April 30th marks the 3 year anniversary of my grandpa’s death.
Death is no stranger, my grandmother passed away in 1993, when I was 8 years old. Followed by a myriad of great aunts, great uncles, cousins removed, a police officer I never really knew but that I saw die as he lay on asphalt. My Dad’s dad, Grandpa Edwards passed away in 2004 and just last year I lost an uncle, great-uncle, first cousin and grandpa on my husband’s side.
In a way, I am grateful that I was exposed to death at an early age. You learn to cope, to process and in a way to numb yourself and while it doesn’t make losing someone any easier it makes it bearable.
So. Raymond Eugene Pressley. Grandfather, father, uncle, brother and at one time so very long ago, husband.
Here are a few things that remind me of him…
Number One: Orange slices
When I was younger and Grandpa lived in Charlotte, we would visit him. He would have an endless supply of these gummy treats as well as Number Two.
Number Two: Mountain Dew
Oh, Mountain Dew. During our visits, he would also have “Good Ole’ Mountain Dew” at the ready. Up until he couldn’t remember any longer due to his dementia, he would sing “Give me that good ole’ Mountain Dew.” He would continue with his version of the lyrics, “fill up a bottle or two. I’ll hush up my mug if you fill up my jug of that good ole’ Mountain Dew.” Of course, this song was about mountain moonshine, not the neon yellow, lemon-lime concoction.
Take a listen, you may need to fast forward to about 45 seconds, unless you want to hear Mr. Flatt and Mr. Scruggs talk for a bit
Number Three: Little Debbie Cakes
I would say that Gramps had a sweet tooth. Swiss cake rolls and Oatmeal Creme Pies. Strawberry Ice Cream that he would share with my brother’s dog and then deny knowledge of how Hutch got pink all over his snout.
Number Four: Gomer Pyle (played by Jim Nabors)
Gomer Pyle was a character on The Andy Griffith Show and eventually gained his own television sitcom. I honestly don’t remember why Gomer reminds me of Gramps. Maybe they favor each other, maybe because he talked about him.
Number Five: The Marine Corps
Grandpa was in the Marine Corps, serving in the Korean War. He was proud of being a marine, as most marines are. He was always randomly saying, “Left, left, left, right, left”.
During the latter part of his life, he brought so much joy to our lives. His legacy of redemption will live on.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Korn. The band I listened to during the darkest years of my life (which weren’t that dark in retrospect). Jonathan with his bagpipes and kilt, Head with his long hair, Fieldy with…well his bass, guitarist Munky and former drummer David Silveria. I would write the band’s and members name in whiteout on my black cloth trapperkeeper.
Their dark, rebellious lyrics attempted to fill a void within me. I mainly listened to them because the people I hung around listened to them. I was a follower. Jonathan’s angry, low-pitched, violent vocals were something I could latch onto.
When I became a Christian, I stopped listening to them, favoring bands like Zao, POD, Chrome Donuts and Stretch Armstrong.
In 2005, after 12 years of playing with the band, Brian “Head” Welch left. He left to follow Christ. In a radio interview with The Full Armor of God Broadcast Head explained his leaving, “I was walking one day, just doing my Rock and Roll thing making millions of bucks, you know success and everything, addicted to drugs and then the next day I had a revelation of Christ and I was like, everything changes right now.”
A man that was addicted to alcohol, meth, xanax and other drugs; a man that was addicted to the world – to fortune and fame; a man that was completely broken, laid everything down to follow Christ.
Now, Head knows what his purpose is, “He put me on earth to have fellowship and intimacy with him. I am going to spend as much time as I can possibly spend getting to know Him…I don’t want to waste any time, I’ve wasted enough time. That’s what I am put on earth to do…let Him fill me with the Spirit so that He can do the work by bringing people into the Kingdom.” (CBN)
I was taken by Head’s brutal honesty of how he came to know Christ, view his testimony here:
A few months ago, I heard that Fieldy also turned his life over to Christ. What was happening? What IS happening to this band named Korn that I used to know? Christ was/is revealing himself to one of the biggest bands in nu rock.
