Tag Archives: Natasha

Something special about today

Yesteryear’s calendar …

Easter Sunday, April 11, 1982 — Preach sunrise service, Pilot Knob Baptist Church.

John 20:15-15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

John 10:27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

That Easter sunrise service I preached 30 years ago didn’t use the text I just shared. (That morning the text was Philippians 3:7-11, focus on verse 10). But if I had an Easter message for 2012, the title, based on the above reading from the King James Version, would be something of a take-off on the reality music show, “The Voice.”

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, Easter was a big deal. Sure, it was the fancy-dress Sunday of the year, and the day when you saw people in church who you might be surprised to see in church. (No doubt they were surprised to see me, too.)

There were Easter eggs and a big meal, but nothing like the commercial exercise that accompanies Easter these days. I’m not sure I got an Easter basket as a kid, but I don’t feel slighted. Honestly, I didn’t understand the dyed eggs and what that had to do with Easter, because I knew that Easter Sunday was different – and it wasn’t about bunnies and eggs. I was taught from the earliest days that I can remember that Easter was a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It was the one day and the one image – and empty tomb – that separated my faith from all others.

We might have attended or been part of some sunrise services, but I don’t recall starting that as a personal tradition until I was in high school, after my parents divorced and as I began finding my own way spiritually.

A friend and I sang regularly at the First Christian Church in Belle and I recall going there for one or two Easter sunrise services if only because the service was followed by Easter breakfast. By the time Kelly and I were married and had Kishia and Natasha, I was pastoring somewhere up until 2001. From 1992 to 2001, Easter sunrise service at Beulah Baptist Church just outside Belle was a dual breakfast feast and early service, just maybe not as early as sunrise. Easter Sunday.

The music, the attire, the sermon – everything just seemed a little extra special even if it was super formal; or early. Strange, I know, but some of the things I now miss most about my early childhood church experiences were the traditions, formality and structure of the church environment. I doubt I appreciated those elements at the time.

I don’t know what Easter traditions you hold dear. Perhaps none. I’ve got a number of atheist friends who scoff at Christians more on Easter than any other day. But I’m not swayed, sorry. Easter is real to me.

The empty tomb. The cross.

The Voice.

Some of the most vivid parts – in my mind – of the story of the passion of Christ:

– The rising tension in the upper room where Jesus and his disciples had the last supper. The knowing glance between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. The uneasy mix of sacred worship and nervous laughter as the disciples could sense something eternally profound was going to happen.

– Impulsive, knee-jerking Simon Peter, the one character with whom I most identify. “I will never leave you. I will never deny you!” Then the rooster crowing and the crushing conviction of betrayal, denial and abandonment – within just a few hours of the humble meal in the upper room.

– The risen Christ’s grace and forgiveness, extended to impulsive, knee-jerking Jodie J… I mean, Simon Peter.

– The unwritten account of the angels of Heaven prepared for battle, poised on the edge of Heaven, anxiously awaiting the Son’s call or for the Father to say, “Go get my son.” Instead … I imagine chaos among the heavenly host – “Hey, isn’t Someone going to stop this?” or “This can’t be happening!” – as they see Jesus betrayed, falsely accused, beaten, stripped, mocked – and nailed to a cross; all the while the Father weeps oceans of tears …

Then turns his back.

– The command from the Father to the angels on the third day: “Go get my son!”

– Mary Magdelene’s broken heart yet continued devotion. “Oh, where is his body? What have you done with it?” Pain so deep that it’s all she knew. Hopeless, exhausted, confused. Pain so deep that she literally couldn’t recognize the man.

Until … “Mary.”

The Voice.

The Good Shepherd knows my name. Does He know yours?

Set aside seven minutes for Ray Boltz’s video and song, “Watch the Lamb.” Please watch it. Let me know what you think. You only need a little over two minutes, but it’s not Easter without “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” My treat, brought to you by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

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Unexpected moments of Light

It’s time for “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” when Jackson’s Journal undertakes a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

I’ve been asked to speak and sing “The Lord’s Prayer” at a memorial service for one of Kelly’s cousins, Delena Sholler, on April 21 in the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church in Belle. The location alone sends an unexpected wave of emotion through me, something I’ll explain at a later time, under different circumstances. Delena was living in Texas; I barely knew her. But my “adopted” in-law family called on me, as they often have, to memorialize and celebrate her life.

