Interviews

I’ve had two recent interviews that I need to share with you. They were both significant moments where time seemed to stand still as I listened to myself answer questions from across the screen or room. Stories of the last three years and God’s faithfulness in each step.

The first interview was with my husband. A friend who hosts a podcast, Counseling Over Coffee, asked if we would be willing to share what it’s been like to have a grandchild with special needs. I like what her daughter, who has two boys on the spectrum called him, not disabled, but different-abled. Elias has continued to surpass expectations. We had so much to share our interview quickly became a two-episodes. You can hear the first interview here.

The second interview was unexpected and one of those “connect-the-dots of God’s faithfulness to me” moments.

Norah is our second oldest grand-daughter. She will be 15 next month which in itself is huge! Almost three years ago she battled a wicked disease called PANDAS. It is a miracle she has survived these past three years. Most of you are aware of this part of her life. If not, you can read it here.

She was given an 8th grade assignment to interview a grandparent. She came up with all the questions and asked them to me over Facetime. We got off to a good start…

“What year we’re you born?” 1959.

“Where were you born?” Orlando.

“How do you come to know Jesus?” This is when time seemed to slow to a crawl.

I realized Norah was asking me all the questions I regretted never asking my own grandmother. She died when I was 19. I was her youngest so she was 90 and had lived a full life. I just didn’t hear the answers to these questions until she had died.

I regretted my missed opportunity. How I wished time had slowed in that season of my life to ask such questions.

“How did you and Papa meet?“ We met at a Jesus Festival held here in Orlando.

“Have you ever seen God do a miracle?” Yes! I’m talking to her now!

Just this exchange was a moment—me sharing with her the miracle we both saw from two different perspectives.

“What gifts has God given you?” In 1989 God impressed on me that He had given me a gift of writing. He said He wanted me to keep a journal. And I’m still writing to this day—I am currently on my 78th journal.”

“You have 78 journals?” I do. I realized that writer’s write and God wanted me to learn how to write by writing. She smiled.

Through all my years of journaling I learned how to write, and this allowed me to finally write my grandmother’s story in my book titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace. It took me 12 years, and my Mom was the first to read it. To say it was my life-long dream would be an understatement. I have recorded with words the story I never took the time to discover when she was alive. But God helped me uncover it one question at a time.

What questions come to mind when you consider the story of your life? Do your children know the answers? Do your grandchildren? I encourage you to write them down so when they finally think to ask, the answers will be available for them to discover.

100

That’s a number we often associate with a perfect score on a test or a high speed on the Interstate. But rarely does someone make it to their 100th birthday.

My Mom would have been 100 today.

She was born in the small town of Jenks, OK, in 1922 following the tragic death of her brother in 1920. Her only living brother was 11 years old at the time and was angry she wasn’t a boy. I can only imagine the heartache he suffered losing his little brother and best friend at such a young age.

The family moved to Florida when she was just 9 months old. Citrus groves were a hot, new investment for farmers and my grandfather and great-grandfather took the bait.

They arrived with the whole family including two cows and a horse by train. Once here they planted 32 acres of trees that produced a healthy crop for decades.

We have been in Florida ever since, but the orange groves are long gone.

It was a sad time in our family when the 32 acres of citrus trees we had were killed in the double freezes of 1983 and 1984. Only one tree survived due to it’s location; it was next to the irrigation pump that kept the tree just warm enough to save the roots of the tree.

My grandfather had installed that pump and it felt like part of him saved the lone tree for us to have its fruit. He passed away when I was 4 and my only memories of him are his pipe, the way he teased me and his delicious creamed corn.

My Mom sold the 12 acres of dead trees in town for the city to build a public park complete with ball fields, picnic pavilions, a massive playground and boardwalk through the bald cypress trees to the lake.

The other 20 acres she replanted with tangerine and tangelo trees alongside the one lone original tree. It stood like the grandfather of the grove making sure the young trees grew healthy and strong.

