I’ve been looking for something to “nudge” me into my next Haven’s Ideals post. There have been multiple negative events (family life as well as career path) and positive events (retuning to worship as the pandemic wares down as well as a phenomenal and blessed trip to Daytona Beach, Florida and Disney World)for multiple blog entries to flourish, but apathy and laziness got the best of me. I was needing something quick and spiritually uplifting for a catalyst. I had no idea it would take a MOURNING DOVE to prompt me to write.
It was awesome. This summer, the Topgolf driving range which also has a Putt Putt course has FREE PUTT PUTT on Mondays. So, after a set of summer showers and threatening thundershowers, the Caylor-Browns headed to Topgolf in East Ridge Tennessee for a round of Putt Putt. About the 9th hole I saw some ground movement out of the corner of my eye from the courses wooden fence. I looked down to see a mourning dove strutting / meandering under the fence. I smiled and kept on putting. As we were putting close to the driving range, I kept hearing the soothing call of a mourning dove. I glanced to my right, and there sat that dove. It would not budge. To the aggravation of Sean, Ammon, and Carter, I kept talking and paying attention to the dove. So I could get on with the round and paying attention to the scoring that I was keeping, I quickly got my iPhone and videoed the dove. Yes, the sound a mourning dove makes is lonesome and mournful, but like the white dove that is a symbol of peace, the mourning dove is a symbol of peace, love, and faith.
Happy or sad, elated with prayers of praise or melancholy with deep thoughts and questioning prayers, I hope and pray God will send you something from nature such as a song bird or a soothing sunrise/sunset, or a comforting breeze that touches your spirit to God’s Spirit. That sweet, tranquil, and friendly mourning dove that you can barely see yet hear quite clearly in my video has given me a spiritual strength I haven’t had in weeks or perhaps months to continue boldly into the future leaning on Jesus’ ever lasting arms.
I would advise all of us to find a Keys Dan (Daniel) in our lives. Daniel has the gift of relating to people with interpersonal questions that search into your soul and open you to share without any inhibitions. You find yourself sharing some of the best things about yourself; the things God has gifted YOU with. The interview is over an hour long so just fast forward what you find boring.
The most intriguing thing is that Keys Dan will interview us regular folks who have something to offer humanity. Each one of us has a story, and each one of us is just as important as another. Notice his number 501-470-6386. I actually forgot that I had scheduled this interview LAST JUNE, so be prepared to wait a while; however, it’s worth it.
From the first moment I hear the song “ White Christmas” between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve it gets my hopes up. Now that we have the Oldies Christmas satellite channel in our vehicle, I hear it even more! Am I dreaming of a white Christmas? Possibly. I love the fantasy of a white Christmas: six inches of snow on the ground, Christmas lights on all the houses and store fronts reflected on the white-blanketed earth. If I stretch my thoughts to the countryside, I can see miles and miles of snow-covered rolling hills, evergreens laden with snow on their branches, and, yes, a one-horse, open sleigh with a family going to grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner a painting right out of Currier and Ives! All that in Southeast Tennessee? No, not on your life. Here in the Southeast we get cheated on our Christmas snow! However, I learned a life lesson several years ago when my children were only six weeks old: be thankful for whatever your situation might be.
For several years I have kept a journal. On January 1, I list hopes and prayers for the coming year. When it comes to the weather for Christmas Eve and the following day, I always include “ 28 degrees, snow on Christmas Eve, and plenty of snow on the ground on Christmas day.”
In 1969 (I was 3 years old so I cannot remember much), it snowed several inches on Christmas. I remember my green Tonka® pick- up truck and farm set with those awesome black and white Holstein milking cows I received from Santa Claus.
I wanted to take those cows out in the snow, and I also took them to my Mamaw’s (a name for a grandmother here in the South) house that afternoon. We had a four- wheel drive jeep, and we took it to see my grandparents who lived some 15 miles away. I remember playing with those cows as we went. Old-timers such as my Nanny (my father’s mother) said the Christmas snow of 1969 was the only real accumulation of snow she had ever seen on Christmas day, and the meteorologist’s archives say the same.
In 1976 on Christmas day, my sister and I played television-tennis on our new Atari (dinosaur predecessor of X-Box® and the Wii®…you people over 40 remember) and watched a light dusting of snow fall in the woods behind our house.
