Wow! Here it is the end of another year. And we’re still here. Amazing. I really mean that. But I will say more about that later. For some reason, it has been really hard getting started this year. It’s almost like I’m afraid. It’s similar to the feeling I have when I am going to start a sewing project. I’m scared stiff to cut into that beautiful fabric. I guess I’m afraid I will mess it up. It’s not like cutting my husband’s hair because it will grow back, but not material! I think it also has to do with age because the older I get, the more OCD I get about organization and not missing something I’m supposed to catch. So, when I sat down with my Box of memories to relive the year, I also used my calendar (which those who know me well, know I’m stuck to), and FaceBook! Ah, FaceBook! I love how I can relive the year with pictures, posts, and videos. They still bring a smile to my face. Like the video I shared of my granddaughters, Rachel and Jordan, and their “news reporting” last summer! By the way, for those new to this letter, this is my annual Christmas letter that I do every year since 1996 to bring family and friends up to date on my life. If you’ve just become my FaceBook friend, you might want to look that video up….
The thing that blows me away about this year is how much has happened. How much Life has flowed under my “bridge”. Things that seem like they happened two to three years ago actually occurred this year. This year was filled to the brim with triumphs and tragedies. I count at least 10 deaths that affected us in some way. And then there were births as well. New friends, new places, growth, and life-changing experiences. Miracles and those in the making. And so, endeavoring not to bore you, let me just dive into a few of these events.
The year began with several deaths either in or closely connected to people in our church and for fear of missing a name, I won’t list them but our hearts were grieved for those affected. I will mention Sis Beatrice Hutcheson, the mother of Glenda Putt. This precious lady was loved by everyone at Cedar Grove. I had the pleasure of hearing my son preach for our Church the first Sunday evening in January. I know a lot of great preachers but he’s still my favorite!
He and Jennifer and the girls were blessed with a new home in Oxford. It was really a miraculous thing and we are thankful for God’s blessing in that. They have become very involved with a program with their Church, NCTIS, which is a chemical abuse program with other aspects. They were both certified later in the year and are very happy and excited about this work. They work through the Drug Court to receive participants in the program. The Church expanded their programs to include the ACTS program which is a more faith-based program of a similar nature. It keeps them very busy but they are working together on something that they both are passionate about and this makes me very happy. Terry and I were privileged to sit in on the ACTS training to become certified with that program. We are still feeling our way as to how we can be used in this avenue.
Terry and I attended the Christian Prisoner Fellowship conference in Atlanta in February and became certified as Volunteer Chaplains with CPF. We have begun working in the county jail with our Church’s existing program and are learning to love that work. My timeline will be off here just a little, but I cannot leave this subject without talking about our participation in the Annual Conference held at Parchman Maximum Security Prison in August. Life-changing is an understatement. Terry was privileged to go last year but I was unable to due to illness. This being my first year will not be my last! Watching those prisoners respond to the message and to the worship, seeing their lives changed forever, hearing the stories of those on Death Row being baptized in water and with the Spirit, working with the people from all over the state who came to help. I’ll never be the same and I can’t wait till next year!
March was filled with a Marriage Conference at Pickwick, Mom’s 85th birthday celebration and all that incurred, the beginning of our new Website for The Denture Lab (www.thedenturelabonline.com) , thanks to Arthur Dillon’s great efforts and a photo shoot for the Lab with Amelia Robbins. We took our girls to Arkansas in April to see “Grandma Skimmens”, as they say. Terry attempted to take care of some repairs that were needed on her home and the girls enjoyed the Lake and climbing on the rocks.
Back at home, Easter was a blessed time. I helped with our Easter Program doing the music and the song selections. It was an awesome program by Lori Ann Dillon and I was honored to be a part. Then I was able to go spend that afternoon with my babies being the first time to do so in almost 5 years!
In an effort to get exercise and become more healthy, we purchased bicycles and tried out the Tanglefoot Trail with the girls. This is a “Rails to Trails” project that runs from Houston, MS all the way to New Albany, MS: some 50 miles more or less. The first trip me and the girls made about 6 miles. The second trip, Papaw joined us, and, along with a pull-behind trailer for Ellie, we made about 11 miles! It was a blast but perhaps a little much for starting out. We’re going to get back to it, I promise….! It was rather cute, however, to see Jordan on the Trail with training wheels! March was also sad because of the unexpected passing of our friend Susan Davis who was an integral part of Christ the Rock Church and also Bro Ellard who was the sweetest man you could ever meet and also Rev Clement who was a dear friend of our Son and his family. Our long-time friend, Hank Hansbro, also went to be with the Lord to be liberated from a life of illness and confinement to be forever with the Lord. Thankfully, all 4 of these were so very ready and we have a promise we will see them again!
