Play or Entertain: 5MinuteFriday

Today’s word: PLAY

My nephew, Eric, and his family are living in Waco, TX. Their lives were turned upside down this week when their son, Ever, was diagnosed with leukemia at the children’s hospital in Temple, TX.

Here’s what I want you to know: these parents PLAY with their children. They visited us in 2014 when there were only two children, Ezri and Ever. They had not been here long when my husband looked at our living room and said, “They’ve taken over!” It was a playground of their toys, some of mine, and just stuff that Ezri figured out how to enjoy.

Stefanie, Eric, Ever, and Ezri Johnsoni at our house in 2014

Ever was just pulling up that summer. Ezri was the creative one.

This family was in the middle of a transition that eventually led them to Texas. But they impressed me so much with their patience and firm values that children do not need to be entertained. We trekked through Opry Mills mall avoiding the Disney Store and Build-a-Bear store.

Eric and Stefanie provide all kinds of play opportunities, and sometimes the kids are in front of screens. But usually a parent is right there, engaged in the process. I’ve seen pictures of them watching the first Star Wars movie and Dad is watching with them. They see Disney movies on Netflix or DVD and Stefanie may include a comment , “I tear up every time.”

It is so easy to use movies or the IPad or phone to keep children entertained, busy, out of your hair! I’ve done it with Grace and great nieces and nephews, but I hope we remember that a child’s primary job is to play. Learning comes from their play. 

Okay that’s my soapbox rant for now, but I want to share an update on Ever’s situation.

Here is the family today. Elinor is now the youngest, Ever is almost four, and Ezri is six.

Eric and Ever, Stefanie, Elinor, and Ezri

Ever had a bone marrow biopsy on Wednesday, and we learned he has Pre-B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. this is the “best” type of leukemia for treatment. On Thursday he had a port put in, and they checked his spinal fluid and brain to be sure there no cells there. 

Such good news on late last night, no cells in the other places. He had his first chemo treatment yesterday. His treatment will be outpatient in a few days: 35 days of treatment, then another bone marrow biopsy.  Best outcome is that he will be on a maintenance drug after the first treatment.

This little guy just pulls at my heart strings. He loves dinosaurs, and last summer we all were in Washington D.C. for his granddaddy’s retirement ceremony.  Ever got to see the dinosaurs at the Smithsonian!

Finally, a meal after the procedure!

Celebration meal in D.C. Eric and family are on the right. Don’t know where Ezri is.

We are asking for prayers for a successful treatment, support for his parents, and comfort for his sisters as they live with this new “normal” life for the whole family.

Thanks be to God today for

  • an oncologist who came from St. Jude’s in Memphis
  • confident and caring staff at the hospital
  • friends from around the world who send their love and prayers 
  • social media doing a wonderful thing – spreading the word to help


Legacies and Homecoming

Mama and Daddy (Willie and Martin Johnson)

Father’s Day found me in a bit of depression – I never know when this “uninvited guest will show up. I wanted to write this post to remember Daddy, but it has taken me days to complete it.

Earlier in June I went to church with my brother’s family in West Tennessee. We drove a few miles out in the country to a small building near Gleason,

It was Homecoming Sunday; I had not been back to this church since the spring of 1985. You can find the story of that Sunday here.

This is the church where Daddy preached the last few years of his life. His picture in a hallway identifies Willie Johnson as the first preacher for this church from 1980 to 1985.

I remember attending small churches in Michigan, Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina where Daddy served as a full-time preacher all my life. Sometimes he served as a part-time preacher when he worked as a deputy sheriff. We also lived in Texas, but I don’t remember it.

You can read more of his story here.

Coming back to Liberty brought so many memories. It reminded me of the legacy that he built, actually a legacy we all participated in. In the very smallest of churches my brothers learned to lead the worship – song leading, praying, speaking, serving the Lord’s Supper. I learned to teach Bible classes to children.

Since Daddy was only 56 when he died, he did not see the fruits of his labor – his legacy. But he is still remembered in Liberty today. In 1980 when he was asked to preach for a brand new church called Liberty, he already had a full-time job as juvenile officer in Henry County. Preaching would be a part-time job.

Twice on Sunday morning I heard this quote repeated. When the brand new church leaders asked Daddy to become the preacher at Liberty, he replied, “I’ll be your preacher on Sundays, but I won’t do your visiting, your Bible teaching, etc.” 

The legacy I observed on this Sunday morning in June came from those beginnings. As we sang hymns I looked around the audience. Nearly every man was singing bass! They have many who rotate as song leaders, and on Sunday nights the full-time preacher doesn’t preach; a rotation of men speak. Such participation amazes me.

Outside the church building at Liberty in the ’80s, Mama is on the right.

The building has been modernized, expanded, and improved, but it is still simple and functional, reflecting the values of its members. This church is precious to all of Willie Johnson’s children because they walked with him and Mama through his darkest days of illness and finally death. 

