Tag Archives: Countdown to Kianna

Good, bad, better, best

Here’s how this works: I list something “good,” followed by something “bad,” then, recognizing that life has too many blessings to count, identify “better” and “best.” The list of four somethings may or may not be related.

Let’s begin.

Good: Started today with a good 5 mile bike ride. Bad: The central air unit was frozen this afternoon. Literally frozen. Ice on the tubing. Uh oh. Better: Lunch and afternoon get-together with our girls, Kishia (and hubby Darnell) and Natasha (and boyfriend Korey). Best: Granddaughter Kianna napping on Grandpa and Grammy’s bed, then waking up and smiling and looking for me when she hears my voice.

Good: Watering my parched plants just before sunset. Bad:Andy Griffith died yesterday.

Sheriff Andy Taylor
TV and entertainment pioneer Andy Griffith died Tuesday.

Better: Navigating the Creasy Springs roundabout on a bike creates an awesome buzz of adrenaline. Best: My nephew, Zeke, and his wife, Julie, had their first child on Monday, David Thomas Assel, weighing in at over 9 pounds. His daddy, Thomas Ezekiel, is one of my favorite people on the planet. (Just don’t tell him, ‘cause he has an inflated opinion of himself. Bazinga.)

Good: Preparing brats, chicken breast and my own on-the-grill scallop potatoes for grilling. Bad: Failure to pick up lighter fluid after the last grill-fest. I’m a briquets-only grill guy. Better: Natasha and Korey making a speedy trip to Moser’s to pick up lighter fluid. Best: Brats, chicken, potatoes were magnificent. Also grilled pineapple for the first time. Not a pineapple fan, but apparently it was okay.

Good: Two box fans and a borrowed window unit air conditioner getting the indoor temperature down to 80. At 11 p.m. Bad: Mediacom cable service. No complaints for eight months, but last four weeks or so? Grandpa’s very dissatisfied. Better: Our little dog, Bella, a Brussels griffon, is finally starting to like me. We’ve had her almost three years. Best:Spending most of Tuesday with Kelly enjoying Grandpa/Grammy time with Kianna.

Grammy and Grandpa with Princess Kianna

Good: The Fourth of July. Bad: Too much political and ideological polarization in the country. Better: Agreeing to disagree. Best: Living in the U.S. of A.

Good: Getting four free tickets to Monday night’s “Hot Summer Nights” chamber recital at Broadway Christian Church. Bad: No downside to this one. Better: Remembering Jerry Clower’s routine, “Public School Music Class.” Best: Enjoying the concert/recital/event with our friends Scott and Jane Williams.

Good: Writing a blog entry for the first time in too long. Bad: Going so long without keeping up with Jackson’s Journal, especially after building an audience with “Countdown to Kianna.” Better: Making a commitment to return to a 5-day-a-week blogging schedule. Best: Keeping that commitment.

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What I want to be when I grow up …

Memoir-in-Progress

Before I take you back to March 1, 1979, for a peak at my “dreamlist” of future occupations, I refer you to the current and newest job of “Grandpa.”

During the great “Countdown to Kianna,” I speculated about what it would be like to make eye contact with our baby granddaughter.

I can’t describe it.

But I am absolutely certain that when Kianna has all the words to say it, she’ll ask her mom and dad, “What’s wrong with Grandpa’s eyes? Every time he looks at me they get all watery?”

Every. Single. Time.

The chronicles of me

My habitual note-taking, record-keeping and character-sketching isn’t something that hit me in my adult years. No, those traits go back much farther.

Sometime during 1974 — before my 11th birthday — I began jotting down my observations of hikes, fishing trips and similar adventures. I refer now to my Black Book of Great Adventures, no less important to me than the journals of Lewis and Clark.

March 1, 1975 – My turtle died. His name was Snaps. Had him since June 16, 1974. It died at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. Found it dead in aquarium. Same day: Went fishing with Volund R. I caught 1. We discected it.

My note: Hey, even Lewis and Clark misspelled a few words. Great explorers can’t be bothered with trivial things like spelling, punctuation, etc. By the way, on March 2-3, 1975, there was this entry: “Blizzard conditions. 13 inches. missed School.”