Delena’s parents are John and Nina Tynes of Union. Kelly, Kishia and our new granddaughter Kianna were planning to visit Uncle Johnny and Aunt Nina today. They are Kianna’s Great-Great-Great Uncle and Aunt. And they are two of my favorite people. Uncle Johnny “gave Kelly away” at our wedding; I recently found a gospel song that Nina wrote and I arranged several years ago.

Remembering that shared history has given me a smile and also brought to mind Nina telling the most spine-tingling ghost stories I’ve ever heard. When I mentioned that to Kelly the other day, she held out her hand to stop me. “Nope, nope,” Kelly said, waving me off and shaking her head. I imagined that just the thought of Nina’s gift of vivid narration sent goosebumps pulsing up Kelly’s arms.

Nina and her sister, Neva, have seen their other three siblings enter eternity: Leroy Guinn, perhaps the most influential man during my early teen years; Nora Wallace, whom I was with when she breathed her last; and dear, sweet Grandma – Nola McDaniel – whom a dozen of us surrounded and serenaded into Heaven with quiet, sacred hymns just three and a half months ago.

Unexpected moments of Light. That’s what I’ve experience time and again with Kelly’s side of the family probably more than my own. The last words I’d use to describe that clan – especially the distant, great-great kinfolk – are pretentious and artificial. These folks are as real as they come. A loose cannon like me fits snugly into the fold.

I’m going to follow this theme of unexpected moments of Light for a few weeks. Last week there was no “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” at Jackson’s Journal, the first time we’ve missed in three months. I’ve shed the legalistic view that “going to church,” even in the virtual world of The Journal, is mandatory for keeping a place at the grown-up table in Heaven. What isn’t acceptable, though, is just going through the motions when it comes to worship and examining my heart, but I’m a pretty good motion-goer-througher. I think I’ve mentioned before I learned from the best.

But you know one of the incredibly cool things about God? It’s as if He decides, “I’m gonna rock your going through the motions routine – when you least expect it.”

That’s called Grace.

So here I was, searching for guitar chords for “The Lord’s Prayer,” and thinking that I’d find something on YouTube, say “here’s what I’ve got for us for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,” and then we’d have a quick prayer and walk one block down the street (in Belle, Mo.) to Cecil’s for a frozen dairy treat.

What I found was The Martins singing their own version of The Lord’s Prayer. I clicked. I simply wanted to listen, grab the link, slap it on this page, say “Amen” and get on with setting my lineups for the too-many fantasy baseball teams that I’ve drafted. But wow, what a version. I love, love, love The Martins.

Instead, I went next to In the Presence of Jehovah, another Martins song.

An unexpected moment of Light. If this doesn’t launch you into full-fledged worship mode, then you haven’t got a pulse. This past Sunday Natasha texted me to say, “Visiting a church and a lady is singing ‘In the Presence of Jehovah’ for special music. Thinking of you.”

God was rocking the complacency that I’d allowed to creep in to my heart.

Finally, in observance of Lent and in preparation for Palm Sunday (Kianna is being dedicated) and then Resurrection Day (we also call it Easter) I offer what might be an overwhelming experience. An a cappella rendition of O Sacred Head (one of the more challenging bass lines there is), set to video from The Passion of the Christ.

Granted, this is a long blog entry. (Broke my own rule). And it will take 12 minutes or longer to hear all the songs – and the scenes in the video are unbearably graphic. The thoughts and emotions from this post’s music weren’t what you expected when you started reading.

But I’ll bet you, too, experienced unexpected moments of Light. You’ll let me know, right? 

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This just in: And the winner is …

Kelly Jackson, 2012 Outstanding MSW Student of the Year. Kelly (Grammy of Kianna, wife of Jodie, mom of Kishia and Natasha) was notified today that she is receiving that award from the University of Missouri School of Social Work Alumni Organization board of directors.

The Alumni Awards will be presented on April 20. She will graduate (4.0 GPA, so far) with her Master of Social Work degree on May 11. Incidentally, Kelly did her field placement work in the fall at Love INC (Love In the Name of Christ). She’s completing her practicum this semester with Sherryl Laws Counseling and continues to work at Love INC, too. Love INC was informed today that it has been selected for the 2012 Outstanding Social Service Agency Award by the School of Social Work alumni group.

