somewhat Hollywoodized, I think. And I want to know what the sad, lost Holly was thinking that early morning as she stood outside Tiffany’s looking in, after having partied all night in that iconic hairdo, dress and black evening gloves. All dressed up in party clothes yet all alone, and I want to know what she was thinking. A movie doesn’t give you that. (Unless it’s Ferris Bueller.)
  • Last year I decided to read more of the classics and am gradually getting around to them. I read slowly, and I tend to get sleepy when I find the perfect comfortable spot to read in, so it takes me a while to finish a book. But now that the holiday season is over, I won’t be watching Food Network as much, so I’m already reading more than I did in the fall. I tried some Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) and Upton Sinclair (The Jungle), but those are books I didn’t finish. I’ll eventually get back to Solzhenitsyn, but the only thing I liked about The Jungle (it’s a really gross expose on the meatpacking industry) is that it has caused me to eat less red meat! I think the problem with Denisovich is that I’ve read too many concentration-camp books (I had the same problem with the movie Schindler’s List); maybe I’m desensitized to the issue, or maybe it’s that nothing on the subject comes close to my all-time-favorite book, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (“No pit is so deep that the love of God is not deeper still!”). That is a book that I’ve read several times already but could read every year and never get tired of it. I’ve loaned my copy several times and just told the friend to keep it, then I go buy myself a new paperback copy. The tale of God’s light in a sea of darkness never gets old.
  • I’ve decided – officially – that Naps are a Good Thing. Because I finally have a job that allows me to take actual holidays off (I may never get used to that!), Bruce and I have spent a few long weekends at Mom’s lately (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s). Thanksgiving weekend, I took a long nap (really, a short nap but a long rest) every single day. At Christmas we were busier, so not so many naps, but New Year’s I got a couple of good breaks in, with the exception of the day that Mom was noisy in the kitchen and I got up cranky at her (don’t worry; I apologized). Just goes to show how important naps have become to my mental health. I turned 47 in November, so I am not a spring chicken anymore. For sure, Naps are a Good Thing. (I’m thinking of trademarking that expression.)
  • A soft bed, a warm puppy and a good book – who could ask for more?
  • I have written a set of “goals” – not New Year’s resolutions – for 2010 (it will include naps, although not in so many words). I didn’t get them posted by the time we rang in the new year, so it may be March before you seem them here! Or I may post them tomorrow – just depends on how tired I am when I get home from work.
  • And of course I’m supposed to be reading my accounting book!

This concludes another portion of our semiregular feature, Random Thoughts. Tune in again, when you may hear Suzy say, “Has it been that long since I posted?”

Posted in books, dogs, fun, health, holiday, inspiration, journalism, movies, music, reading, work | 1 Comment »

Remembering before they’re gone

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on November 1, 2009

My dad was already 10 years gone from us by the time I started writing a blog two years ago. So everything I’ve written about him has been tinged with the golden glow of memory. Most of what I’ve written about Dad has been about what a wonderful man he was – with a note or two along the way about the not-so-desirable traits I inherited from him (we won’t get into that in this post). Even though he wasn’t a saint, from my daughterly perspective he hung the moon.

But his death is not the only one to have touched me deeply in the intervening months.

Three days ago I attended the funeral of the second of my mom’s brothers to die this year – my Uncle Charles.

Uncle Bill died in March in Yuma, Ariz., where he had lived for more than four decades, including much of my childhood. I never even started writing about him because I just didn’t know how I could say what was in my heart. I didn’t think I could do our relationship justice – Uncle Bill was very special to me.

Because I didn’t get to see Uncle Bill the last time I had an opportunity (something I will always regret), I made sure I saw Uncle Charles two weeks ago, when it was apparent the end was near.

I was expecting him to be so medicated on painkillers that he wouldn’t recognize me, but when I got to his bedside and Mom said, “Suzy’s here,” he smiled. Didn’t open his eyes – just smiled. I stood there a few minutes and just stroked his shoulder. Then later, when Mom and I stood to leave, I took his hand and he squeezed mine.

Such a little thing, but so profound when you know it’s probably the last time you’ll see someone you love so much.

Uncle Charles died Monday, Oct. 26, in Batesville, Ark.

He, too, was a special uncle to me. One of the two pastors who preached his funeral on Thursday talked about what a sweet spirit he had, the other about his being a good friend and wise counselor. Okay, yes, those things were true. But what overpowers my memory about Charles Taylor was that he was mischievous. His antics – like licking his finger and swiping it across your eyeglasses, or pulling your hair ribbon that your mom had tied just-so – were what we talked about after the funeral, my aunts and cousins and I.

He was a mischief-maker and all-around fun-loving guy. But the truest thing that was said about him on Thursday was that he loved his family. No doubt about that. He doted on his wife and daughters and grandchildren.