Wednesday, March 1, 1978 – John G. had a problem and wouldn’t tell me because he was afraid I’d laugh. I assured him I’d listen and wouldn’t laugh. He tells me flatly, “My dad (stepdad) tried to kill my mom last night.” Now what kind of person would laugh at that? … His mom was unhurt. … Also, I’ve been evaluating my relationship with a girl I love very much, Kelly Drewel.

Note: Four years and three months later, I married that girl. Today I call her “Grammy.”

My March 1978 “life list” (professions I aspired to) …

1. Writer, 2. Major League baseball player, 3. Radio broadcaster, 4. Herpetologist, 5. Research biologist and chemist, 6. Woodsman, 7. Teacher-lecturer, 8. Preacher, 9. Zoologist, 10. Police officer.

March 1, 1979, “Dreamlist”

1. Writer, 2. Naturalist, 3. Major League baseball player, 4. Herpetologist, 5. Chemist/Researcher, 6. Conservation agent, 7. Microbiologist, 8. Director of Environmental Protection Agency, 9. Politician, 10. Entomologist.

March 1, 2012 – Here I am, a writer/reporter/journalist since forever. Just doing my job sometimes makes people angry. But director of the EPA? Politician? What was I thinking? That would have assured public hatred.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A three-piece suit and wavy hair

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8 … Kianna, please don’t be late. 7, 6, 5, 4 … Four more days — and no more?

Kishia and Darnell so carefully planned our first grandbaby’s addition into their lives, timing this grand event to meet career, school and financial goals. With that regard, it’s “mission accomplished.” In more than one way, increasing the size of the Brown family was practically scripted.

Until now.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Kianna might not be following the script. She’s due on Sunday – four days from now. She’s in position, mom-to-be Kishia is beyond ready to be un-pregnant, and daddy Darnell needs his daughter to keep him company in that rocker.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

October 1981: Vocalist Jodie, organist Mrs. Irene Grossenheider.

Mrs. Irene Grossenheider was old even to the old people at Faith Baptist Church in Belle, Mo., when I was in high school. She taught piano to hundreds and multiple generations of children. And as the church organist, she knew only one tempo: Hers.

On the rare occasion that I was the worship service song leader, I followed her, even though I used one arm to “conduct” and keep the beat, matching my arm and hand motions to the meter of the song. Mrs. Grossenheider told me she appreciated the way I led, but I think she mostly appreciated that I was really matching my arm movement to her organ-playing.

It was her beat – possibly multiple beats, especially if the hymn was written with a 6/8 time signature. She’d speed up, she’d slow down. She was in command. My youngest sis, Kathy, and I still share a chuckle about Mrs. Grossenheider’s style. It’s not a disrespectful chuckle, but something we remember with incredible fondness. And when you added my mother to the mix, the musical dynamics really ramped up – and not in the hymn notations.

Mom is a classical-trained vocalist and director. SHE would determine the beat and meter. Mix that attention to technical detail with an elderly organist who thought that SHE was setting the beat, and what resulted was Mom practically stomping a foot, looking Mrs. Grossenheider’s way to signal, “Follow ME.” But Mrs. Grossenheider followed herself. Where there was no retard (pronounced “ruh-tard,” meaning slowing or slackening in tempo), Mrs. Grossenheider threw one in, typically in the last few measures of the last stanza.

Those memories and nostalgic laughter came rushing back recently when I found a photo of me with Mrs. Grossenheider. Sure, my three-piece suit and permed hair are worth a laugh, but often it’s what we see on the periphery that gives any scene the most context. The photo shows the attendance and hymn boards. See? Proof of what I’ve said a few times in Jackson’s Journal about Sunday night attendance dropping off dramatically from Sunday morning. The Wednesday night crowd was even smaller.

Then my eye caught the board listing the hymns. I knew that hymn 41 was “To God be the Glory.” I’ll know that forever in the same way I’ll never forget the words to the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song; the same way that “The Beverly Hillbillies” theme sometimes randomly turns on in my head. I pulled my Baptist Hymnal off the shelf to see the other hymns, and it was only fitting that hymn No. 434, “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” has a 6/8 time signature. I suddenly heard Mrs. Grossenheider play the final line of the chorus: “Wonderful is His name,” (slower) “We gladly serve Him,” (even slower) “His great” (verrrry slow) “love proclaim.”