They did grow well, and we loved harvesting the early fruit that ripened just in time for Thanksgiving each year. We would pick as many as we could and gave them as gifts to friends at Christmas.

Those days are gone. My Mom was unable to afford to keep it, since the cost to harvest the fruit was more than the price she’d make selling it.

I’m sad to say the grove is now a subdivision in the sprawling hills of Clermont. The only memory of our family is the name of the road—It still bears my grandfather’s last name, Oswalt Road.

My Mom and I vowed to never drive out there again. A promise I’ve kept even after she took her last breath in 2012.

Happy 100th birthday in Heaven, Mom. I miss you. 💯🥰

Tears

I began the following post during the holidays. I’m just now sharing it with you…

We are doing what we usually do this time of year…driving to visit our kids and grandkids who live out of town. We spent Christmas with our son in Tennessee, and now we’re heading to spend New Year’s with our daughter in Georgia.

Today, driving backroads through North Georgia, we came to an historical marker that has significance in my family.

The Trail of Tears.

It begins in South Carolina and meanders it’s way to Oklahoma—formerly known as Indian Territory until 1907 when Oklahoma became a state.

The deal was that Indians would forfeit the land they knew and loved in exchange for 160 acres of deeded land in Indian Territory, west of the Mississippi River.

My ancestors reluctantly made the trek, but due to controversies within the tribe they broke off and settled in Texas. Horn Hill to be specific.

Many indigenous people died on this trail, thus the name. But many made it to their “promised land”. Although they had many tears too.

I don’t like change.

I can’t imagine a group of settlers telling me that what was once mine is no longer so. I must now relocate to and unknown land and start anew. Yet this is what thousands of indigenous peoples did. They had no choice but to take the next step.

My grandfather and great-grandfather ended up with two 160 acre plots of land east of Jenks, Oklahoma. Their names were recorded on the Dawes rolls.

Such a legacy. I would love to hear their take on this process. I do know that they eventually mortgaged their allotted land to invest in citrus in Central Florida. It was their next step.

They moved here in 1922 and never looked back. They even allowed their land to foreclose because they loved Florida so much more.

What is the next step in your family’s journey? It may involve lots of tears, but may also come with lots of hope for a brighter tomorrow. All we can do is take the next step in faith trusting in God who leads us into His perfect plan.

It’s Sunday

Of all the things my parents instilled in me, it’s the love of the local church and commitment to this community that stands apart.

I have so many memories of our little baptist church in the 60’s; the Sunday School class where I would embarrass myself at the young age of 12 by asking out loud, “What is circumcision?” The snickers from the guys in my class and the speechless response of my teacher let me know I shouldn’t have asked THAT question.

I was involved on Sunday nights too, with youth choir and the evening service. What my parents lacked in talking to me about my growth in God, they made sure I heard of it on a regular basis from these faithful stewards of God’s Word I. Our church.

I remember asking my Dad to walk with me down the aisle at the age of 10 (fifty two years ago this week). I felt God calling me and I was afraid. His presence gave me the confidence I needed to go forward, “Just As I Am”. Today would have been my dad’s 99th birthday. He’s been with Jesus now for 18 years and I miss still.

My grandmother (Grace) and my Mom were faithful to pray for me. I am reaping the benefits of those prayers even though they’ve both been gone from this life for a long time.

This gives me motivation to pray for my own children and grandchildren as often as it comes to mind. My prayers will outlive me for they circle the Throne of God as “incense before Him” as it says in Revelation 5:8.

The pandemic has caused many to abstain from going to their church’s service. Online capabilities has made it easier than ever to be a couch Christian. Oh, but what we miss when we neglect to gather.

Our pastor often says, “You never know what you’ll miss if you don’t come!” So true!

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Who knows what questions (even the embarrassing ones) are waiting to be asked and remembered for a lifetime. It’s all part of my story. We now have the privilege of being part of the story of others, unless we neglect this privilege.