The second-best thing I found that Sunday was a “dinner on the ground”. For those who don’t know, years ago these dinners were actually spread out on crude tables and sawhorses and then eaten while sitting on quilts. Our potluck dinner was spread in the “building down the hill”.

I had to take a picture of my plate. If you have followed this blog, you know my story with food allergies. This was my first potluck since I’m eating whatever I want now.  This plate includes macaroni and cheese, lasagna, rolls, and sourdough bread – foods I have not eaten for 10 or more years. My dessert plate was full also!

The legacy of a father extends beyond what he did. He lives on in the children and grandchildren he knew and the great-grandchildren he never met. 

Four children,

eight grandchildren,

sixteen great grandchildren

are scattered around the South, carrying that legacy into small and large communities and churches, teaching Bible to children and adults, leading in worship, serving in leadership roles. I don’t think this legacy would surprise him, but I think he would have loved watching us. He always spoke of his kids and grand-kids with pride.

I’m thankful today for the opportunity to revisit this church and hear the emotion in the voices whose lives were blessed and influenced by this righteous man.


Future: Five Minute Friday topic

Future – scary or exciting?

Are you scared for the future of the world? Do you see “doom and gloom” for the direction of our country?


Does the future feel like an adventure? Do you believe good things are waiting?

We have plenty to be concerned about as we consider the future of the state of our country or of the world.

But consider this. The Bible tells us Satan is active in our world and is looking for every weakness as an opportunity to gain a foothold into our soul’s armor.

John Eldredge says there is a lie we believe based on the following assumptions:

Because we believe in God  +  because He is love = God will give us a happy life.

An extension of this lie looks like another A + B = C. We assume that:

 A. if we believe in God +

B. if we are a good person =

C. God will deliver the rest

The problem with these assumptions is the New Testament makes it clear in numerous places that we will have troubles in our lives, especially if we are Believers.

The early Christians had reason to fear their future; their lives were often in physical danger. Paul writes to those Christians in several of his letters, encouraging and giving them hope. He reminded them to fix their eyes on Jesus.

Walking With God, Eldredge’s book, addresses these issues in detail, and this question: What does God want from us?

But I find myself too deep into this subject for a 5 minute writing exercise. And I’ve already exceeded my 5 minutes.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he remind his readers AND us that the world’s pattern of living is not for Believers.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Romans 12:2

My joys this week are all about food I haven’t eaten in YEARS! I’m thankful for:

  • caramel pecan ice cream
  • crackers (that don’t cost twice as much as regular crackers), crisp and buttery
  • biscuits made from Bisquick with crushed strawberries and blueberries
  • Greek yogurt for breakfast
  • corn muffins and Campfire Roast Beef DinnerCracker Barrel Campfire S
  • and S’mores

Here’s my story about the changes in my diet.


A Blood Test Changed My Life

Spoiler Alert: this is a good change in my life.

My food allergies have been well-documented here, even with a 31-day series of how to cope with allergies to wheat and milk.

Last week at the allergist’s office I told the nurse practitioner that I don’t seem to be as sensitive to my food allergies. I don’t have to worry about cross-contamination and have not had a serious reaction since last July, and the other issue, IBS, has been under control for a year. So, a nurse drew blood and had it tested for 14 of the most common foods.

Got the results a week ago! Hallelujah! (picture me jumping in the air, clicking my heels, and shouting)

Wheat and milk scored in the borderline range, 0.11 and 0.13 out of 100. This is the best news I’ve had in years! I can now begin adding foods back into my diet that I haven’t eaten in 7 years. My life is now sooooo much easier.

I started with wheat; last Sunday I made a strawberry pie using this recipe and used a pre-made crust out of wheat. Had two pieces and did not react this morning! Again, I shout, “Hallelujah!”

Every day last week I ate some thing made with wheat: Sister Schubert yeast rolls, snack bar with wheat, lemon poppy seed muffins, a croissant at Rafferty’s, slices of Larry’s chocolate birthday cake. After church Sunday we went to Arby’s; I ate roast beef on a bun and curly fries! I just savor every bite!

I have had no reactions, so I plan to continue trying some things I have missed: biscuits, sliced bread for a sandwich, cookies. I’ll go to a Memorial Picnic today and have a grilled hot dog ON A BUN.

And how is this miracle possible? All things were aligned at the same time:

  • allergy shots – I’m finally on maintenance for all my airborn allergies
  • asthma – under control, lungs clear
  • sinuses – clear
  • inflammation – gone after knee surgery
  • IBS under control

When all these issues are low (like filling a glass of water), then the other big allergies (foods) are also low.

Friends have asked, “Aren’t you scared everytime to eat some wheat?” No, I’ve had a lot of experience reading the signs of my reactions. First, I’ve had very few reactions right after eating.  Second, my reactions usually come the morning after eating something with wheat or milk. It often begins with hives, itching, swelling and then diarrhea and occasionally vomiting. When things were really bad I ALWAYS had an EpiPen close by which began to work immediately. When I was teaching this reaction was quite inconvenient. I nearly always had to go home.