Normally the old saying says something about March winds and April showers but this year April brought a devastating wind when a bad tornado hit Tupelo. The neighborhood around our Church was one of the worst hit but thankfully our Facility was spared. Lots of tree damage and some vehicles but the structure was virtually untouched. The Lord used this situation for us to be a blessing to our community by the people of our church stepping up to help those in need and our church becoming a Disaster Relief point: serving meals, distributing supplies and other support for workers and those affected by the storm. Several in our Church received damage to their property but thankfully no lives were lost in the storm. The only life lost during that time was due to a traffic accident involving the wife of a friend of ours. God knows all things and we trust Him.
May brought Mother’s Day with my own Mother being one of two Mothers of the Year crowned at Cedar Grove UPC and my children surprising me at Church that evening. The girls’ school year ended and as a part of their awards program we had a music recital with the piano students and the Rhythm Band. That was an experience! I am learning a new measure of patience as I work with these littlest ones and again this school year. The youngest this year is Ellie (4). I will tell you now, I do not see a repeat of the recital performance for Rhythm Band this upcoming year! LOL!. It was cute, though, especially when Jordan broke the tambourine mid performance! As far as piano is concerned, I am so very proud of Rachel and Jordan. Rachel has such a natural talent and can hear anything and then play it….. with the harmonies. She is becoming better at reigning herself in to read the music, which was a concern for me. I think it has finally clicked with Jordan and, when I can keep her focused, she reads pretty good. She keeps telling me that I’m supposed to call her to remind her to practice…. Then they and the Church welcomed little Adelyn Hill into the world and to their Church.
Terry and I celebrated 35 years of wedded bliss this year and we took a trip of a lifetime! I’ve always wanted to go to Niagara Falls so that’s what we did. We got our passports and everything and went to Canada. It was breathtaking! There is no way that I could encapsulate the experience in mere words on this page but the beauty touched my very soul.
My desire was to fill my grandchildren’s summer with good things that would challenge them as well as entertain so I signed them up for the Pontotoc County Library’s Summer Reading Program. Actually, their Mom had to take them to sign up day since I was in Canada at the time but thereafter we enjoyed learning about bats and bobcats, instruments and puppets, nutrition and book readings. We even met an author and the Mad Scientist of the Mid South! They checked out books and read those books to Mamoo and to each other. I hope to do this with them next year and every year thereafter. I want them to love books like their Mamoo does. (Their Papa loves books, too…) We also made a trip to the Blueberry farm where we picked blueberries. This had nothing to do with the Library but had everything to do with summer fun. They played in the dirt and played in the sand, snapped beans with Mamoo, had ice cream days, made play dough creations, drew pictures and colored and even made “books”. They lost teeth (at least Jordan did) and went to Buffalo Park to see the buffalo and other animals with their cousins Max and Alex who came to visit with their Momma and Daddy and Layloo. It was a full summer that I hope they will never forget. Mamoo won’t, that’s for sure!
My BFF, Barbara and I made another trek to Arkansas for a Scrapbook Retreat. This time with my God-daughter’s group (Missy Reynolds). Loads of fun and exposure to yet another form of this art: Stamping. I’m hooked. Ellie had her 4th birthday at the Skating Rink, Frozen style. We welcomed little Zoey Ashcraft into the world in June. I was honored to be asked to play the piano for the funeral of my dear friend, Charlotte Weatherly’s husband, Jimmy. Jimmy had told me years ago that he wanted me to play for his funeral and I am so happy I was able to do just that. We also found out that Terry’s Mom had fallen and broken her back. She was in the hospital for quite some time and then transferred to a Nursing Facility. Her health has gone down and we worry about her. We are thankful for Terry’s brothers that live near her, especially Kurt and his wife Carol.
I don’t really know how to preface this next thing but to call it a near tragedy turned Miracle. My sweet friend, Carolyn Fisher fell through a ceiling head-first to concrete and was unresponsive. She was rushed to the hospital where she spent several days. The family didn’t really know what hope there was but every day a new miracle was revealed. Bleeding on the brain stopped. No drilling of the skull required. Broken collar bone, yes, but God took care of that in time. It was a bonafide miracle for which I thank God!
I had the pleasure of taking part in our friend, Amanda Permenter (now Foster)’s wedding with the music as well as the reception, providing an Ice Cream Bar. It was a first and great fun! Terry celebrated his 62nd birthday and we made the trip again to Biloxi to the Dental Lab Association’s summer meeting. It was a very growing experience for the Lab which has done nothing but grow all year. God has blessed abundantly and we are praying for His direction on how to handle all these blessings! We sent my brother, Perry, to Sarasota, FL for training and he is growing in his knowledge and expertise. I know God is going to provide the means and the direction to properly do this business. He keeps sending new doctors our way. We want to be a blessing to the Kingdom and to others through our business and I know He will help us to accomplish that! Jennifer left the Lab because they needed the greater income that her nursing could provide and we have not made the decision to hire anyone at this point. We are looking for God’s leading and provision in this area. We are very happy that our former employee, Josie Pannell, is helping out a couple of evenings a week which is a tremendous blessing!