But what I thought about as we were pulling out of the church parking lot on the way to bury my Uncle Charles was not about the dead, but about the living.

About how much I love my brother.

About how I don’t need to wait until someone’s gone to express my feelings.

I’m not sure whether JT noticed that I hugged him a little longer than usual the last time I saw him – the weekend I said my unspoken goodbye to Uncle Charles in the hospital.

Maybe Bruce’s illness has hit me harder the past couple of years than I have spoken about. (Bruce might disagree that I have left anything unsaid.) We have decided to move to Batesville to be closer to Mom, JT and his girls, not to mention the aunts, uncles, cousins and church family I left behind 23 years ago in search of adventure.

That was half my life ago (I will turn 47 this month). And half a life is enough time to start appreciating the good fortune I had to grow up in a small town (two small towns, actually), where the people at the bank not only know you by name, but they’ve known you since before you knew you wanted to leave them for “bigger and better things.”

The good fortune to grow up with parents who stayed married to each other to the end, with a brother who – even amid sibling conflict of sometimes-epic proportions – still managed to love his little sister in ways that surprised her.

My brother and I are polar opposites. He makes friends easily and I have to know you awhile before I trust you. He goes on gut reaction, while I psychoanalyze everything before making a single move. He can’t sit still for more than five minutes, and I’d spend an entire day reading a good book if I had the time. Et cetera.

Despite our different approaches to life, our basic moral values are the same. After all – despite opinions and theories to the contrary – we came from the same womb.

We were raised by the same two parents, who taught us both to love God, country, apple pie and baseball. (Although the subject of baseball, in itself, casts suspicion on that conclusion – he’s a darn Yankees fan!) [Note: Since reading this post, JT has made it clear that, while he does enjoy a good Yankees slugfest, his veins bleed Cardinal red.]

My bubby is a real guy. He hunts, watches sports ad nauseam, plans Friday-night card games with his friends, mans the grill when we get together for barbecues. And, even though he has two daughters, he doesn’t quite get all that “girlie stuff.”

That’s all okay – in fact it’s the way it’s supposed to be – even though he is not exactly like me. (Would our mother be able to handle it if he were?!)

Like Uncle Charles, and Uncle Bill, and Dad, my brother JT loves his family. Even though the ways he demonstrates it may be subtle at times, it’s an undeniable fact. (He has a big heart, but he’s more likely to express his feelings in deeds than words.)

He calls my mother, his next-door neighbor (actually, their back yards adjoin), every day. When he’s on the night shift, he calls her from work before her bedtime. When he needs to know (or tell) something, he calls her. He is protective of her, as he should be. He buys her groceries for her, mows her lawn, drives her to work when the streets are icy. I’m grateful, because I’m too far away to be of much help with those everyday, practical things.

JT and Mom are so much alike, just as Dad and I were alike. They “get” each other in ways I’ll never understand. I’m glad. I’m glad to know she has him to take care of her in ways big and small.

And when Bruce and I move to Batesville (Lord willing), my brother will take care of us. And we’ll take care of him.

Isn’t that the way it should be?

Posted in baseball, Crohn's disease, family, inspiration | Leave a Comment »

Happy Father’s Day

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on June 21, 2009

As I was microwaving my cup of coffee this morning (a pot will last me several days), I was thinking about the phrase, “can’t live without,” as in “I can’t live without caffeine.” (I was imagining how much better my heart health would be without it, and remembering how hard it has been to give up caffeine in the past. But I’ve done it, and survived.)

I’m sure that in my past I’ve uttered sentences that included such a phrase. “I can’t live without chocolate,” for instance. But really I can’t think of a thing that I absolutely cannot live without.

I lost my dad – my hero – 11 years ago. When he was in bad health and we knew we wouldn’t have him for many more years, I thought about his future death a lot. I wasn’t sure I would be able to go on without him. He and I were very close.

But I did. I survived. And I’ve made a new life – even a good life – without him.

As painful as it is, you go on.

While I can’t say now that I consciously think about him every single day, he is definitely with me every day. In my decisions, in my character, in my work ethic, in my aptitudes, in some of my physical attributes – even, unfortunately, in some of my less-than-admirable traits. I inherited a lot from dad, the good, the bad and the ugly (including his toes, his nose and his inability to tolerate stupidity, one of the traits I’ve worked hardest to overcome!).

We have the same sense of humor, something I hadn’t thought much about until recently. Yeah, we could always make each other laugh (as well as make each other smile). But as I was making up a new word the other day (Bruce and I do that a lot), it occurred to me: Dad used to do that. He’d create a phrase (“That’s too big enough”) or mispronounce a word to make you giggle (“burple” for purple). He did it naturally. I never thought of my dad as a “goofy” guy, but he certainly could be goofy.