I’m laughing, but please don’t misinterpret my emotion. I’m not poking fun, no more than I was making fun last Wednesday when I recounted Brother Keithley’s drawn-out prayer-starter, “Our Heavenly Father …” The hymns, the prayers, the strong if not rigid examples of faith and practice set by the elderly men and women helped keep me grounded. I am eternally grateful.

When I was 16, 17 years old, few parts of my life were predictable, but I found reliable structure inside the walls of Faith Baptist Church. Mrs. Grossenheider’s organ-playing and Bro. Keithley’s prayers were constant, consistent and predictable. I mean that in the most positive way possible.

Incidentally, the other hymns listed were #330, “Teach Me to Pray,” and #232, “I Am Praying For You.”

I had no idea why I had a picture taken with Mrs. Grossenheider until I turned the photo over to place it on the scanner. This is what’s written on the back:

“To Jodie who sang beautifully

Toleda and Terry Jett’s wedding

Oct. 25, 1981

Mrs. Irene Grossenheider, organist

Miss Kathy Jackson, pianist”

Sorry, but I have no recollection of singing or what I sang. I’m even more baffled that I sang at all, considering my sister was the pianist. She was Toleda (Backues) Jett’s classmate and her vocal skills were far superior to mine. But I was asked to sing?

Here’s our music for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting: an oldie and a more contemporary tune. “To God be the Glory” and Michael W. Smith’s “Agnus Dei.” The latter is a 10-minute video. Even a Southern Baptist might find himself raising his hands by about the three-minute mark.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #33

I haven’t been on my “A” game this week. Gee, I can’t think of anything that would steal my focus and keep me kinda anxious.

Oh, yeah: You.

Your Grammy said last night, “I can’t wait to see her little face!” Kianna, you have already brought infinite joy to your parents and grandparents.

Now hurry up and get here. Grandpa’s got some spoiling to do.

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Waiting for our Valentine …

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 …

If our oldest daughter’s gestational clock is in synch with her doctor’s calculation, we’ll be grandparents in five days. I don’t expect the due date to be THE date for our first-born, Kishia, to deliver her first-born, Kianna Allene Brown. I’m thinking today would be fine. Valentine’s Day.

Tick-tock …

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #32

We’re dog people, so it sure will be nice if you like dogs. Cats are okay, but they are very mentally disturbed. Multiple personalities, I think. Dogs, though, are the best. Your mommy has had two special dogs, including  Thomas, who’s also waiting to meet you.

My problem is that I love dogs a little too much. All animals, really. I just love loving on the creatures of Creation, which has taught me that most animals aren’t fond of being petted.

Giraffes don’t bite all that hard. Cats do. They’re the worst. And humans. Nasty, nasty bites.

I’ve been bitten by 63 different animals. I’ve made a list. Several kinds of snakes and lizards, insects, fish, birds, mammals – you name it. Zebra, camel, llama, emu, turkey, blue jay, speckled king snake … Lots of critters. Even a baby Bengal tiger. That one’s a fun story about what can happen when you don’t follow Jim Fowler’s directions.

I can’t wait to tell you.

When Grammy’s not around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doug C. and the Belle Drive-In

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8, 7, 6 … Our granddaughter continues to incubate. Kishia is ready for Princess Kianna to hatch.

And so we wait.

Doug C. and the Belle Drive-In

Note: The Journal dedicates Mondays to a memoir-in-progress journey back to the 70s. This is the second part of a four-installment, 2,000-plus word short story that weaves songs of the 70s and one particular 1980 hit with a look back at memorable encounters with Doug C. while I worked at the Belle Drive-In from June 1979 to October 1980.

Doug sang and sounded just like Bob Seger …

“And I guess I lost my way

There were oh so many roads

I was living to run and running to live

Never worried about paying or even how much I owed …

… Against the wind

We were runnin’ against the wind

We were young and strong, we were runnin’

Against the wind.”

Against the Wind, Bob Seger, 1980

Pizzaburgers were a popular menu item at the Drive-In. At $1 they were a bit pricier than the regular fare of cheeseburgers, French fries, onion rings and fish squares, all of which were deep-fried in heavy oil. And $1 was one hour’s wage for most workers at the local pool hall/eatery. (By the summer of 1980, my wage “spiked” to $1.50 an hour).

