Recently, President #39, Jimmy Carter shook hands with the passengers on a flight from Atlanta to Washington, DC. One passenger is heard joyfully shouting, I love you, Jimmy Carter! Another passenger wrote that President Carter was warm and humble. I wish I could have been there. What an unexpected joy.

My friend brought unexpected joy into our lives a short time ago. She had suffered from excruciating pain on her right hip. For two days, we prayed for release from her suffering. For two more days, we prayed that the doctors would not have to operate on her hip again. She received the results of her checkup yesterday. The news was good. She did not need another operation, all she needed was a quarter inch lift inserted in her right shoe. We prayed and shouted a joyful thank you. We did not expect to be so blessed.

Today is the first day of summer. It rained most of the night, but with the sun came dry weather. The cable company is installing wire, and the roads and sidewalks were covered with leftover red clay. Yards were dotted with bald spots of red clay. Overnight, the rain washed the roads and sidewalks clean. Just as quickly, grass or perhaps weeds are growing hair on the bald spots. The birds were singing. I did not expect such a picturesque moment. Joy is amplified when it is unexpected.

How unexpected and joyful it is when Jesus steps beyond my prayers and bless me with more than I could concede. Like the guests at the wedding in Cana, I am surprised at the richness and the volume of the libations that are poured into my life. Even, with my limited abilities to distinguish the good from the great wine, it is an unexpected joy to receive the gift. To be given such a boon at this late stage of the wedding celebrations gives me high expectations of blessings in the autumn of my life. How wonderful it is to have reached the latter stages of my life and have so many good wines still wait to be tasted. To have hope and assurance that I am still blessed is an unexpected joy.

Joy is everywhere.


Goodnight Emily

My feet are hurting. The walk today was a little farther than usual. But, now I could feel the cool effect of the witch hazel sinking in around my calloused toes. The telephone rang and spoiled my ecstasy. I let it ring; my feet were wet. Once they dried, I checked the caller id, and then redial Emily’s number.

When Emily answered, I could tell she had been crying. Her son died two years ago and she has a select list of friends she would call when her sorrows were heavy. These are friends that had heard her stories about Boyd many times and knew the difference from an end of a sentence and a sob. We were close enough that she had incorporated our memories into her stories.

She sniffed and drew air into her nose. I waited for her to speak; the wait was long. I almost said something. Then she called my name, Curtis. Yes? Curtis, did I tell you about the time Boyd got that job at Nolands?

What about it, I said?

He liked that job because one day he wanted to become a plumber.

(Actually, he liked the job because he liked driving the forklift.)

He was so nervous that he was late his first day, he made a better impression the next day.

(He forgot his wallet and badge and had to return home twice.)

He was a good worker, I said.

She got quiet. It doesn’t hurt like before, but it still hurts.

The coolness of the witch hazel was gone, so I splashed more on my feet waiting for her to speak.

She said I’m too old to have another child. I certainly don’t feel like starting parenthood over.

Have you talked to his Dad, I asked?

He says I bring him down.

He won’t talk to me if I mention Boyd. He let my calls go to voice mail. I saw his wife at Kroger; she said he’s drinking again. He better watch himself, he knows depression runs in his family.

I am trying to let go; I gave away Boyd’s things. The only thing I kept was a pair of Jordan’s. If only the memory would come at night, then I could take a pill and sleep. All day long there are thoughts about him that weigh me down. I can’t get out the chair.

I was in WalMart and they displayed three artists that he had bought. As soon as I got home, I put them in the trash and cried.

Did you bake anything this week, Emily?

Yes, I started to bake a Key Lime cake but caught myself, that was his favorite.  I made a strawberry cake instead; I’ll bring you some to church Sunday.

Girl, you are going to make me fat.


Even my fat jeans are tight; the baking calms me.

She got quiet again; I waited.

Why did he have to kill himself, Curtis?

The depression was too much, he was hurting, and he would not take the medicine.

You did all that you could. Your pain will ease; the worst is over. You will learn to live with what’s left.

I’m trying Curtis; I’m trying.

Tell you what, I ‘ll put an extra hole in my belt, bring me two slices of that cake.


Goodnight, Emily.