May your Sunday find you seeking God and asking or answering good questions

Just BE

Barefoot Cabin, Banner Elk, NC

In 2013 Tom and I bought a cabin in the high country of North Carolina.

We named it Barefoot Cabin in order to mix our love for the beach with our love of vineyards. And it’s a cute play on words since it’s former name was “Bearfoot Cabin”.

We chose the small town of Banner Elk (BE) elevation 4300’, thus the title of this post.

It is conveniently located between Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountains—the closest ski resorts to Florida. This area is affectionately called, The Florida Alps.

It has the best restaurants all located near the intersection with the only traffic light. This also happens to be the place where our youngest daughter got engaged during the 4th of July Parade in 2017. The only gas station is located at the same intersection and still offers full service. If you don’t know what that means—look it up. A bit of history that makes me smile.

We bought Barefoot Cabin right after my Mom died.

She and I took many road trips to NC when I was a kid to pick blackberries, huckleberries and go ruby mining. It’s one of the finest parts of my childhood. She would have loved it here.

I say “here” because Tom and I drove up after Thanksgiving to pack away the Fall decor and spruce the place up for our winter guests. It is my favorite time to decorate.

Due to family needs we didn’t make it here last December. I realize how much I’ve missed our cabin.

Below are photos of our progress thus far. If you’re looking for a place to rent either to go skiing this winter, or to have a nice cool Summer retreat in 2022, you can check out information on how to do that HERE.

My advice for today? Just BE!

Waves, Coasters and Journeys

My last question was asked by Jeanine Byers of the Hallmark Christmas Life blog; “How do you – meaning you, personally – navigate ongoing grief and loss?”

Such a good question that has needed time to meld in my mind before responding. And I have prayed about the best way to do so.

Grief has been compared to waves that come and go, a roller coaster with highs and scary lows, or a journey that takes you places you never wanted to go. All are excellent comparisons. The thing is I have personally felt every one.

The waves of the sea are said to come in sets of 7. And the stages of grief are also said to be 7. Just as the waves vary depending on the wind above the waters surface, so too does my grief vary based on the winds of my emotions. Some days all is calm, other days the wind is violent and difficult to navigate through.

Jeanine watched a movie where the end hit her hard. I call those “rogue waves” that hit out of no where. She didn’t see it coming so the affects it had on her were greater.

Movies and music provide touchstones (parts that connect to you on an emotional level or shared experience). I’ve found when this happens the best thing to do is like a big wave—roll with it. It won’t last and it may be that my tears have been building and need release.

However, I have to guard my mind when it happens. Or I get on the emotional roller coaster that leads no where.

The grief I have experienced recently has left me sad. My brother died of Covid, but God determined the day he would take his last breath. This gives me peace because God is in control, I can trust Him.

Life is a journey and God has chosen an exit for each of us. He would that all of us believe in Jesus Christ for this is the door to eternal joy.

I have hope as a Christian knowing I will see my brother and my parents again one day in Heaven. My parents were both older (Mom 90 and Dad 81). My brother was only 66. He had so much ahead of him he hadn’t experienced yet. And that would be sad if this life was all there is. My belief in Heaven has made all the difference. He is experiencing a level of life now that I can only dream of.

I highly recommend Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. He has spent his life studying and forming a theology of Heaven that is compelling.

This is how I process ongoing grief, but everyone is different.

The best thing to do is to listen to those who are grieving. I’ve heard cliches are not helpful and I’ve found this to be so true for me. Just be present and let your grieving friend share. We don’t ever move on from the loss we’ve experienced, but we do move forward, some faster than others.

A good friend is there for the ride—whether it’s rolling waves, scary coasters or long road trips—whatever is needed.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭17:17‬ ‭ESV‬

This is my 27th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Long-Distance Family

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing

Today is 24 days of posts in November. I’m amazed I’ve made it this far!

Nikki asked a really good question about celebrating the holidays.

