“7649 Linton Road”

by Angela St.Clair

Beauty beckons
the dirt road
lost in towering trees
Cobwebs and dust decorate
displaying the intricate art
of the mansion from a dream
Birds talk. Leaves whistle.
Wasps warn.
as the music distracts
Musty dampness lingers
while the day’s sweat ignites comfort
PEACE befalls
the anxiety-laden longing
Why
How
What If
only sadness knows
but JOY conquers

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, Daddy:  July 18, 2016

Today, I celebrate You.

My Dad.

My Teacher.

My Friend.

Today, I celebrate You,

complete with Swiss Steak, mashed potatoes, and ice-cream cake

Today, I celebrate you

because you gave me a life in this world

and taught me the beauty of an eternal life in Heaven above

Today, I celebrate you,

wishing I could hear your voice and feel your embrace

taking in your lasting scent on that ever worn shirt

Today, I celebrate you

with tears and sorrow

joy and laughter

longing and knowing

In today’s celebration of You, I thank you

for who I am

for how I think

for what I believe

Today, you should be 63

but instead you are free

Today, Daddy, I wish you a Happy Birthday from here below

and pray for continued grace and growth

for all of us you left behind

Today, and Everyday

I love You

I miss You

I celebrate You

by Angela Drennan St.Clair

Changed. Humbled. Inspired.

As I sit in my air-conditioned house and reflect on the week, I am changed. I am humbled. I am inspired. This past week, I joined my daughter’s youth group on their IMG_7974mission trip to Nashville, TN.

I wasn’t supposed to be on this trip, but a friend on mine asked me to fill in for her because of a family matter.

There are no coincidences, people. God knows exactly what He is doing, and He knew I would say “yes,” because I rarely say, “no.”

So, I dropped off my daughter on Sunday and joined the group myself on Tuesday. The main purpose of this trip was to host a Vacation Bible School in a poverty-stricken apartment complex, and my task was to handle the Imagination Station.

The first day, my two teenage helpers and I painted faces and arms and hands, all the while trying to relay the message that IMG_7968God doesn’t care what we look like. He created us and love us no matter what.

I must say the kids loved the paint, but I am not sure the message resonated over the noise of the little plastic containers holding a rainbow. We did it, though. We made it through 4 rotations of Imagination Station.

Dear God, please let us make a difference. Please speak through me, act through me so that I can be the witness you would have me be.

After lunch, it was reading time, and my new friend JaSona picked me to be her partner.

Amazement squashed pre-judgment, and this young, bristly 7th grader read to me with pride and joy and like her life depended on it. She told me she loved to read but didn’t have any chapter books of her own, and when I asked her if I could mail her some, her face dropped. “No,” she said, “because we will probably be moving.”

After reading and a rousing game of 9-square, we left for the day, but there was more to do under a bridge.

Every single Tuesday–rain, shine, or snow–volunteers converge under the Jefferson Bridge to feed the homeless and provide praise and a message. I’m not sure our kids from their middle-class, suburban communities were prepared for this experience, so “Baptism by Fire” it was.

Apparently, I wasn’t quite ready either because I as stood where I was told to stand, waiting in the assembly line of “food deliverers,” the Spirit seemed to envelope me with empathy and love and sadness and emotions I cannot put into words.

As I tried to mask the ocean filling my eyes, my daughter came over to me and said, “Mom, are you crying?” I quietly told her, “yes,” and she smiled and chuckled. She and my oldest daughter have a running joke about my sentimentality.

However, this was different, and I couldn’t explain it to her right then because we needed to focus on serving and following instructions, doing our part.

It was there under that bridge, though, with the dust of the gravel swirling around us and the barrage of traffic zooming above us that I felt like everyone–like the homeless, some even with children in tow, like our teenagers, possibly frightened and confused, like the apartment complex kids fighting for daily survival, like my Daddy in his last moments of life.

The change, the humbling, the inspiration was pouring over me, and I knew I was here for a reason. It wasn’t for my friend who needed me to fill in. It was for me, for I needed this to continue my journey, to continue my growth, to strengthen my resolve.