In an interview, Fieldy said, “All you gotta know is what Jesus did for you…and if you ask him into your heart, it’s for life. He is going to be with you forever.” (CBN)
While Fieldy has stayed in the band and Head has stepped away, they are both ministering to the people who need it most, to the people who Christ himself ministered to: the unloved and those who are deemed unloveable. Their faith speaks volumes about Christ’s love, forgiveness and grace. Nothing is too big, too bad, too abhorrent that Christ won’t forgive you.
Easter Sunday, while sitting around a table talking to a few of my “in-laws” (cousins and aunt/uncle), we got on the topic of Christ’s death. Not only that he died, but that he took every sin on himself. That he lived the sin and that God’s cup of wrath was taken from us by Christ. Christ drank of the cup, the bitter, hot cup of infidelity and shame. Of murder and lust. Of sin. Of my sins.
Oh, the length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless life above!
So take the world, but give me Jesus.
Seeing as how there’s 32 more days until the “big” day, I thought I would give a quick update post.
When I started running with the Run for God program at Riverland Hills Baptist Church, I honestly didn’t think I would stick with it.
Here is the thing: I have a tendency of starting things with the full intention of finishing and somewhere along the way I lose interest, I get preoccupied with other things or I just quit for no reason. The $75 price tag for this program (which includes a nice running t-shirt, book and registration for the Get in the Pink race) helped in the way of sticking with it.
Over the past 7 weeks, I have gone from not being able to run 60 seconds without sounding like all the air in the world was gone to being able to run two 8-minute intervals without getting too winded. For some of you this doesn’t seem a big deal, but for me it is huge. This week we jump to a 20-minute run. While I am nervous, I know that this program is designed for people like me and I trust that by the end of this week I will be running the full 20-minutes. I have run in the rain (which I recommend everyone do at least once in their lives), in freezing cold and in the stifling Columbia heat.
I started this program not knowing anyone besides my friend Brooke who is training separately in the 10k group. At first, I didn’t mind the solitude. I actually liked running by myself so I could huff and puff and pant as loud as I wanted to without feeling embarrassed. But with anything, there needs to be a sense of community. During one of the first weeks, I met a woman named Robin and got to know her story. The following weeks I met Diane and Joan. Strong women of all ages that I could run beside and be encouraged by. It has made all the difference.
I didn’t realize that I needed someone beside me saying, “You can do it! We are almost there!” Followed by high fives, smiles and laughing after the whistle blows.
So that is where I am at. At a place where running isn’t so bad. At a place where I am getting healthier. At a place where I am not feeling so lazy.
I still don’t like getting up at 7:30 on Saturday to run. I still don’t like the occasional pain of my sciatic nerve. But at the end of the day (or mid morning), when I take off my running shoes and peel off my sweaty t-shirt. I feel good. I feel rejuvenated and I feel alive.
Side note: I also feel as if I would be safe in the event that a Zombie Apocalypse occurred. Just saying.
Dear Lord Voldemort,
Seven months ago, we lost you. You were a mere eight weeks along, just beginning to have little fingers, toes and eyelids. You were the size of a kidney bean. You were my kidney bean.
You would have joined us on the outside very soon (if not already). Long since, we would have known if you were a boy or a girl and more than likely we wouldn’t still be calling you Lord Voldemort. (Though I am pretty sure your Auntie Katelyn would have held on to the nickname and embarrassed you at high school graduation by yelling it out for all to hear.)
It is hard to let go, to know that I should be big and pregnant with swollen feet, feeling you kick and squirm inside, ready to come out and see the world. Imagining what names we would have come up with and the colors of your nursery. Would you have green eyes like me? Or brown like your daddy? Would you have the Haltom bump on your nose? A ruddy complexion? Long fingers and toes?
Would you be a book worm, an athlete or both? Would you play t-ball or soccer? Dance or play piano? And the most important question: would you like Carolina or Clemson?