“I have been thinking about the differences in holiday celebrations now compared to when I was a kid. Our family isn’t quite as close-knit — everyone in my generation has moved away whereas my parents lived near their parents so we could all gather for the holidays. Have you noticed the same in your family?”

In my generation most of us stayed close to our parents, so holidays were always a big event.

Our children all moved away after they were married. Some it took years and our last one moved when she got married. All three living in different states from us.

I never considered this would happen.

When our daughter moved to GA with two of our grandchildren ages almost 4 and almost 2 in nearly killed me. I didn’t see this coming and my heart was broken.

I had well-meaning friends who said things like, “At least you are close enough to drive there and see them.” This was like pouring salt in my wounded heart.

But God! He had other plans.

My hope was that our family would share life together. We would be available to babysit so our kids could cultivate their relationship in the throes of raising a family. Holidays would be challenging in how we would seat everyone around the same table.

First our daughter, son-in-love and two grandchildren moved to GA. in 2011.

A year later my Mom died in 2012, leaving me feeling orphaned since my Dad died 9 years earlier.

Second, our son moved to Tennessee for his dream job in 2014. He took his sweet wife and three more of my precious grandchildren with him. While I was happy for the dreams they were pursuing, my heart was broken for what could have been. It haunted me daily.

Then Disney came out with a new movie and a hit song that was played everywhere. It had the three words I kept hearing God say to me. “Let it go!” I was afraid to let go of my desire for fear that my kids would never move back.

Finally, when our youngest daughter got married and moved to yet another state in 2018, I was undone. Finally I knew I had to let go of what I had imagined life would be to let my kids have the freedom to follow their dreams. I needed to be their biggest fan, not their strongest antagonist!

This made all the difference.

I was able to let go and trust that God was leading our kids exactly where he wanted them to be.

Our holidays change from year to year. We have enjoyed times where we are all together, but more times than not, we’ve had to adjust our expectations and enjoy the ones who were able to be with us.

Most times we are the ones who travel to see them because our kids and grandkids are a priority to us, even if it’s not convenient. I love them and anytime we are able to spend together.

FaceTime is an almost daily occurrence, and for this I am so very thankful. I think often of my grandmother, Grace, who moved away from her family at 16 years of age. There was no telephone, no internet, no cars even. Miles separated them and the only communication took weeks to receive.

As I write this we are with one third of our family for Thanksgiving. The other two-thirds are spending Thanksgiving with their in-laws. We are choosing to focus on being present and enjoying what is, rather than being sad over what could have been.

But God! He is the only reason I’m able to say this.

We almost lost two grandchildren in the last two years, and I lost my brother this year. The distance that separates us doesn’t seem as significant now.

As my youngest daughter recently wrote about raising an infant with special needs, “Every day is thanksgiving, and even though I can still struggle with a heart of complaint. I pray my perspective is always pointed to what God has blessed me with rather than what I think He has taken away.”

Yes, Perspective. it makes all the difference in how we move forward from grieving what could have been to what we’ve been given.

This is my 24th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

About Elias

Yesterday I invited questions from readers, and I received some outstanding ones. Thank you all!

Tamara asked about our youngest grandson Elias.

Our daughter and her husband were expecting their first baby on January 29, 2021. Tom and I were so excited to finally visit them in Arkansas to see Heather pregnant. It was such a happy anticipation to welcome grand baby #9 and watch Matt and Heather receive the blessing of parenthood.

After our wonderful visit. I got a phone from her saying the doctor was putting her on bed rest. I flew out to take care of her and to help keep her baby safe and secure.

But what we didn’t realize was God was working to rescue Elias from a virus he had contracted during the first trimester called CMV. Babies that go full term with this virus often have very serious health disabilities including hearing loss, lung, liver and brain damage. Some don’t survive.

Elias Angel was born on October 14, 2020, at 24 weeks and 5 days. He was 1 lb 6.6 ozs and 12” long. Roughly the size of a water bottle.