After we finished serving plates, we joined our guests under the bridge for the message. As I surveyed the seats, looking for my daughter MJ, I heard our mission leader James’ words, “Go sit down by someone and talk to them.”

I found one open seat, in the back, at the end of the row, by a man named Andrew, and in between the preaching and singing, and my stomach of butterflies, I talked to him.

He shared how he has battled mental illness his entire life, making it difficult to hold down a job, but he did have a place to stay for now. I told him I would add him to my prayers, and he thanked me.

I wanted to say more. I wanted to pray with him right there under that bridge, but I wasn’t bold enough to ask. I wasn’t bold enough to ignore my rule-following, polite nature and pray for this man in the moment because it might interrupt the preaching and he might say “no.”

And so, when the singing and preaching and praying was over, I told this man Andrew it was nice meeting him and offered him my hand. He seemed so surprised but offered his back, and we both shook with firmness and compassion.

As Wednesday greeted us, we started our day with devotion, specifically 1 John, and I reminded myself before setting off on day two of imagination station that He who is in me is greater than he who is in this world,  and that God is love and I am to love all people.

This was a perfect reminder for our experiment today–a bottle with vinegar, a balloon, and baking soda. When the baking soda inside the balloon reacts with the vinegar, an explosion in the bottle happens causing the balloon to fill with air.

JaSona, my 7th grade friend, showed up again with the same clothes and the same paint on her skin from yesterday,IMG_7924 but it didn’t matter. She showed up, and she hung at my side most of the day–except when she had her 6-month-old baby sister hanging on her hip.

We all “passed the baby” the rest of the week so that JaSona could have her own experience and take a break from being “sister-mom.”

As for the experiment, the kids loved it, and they even seemed to embrace the message: No matter how bitter or dirty or angry or hurt you are, when you allow God’s love to fill you, an explosion happens! Only you can choose how much Love you allow inside of you.

I reminded the kids that this same effect–this explosion–is also possible when you allow the opposite of Love to fill you, except this is explosion will be filled with hate and destruction and hurt and pain.

The last day of our mission trip started again with 1 John and the reminder that our faith–if we commit to it– can overcome this world filled with angst, inequality, and loss.

On the way to the apartment complex–with a few kids, including my own, and a leader in my car–Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” came over the radio. If you know me, then you know the volume within my vehicle quickly increased!

IMG_7880JT and our entire car–including the college-student leader Turner who says he’s introverted–belted out the lyrics and danced in our buckled seats. Since the tune was still going, I passed the apartment complex and pulled over in an abandoned gas station to get out of my restraint and “dance, dance, dance,” and I heard my MJ say, “This is my mom,” and it made me beam even brighter.

You see, we were now all armed–on our last day–with a “little sunshine in our pocket” and a “song in our feet, ” and we couldn’t stop the feeling! We needed this. I needed this, and I heard God in my heart remind me to keep His sunshine shining, to keep His song alive, to dance and love and never abandon the feeling with which He has infused me.

At the Imagination Station on this last day, we introduced oil and water and food coloring. As we added oil to the water, the kids quickly saw that they did not mix, that the oil sat on top of the water.

We explained the scientific reason for this but also introduced Adam and Eve and how making wrong choices can separate us for God’s love.

Then, the kids picked colors to add to their oil and water that was together but still separate. They noticed how the color dropped straight through the bottom, through the oil and through the water.

We told them to tightly put the lids on their bottles and shake, shake, shake!

Despite wrong choices separating us from God, He is always there, and if we ask for His love and forgiveness, He will fill our lives with color, color that can penetrate any separation of oil and water, good and bad, hate and love.

When our VBS activities were over, we left to prepare for our return which would involve a block party for the families of the complex, complete with games, a slip and slide, music, food and fun.

At the block party, one of the girls fell on the slip and slide and screamed in pain. No one could get ahold of her mom; she wasn’t there. It shocked me back to my childhood when no one was there for me, so I chose to stay with this girl–even though she did have an adult show up for her.

I stayed, and I prayed–silently and then quietly out loud.

When the adult left for a time and before the ambulance arrived, I stayed on my knees but put my forehead to this girl’s forehead and my hand on her face. I talked to her through her sobs and told her to give her pain and fear to God, that He will take it. He will make all of this better.