Doug was especially fond of pizzaburgers and seemed to always have a few dollars in his pocket. I long suspected that he distributed “unlicensed pharmaceutical items” and also used part of his product. Finally I spied him slipping a tiny plastic baggie of pills to Carla, one of my troubled classmates (not her real name), in exchange for a 10-dollar bill.

Carla wrote a lot of poetry and she knew I kept a daily, sometimes hourly, journal of my high school experience. She felt comfortable asking me to critique her work; and she once shared with me an essay she wrote about tripping out on LSD. Another time she called me when she was hallucinating. I never understood where her pain and demons came from.

A couple of years after graduation, after I’d left college early to become editor of The Belle Banner, the local weekly newspaper, I found Carla walking toward town on Highway 28. She asked if I’d take her to the Drive-In.

“You’ll hate me now,” she said after getting in my car. “I went to St. Louis.”

She was nervous – looked so much older than 21 or 22. Her hands shook. “I need a smoke.”

“Can’t help you there, you know that,” I told her. She avoided eye contact. “Why will I hate you?”

She began to cry, spilling her soul-deep, unseen pain, as if pushing the air out of my little red Chevette.

“I got an abortion.” We were just a block from the Drive-In.

“Doug gave me the money.”

I pulled into the gravel parking lot and asked if I could do anything for her.

“Just pray,” she said. Tears seeped from empty, sorrowful eyes that still avoided mine. I lifted her lowered chin with one hand and stared into her emptiness.

“I don’t hate you,” I whispered. She hugged me quickly and got out of the car.

A few years earlier — it was early August, 1980 — Doug was my only customer when closing time approached on a Sunday night at the Drive-In. It was the most unpredictable shift, because I was expected to keep the deep-fryer on and the grill hot and ready until 9 sharp. Usually, though, the place cleared out by 8. If I had the grill scraped down (appetizing, huh?) and already swept and mopped the game room, all I needed to do was shut down the deep-fryer and I’d be locking the door at 9:01.

But that plan rarely saw reality. The school year was still a week away from starting, so there wasn’t exactly a rush to get home, and I lived less than two blocks from the Drive-In. Doug had been the only customer for the past hour while a few other late customers shuffled in and out or came up to the order window, mostly for ice cream cones or root beer floats.

I still needed to sweep and mop and had a finger on the deep-fryer switch when the phone rang. I should have expected it. Every Sunday night right at or just after closing, Mr. Banks called to order food. A lot of food.

“Jodie, we’re bringing some friends by in about 20 minutes. Four full chicken dinners. And some mozzarella sticks. I’ll make the coffee when we get there.”

That was two whole chickens, what was left of the slaw and potato salad, the deep-fried mozzarella sticks, dinner rolls and probably two or three other items that E.J. and his crew would order after they arrived. It also meant that I’d probably be there another couple of hours unless my boss offered to close up, which he sometimes did – when he was by himself or with his wife, Mary.

I returned to the kitchen to prepare the meal.

“Boss man hungry?” Doug shouted from his perch at the counter in the dining area. “He could prob’ly stand to miss a meal. Or two.”

I shook my head and chuckled. No matter how crude his language was or how high he’d get, Doug’s observations were spot on.

“How about a pizzaburger, Little Preach?”

He says, Son can you play me a memory

I’m not really sure how it goes

But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete

When I wore a younger man’s clothes

Piano Man, Billy Joel, 1973

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #31

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, but naps are good.

Of course, you’ll need to take lots of naps when you come home, and you’ll keep taking good, regular naps for a few years. Enjoy those naps. Savor your naps.

And if you’re wired anything like Grandpa, you’ll continue to not only need but will learn to cherish naps. I gets a second wind around 9 or 10 p.m. and usually have the most creative energy between that time and 1 a.m.

Grandpa had only a one hour nap on Sunday, but it was so deep and sound that I actually dreamed.

About you.

Grandpa napping on the sofa with his 5-week-old baby, Kishia. (Grammy was snapping the photo). Grandpa sometimes refers to that period as "The Unfortunate Mustache Period."

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‘Mystified’

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8, 7.

The due date for our first grandbaby, Kianna Allene Brown, is just one week away.