1st hydrangea bloom of this season

When did I notice an improvement? About two years ago, I tried communion bread, just a pinch. I’ve continued with this every Sunday with no reactions. Then, lately, when we ate at a restaurant I would take a pinch of Larry’s biscuit or roll. Again, no reaction.

Writing about biscuits makes me think of a place I want to go next: Cracker Barrel! I could not even eat their cornbread because it has regular flour and milk. Yum, can’t wait!

Of course the downside is all this eating will likely add pounds when I want to lose a few more. But I’m counting the joys every day I have no reactions. I’ll begin milk products soon — cheese is first! And then pizza! Gluten-free pizza crusts are just, well, like cardboard.

Mother’s Day Therapy, planting petunias

That lonely stem in the long flower box is a sweet potato vine that is already producing leaves

I am so thankful for the changes in my body that allow me to eat foods made with wheat and milk. 

I’m thankful for the allergy office staff and the clinic staff where I get allergy shots every week for their attention to details that have resulted in improvements in my health.


EMBRACE: Five Minute Friday

 Two weeks ago the word for Five Minute Friday was abandon (which I thought about for two days but never composed a post). Thinking about embrace since last night, the word abandon keeps popping into my head.

God’s love is so strong that He promises He will never abandon us, never leave us. So how do we respond to this promise; do we embrace God? Do we embrace our circumstances, our present life, or the struggle we face today?

I discovered a powerful “aha moment” in John Eldredge’s book, Walking With God. He says believers in God assume a naïve, unquestioned lie:

  1. Because we believe in God and
  2. because He is love
  3. He is going to give us a happy life.

I have learned in my journey another truth he explains: as long as my happiness is tied to THINGS I can lose, I am VULNERABLE– vulnerable to Satan’s lie, to question God’s motives. When the gifts He gives me are more important than He is, I am vulnerable to Satan’s attack on my heart. Satan waits for any weakness in my defenses to plunge my heart into despair.

Embracing God is a choice.

Making room for Him is a choice.

Embracing God requires surrender.

Hyacinths — NOT THIS SPRING!

I am thankful today:

  • that joy can replace fear, discouragement, anger, despair.
  • I have a deeper understanding of God’s desires for me.
  • that the joy of the Lord will make me strong. (Nehemiah 8:40)
  • that my joy can be complete, full and overflowing because of Christ’s love that is in me. (John 15:11)


Joining the Five Minute Friday community with a one word prompt. We write for five minutes (I confess, I’m not so good at the time limit), post it, and then link up over at Kate’s blog.

New Stories of Amazing Grace

This story hits close to home. Nate is our youth minister, and he shares his story of searching for God’s will in his life. Just when he believed he found that path, his story took a detour.

Dr. Anh Meadows tells her story, beginning in Viet Nam in the last days of the fall of Saigon, growing up in California, and finding God in Nashville.

You can subscribe to the Youtube Channel to get notifications when the next Stories of Amazing Grace is ready to view.

I thank God for the courage of these two believers who share their amazing stories.


Reading with Purpose

My Thursday mornings give me purpose and joy when I get to touch the life of a young student. I tutor one-on-one in the reading clinic at the neighborhood elementary school. This week third graders had their Black History Month projects on display in the lobby . Using materials and objects found at home, they created a poster and a model of a famous African American assigned to them. Their creativity astonished visitors as well as faculty and staff.

The character peeking in from the back row in dressed from head to bottom in camo!

The character peeking in from the back row in dressed from head to bottom in camo!

Ben Carson, in case you can't see his face!

Ben Carson, in case you can’t see his face!

Do you recognize Ray Charles?

Do you recognize Ray Charles?










But today was Read-to-Me Day at the elementary school , so I took some of my favorite children’s books from my stash and headed to school. Yesterday was actually Read Across America, but our reading volunteers were asked to come today.

I read to a 2nd grade class who want me to come back and read more! Music to any teachers ears.

And then I read to a 4th grade class. As soon as I walked in I heard whispers, “Rosa Parks”! I saved this book for an older group because if you don’t understand the context and the history of the ’50s, you don’t really get the importance of Rosa Parks’ actions.

rosa-2Eager faces focused on the pictures and the words, and then came the questions. Curious, insightful, puzzled. Explaining those times even when I lived them just don’t make sense. When I told them the schools I attended had no black people in them, I could see them trying to process such a strange idea. Then a young African American boy asked, “Were there any Hispanics?” And I replied, “No”.

I looked into classroom of primarily African American and Hispanic faces. And the questions did not get easier.

“What is lynching?” Oh, that’s even harder to explain.

After answering as many questions as I could, I closed my book and stood as they applauded! Polite and eager 4th graders made my day!

And the added benefit? I signed out in the office and walked out to my car. This is teaching at its finest!

Today I am thankful for

  • an elementary school full of children and staff engaged in teaching and learning
  • the opportunities of tutoring in a well-organized Reading Clinic using a thoughtful process for helping readers catch up.
  • excellent authors and illustrators children’s books