The ambulance came, and I later learned that this girl who fell on the slip and slide is okay. Thank you, God.

Some would say she didn’t need to go to hospital, that she was fine and was over-exaggerating or just scared. This all may be true, but I choose to believe that this young teenager–with no parent to comfort her when she fell–will remember God’s comfort. It may not be today or tomorrow. It may be 2 years from now when she’s alone again and hurt and remembers that she is never alone.

Once the ambulance drove away, my new friend James and I commenced rolling up the plastic of the slip and slide. I remember James–perhaps to be a gentleman– hollering to one of the teenage boys to help him put the plastic into the dumpster. I told James that I was already dirty so why couldn’t I do it. He looked at my arms covered in the wet, muddy grass from rolling up the plastic, and he said ok.

In this final hour or so at this block party in this apartment complex filled with its one-bedroom apartments beyond code capacity, I remind myself that I need to get dirty more often. I need to ask my own community what I can do right in my own backyard to get dirty.

For you see, after I spent the week with church family and other mothers’ children, I remind myself that serving them a burger at the end and going home to my charmed life is not enough. I am thankful for this experience and commit to doing more.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all yMJ readingour ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.”

 

He Didn’t Answer the Phone

IMG_5747He didn’t answer the phone, so I eventually called someone else.

I waited and called again.

Then, my sister Leah called. She spoke one sentence, calmly and quietly.

I didn’t believe her.

The phone rang. It was the “law man,” calling me personally. That’s the beauty of being from a small town in the South.

With compassion, he spoke and told me the news. Still half dressed, I collapsed to the floor, emitting a moan from so deep in my soul that the sound was inhuman. I remember the coldness on my chest being something I wanted to crawl into so I could escape this terror.

I had been wanting to get on the road before all of this, but I didn’t know. Yet, I did know. Sometime between the waiting and the pacing and not knowing but knowing, I had packed a bag and even a dress.

I had to get there.

“We have to go, now!”

And so we went, and despite the short two-hour drive from Indiana, it was the longest drive of my life.

Once in the passenger seat,  I called to make arrangements for our daughter who was sleeping over at a friend’s house. Sleep quickly cleared from the other mom’s groggy “Hello” when I told her the news. Honestly, my husband Brent should have called, but I was insistent, irrational. Undoubtedly, he would have waited to call until at least the sun kissed the earth, thus softening the shock to this mother.

I remember calling my brother Eli at least 20 times and every single time moaning, “Why aren’t you answering the phone! Please answer the phone! Answer the damn phone!”

It was no different yesterday when I called my Daddy all afternoon and evening, but he wouldn’t answer the phone either. I wasn’t worried, though, because Leah would be with him that evening . . . but she wasn’t.

There had been plenty of times I had worried—but not about this. I’d even called my high school friend, now chief of police, to check on Daddy— in the middle of the woods, in his home he saw in his dreams and built with his own hands.

I remember driving into town and into that parking lot that I had not legitimately visited since 1993. We arrived, but had to wait. We had to wait, and I had to see. My insides were convulsing, like every organ, every cell within me needed to come out and breathe and escape. Nothing felt real, nothing. It could not be real.

My husband’s presence kept bringing me back to reality. He was with me. He made the drive in the hours after midnight and before dawn. He made the calls to family and friends. He cancelled the trip to California. He was there because I could not be. I could barely function or think or speak.

Once I saw, I didn’t want to leave. I had to be removed. I was warned about what I touched, but my lips and caress ignored the warning. What does it matter now what I touch! With knees buckled, my stomach in my throat, and shards of my heart falling on the floor with every step I took, my husband helped me exit.

After leaving that lot, I remember parking at the gas station and calling Mom. It was 7am by now, and the sun was shining on the streets of my hometown, shining on everything except my spirit.

“Well, hello!” Mom’s voice chimed, excited to hear from me but confused about the time. Through sobs and tightened breaths of pain, I told her the news, and her excitement and confusion quickly vanished.

“Yes, I will meet you. Anything. Anything at all, I will do,” she said like a mother would say during a time like this. She’s all a mother should be, and I am thankful for her, despite not being born to her.