The top photos show Kelly today as a proud Grammy – the “job” she enjoys more than any other. She bottom photos are Kelly as a research technician in the animal science department at Lincoln University. She graduated in May 1996 from Lincoln with a degree in animal science; her specialty was reproductive physiology.

Here’s the best way to sum up Kelly’s fascinating, extraordinary professional and personal life:

1980’s: Nursing. (Graduated 1984 from Rolla Area School of Practical Nursing). Other full-time job: Mom.

1990’s: Animal scientist. (She entered the four-year program as a full-time mom of two girls at the ripe young age of 29. Kelly was named “Outstanding Senior” in the College of Agriculture, Applied Science and Technology at Lincoln on April 11, 1996.) Other full-time job: Mom.

2000’s: Foster mom. Other full-time job: Mom.

2010’s: Social worker ‑ champion of the marginalized, disenfranchised, oppressed, forgotten and neglected. Other full-time job: GRAMMY!

What’s next?

THIS is what Kelly was created to do: Be Grammy and guide people from hopeless, impossible situations into full, vibrant lives, while challenging and inspiring those she touches to help her change the world, one life at a time.

Kelly’s quote on all this: “It takes a lot of really colorful and different patches to make up a really cool quilt.”

I’d say my wife – my forever BFF to whom I will be married 30 years in just 42 days – has the coolest quilt I’ve ever seen.

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“Then Sings My Soul …”

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting is the mid-week topic for Jackson’s Journal, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Sometimes, the best sermons were the ones that didn’t happen. Often as the pastor a small church (I pastored three of them) I doubled as the music minister. (“Music minister” is fancy for “song leader.”) More than a few times when the music was just right and the harmony was so “on,” we might just skip the preachin’ part and sing a few more hymns.

One time Mt. Zion Baptist Church had a weekend (three-day) “singing revival.” I invited a different guest speaker for each night and told him he’d have 10 minutes to preach, but just about as long as he wanted for singing. And it just so happened that the preachers I invited had wives and/or families with incredible musical talent. At Beulah Baptist Church, once or twice a year we’d have a Sunday afternoon hymn sing following a carry-in lunch. I invited an entire Mennonite congregation from Chamois to join us once for an all a cappella hymn sing.

The memory still makes my arms get all goose-bumpy. Mmmmm! Good stuff!

Yesterday’s post was a birthday greeting to our youngest daughter, Natasha. One of the songs I mentioned in my stream of consciousness was How Great Is Our God. It’s a song that seems to touch us both very deeply and in a way it’s our father-daughter spiritual song. I also mentioned that Natasha has been to Cameroon (Africa) and Fiji. Our oldest, Kishia, has also been to Africa (Ghana), and both girls have made mission trips to Mexico.

When your daughter is in Africa, you don’t really relax.

A few years ago when Natasha was in Cameroon, Kelly and I were out doing some shopping when my cell phone rang, and it was Natasha calling from 6,000 miles away. She couldn’t wait to get home to tell me: she’d learned to play guitar. Then she told me to listen — and she played How Great Is Our God.

Worship doesn’t always need preachin’. I stood in Wal-Mart listening on my cell phone as Natasha sang from two continents away. It was easily one of the most meaningful worship experiences of my life.

So take a few minutes, click the link here and worship with Hillsong and Darlene Zschech as they lead How Great Is Our God.

Some arrangements of that newer classic incorporate part of the old classic How Great Thou Art. I couldn’t find anything on the web that satisfactorily combined those songs, but I did find this slightly new, barbershop arrangement of How Great Thou Art. (Goosebump alert).

Finally, the best song services of yesteryear were the ones where the music minister asked for congregation favorites. So I’m taking requests for future Wednesday Night Prayer Meetings.

What’s your favorite hymn(s) or praise and worship chorus?

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Birthday girl! Natasha turns 25 today …

Grace.

That’s the one word I think of when I think of my family: Kelly, Kishia and Natasha. Next to my saved soul, the three most powerful, visible signs of grace in my life are my girls.

