At the beginning of this year I made fresh commitment to some things I wanted to do better. For too many years I have just let the days and weeks and months pass by, always postponing or making excuses for rarely finding time for things I claimed to be important. This book title has always haunted me, “If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going You Will Probably End Up Somewhere Else.” Will that be me?
The three things I felt compelled to focus on this year were walking, writing, and working on relationships. I would love to tell you about great strides in all three areas, but that is not the case. However, it is never to late to get started or get back on track.
Working on relationships has included some memorable experiences this year. I started the year off with a bang, driving to Tallahassee to see a long-time friend and getting to visit with her and most of her siblings as they gathered to celebrate her mother’s 95th birthday! When she invited me to come, my immediate response was, “thanks, but I can’t come.” Immediately I remembered my desire to work on relationships and admitted, “there is no reason I can’t go and this is just the type opportunity I need to grasp.” It was a great trip and I’m so glad I went! A cousin from California and her husband were in our area and they came to our house for a meal. A friend of our son (Rob), along with another guy were on a road trip and needed a place to stay. Jake posted on FB asking if anyone knew where they could spend the night, and of course Rob called and asked us to take them in. It was such fun to have these two young men in our home for a short visit! I drove two of my older lady mentors and friends to Montgomery to have lunch and visit with our dear friend and former pastor’s wife. I went to Atlanta to celebrate the 90th birthday of a woman who was my boss at one time, and had a ball renewing friendships with co-workers and friends from my single days ages ago. I made lists and called friends to catch up and had lunch with several. AND THIS WAS ALL IN JANUARY!
those are the days I remember
Working on relationships takes effort and initiative and it is easy to put off, put off, put off. As the year continued I slacked off from pursuing these opportunities as intently, but as I look back those are the days I remember; these visits have enriched my life. This summer I went on a girls’ trip with three friends to celebrate a big birthday. We were gone a week and the things we did, memories we made, and heart conversations we shared will stay with me forever. What would I have been doing that week if I had not gone? Probably not much, and certainly not anything so meaningful. Not too long ago a girl from my high school class invited me and others from our class to lunch in her home. I had not seen some of these girls since the night we graduated! It was a sweet time and I hope to spend more time with these girls in the days ahead. Again, I almost said, “thanks, but no – sorry I can’t come,” but I’m so glad I went!
Now, my update on walking. The good news is that I went to walk this morning! But that has not been my regular routine throughout this year. I have been pitiful and disappointing in this area. At least I still remember that I declared it was important and that taking care of my health is a desired priority. As I say to others in encouraging them to start over or renew a commitment I will now say to myself, “it’s never too late to get back up on that horse!” Hopefully more discipline in this area will be cultivated. Whatever age you are, you are getting older every day, and the choices you make now will determine to a large extent the health you will have one day down the road. I used to wonder what was wrong with all those older people who complained, “my hip hurts, my knee hurts, something terrible has happened to my hair, my skin looks weird, I can’t lose weight like I used to, that music is too loud, I’m so uptight and anxious, etc.” Well….. I. am. starting. to. understand. those. old. people.
I. Am. Starting. To. Understand. Old. People.
Walking, or some other form of exercise, helps lessen anxiety, clears the mind, improves focus, increases metabolism, helps joints, improves moods, and just makes you feel better because you did it! Every year my doctor asks,” Are you exercising? It is really important.” My answer usually is, “I’m trying.” That’s pitiful. Truth is, laziness wins out with me too often. I need to apply the challenge I offer others all the time – Do Right Because It Is Right Until It Feels Right. Enough said.
Do right because it is right until it feels right.
Writing — again I hope that it is never too late to start over with something you feel called to do. At the beginning of the year I admitted my desire to write but my commitment has been slack. This past week I attended Women’s Forum in Nashville, an event our daughter, Mary Margaret, helps to plan and carry out. The speakers, music, break-out sessions were all life- changing and life-challenging to the almost 1000 women who attended. We were reminded Who God is and what He has done for us and for all humanity. We were encouraged to recognize that we are all leaders, people of influence, and that God has a purpose for each of our lives. We were challenged to figure out what God has called us to do and to do it! He is a great big God, his story includes us, and his Word, the Bible, is the source for every need.
So here we are in November – most of the year is gone, but we can still start today to do those things that are most important. What will that look like for you? I hope to make new friends and cultivate the ones I have had for years. I want to walk and take better care of my health in order to be active and able to participate in things the rest of my life. And I want to write – to use my words to encourage, support, and help others. This is the calling God has given me and I want to use it for his purpose and his glory.