One thing is for sure, you would have been smart. I imagine reading to you, praying with and for you, playing with you, creating with you. However, one thing that I don’t think about is having to change your diaper.
I think of you often, every time I see a pregnant soon-to-be mommy or a little baby, when I talk to my friends who are pregnant or have babies of their own. I usually smile at your memory, at the joy that you brought during those few weeks that we knew about you. Sometimes there is a bitterness that creeps up especially when I see or hear people complaining about motherhood or those who choose to not have their babies.
But you were here, even if you were only a whisper. You were real. You had a life, no matter how short and for that life I rejoice. Ultimately, you are His. For that life I am grateful. You gave us new titles, that of Mommy and Daddy. We will tell your brothers and sisters about you and one day we will see you.
“You should know…
That your days here changed everything.
You are missed here and will always be
But you left here. The greatest gift of all.
Cause our hearts ache for home…”
~Home by Nicol Sponberg
Every couple has “their story”.
A story about when they first met, a not-so-funny at the time story about their wedding day that they now laugh at as they reminisce or an inside joke that only the two of them share.
Well, today I have decided to let you guys in on one such story. It is a story about love, passion and a stinky nose.
Picture it: April, 2009. My computer had been acting up, not connecting to the internet and generally being a pain in the patootie.
After having a successful sinus surgery that left me with severe post-anesthesia nausea and two black eyes, I decided to go in on one of my sick leave days to have my computer fixed.
Enter: The Geek Squad. Now, I had never had much interaction with this crowd. Men (and women…but mostly men) dressed in black slacks, white button down shirts, and signature black ties. Not exactly the uniform you picture when a southern belle exclaims, “I love men in uniform!”
I arrived at Best Buy, and mosied on over to the Geek Squad line. I grabbed a Sports Illustrated magazine (because if you read Sports Illustrated, men WILL be impressed). I waited, and waited and finally was called up. A nice Geek Squader, named Gabe, helped me with my tired computer. While he was futzing with my Vaio, I heard this loud noise (also known as hardcore music) and asked another guy behind the counter what he was listening to. Thus began the first conversation between Joseph and me.
Since the surgery, fluids and dried blood had been slowly seeping into the cavity of my nose. Of course, this is part of the healing process but after two weeks it gets kind of smelly. I was using a saline nose wash to no avail. The stinky nose was there to stay until I went to the doctor.
So fast forward two weeks. Joseph and I had started courting or dating or whatever you young people call it now-days. It was a hot, humid, sultry (for effect) night and we were walking on Columbia’s riverwalk. For those of you who live in Columbia, you know the exact kind of night I am talking about. For whatever reason, everything was in place to make my nose smell as bad as it ever had. Joseph was wanting to hug me and stand close, as most couples do when they first start dating but I kept pushing him away in fear he would smell the odor wafting from my nose.
While walking, Joseph exclaimed, “Do you smell a skunk?”
I died. What? A skunk? “Uh…uh…no…um…I’ve never smelled a skunk before.” What a lame answer. Secretly I was thinking, “Just kill me now. I am not telling you about my stinky nose but I guess it’s good you think it’s a skunk and not me…then again you are calling me a skunk.”
I didn’t tell Joseph about my skunked up nose that night, or the next, or the month after. It wasn’t until we were engaged that I let him in on my little stinky nose secret. After visiting the doctor for the next two months, I finally healed and the stinky nose was no more.
And there you have it. The case of the stinky nose.
Do you have an “embarrasing-at-the-time” story?
For the past few months, I have been complaining non-stop to anyone who would listen that, “I am getting fat”, “I can’t fit into my jeans” and the ever present, “Marriage will make you fat!”
Well my friends, at the encouragement of a dear friend, I have joined the “Run for God” group at Riverland Hills Baptist Church. The program is designed after the “Couch to 5k” running regime. The first week you start out by jogging for 60 seconds followed by walking for 90 seconds, alternating for a 20 minute period. We meet in the church parking lot every Tuesday and Saturday to train for a 5k (some will be running a 10k) in May (http://www.getinthepink.org/). We then are required to run once more for a total of three training sessions per week. There is also a Bible study held on Sundays.