Elias and Ollie Octopus at one month old

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The NICU staff was amazing. Our daughter calls them God’s angels. They began Elias on medication right away to fight the effects of CMV. Everyday he surprised all of us making forward progress.

From his little NICU cubicle we were able to watch God do what He normally does in the “secret place” as Psalm 139 declares. We were in awe of this miracle being formed before us.

He was in the NICU a total of 116 days. When Matt and Heather were finally able to drive him home from Oklahoma to Arkansas (a two hour drive), Papa and Nana were there waiting to see and hold him for the first time. What a moment that was!

He was so tiny and quiet. The ventilator and his immature core muscles made his voice very weak. The only way we knew he was crying was when his heart rate monitor would go off. His care required 24 hour diligence with feeds and medications.

Fast forward to today, Elias…

  • Is still making forward progress, thanks to an amazing team of doctors and therapists
  • can hear well
  • can see and recognize people
  • Has the cutest personality
  • Loves to belly laugh (still quiet but now he’s audible)
  • Is trying his best to crawl
  • Is eating baby food
  • Has two teeth
  • Loves books
  • And kisses Mommy every chance he gets

His prognosis is wait and see. Every child in his condition is unique. There are no certainties. But one thing we know! But God! He has been leading every step of Elias’ treatment since the day He was conceived. He is our miracle baby and one whom we call our Tiny Warrior.

He now weighs over 14 lbs at 13 months of age.

I write a song for each of my grandchildren. This is Elias’ song, sung to the tune, Jesus Loves The Little Children…

🎶Nana loves Elias Angel. He’s as sweet as he can be. When he was born he won my heart, tiny warrior from the start. I thank God He brought you to our family!🎶

This is my 23rd post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to write everyday in November.

A Family at Feud

Photo Credit You Tube

It seems only right that I should share this with you now, on this week before Thanksgiving. Family Memories are what this holiday is all about and we have one that may outlive us!

My sister-in-law, Sherry, called with an idea to do something we’d never done before. It would include my daughter, Tracy, my daughter-in-love, Ashley, and my niece, Amy. Five total to do it.

The application was made and we waited.

When the call back came we were told to make a video telling them why we wanted to do this thing we’d never done before.

Since we live in the tourist capital of the world, we loaded up in one car and drove to Universal Studios. What better place to make a video?

We laughed more that night than we ever had. We kept asking ourselves, “What in the world are we doing?“

We turned in our hilarious video and we waited.

We received another call that they wanted to see us in person at, of all places, Universal Studios! Now it all seemed possible.

And it was. In 2010, the five of us appeared in the inaugural season of Steve Harvey’s Family Feud. All of our spouses watched from the audience as we attempted to answer ridiculous questions as the Top 100 survey respondents would.

Embarrassing to say the least.

The TV audience never sees what happens when the camera is ordered to “cut!” That is when the “comedian Steve Harvey” appears and shares stories not meant for television.

Many times I thought the producer of the show was going bust from laughing so hard. Steve was unpredictable when off-script and unleashed. She had to let him flow with his stream of thought or he would bust.

And we watched it all as our daughter was many times the brunt of his jokes. He called her “Crazy Tracy” mainly because she knew how to play and answered how she thought the those surveyed would answer. Not how she personally would.

We ended up being on 5 episodes, won the car and $25K. Those five shows were replayed over and over for years! We haven’t received any Facebook messages recently with the familiar, “I just saw you on Family Feud!” so maybe after 11 years it’s settled.

Are we glad we did it? Absolutely. Knowing what we know now about how it went would we do it again? I’m not sure. But we made a lasting memory in our family, and I got new bedroom furniture with my part of the pot. Not bad for 5 hours of embarrassing moments.

You can watch one of the outtakes on You Tube here.

This is my 18th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

My Top Twenty Loves

Today’s prompt is a great post to follow yesterday’s, I Hate Pandas, post. What do I love? This could be an entire month’s challenge because I have so many. I’ll give you the list first and then hone in on one of them.