Still no answer from Eli or his wife!

“I need you to answer the phone! I need you to call me!”

I really have no idea what I said on the voicemails but am certain that I gave no details. No one would want a voicemail with those details.

So, we went to the next parking lot, a lot I had never visited but that my high school friends Clarissa and Todd owned. I truly believe Clarissa might be an earth Angel, for her way is so comforting and peaceful and kind, despite the bombardment of sadness.

We were there in that building on that lot, but I was there alone. My husband was there and Clarissa and Todd were there, but I was alone. Feeling alone, surrounded by people is a feeling that still hangs with me today.

Mom showed up shortly after we arrived. She sat with me, holding my hand. I listened to Clarissa but can’t say that I heard her. It was like the words of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Nothing made sense. It was only noise, and I was waiting, waiting for someone to answer the damn phone or to tell me this wasn’t real or to give me an instructional guide.

An instructional guide would have been helpful because to this day I question the decisions I made and try not to regret. I do not regret, however, inviting Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan and of course my long ago friends Russ and Stacy who shared Amazing Grace with us.

I remember Leah and Erik showing up, and they sat down with us too. So many questions still remain in my mind and heart for my baby sister. Yet, I remind myself that our relationships with him were different, and I remind myself that we each have our own way of untangling the webs of life. When she’s ready to talk, I will be ready to listen.

My phone rings.

“Eli?!” Static. “Eli, are you there?!”

My phone rings. It’s a number not in my contacts.

“Hello. Eli?!”

“Hey, Sis. What’s up? We’re at the lake. Reception is bad. I’m calling on a friend’s phone.”

I told him the news in one short sentence–at least I think that’s what I did.

“What!” my baby brother choked out, not understanding and not sure he heard what I said through the crackling reception.

So, I had to repeat the sentence. Then, I had to tell his wife because he couldn’t speak. I remember he cried out and then I was talking to April, and I told her. I remember.

They were 5 hours away, and so we had to wait.

And then, we were all together, and we had to make decisions. We had to decide and agree, the three of us, because there were no instructions and there was no money. There was only shock and numbness and complete and utter heartache, and I am confident these do not make for solid decision making.

At some point, we went to Grandma’s and Uncle Greg’s, but I don’t remember our first visit. Upon visiting the second time, I opened the door to my Grandma lying on the floor.

“She fell on the porch, and I pulled her in,” Uncle Greg said.

“Are you serious!?” I said as I looked up to the ceiling.

Grandma’s fall jolted me into reality. We—I’m not sure who—carefully moved her to the couch, but something wasn’t right. Someone called 911—it might have been me, but I don’t remember—and the ambulance arrived shortly after the call.

Someone answered the phone this time.

This time, the ambulance drove a few miles in the still shining sun to the hospital a few blocks away, instead of the ominous lot in the middle of town. Once there, we sat again and waited, and when we were called back, the doctor was Daddy’s doctor from a few years ago.

Another look to the ceiling and then I exchanged the proper pleasantries.

As for Grandma, my initial diagnosis was confirmed. A broken hip. She must be taken by ambulance to Nashville, with surgery soon after her arrival.

And the day of disbelief continued.

Later, Eli and April quietly announced they are pregnant. I’m serious. They did and they were and they now have a wonderful, handsome one-year-old son named Dylan.

So, after five days of muddling through it all, handicapped by heartache and exhaustion, it was over, but it wasn’t.

Despite my Daddy being my hero and training me up in the way I should go and teaching me to serve God in all I do and to be observant and humble and kind, he decided not to answer the phone.

More specifically, in a Western Kentucky county around 7pm—according to the medical examiner’s report—on the evening of May 24, 2014, he pulled the trigger and escaped his earthly world of chronic physical and emotional pain, and in doing so shattered his daughter’s soul and the world as she knew it.

The sound of amazing grace is not always so sweet, but grace will always lead you home.