My mother’s health continues to decline and she is now on oxygen 24/7. She spent several days in the hospital at the end of the summer and then came home to spend a week or so with me. She has her good days and her bad days but God has been good to her and to us that we have her. This time of year is not kind to her. She does not tolerate the cold well, or the damp. We are thankful for every good day.
School started and Ellie began 4 yr pre K, Jordan went into 2nd and Rachel moved into 4th grade! Ellie has done really good which surprised me. Not that she would do good but that her teacher and her class would survive her! Lol! She’s so cute. I love to see her lead the Pledge!
In September, I was privileged to attend Ladies Conference which was life-altering and Terry attended Men’s Conference. Delbert got to go with Terry and my brother and they all really enjoyed it. We made another trip to Arkansas. Bro Carl Camden went home to heaven and in support of his daughter, Annette Parmley, we were able to make the trip. Delbert and family went with us as well. He was a precious man of God and he will be sorely missed. We love that entire family and Church. We were able to visit with Terry’s Mom. She had been moved to another Home. This one is absolutely beautiful and does not seem to be a Nursing Facility at all. They give excellent care. Mom gets confused but she knew us and the girls clearly. Little Ellie can make anyone feel better. She’s so solicitous. She immediately goes to Grandma’s side and says things like, “Grandma, are you okay? I love you! I missted you!” And just hugs and kisses and pats. Back at Cedar Grove, Bro Odis Brown turned 90 years young and we helped celebrate that birthday. We were honored to be able to oversee and prepare for the Pastor Appreciation Reception for Bro and Sis Robbins.
One point of prayer I would like to request is for Rev Travis Montgomery. He was thrown from a horse in early October and is paralyzed from the waist down. He is still in the Hospital at this writing but we are believing from his healing. He is able to move his toes some and the Rehab people are optimistic. He keeps having obstacles: fever, pneumonia, etc., etc., but God is bringing him out! His wife is very wore out, to say the least. This is my best friend’s sister. Please lift them up in your prayers! This is the Miracle in the Making I mentioned earlier….. And while you are praying, also pray for my friend, Dawn, her niece. She has struggled with her health for quite some time and now has been diagnosed with lymphoma. She is currently going through chemo which is devastating her. God is going to bring her through, I know….
We celebrated Rachel and Jordan’s birthdays at Rockin’ Hop Town in Ecru. This is an awesome place that is full of all kinds of bouncy houses, slides, etc. They treat you right and take care of your every need. The girls had a blast as did everyone there. We made one more trip to Arkansas with the girls to see Grandma for her birthday and to have Thanksgiving with Terry’s family. It was a very sweet, much needed time together. Then we had our Christmas play at Cedar Grove. This is the children’s play but I got to play the Grandma and I loved it! It was fun working with the kids and our music director, Shelia Kitchens….
My friend Edie lost her sister very unexpectedly which was very hard on her and her other sisters but the Lord brought joy again with the birth of her new grandbaby, Ariana Rosalyn Cates!
My Christmas letters always seem to have a theme and this year is no different. With all the deaths and then births this year, I am more acutely aware of the ebb and flow of life. But it also makes me more cognizant of how temporal this life is. I was listening to a familiar Christmas song the other day: I’ll Be Home For Christmas. I thought back over my life and I don’t really have a place that I can call “Home” from my past. I didn’t grow up in one place and all the friends I grew up with live in different places than they did. Neighborhoods have changed and my family is scattered. Where I live right now is the closest thing to Home as any place on earth. But that’s the thing. This is where I live but this is not my Home. Right at the end of last year I had the privilege of meeting a new Author, Merle Temple. He’s from Tupelo, MS and, at the time, he had written one book. It is a fiction work based on his life as an undercover FBI agent during the drug war. Woven throughout the book is the story of the main character, Michael Parker (Temple), and his struggle to find his way spiritually. Temple has such a command of the English language that he almost weaves a spell to draw you in to his struggles. He was working on his second book which he has now completed and I was at the book signing at the Pontotoc Library the day after he got them in. It is titled, “A Rented World.” It is a continuation of Michael’s story. Compelling to say the least but the premise is: this world is not our home. It is only “rented”. Now, I don’t want to die but I would love to be able to say, “Jesus, I’ll be home for Christmas.” But I can truly say, “if only in my dreams.” This is where I live but Heaven is my home.
Here’s praying and hoping that you and yours have a blessed, happy Christmas and that Jesus is the center of your celebration. I love each and every one of you.
Leslie (for the Tritsch’s)