  • God above all else. I spend the first hour of the morning with Him and reading His Word through the You Version Bible app on my phone. It is free and full of great devotionals too.
  • My husband of 42 years. Besides God, He is my why in all I do.
  • My three grown children and their spouses. I call them my “in-loves” because I love them, it’s not just a legal connection.
  • My nine grand-children. They are each unique and I couldn’t enjoy being involved in their lives more.
  • My hometown. Orlando has changed dramatically since I was born here in 1959. But it’s still home to me.
  • My extended family and the history we all share, including our grandparent’s 32 acres of groves west of Orlando.
  • Writing: Books, articles, blogs, newsletters (both neighborhood and Nana’s newsletter for my kiddos)
  • The beach
  • The mountains
  • Traveling and/or Road Trips
  • Birding
  • Photography
  • Planning events like parties, neighborhood events (the pandemic provided me with lots of opportunities to help with all of us being homebound.
  • Baking is my first love in the kitchen. My Mom wouldn’t let me cook since she used the pressure cooker to make meals fast after a full day at work. So I learned to bake. Favorite thing to bake? Pies
  • Cooking and having themed dinner parties. Favorite meal to make? Anything my husband loves. One of his favorites is Chicken Cacciatore.
  • Golf.
  • Reading, but this one often takes a backseat to all my other loves. I can get completely lost in a book, so it always feels selfish to block everything out to read.
  • Researchiing about things I don’t know–geneology, history, song lyrics I may remember wrong 🙂
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas

When Tom and I were first married he worked in retail. He was the area manager for 3 jewelry stores and I hadn’t yet found a job. I spent much of my time in our yellow-carpeted condo alone. Being such an extrovert this was hard. And I had moved away from another one of my loves–Orlando–to Bradenton, 2.5 hours away on the west coast of Florida. I was lonely and homesick.

The couple who managed the property where we lived was always home. She was such a kind lady and one day she asked if I’d like to come over and bake bread together? I jumped at the chance to have something to do and baking was always a favorite.

She started with helping me learn how bread dough should feel after kneading it. She was a hands-on teacher and this is how I learn best. I caught on quickly and was soon making homemade bread, hamburger buns and more. You just can’t beat the aroma of bread baking in the oven on a chilly day.

Next she moved on to a more challenging lesson – the art of making a flaky pie crust. She even shared her family recipe with me. I had no idea how this one day and this first pie would define my baking life. i.g. our family always celebrated birthdays with pie instead of cakes. It became our dessert of choice and for good reason. Mrs. L’s pie crust recipe is amazing.

So of all the pies I’ve baked, which is our family’s favorite? Apple Pie. It even won the blue ribbon at our county fair.

Debi Walter’s Blue Ribbon Apple Pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 6-8 honey crisp apples
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves
  • Nutmeg, freshly ground, about 1/8 t.
  • Butter
  • Milk and Sugar for the top crust

DIRECTIONS

Preheat over to 400.

Roll out pie crust and line the bottom of a 9″ deep dish pie plate. Core, peel and slice thin the apples in a large bowl. Pour sugar over apple and stir to coat. Pour in flour next and stir to coat. Add spices and stir well. You can add more spices to your liking. We like a lot of spices in ours.

Fill the lined pie plate by layer the apples one by one in a circular pattern starting from the outside to the center. Repeat this layering until you have filled the pie using all the apples. Dot with butter.

Roll out remaining pie dough and cover the apples, sealing and crimping the edges.

With a pastry brush lightly brush top crust with milk making sure it doesn’t pool. Sprinkle lightly with sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 45 minutes until bubbly. I keep a watch on the pie and usually lay a large sheet of foil over it to prevent over-browning.

Let pie cool completely before slicing to have a nice and neat slice of pie. But if you can’t wait, it’s great warm out of the oven with vanilla ice cream.

Bon Appetit

This is my 17th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.