Kelly and I talk about impending grandparenthood many times a day. We communicate as well as we ever have. I don’t think we need any prodding to chat. At least I don’t need a nudge to get me to talk. But this Saturday morning, before sis-in-law, Jeannie, and her three boys arrived for a day-long and overnight visit – joined eventually by mom-to-be Kishia and Jeannie’s hub by, Eric – Kelly sat in the middle of our freshly-made bed, telling me she found the book, “Love Talk Starters.”

Her voice was playful. I rolled my eyes. She read the subtitle: “275 questions to get your conversations going.”

I rolled my eyes again.

“This will be fun!” she said with way too much glee for a Saturday morning that demanded our time to get ready for guests.

“If you could do one thing together and be guaranteed success, what would you do?”

It didn’t take me long to answer.

“You know how I try to get guest bloggers? We should be guest ‘pickers’ for the show American Pickers.”

Kelly agreed. We were really connecting; on the same page as it were.

“We’d be good at that!”

“Yeah,” I said. “Then we’d have our own show.”

This conversation-starting book was okay. Kelly read two or three more questions. We had more great conversations.

One more question. (Still 270 to go).

“Matthew Porter, the writer, said to his wife: ‘You do something to me – something that simply mystifies me.” Then the question: “What does your spouse to do mystify you?”

I didn’t hesitate.

“You always have one more ounce of energy, one more act of love. No matter how exhausted you might be, you have time for someone in crisis. And you still have time for me. Your capacity for compassion and empathy mystifies me.”

I know it was one of those “awwww!” answers, but I meant it. Rolled right off my tongue.

I was almost afraid, though, to hear her answer. So what mystifies my spouse the most about me?

“The way your mind works. I mean, like you wanted to learn origami. Where did that come from?”
It was a lovely moment. I wanted to say, “You’re mystified? I’ve got no idea why my mind works this way. I’m mystified!” That might have put a damper on things.

We’re four months away from our 30th anniversary, but we haven’t gotten tired of or used to each other. I think this concept of “mystified” is one of the sweetest spices that flavors our marriage every day.

Darnell's careful handwriting left an indelible message to Kianna on mom Kishia's belly. Photo by Sara McDaniel. Her website: http://belovedphotobyslm.com/

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #30

The verse on your mommy’s belly says it all. Kianna, you are not an accident or just some chemical or biological process. Your life has intentional purpose.

I’ve counted down the days until your birth because I’m just so excited. Excited to see my beautiful daughter be your wonderful mommy. Excited to see your daddy treasuring you like the miracle that he never dreamed he’d experience. Excited for your Grammy (Mrs. Grandpa) to tuck you into the place in her heart that has been waiting just for you. Waiting for Kianna.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that worldwide 361,000 babies are born every day. About 11,000 other babies will be born in the United States the same day you are born. That’s lots of babies.

But there’s only one Kianna. One life script just for you, different from the talents, traits and purpose of all those other babies.

I’ve been writing about your mommy’s pregnancy as if it’s a big deal because it is.

Kianna, YOU are a big deal.

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The Write Life: My Tribbees are winners

Countdown to Kianna

10, 9, 8 … Just one week and one day from the due date when Darnell and Kishia Brown will be parents, and Jodie and Kelly Jackson will be grandparents. Kianna Allene Brown will also be blessed by her Auntie Natasha.

And that’s just the immediate family. So many others are already invested in the Brown family. And a few hundred have followed this countdown to some degree for 30 days now

It won’t be long …

The Write Life

We all want to be relevant. Even the most introverted among us (and that certainly is not me) wants to matter, if not make a difference. I think that’s the Number 1 reason we write, whether it’s newspaper journalism, non-fiction biographical histories, or novels of fantasy or mystery.

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Countdown to Kianna

10, 9 … Don’t you think it’s time?

Hah. See there. I rhymed.

Maybe that’s an idea, though? Perfect meter matched with a rhythmic cadence, something to get the throes of labor and childbirth going within the next nine days. The doctor’s guesstimate for the arrival of Kianna Allene Brown was Feb. 19. But mom-to-be Kishia has her bags packed, arrangements made and work delegated from her job as the assistant administrator for an early childhood education program.

Friday’s follow a “Back to the 80’s” theme in Jackson’s Journal, so let’s grab a few hits from Grandpa’s playlist. Love songs. Some parts of these tunes even describe Grandpa and Mrs. Grandpa’s hearts as we anxiously await the arrival of our first grandbaby.