The last words I spoke to my Daddy while leaning over his hospital bed and giving him a kiss were these, “you are the best Daddy in the whole entire world.” I was blessed along with many of you who have or had a wonderful father.
Today I want to give a shout-out to J.B., my kids’ Dad. I am so grateful for all the ways in which he has blessed our children.
#1 – From the very start JB was “all-in.” He painted the nursery, stood with me as I delivered all three with no major drugs, changed diapers, rocked and walked crying babies, fed baby food, and cleaned up lots of messes. He encouraged me to attend women’s events and was always willing to keep the kids. He took us to youth camp with him, bringing a babysitter along to help. He has loved his role as Dad and showed up for everything our kids did. When the boys were young he was one of their coaches. While he may not have known all the strategies of the sport, he was the one who high-fived all the kids and told them they were great and getting better by the minute! Every play or concert we were often a little late because he had to stop and get flowers to present to Mary Margaret when the performance was over. He initiated a Valentines Date with her every year – a dress-up affair, with her usually getting to choose where to go. These are all great memories for our kids to treasure.
#2 JB is the Fun Dad. In fifth grade Rob had to fill in blanks on a sheet, describing his family. His entries included, My Mom is a workaholic. My Dad is a party animal. That got lots of laughs from all the teachers and parents who saw it on the wall outside the classroom. And it was true. (In my own defense, somebody had to be in charge of maintenance, and that was me, and it took lots of work!) Meanwhile JB provided the fun, the spontaneous, the out-of-the box experiences that we still talk about today. Somehow in our family a tradition was established that every year every kid had a big birthday party. One year J.B. planned a party on a friend’s pontoon boat. It became memorable when the motor stopped (or maybe we ran out of gas?) and we had to call someone to come tow us in! (Thank goodness for cell phones!) Another year, when the kids were in middle school a party was in our backyard with tons of kids doing hilarious relays and games that he had done in his student ministry days. I was in charge of food and he was in charge of the fun and games. Even today our kids’ friends remind of us the fun they had at our parties. Thanks, J.B.!
Children become what you say they are.
#3 J.B. is the ultimate encourager to all, but especially to our kids. I learned something from him early in our marriage – he told me, “children become what you say they are.” At first I did not understand that, but as I watched him encourage many students in the churches we served, I watched so many blossom and become absolutely amazing, confident, fine young adults. The same has been true for our children. He has believed in them, encouraged them to pursue their dreams, and come alongside them with help and consolation when it was time to start all over again. They have always known their Dad thinks they can accomplish anything they set their minds to do.
#4 J.B. has vision. He knew that our kids would benefit greatly from some experiences that I would not have imagined possible. They went to Kanakuk Kamps for several years. The counselors and whole Kamp experiences were incredibly influential in our children’s growth and decisions and maturity. I cannot say enough about how thankful I am for that. We took our kids, along with other families, on a mission trip to the Northwest one summer. Working together with new friends to further God’s kingdom in another part of the country was a great experience. The year JB and I went to a conference in Europe, the boys went along and attended the youth camp. It was JB who let folks over there know our boys’ strengths. Rob had opportunity to speak to peers in Germany, and Wes was needed (and delighted!) to run sound for the youth camp in Switzerland!
#5 J.B. has put up with me. Enough said ….
In summary, and sparing many more details, J.B. is not perfect … neither am I … neither are our kids. BUT, J.B. has been and continues to be a great dad to our children.
love Jesus, love who they are, love others
He told me early on that his goal for our children was that they would love Jesus with all their hearts, that they would be happy to be who they are, and that they would love other people.
Congratulations, J.B. I believe we have seen this come to pass. Happy Fathers’ Day!
Yesterday afternoon Rob called. “Guess what I’m doing, Mom?” he asked. My mind raced around but I could not think of a good answer. He hinted, “think about what today is.” I mentioned it was Wednesday but he said, “No, not the day, think about the date.” As I brought the date, June 3, to mind, suddenly I burst out, “You’re driving!!!!” “Yes!” he replied with great joy and satisfaction. June 3 marked six months since Rob had a seizure and finally he has his “get out of jail free card” and can safely drive again. What a relief to be able to go to the grocery, get his car inspected, run a few errands and just ride around without having to call a friend to chauffeur him everywhere. Rob is an amazing young man and I am so proud to call him my boy. Here are a few of the highlights that make Rob so special:
Rob does not complain. We have been dealing with seizures for over ten years now and there have been some very scary and difficult times. He is a writer and I think he processes things through his writing. One of his funniest and most honest blogs was one he wrote while being treated at the Mayo Clinic.The date of his post was May 5 and the title of his post was Cinco de Mayo (pun intended), totally Rob-style! He has chosen to accept the physical challenge that lives within his body but does not let it stop him from pursuing his dreams and goals. When he can’t drive, he asks for help from friends, and they always pitch in and keep him on the move. For the past six months he has never griped about his situation but has gotten his exercise walking to and from home and work and class each day. Most of us would stage frequent pity parties, but not my boy.
