Monthly Archives: September 2011

Gifts of Grace



I got the phone call this week that every parent dreads…

“Mrs. Branch, this is Callie’s teacher. She has fallen off the monkey bars and has hurt her arm. She is crying…….”

I didn’t even listen to the rest of the message. I had been in my office working and left my cell phone downstairs. I heard it ring and made an attempt to rush downstairs and answer it, but I didn’t get to it in time. When I picked up my cell phone, the caller ID read “Neuse Charter School”. I thought, hmm, wonder what’s going on. I didn’t immediately rush to a negative outcome, but was curious. Once my phone alerted me that I had a voicemail, I promptly dialed in and entered my password, not knowing that my day was about to change drastically.

When I heard Callie’s teacher’s voice, I panicked a little, but as I listened to the voicemail, I panicked a lot. My baby, hurt and crying. Fallen off the monkey bars. Me here and her there. My heart ached to soothe her pain and make it all better.

I rushed downstairs and grabbed my keys and bag as I was dialing her school. I got the receptionist as I was backing out of the driveway. “Yes, Mrs. Branch. Hold on and I will transfer you to her room.” No answer. UGH! So, I dialed another number, this one vertical, eternal, omniscient. And, I never get a busy signal, wrong number, or voicemail.

I knew I was panicked and I needed to regain my composure. Callie needed me and I needed to see her. To hold her and make sure she was okay. The fact that she was hurt bothered me, upset me. But the thing that upset me the most was that I was not there for her. I wasn’t there to protect her and keep her safe. As I placed my call heavenward, God reminded me that He was there with her and that only He can always protect her. He is her Protector, just like He is my Protector.

Now that is a difficult lesson to learn as a mother. God has given me two precious lives to protect, care for, love, and guide. Yet, I can’t always be there for them and I have to be able to release them into His care when they are not with me. I have heard many people say that “parenting is an 18 year process of letting go”. However, all I wanted to do last Wednesday from 1:10pm to 1:30pm as I was driving from Clayton to Smithfield was hold on to her and protect her.

I got to her school, ran by the office to sign in, and ran to her classroom. I had to see my baby. When I went in, she was sitting with her classmates on the carpet listening to her teacher as she explained their next assignment. Callie caught a glimpse of me and I caught a snapshot of her that I will never forget…her face, full of pain and fear. I could tell that she had been crying and was in physical pain. She had the look of “mommy, I need you” in her eyes…those crystal blue eyes that capture the essence of her soul.

She got up, cradling her left arm into her slight frame. I met her halfway and she just melted into me like ice cubes disappearing in hot tea. We were one…sharing our fear and pain. Her pain was more physical and my pain was more emotional. Her fear seemed to be one of confusion…what happened to me and am I going to be okay? She wept and her body lurched into me again as she said, “mommy, it hurts right here” pointing to her wrist. I remember asking her what happened and she said that she fell from the monkey bars and that she landed on her back and her arm was under her.

Between gasps and tears, she said that she couldn’t breathe and couldn’t talk. Her friends saw it happen and ran to get her teacher. When her teacher got to her, Callie was on her hands and knees trying to get oxygen into her lungs. She said, “mommy, I was scared…I couldn’t tell her what happened because I couldn’t talk.” Little did she know that I was scared, too. I put on my best strong mommy face and held her close. I knew in my aching and fearful heart that her arm was either broken or severely sprained because Callie has a very high pain tolerance and it takes a lot for her to cry.

We left her classroom and headed to Wake Med Pediatric ER. She calmed down a lot on the ride to Raleigh. We talked all the way there and she shared her story with me several times and I asked questions to help her remember.








We left the ER 4 hours later with a broken left radius bone and a temporary cast. She was such a brave, brave girl. And, mom was not anxious or panicked…I had a very real and palpable peace while we waited for answers. Callie fell from almost 8 feet. She landed hard and could have broken so much more than her arm. God protected my baby when I couldn’t, and for that I am grateful.

Just as He chose to protect me 33 years ago when I was run over by a tractor, He chose to protect Callie on September 21, 2011. I believe with all my heart that God held back the tractor wheel and prevented me from being crushed into the ground on that early September morning in 1978. Yes, I ended up in the hospital with a badly fractured pelvis, but I could have died. Yes, I had to learn how to crawl and walk again, but I could have been paralyzed. Yes, Callie broke her arm and scraped up her back, but she could have broken both arms or her legs or had a spinal cord injury. The same God who held back the tractor wheel, held out His hand as she fell and protected Callie from much more serious injury. And for that, I am very grateful.











I am indeed thankful for the broken radius bone that the hot pink cast protects on my sweet girl’s left arm. I am thankful because I don’t know what the outcome could have been…I can only imagine. God knows…HE KNOWS! He knows that there is more to the story that I don’t understand. In faith, I will choose tonight to accept His sweet gift of grace…and tonight that sweet gift is a broken arm.



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Cottage or Palace?

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”  CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

When it comes to a cottage or a palace, it depends…there are many days that I dream of owning a small cottage on the coast of Maine. I can hear the waves, feel the cool ocean breeze, and taste the salty air on my lips as I am daydreaming about my cottage even now. But when it comes to other dreams in my life, a palace would be the perfect fit!

But, we’re not talking about actual cottages and palaces. I believe CS Lewis was referring to our inner being, our hearts or souls. I love the way he describes us as a “living house”. In essence, our bodies provide refuge for our souls and spirits, the part of our being that gives us life, which comes from God. Without God, I can’t breathe on my own. Every time my heart beats, He is the life force behind it. It rattles my mind when I try to understand it and multiply it by over 6 billion people. But, I am getting off topic. We will save that for another blog!