There’s not a dance vibe going on here, but instead the soft, smooth duo of Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross (Endless Love, second-biggest selling single of 1981)  and the effortless vocals of Peter Cetera and Chicago (You’re the Inspiration, 1984). We’ll add a pop-rock edge to our selections and drop a quarter in the juke box for Journey’s 1983 hit Faithfully, sung by the actual Steve Perry, not one of the scores of Steve Perry wannabes who have butchered Journey’s hits over the years.

A special note about Endless Love: Pay attention to the time mark of 1:37 … “our lives have just begun.” Kinda fitting for this post, huh?

Now, if these tunes just put Kianna in a peaceful, cuddly, relaxed mood, let’s change the mood.

“There’s a party goin’ on right here, a celebration …” That’s right. Kool & the Gang with Celebration (1980). Get on out here, Princess Kianna!

Woot!

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #28

Your Grammy and I sang “Endless Love” back in 1984 at the wedding of your Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma Thompson. Now that’s quite a pair!

Your Great-Grandpa is a jokester; you’ll want to keep a close eye on him. He’s always got a joke ready to tell. Him and Grandpa are probably the only ones in the whole family who like to watch and talk about football. Your Great-Grandma Thompson is very soft-spoken and calm-spirited – quite the opposite of Great-Grandpa. But you’ll love ‘em both!

Someday I’ll tell you about the time your Great-Grandpa climbed up tree to attach a rope – or to get your Aunt Jeannie’s kite … I don’t remember — and his leg came off. (It’s a long story. He’s got a prosthetic leg. And he probably even remembers this differently). Then I had to climb up the tree to help him get his leg back on.

Ah. Good times.

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Countdown to Kianna

15, 14, 13, 12, 11 … 10.

Traditional countdowns start at 10, but if you’ve been around Grandpa-to-be me, you’ll know I’m one to buck some traditions. The Countdown to Kianna began at Day 38 until Feb. 19, the gestational due date for Kianna Allene Brown to change our lives forever.

Kishia called Wednesday morning after a doctor’s visit to report that the doc will not let her pregnancy go more than seven days beyond the due date. Seven extra days would bring our first grandbaby into the world on Feb. 26 — the very date Kishia was born 27 years ago.

Now that the countdown is on the brink of single digits, me and my BFF Grammy jump when one of our phones ring. We are and have been on full alert.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #27 …

Your Grammy (of course, we’ll call her Mrs. Grandpa) told me last night that she doesn’t need to watch “chick flicks.” In her words, “My life is a chick flick,” and then she said something about being married to a great guy.

Kianna, if I’m “great” it’s all because your Grammy sees more in me than I see in myself. But Grammy is like that. Wanna know something else about Grammy? For starters, she’s already in love with you. I rattle on and on every day in this Journal about how gaga I am over being a grandpa with nary a mention of Mrs. Grandpa’s glee.

If you decide to come today, before I get a chance to write another of these messages, you need to know that more than anything else, all you ever have to be is yourself, because that’s who Grandpa and Grammy love. You don’t have to always be right or agree with us. You don’t have to always have your hair brushed. You can be a bad mood. You can sulk. You can cry, scream and shout (something tells me that’s going to happen right away).

No matter — EVER — no matter what feeling, circumstance or decision comes your way, whether it’s Princess Kianna or Little Miss Grumpy, none of that matters when it comes to our unconditional love for you. Considering you’ve also got that from your Mommy and Daddy, I’d say that you’re already a very, very rich little girl.

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“And bless this service we’re about to endure”

Countdown to Kianna

Darnell and Kishia (Jackson) Brown’s tiny little human girl is due to arrive in 15, 14, 13, 12 … 11 days.

New mom Kishia reported yesterday that Kianna Allene Brown has run out of room to stretch. But, my daughter told me, “It’s not happening today. I just don’t ‘feel it.’ ”

So the countdown continues …

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

Have you ever known a prayer warrior? You know, the kind of spiritual giant who seemed to have a gift of prayer? My lifetime list of prayer warriors is headed by spiritual giants who were women, usually older and sometimes frail. I’m thinking of Faith Baptist Church prayer warriors Mary Peters, Viola Terwilliger and Jewel Smith. I’m not sure it’s right to think this way, but when they prayed, God shushed the heavenly host, leaned with his ear toward the prayer warrior, and listened a little more closely.