Kishia turned 27 on Feb. 26, just 11 days after giving birth to Kianna. Natasha hits the quarter-century mark today. Putting together a photo montage of Natasha verified a few things I already knew — it’s hard to find a picture of her without an animal somewhere in the frame, without a musical instrument, without a smile … and with her mouth closed. It’s true.

Here’s a short stream of consciousness describing our youngest daughter …

Pure; laughter; Fiji. The Music of the Night, Veggie Tales and cello. (And Mrs. Manulik said you’d never do anything with that cello. Hah!) Then Sings My Soul! “I just called to say hi, I’m on my way to class, and … oh, look, SQUIRREL!” How Great Is Our God. Cameroon, Nutella, Cindy Lou, and Kory; The Application Trail; Short Bus (the name of her car); guitar, drums, bass and piano; Sweet Hour of Prayer; Sweet Pea; The Boys; brand-new niece Kianna! Butterfly. Sister, daughter … friend. Soul-winner. Destined for the mission field, very likely a long, long way from her mom and dad. Campus Crusade. Tapped into Living Water. More laughter. Endless music, eternal sense of wonder and awe, and always ready to eat Double Stuff Oreos at midnight with her dad.

Love you, Tash. 

The following is from my sports column, “Sports of Sorts,” in the Wednesday, March 11, 1992, edition of the Gasconade County Republican:

“My littlest girl, Natasha, who will be 5 on Friday (the 13th), was stuffing herself with spaghetti Sunday evening when my wife warned her not to take such big bites.

“‘Don’t worry, Mommy,’ she reassured, mumbling with a mouthful of noodles and sauce. ‘I’ve got a pretty big mouth.’

Just like her Daddy.”

Happy birthday, Pokey.

 

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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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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

Marking the days off the calendar: 15, 14, 13, 12 …

In a dozen days, give or take a few, the Darnell and Kishia Brown home in Jefferson City will never be the same again. Not only are they going to see me and Kelly more frequently, but the real change will come in the form of a literal bundle of joy named Kianna Allene. I told Kishia as recently as Sunday that she has the green light to lead me to the front door when I become too overbearing.

It might come to that. (It’s not likely Kelly will wear out her welcome).

Kishia wasn’t quite a full day old on Feb. 27, 1985, when we took her home from St. Marys Health Center in Jefferson City. Kelly had slept a little bit the night before and I’d gone home to Belle, smoking a cigar on the way. Seemed like the thing to do.

I vividly recall the very moment that the full force of parenthood slammed into me. (Something tells me Kelly already had that figured out). As we motored south along Highway 63, Kelly and I chatted as if for a moment nothing had changed. Then suddenly I glanced in the back seat to see a baby in a car seat. We were in Westphalia, just past the convenience store on the right.

We had a baby. In an instant I felt panic and a great sense of uncertainty: I had no idea what to do. Then a different realization swept the fear away. Look what we had done!

We had a baby!

Kishia sings to her new baby sister, Natasha, in March 1987. Kishia was eager to impress her sister. I can report that she moved past that stage a long, long time ago.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #25

Be bold. Live boldly. Have confidence. Be the kind of person who brings out the very best in others. Expect the best from yourself, but have plenty of grace for yourself  – and others – when they disappoint you.

How do you learn bold yet humble confidence? Simple.

Always work your crossword puzzles with an ink pen, not a pencil.

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The waiting game: February 1985

Countdown to Kianna

Twenty, 19, 18, 17, 16 … Just two weeks and two days away from the Feb. 19 due date. I don’t doubt there are many people in my personal and professional circles who will be incredibly relieved when I can talk about something besides the impending arrival of Kianna Allene Brown, our first grandbaby. (Go ahead, admit it. You know who you are.)

I’m also surprised daily to know that others are now counting down with us. I had to pick up something from the Boone County Commission office on Thursday. I told the commission’s secretary, Monica Kuster, that I’d be by between 2 and 3 p.m.

I got sidetracked and didn’t show up until just after 4 p.m. By then, both Monica and public information officer/administrative assistant Michele Hall were convinced that Kianna had arrived (why else would I be late?). “No baby? Is there a baby? Did Kianna come?”

(Note: You’re going to meet Monica next week. She’s guest-posting Tuesday by sharing a love poem she wrote to her husband. There’s some exciting news about the poem and a certain song-writing contest. Tune in Tuesday!)