I also love the way Lewis describes that we understand or are okay with God doing some general house maintenance tasks like fixing leaks and cleaning drains. However, when God starts “knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense”, we start to freak out a little…okay, maybe a lot!

“Wait a minute, God…what are you doing here? This wasn’t in the cards. You didn’t warn me about this. I mean, I live here. I know what is best for my body and my life. What….ahh, no, you can’t take that out of my house. Are you kidding me? I knew it, the minute I gave my job to you, I would get fired. I can’t trust you. Never have been able to trust you. I knew I shouldn’t have opened that door when you knocked. Now, get out of my business. Things were a lot better before you showed up on my front porch.”

And, so we settle for the cottage when God wants to give us so much more.

Wow, I have been there. Conversations similar to the one above have happened between me and God. I have wrestled with God and probably will again. Often in my life, I settle. I settle for less than the best for myself. I do this when I am afraid, or anxious, or unsettled about something. I let fear get the best of me and before I know it, I have settled for mediocrity instead of God’s best for me.

When I am at this crossroads on my spiritual journey, I have to pause and remember that my cottage (palace!) is not complete. There is more to be discovered, engineered, and built. I want to be clay in my Potter’s hands, even if it means that He has to tear down some walls to add that new wing or rip out the roof in order to build a second floor with a terrace overlooking my Promised Land!

What condition is your cottage/palace (aka: soul) in? What are you settling for when you know there is more that God wants to give you? Pause, even now, and ask God to show you what the next best step is for you.

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


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Little Princess

This is what I found waiting for me in my office yesterday:

Here is the translation:

“One day a little princess went outside. Then she picked her mom some flowers. Then she went to the castle. The End.” by: Callie

I love this little princess!!

And Knight Sean is not too hard to love either:

Being a mom to these two characters is the best role I have ever been given!


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New Normals

My sister lost her papa this week. Even though we are half-sisters, we share whole hearts. I would do anything for her and I know she would do anything for me. My heart aches for her broken heart…

I lost my nanny a little over 2 years ago. I still wish I could pick up the phone and call her. I would give most anything to sit down at her kitchen table on that worn wooden bench and enjoy a meal made with pure love. I know she is with me every time I cook a meal that she would cook, like this week when I cooked black-eyed peas and salmon cakes. Her impact on my life could never be measured by earthly dimensions…only eternal ones like love, grace, and sacrifice. I never doubted her love for me. She lived it every day.

I know my sister will never “get over” losing her papa. She will miss him every day that she lives until she sees him again. Life will continue with a new normal for her. No, things will never be the same. Her new normal will gradually become the next normal. I do know that I love her and I am praying for her…please join me in praying for her.

No one enjoys entering into grief, but when I am grieving, music speaks to the depths of my heart in ways that spoken words can’t. The following song has helped me grieve the loss of my nanny and other losses along my journey:

Caedmon’s Call “Ten Thousand Angels” Words and Music by Sandra McCracken. c2002 Same Old Dress Music (admin. by music services) all rights reserved. ASCAP: Sung by Derek Webb

“how long you have traveled in
darkness weeping
no rest in language, no words to speak
but there in the wreckage beneath bricks and bindings
love has come, love has come for you

against the night sky of your waiting
your face is like starlight
when he walks in
everything worth keeping comes through dying
love has come, love has come for you

so lift up your heart now, to this unfolding
all that has been broken will be restored
here runs deep waters
for all who are thirsty
love has come, love has come for you

ten thousand angels will light your pathway
until the day breaks fully in the East
they will surround you and make your way straight
love has come, love has come for you
love has come, love has come for you”

Grieving is a journey and the only way to experience grief is to walk, sometimes crawl, through it, one day, sometimes one minute, at a time.

“There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.” Leon Bloy

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Confessing is never fun…

Well, I have a confession to make. Instead of dropping bags off at my local Goodwill today, I loaded bags from the Goodwill into my car. I almost felt like I was cheating and eating dessert before dinner. Then I heard the word BALANCE dancing in my head. Thank you, Lord, for that sweet gift of grace. It is all about balance.

After donating now 36 bags of {use your imagination and insert any word you like} to Goodwill this year, I can shop there and not have to think about what I need to get rid of in order to give myself permission to bring more things into my house. One of my organizing rules is for every one thing I bring into my house, I have to get rid of another thing. Here is my list of Goodwill treasures purchased today:

14 children’s books (an unnamed friend of mine told me that you can buy really great and gently used kids books at Goodwill for really cheap…she was right!!)

1 LL Bean winter Jacket

1 Mudcats hat for Sean (before you freak, it is a fisherman style hat that can be laundered!!)

I got all of the above for $20 and some change. And, since I donated almost 30 books from my personal book collection this year, I felt great about buying new books for Callie and Sean. Once Callie reads a book, she memorizes the words which means it is no longer a challenge for her. I will save her easy readers for Sean.

I am most excited about the LL Bean jacket that I paid $12 for. I priced it online and it sells for $99. It has very little wear and will get lots of great use this winter!

And of course, the trip to Goodwill would not be complete without a 75 cents Mudcats hat. Sean has been enthralled with baseball after we went to a Mudcats game this summer. It’s the little things in life that make it so sweet!!

So, there’s my confession for the day…what’s yours?? Keep it clean!

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