My mom has described her mother that way, and I count my mom, my wife and my daughters as prayer warriors. They have unleashed Light during the times when my life was most dark.

I’m thinking of Jewel Smith, wife of Virgil, both of them long since entered into Gloryland. One of the tasks of a preacher was to call on someone to pray to open the service, to bless the offering, to end the service. (The Manual of Proper Baptist Etiquette called for a minimum of three prayers). Sometimes the Sunday morning bulletin had those prayer duties already assigned, which inevitably led to awkward silence when the designated pray-er played hooky from church.

Hold on … sorry. We’ve gone too far in without a song. What was I thinking?

First up is a contemporary worship song, Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Rise.” (For reasons I can’t explain, I sing “I Will Rise” to Bella, our Brussels griffon, when I give her a bath. The song lasts just long enough for a little dog’s bath).

Now for an oldie, an incredible arrangement of “At the Cross,” performed by the Gaither Vocal Band.

Amen.

Wednesday night prayer meeting was different. There was no quota of prayers, but instead a “season of prayer,” where anyone who wanted to pray would simply take one person’s “Amen” as a cue to begin the next prayer. (Everybody knows I’m kidding about the Manual that I mentioned, right?) And there was no set lineup, as it were, for the many prayers that would be said, some with Shakespeare-esque quality and a liberal application of thees, thines and thous, and Brother Rufus Keathley’s legendary prayer starter, “Our Heavenly Father,” drawn out in a way that said, “There’s about to be some serious prayin’ so stop what you’re doing and pay attention.”

As I remember, you had to pay attention longer than at any other time when Bro. Keathley prayed. (What I would give to hear one of those prayers now.)

Sometimes the pastor got the round of prayers going; at other times he’d call on someone. If you were keeping track — and I always was, apparently, because I remember this stuff 40 years later — everyone knew that Virgil Smith didn’t pray out loud very often. If he was called on to pray, with something like, “Brother Virgil, would you please open us in prayer?,” he’d quietly clear his throat and say, “Jewel.”

And Jewel Smith didn’t pray gentle, little old lady prayers. Her prayers often had a storm-the-gates-of-hell edge to them, as if demons and angels were sparring at that very moment.

You never knew how someone would react when they were called on to pray. After all, you might catch them off guard, as if they’re expecting to bat clean-up or hit ninth, but suddenly they’re told, “You’re leading off.”

From 1987 to 1991 I was pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Gasconade County. Ours was a small congregation – 25 was a crowd — and it’s the church where everyone except my bride Kelly brought beanie-weanies for a carry-in dinner one Sunday.

Some things you never forget.

Rosemary Howard was one of those people you never forget. Quiet, unassuming, dutifully doting on her husband, Daniel, and son, Dale. She didn’t look like a prayer warrior and had an otherwise passive demeanor. But, man, could she pray!

But she rarely led off. One Sunday morning as we prepared to begin worship, I requested that Sister Rosemary open in prayer. The look on her face, though, relayed complete bewilderment. I’d caught her off-guard. She took a breath and quickly uttered: “Lord, please bless this service we’re about to endure. Amen.”

Endure?

After the service I kidded her about her choice of words, and she didn’t realize what she’d said. It was a sweet moment … One of those moments you never forget.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #26

The time is getting so close, Little Princess. I should probably be using this time to tell you a little bit about the people you’re going to meet. What? You want to know a little about Grandpa? Well …

I’m sort of weird. Sometimes. For instance, I’m a really picky eater, and I often smell my food before eating it. I mean up-close smell. Grab a cupcake from co-worker Catherine Martin. Smell it. Pour a bowl of cereal. Smell it. Mmmm! French fries! Smell ’em.

Yeah, weird.

I am also known to laugh out loud at the most random moments, sometimes in non-laughing circumstances. Maybe I’ll remember a “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy” as I’m going through the check-out at the grocery store, and I’ll laugh. And not just a little bit or a little chuckle. I might lose it.

What do you know? I’m laughing now. I’m just so excited, so happy. So anxious to see you.

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Filed under Family, Inspiration, Kianna Allene Brown, MIP: Memoir-in-progress, Old Time Religion