 

February 1985

The calendar chronicles the schedule and mileage of my labors as editor of the weekly Belle Banner and bi-vocational pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Kelly and I were both 21. And we were “expecting.”

That calendar page also has a baby countdown or, more accurately, a baby count up. Feb. 7 listed “Kelly to Dr., 1:30,” with “LaBoyer class, 7:30.” (I misspelled “LaBoya,” which was the method of birth we’d selected for both of our daughters. The LaBoya Method involved gently placing the baby in a warm bath immediately after birth. Sad to say we didn’t get photos of Kishia’s LaBoya bath, but we have several photos from Natasha’s LaBoya bath).

Feb. 10 was Kelly’s due date. Then 15 days passed as I marked the calendar with “still no baby” or simply “no baby.”

Check out Tuesday, Feb. 26: BABY!

As a side note, there’s one notation that’s a clear indication of the decade. Feb. 15. Besides paying a heating bill of $54, there’s this: “Breakdancers, 3:30 p.m.” As I recall, the only two students capable of breakdancing in our all-white, rural school put on an after-school demonstration.

Oh, baby.

Grandpa’s message to Kianna #21

I often knelt with your mommy, Kishia, to say a bedside prayer as part of our bedtime routine. Her little prayers were so sincere and sweet. And simple. (She taught me a lot about praying.) Kishia’s forehead pressed her praying hands into the side of the mattress.

One night, in the next breath after her “Amen,” Kishia sneezed and immediately lowered her face to the mattress, and softly whispered, ” ‘Scooze me, God.”

So, God apparently lived in the mattress. At least that was the premise for one or more sermons over the years.

But come to think of it, the innocence of your mommy’s courtesy to the Creator made God as real to me that night as He had ever been.

This is one of my all-time favorite photos. Our little lhasa apso puppy, Gizmo, with Kishia and my pretty wife Kelly. I’m guessing Kishia is 18 months to 2 years old here.

 

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Teacher’s pet?

Natasha, our 24-year-old, music-teaching daughter, called today to tell me one of those “awww” stories that seem to follow her around. She was teaching a song to her youngest kids, but an almost-5-year-old boy was struggling to pay attention and to follow directions.

So Natasha made the little lad come sit next to her while she continued to teach. The little guy broke into sobs. Natasha stopped to ask him what was wrong.

“Miss Jackson, I just want to dance with you,” was his reply.

So they danced.

That story took me back to my first grade classroom. My mom tells me that after my first day of first grade, I told her that my teacher, Mrs. Blakemore, liked me best.

Why?

Well, she moved my desk right next to hers.

I don’t remember the specifics, but I’m fairly sure it didn’t involve the desire to dance. In fact, you don’t want to see me dance.

Ever.

“Kianna Countdown: 37 days”

Kianna, I tried watching some NBA basketball tonight after Mrs. Grandpa fell asleep on the couch. She’s whipped; Friday evening couldn’t come quickly enough for her. You should have seen her yesterday, though, describing the joyful reaction of two young Congolese girls who had never seen snow. No matter how exhausting her social work practicum has been, those golden moments are priceless — sort of like your Aunt Tasha’s “awww” teaching experiences.

My golden moment today was at Dunn Bros. Coffee when I discovered there was only one blueberry streusel muffin left. Yummy.

I was talking about basketball, right?

I don’t know who your sports heroes will be. I took your mom to a Chicago Bulls game for her 13th birthday in 1996. We sat like 500 feet from the court at the United Center and the Bulls beat the Washington Bullets. (That team went all politically correct after that year and changed its name to “Wizards.”) The Bulls had Michael Jordan, the greatest athlete ever, in my opinion. The M.J.-led Bulls won their sixth championship that season and Jordan retired. He made a come-back, sort of, but didn’t play for the Bulls again.

Anyway, the Heat has this player, LeBron James, and some other superstars. King James is a great player, but his teams won’t win six titles. That’s my prediction.

Maybe you’ll play basketball? Here’s my advice: learn exceptional dribbling and ball-handling skills and learn to love to play defense. Do those two things better than anyone and that will make you a great offensive player.

I’m a good dribbler, but I’ll leave the defense coaching to your mom and dad. Your mom, Kishia, once broke a bigger girl’s jaw during 3-on-3 street ball.

Be careful and watch her elbows.

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