Kids loved him, and he loved kids. He had phrases for them, too: “curtain-climbing rug rats” or “tricycle motors,” for instance. You knew when he called your kid a rug rat that he meant it in the most endearing way. At church, he often had someone else’s child sitting in his lap during the service. Or at family gatherings, he’d pick up a kid and talk to him like he was an adult. No baby talk like the women do. Not that he tried to talk politics with them or anything – he was definitely silly with them.

My dad grew up poor, so his teeth were bad and he had to get dentures when he was in his 30s. Once, when my cousin Gary was 2 or 3, he was sitting in Dad’s lap, facing him, and Dad pulled out his top plate. Gary was fascinated with that, so Dad told Gary to take out his own teeth. Gary kept trying, but it just didn’t work! That was one of Dad’s favorite memories of Gary.

My cousins Teri and Tanya lived next door to us for a few years. They called Uncle Benny their “fix-it man.” Any time something broke, no matter what it was, they’d bring it to Uncle Benny because they knew he could fix anything.

He could even fix a broken heart.

Many times when I suffered a severe trial of life, the only salve was having my dad’s big, strong arms around me. He may not always be able to change the circumstances – and sometimes he knew he shouldn’t even try – but having his arms around me always comforted me. With Dad, I knew I was loved unconditionally. It’s how I can at least try to fathom the love God the Father has for me: I first experienced it with my earthly father.

And, just as my heavenly Father is always with me and in me, Dad is in me. (Of course, not in the same way, but an earthly father’s love was created in the Heavenly Father’s love.)

Dad is so much a part of who I am.

When I’m out pulling weeds or mowing the lawn, planting flowers or just standing in the yard admiring the greenness of the grass and trees and the chirping of the birds – Dad is with me.

In fact, I think of him most when I’m outside doing something like that. He loved the outdoors, and I feel so close to him when I’m out there reveling in God’s creation. I even use his big leather work gloves and some of his tools. When I bought my first little house, he bought me my very own toolbox – and a coffee pot (although I’ll admit the coffee pot was mostly for him; I had not acquired the coffee habit yet. And he would cringe to know that I keep my brewed coffee in the fridge and microwave a cup each morning. But I can’t tell you the times I’ve sipped a morning cup of coffee and wished we were out on the deck together watching the sun rise and the squirrels frolic).

He showed me how to do little things around the house and how to take care of my car, although he was always there when the job was too big for me. When I lived in California after college, he couldn’t be there in person, but he could tell me how not to get cheated by the professionals. After I moved here, he would get in his pickup and drive to me to fix whatever he could. And I think he enjoyed letting me be a part of it, even when I was more hindrance than help. Mostly I got to hand him the tools or hold the flashlight. But I loved doing that for him, and with him.

When Dad was fixing my car or something in the house, I’d never know how much physical pain he was in. Oh, I knew he was in pain, but I never knew how bad it was until later, when he was back home and Mom would tell me how much it took out of him.

Dads just do that for their kids.

Often – very often – I wish I could ask his advice. When my brother, JT, wonders how to solve a problem, he often asks himself, “What would Dad do?” I wonder the same thing in so many situations.

My dad was really smart. He didn’t have a college degree, but he didn’t need one. He probably got the equivalent of a master’s just by being a voracious reader. And his doctorate was from the School of Hard Knocks. He was good at figuring things out, and he’d figure out a lot of things just by reading a good instruction manual.

But Dad wasn’t just smart, he was wise, and what we most benefited from was his daily use of the original Owner’s Manual – the Bible.

His favorite book was James, and one of the passages that describes him best is from James 2, verses 14-16:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

Dad would give you his shirt if you needed it, but what I remember most is the endless hours he gave up for people who needed his time and expertise, especially farmers. He was a mechanic by trade, having a reputation as one of the best around in many categories. He would drive miles and miles to help someone whose tractor wouldn’t start in the snowy weather or whose hay baler had malfunctioned in the middle of harvest (I once rode with him to Jackson, Tenn., to deliver a piece of equipment). He knew these things were a part of a family’s livelihood, and he took them seriously.

Yeah, we waited dinners for him a lot of the time – or gave up and ate without him. He was out of the house by 7 most mornings and often not home until 7 or 8 in the evening. And, yes, we sometimes complained that he was giving to others the time he should have been giving to us.

But in the giving to others, he did give to us.

He gave us – me – a legacy that will last my whole life. And I would never want to live without that.

Other posts that include my dad:

Happy birthday, Dad (July 11, 2008)

The power of a flower (June 14, 2008)

Daddy’s girl (Dec. 23, 2008)

Our fathers (March 28, 2008)

Posted in family, God, home, inspiration | 3 Comments »

Voice from the grave

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley on April 29, 2009

This editorial by Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader, was published three days after he was murdered, as he knew he would be. Not so much prescience but pragmatism, I think.

His words certainly make a person think hard about how we take our freedoms here in the U.S. for granted.

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