White Spaces

Despite my Kentucky Baptist upbringing and my barefoot baptism in the muddy river that kisses the small country park in Cadiz, I joined a methodist church years ago because it was a church that my husband would attend. I thought it important that we church together, but years have past and our daughter is now 9, and we need more, more than the obese Methodist pastor who tells great stories on Sunday mornings but fails to follow through when a young impressionable girl proclaims Christ lives in her heart.

So, two weeks ago, Molly Jane had her friend Alyssa spend the night, and on Sunday morning, my husband went Methodist and we went rogue and attended Alyssa’s church,  a Mega church that could probably house 20,000. For this reason alone, my husband would not come with us. “It’s too big.” And that’s that.

After signing my MJ into the computer and walking her what seemed a quarter mile away to her Sunday class, I join Alyssa’s parents in the balcony and fall into the sweet music of the spirit that surrounds this stadium congregation.

After the singing, this new pastor from Texas walked out onto the stage in his jeans and sweater and began telling the story of Ester. Ester, I know the name, but in all my years of attending church, reading the Bible, and memorizing the key verses, I do not recall Ester and her story. As Pastor Jeff explained, though, it’s all about the white spaces and what we choose to do during this space. Will we fret, will we scream, will we sob, will we ignore, or will we trust and wait and make the best of the unknown?

It all just clicked while I sat in the balcony with my friend and her husband. I am in a white space and have been for quite some time. Perhaps this white space would have ended long ago, but my actions, my fighting the space, and screaming and crying on the inside while in this space has prolonged my visit.

How simple. The journey is about the white spaces. Don’t fight them. Embrace them. Curl up with them and listen and wait and learn and grow–all the while knowing that someone else is sharing your same space and choosing chaos or peace.

And the joy is believing that when the white space ends, the clarity begins, one way or another, whether you like it or not. It’s all about you, though, and if you are patient and grateful, you will see the clarity as an increment of your destiny, your path, your answers.

Be ready and accepting. The next white space, the next opportunity for pause and enlightenment, is happening right now.

My Journey Through a Toxic World: Cookware

After Dr. Bonnie Schnautz ND suggested I read the New York Times article “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” I was appalled, saddened, and ready to spark an awareness that impacts positive change to our environment and our bodies!

This lawyer committed 16 years of his life to expose a company’s deception and use of the harmful chemical PFOA. The company, Dupont, knowingly used PFOA for over 5 decades, despite it making employees and community members sick.

“Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), also known as C8, is another man-made chemical. PFOA has the potential to be more of a health concern because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time. Studies have found that it is present at very low levels in just about everyone’s blood in the United States.” American Cancer Society

Additionally, PFOA made CNN’s top five list of toxins that are everywhere.

  1. BPA: found in water bottles, baby bottles, reusable food containers, etc
  2. Phthalates: found in shampoos, body sprays, colognes, etc
  3. PFOA (C8): found in teflon cookware, waterproof breathable clothing, etc
  4. Formaldehyde: found in particle board, paneling, plywood, etc
  5. PBDEs: found in televisions, computers, furniture foams, etc

Through my research of PFOA, I learned of the EPA’s reporting that PTFE, the chemical in Teflon, is closely related to the harmful PFOA chemical. Teflon (PTFE), a DuPont brand trademark, is still in many people’s kitchens in the form of a skillet. Most people have been warned about the harmful effects of Teflon skillets, but many of us still use these skillets for convenience, including myself.

Did you know, though, that convenience may be making you sick and harming your pets? According to EWG, “Toxic fumes from the Teflon chemical released from pots and pans at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms (called ‘Teflon Flu’ or, as scientists describe it, ‘Polymer fume fever’).”

For our health and wellness, it is imperative that all of us rid our kitchens of teflon and introduce one of the following healthy cookware options:

  • Ceramic
  • Cast Iron
  • Glass/Corning-ware
  • Regular Stoneware
  • Stainless Steel

In conclusion, as I continue on this journey through a toxic world, I hope you will join me and help me create an awareness, an awareness that could ultimately improve our health! We have become a society spoiled by convenience. Unfortunately, these daily conveniences may be  hurting our health and causing illnesses that we never knew to associate with the products we

First appeared on brenewed.comhttp://brenewed.com/healthy-living/my-journey-through-a-toxic-world-part-1