So, last Sunday, I was driving to the first Bible study/sign up session. Saying I was nervous and doubtful was an understatement. Thoughts of “I can’t do this”, “I will fail”, “what if I am the biggest, slowest person there?” flooded my mind. Self doubt has always plagued my life.
When I arrived, donning new New Balance running shoes with bright green trim, I was greeted by smiling faces. All ages, sizes and genders were present. It was encouraging to see an older grandfather sitting a few sections over, a mother in her mid fifties sitting with her much younger daughter. The session started and we were asked to stand up and introduce ourselves by giving our name and a fun fact. Most people would say their name and explain why they joined the group. There were comments like, “I want to lose weight”, “my daughter is making me do this” and for many, this was their second go round with Run for God. They got so much out of it, they wanted to do it again. So, my turn came around. I stood up and said, “Hi, my name is Jessica Ackerman. I used to run for punishment when I used to play softball and would miss a pop-fly. I am hoping to get a renewed sense of running.” People chuckled, nodding their heads like they knew exactly what I was talking about.
I went home that night, encouraged by all of the positive comments and success stories. Tuesday came and I rushed from a counseling appointment after work to the very first running session. It was chilly. I was out of my element. I was downright awkward in the bright green New Balances. I thought, “who am I kidding? I am NOT a runner…I don’t run unless it’s away from my husband when he is trying to tickle me.”
After a brief prayer, the 5k group split from the 10k group. I wanted to beg my friend Brooke to change her mind, to run the 5k program with me. But I bucked up and walked over to the 5 k group where we started our 5 minute walk warm up. I heard a countdown 10-9-8…3-2-1, then a whistle. People around me started jogging, I found myself keeping with their pace. I focused on the person in front of me, breathing in 1-2-3. Breathing out: 1-2-3. Repeating. Focused. Soon the countdown again 10-9-8…3-2-1. Whistle. Walking. 90 seconds later: 10-9-8…3-2-1. Whistle. Running. 60 seconds later….
During some of the walking portions, I would chat with another runner. Asking for tips about breathing and stride.
After 20 minutes of the jog, walk, jog, walk…it was over. I felt amazing. Energized. I left with a smile and went right over to purchase running shorts and an athletic top. I was tempted to stop and get a frosty for a reward but figured the shorts and top were good enough. Plus…if you get a frosty, you have to get fries to dip in the frosty and that is just sad.
Saturday morning was FREEZING cold. I wanted to wear my new shorts and I did. I won’t make that mistake again.
So, here I am on week two. Everytime I see someone run I think, “That could be me. That will be me.”
Here is to running and not giving up.
I haven’t posted much about one of my best friends, Vanessa. Our unlikely friendship began almost 12 years ago on the theatre stage of Carolina Forest High School. We have known each other a little longer than 12 years, but the first year was not pleasant.
You see, Vanessa dated my brother their freshman year of high school. If you have a younger sibling, you know how annoying they can be (I being the younger sibling). Vanessa would call my brother and he would call her and spend hours on the phone talking about who knows what. This annoyed me. I had friends to call and Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Hanson to talk about. I disliked Vanessa. She took up too much phone time and she was dating my brother so automatically I thought she was gross.
The next year, I tried out for the school musical. I remember seeing her at tryouts and thinking “oh, great. Just who I want to see.” It was my first year and high school, her and my brother had since broken up but I still didn’t want to see her every week.
God had other plans. At some point during one of the first practices for “Once Upon A Mattress”, we started talking. Slowly, a friendship began to form between us and we haven’t looked back.
Our friendship grew. We went through awkward phases together, many failed relationships (both romantic and friendship), bachelor and master degrees, family drama, we have both survived heart wrenching miscarriages and have had many laughs and many tears.