Rob is a spark plug in our family. We just wrapped up our family vacation at Daytona. Early in the week I announced that since none of our kids could go to our Leavell Family Reunion in July at the University of Virginia, JB and I had decided not to go either; we would just take a year off. Now a year off really means three years off since we only have reunions every three years. My brother, Theo, said if we weren’t going then he would quit pushing Vicki and their daughter Mindy and husband and two young children to go; they would just go back to the beach instead.
Then comes Rob …….
Then comes Rob….. He decided we all should go and he got on a high horse about it. He could work out taking a little time off from work; he could even contribute to the very expensive plane ticket from Ft. Worth. He encouraged his siblings to do so as well. (One could, the other could not.) And then he shared his enthusiasm with cousin Mindy. The subject stayed on the table the whole week. So, no surprise, JB and I are going, Mary Margaret and Rob are going, Theo and Vicki as well as Mindy and Michael and Willie and Ruby. So our family will be well represented at this year’s reunion. We all agreed we will not regret going but we may have regretted not going. Reservations are made and we are all excited. Thank you, Rob!
Rob is a social butterfly. That term comes straight from an article on birth order that I read in Real Simple magazine today. The middle child is most often described as “social butterfly and expert at negotiation.” That certainly is the case with our boy! Like his Daddy, Rob makes friends everywhere he goes and as described above he certainly can negotiate and inspire others to get on board! Rob loves people and a party, and when he is around, life is just more fun.
Social butterfly and expert at negotiation!
Rob is a great conversationalist. He is one who thinks deeply and loves to explore interesting and important ideas with just about anyone, including me! He is well-read and a continual learner; he is not afraid to pursue people he admires and respects so he can engage them in conversation and maybe learn a few new things. While a student at the seminary one of his odd jobs was picking up important people at the airport and driving them to campus. On more than one occasion Rob got so excited over someone he got to know and chat with; he even snagged a few invitations to join an interesting group for dinner at a really nice restaurant. That’s my boy!
Rob is a student. He loves to learn and functions extremely well in an academic environment. Studying and writing seem natural and almost easy for him. He is passionate about things. Currently his interest career-wise is in the field of ethics. His faith in God is strong and his commitment to Christ is rock solid. He is fascinated with the connection between faith and work; faith and entertainment; faith and sports; faith and the arts. Rob wants to make a difference in our country and in our world helping others to see how we can impact society understanding who we are, whose we are, and why we must do all that we do with excellence. It’s all for God’s glory.
Rob is a great friend. All of his life Rob has made the very best friends. He has a great memory and knows most of his friends’ birthdays. He calls them every year, just to touch base and see how they are doing. What a thoughtful gesture! I have never met a friend of Rob’s that I did not also come to love. J.R. is one of his buddies from Samford. He was waffling between becoming a doctor or a lawyer. When Rob had his worst accident with a seizure, J.R. stuck with him as he was taken to the hospital and stayed close till we could get there. Guess what? J.R. is just about to start his residency as an E.R. doctor! Rob’s “situation” helped J.R. confirm his calling. Keith is another one. Rob asked if a friend of his could come live with us in Little Rock for three months while he did a rotation in P.T. school. We had never even met Keith so I was a little hesitant. But Rob reminded me, “Mom, you love all my friends; I promise you will love Keith.” And, we did! He is an amazing young man and our lives were enriched by having him in our home. Today Keith is a physical therapist in Nashville and he talked with Mary Margaret yesterday and helped her schedule the best rehab she needs for her ankle now that she is off crutches and soon to be rid of her boot! Thank you, God, for friends of our family who keep on blessing our lives.
Rob will be 29 on June 11. Hard to believe that my sweet little boy who always had to fix his hair just right and always shared and always made us laugh is a grown-up man. Thanks, Rob, for all the good memories. (And we will try to forget the not so good ones!) It is with joy that we relish every day with you and look forward to your amazing future!