We have had our disagreements and fights but have always forgiven each other. We have stood by each other during both of our weddings. We have survived despite a 1,200 miles separation (soon to be 2,900 miles as her and her family are relocating to Fort Lewis, Washington). She has taught me what friendship is and has become my sister. We have formed a bond that many people never have.
As our high school theatre teacher, Wayne Canady, used to say, “You are lucky to find two, true friends in your lifetime.” And it is true. But I have found at least one.
So, whenever Vanessa told me that she was pregnant last year, I was elated and scared. She had miscarried two years before during a time in our friendship where we weren’t talking. It was her husband who messaged me about the miscarriage and my heart broke for her.
But she was finally pregnant again. Each week I prayed for her and her little peanut. As each week passed I was always relieved to know that mama and baby were doing well. Then we found out she was having a baby girl and we rejoiced. I was able to fly out in November to see her and her pregnant belly. I got to see her waddle like a duck and glow. Having a pregnant friend that is far away is so, so hard. I wanted to be able to walk with her through the pregnancy, to touch her belly and feel the kicks, to laugh at her when she couldn’t get up off the sofa but then eventually lend a hand. Luckily, I got to do all of that during my brief stay in Oklahoma.
Baby Lana Josephine Keating was born on December 23 at 9:28 pm. She was 8 lbs and 21 1/2 inches long. She is the most beautiful baby girl I have ever seen! I cannot wait until she gets older so I can tell her all of the shenanigans that her mom and I used to get into. (After she is 21, of course).
Congratulations, Rory and Vanessa on bringing a beautiful baby into the world. I pray that she grows up to have the same integrity and beautiful soul that both of you possess.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more beautiful than being on top of the clouds with a mid-fall sunset shining down on them.
I have seen beautiful things in my 26 years of life. The ocean, stretching as far as the eye can see. Sunsets so colorful that you are sure Crayola would have to create brand new colors to capture them. My sister growing up. My best friend’s pregnant tummy.
But the clouds from an airplane’s view – the valleys and rounded mounds like mountains of the sky- are untouchable in their beauty.
It would be easy to forget that they are merely water vapor and step out onto them thinking you would be enveloped by the softest fibers on earth – only to fall through, tumbling down through the mist and light.
It breaks my heart that I can’t play among the clouds. Skipping from one to the other. Cupping the matter in my hands and throwing it in the air for it to fall back down. Lying in the cradle of comfort with the one I love while he plays with my hair.
It’s a shame.
As the cold comes on, thoughts of sweaters and bonfires, hot coffee and cold nights, fuzzy slippers and ice covered windshields, take over my mind.
This morning my windshield was fogged over, everything outside was blurry and I could barely see out. While many of you are thinking, “wow…that is dangerous” yes…it probably is; however, I wasn’t driving.
As I sat there, looking out of the greyish glass, I reflected that the past year felt exactly like what I was seeing. Cloudy, blurry, indistinguishable. I flipped on my wipers and things became clearer. There were still streaks of moisture…I realized I need new wiper blades.
I am in desperate need of new life. For God to come in and take over. It has been so long since I have felt anything: motivation, pure joy, etc… I am numb to everything, going through the motions of everyday life, doing just what needs to be done. I take little to no joy in what I am doing.
Two weeks ago, at Life Group, I felt the Holy Spirit. Before you stop reading and think I’m nuts…let me explain. We were around a table sharing prayer requests. Two girls agreed to pray (one of them not being me). As the first girl began to pray, I felt a strong urge to pray for one of the girls that has trouble sleeping. She wakes up feeling held down as if something is holding her.
So, the first girl continued praying and I felt really hot and my heart started racing. I was going to ignore the promt to pray but once she was finished praying I blurted out the prayer. It was short but I couldn’t help but crying…though I really didn’t know why I was crying. And my hands started to sweat and the heat was almost unbearable (sorry to the girls that had to hold my hands while praying…)
I don’t say this to boast…I say it because that is what I want all the time. I want to feel the Holy Spirit. I want to feel God.