We had wonderful, sliding glass doors, and we could see that precious, coveted, white precipitation fall. We kept hoping that it would accumulate so we could go out and play in the snow…on Christmas day, but it wasn’t meant to be! It was at least 36 degrees, and by 3 p. m., the white dust had melted.
The third and final snow I remember on Christmas was in 1989. It was my first year out of college, and I was teaching Spanish in a North Georgia middle school. We awoke to about an inch of snow on the ground. Our front yard was blanketed in beautiful white snow and huge snowflakes were showering down upon it. I had such high hopes! I looked forward to playing in the snow with my 8 year old niece who had never seen a white Christmas. My niece and her parents would be over for Christmas lunch, and I envisioned snow men, snow angels, and snowball fights. After the outside activities, we would go in to drink some hot chocolate, eat our lunch, and open presents as we gazed out the living room window into the snow-coated front yard with those snow men waving to the passers by’s on the road. But as usual by the afternoon, the snow was all gone. There were no snow angels, no snowmen, nor snowball fights; however, Christmas lunch with my family was delicious.
I really wanted a white Christmas in 2008. My husband Sean and I had been married for four years. We had our religious wedding on September 3, 2004, and we had our “legal” civil marriage in San Diego, California on August 22, 2008. The following Christmas our children were 6 weeks old. They are kind of twins. They have the same, anonymous, egg-donor mother, but our son, Carter, was fertilized by Sean, and Ammon, our daughter, was fertilized by me. Carter and Ammon each had their own surrogate. Though Dr. David Smotrich the owner of the La Jolla IVF Clinic said we could have one surrogate with both Ammon and Carter being implanted in her, we did not want any twin “complications” in the womb or at birth. Our experiences with both Dr. Smotrich and Extraordinary Conceptions (our Surrogacy/Egg Donor agency) were beautiful blessings. In the end, we recruited two surrogates who delivered two healthy babies one in San Diego, California and the other in Mission Viejo, California. Carter and Ammon were born six days apart.
The new babies came just in time for the Christmas season. Sean and I were adjusting to our new life. Sean is a medical doctor, and I am a doctor of education. I quit my job in the regular classroom, and I began teaching online for a state university here in Tennessee, which turned into a blessing. During the work-week, I had decided that the babies and I would sleep in our living room which is connected to our bedroom. Sean slept in our bed, I slept on our couch, and the babies slept nearby in their bassinets. That way Sean would not be disturbed, and he could wake up fresh for work. We would feed the babies around 10:30 at night, and put them down to sleep. Around 2:30 a.m., one of the two hungry babies would make a peep, and I would dash off of the couch, grab the baby, change it, feed it, rock it back to sleep, get it back in the bassinet, and whether it was awake or not, do the same for the other baby (parenting at this age is all about the routine!) During the day in between feeding babies, changing babies, washing bottles, doing laundry, and doing other chores, etc., I was able to “work” online with my students. I was so thankful to have job teaching online, so I could dedicate the majority of my time to our children.
Aside from the fact that I had spent the Christmas season as a decently functioning somnambulist, it had been a true blessing and joy. First of all, Sean and I had two, healthy and beautiful children. Second, as a family, we four lit the joy candle on our church’s Advent wreath. As Sean and Carter read the liturgy, Ammon and I lit the candle (I can still see Carter in his red and white argyle sweater, white shirt, and black, corduroy pants, and Ammon in her red and green plaid dress with its red ribbon and red tights….ah, cute little baby clothes). That event had been special because many members of our mainstream, open and affirming, Protestant denomination were so kind and congratulatory of our new family and our special, holiday moment we had experienced. Third, I had done quite a bit of shopping online, but Carter, Ammon, and I had also spent a whole morning and afternoon buying gifts at our local mall. It was the first time we three had been out by ourselves. It was a challenge, but we did it! I was sleepy and had two, six week old babies, but the Christmas season was going nicely; however, I was waiting for my white Christmas.
Wednesday December 24, 2008
On January 1, 2008, I had asked for the 28 degrees and snow on Christmas Eve. It was now December 24th, and it was 45 degrees, gray, humid, and cloudy; typical for a Southeast Tennessee Christmas Eve. Because it was Carter and Ammon’s first Christmas, they needed, nay, deserved a white Christmas!
We were looking forward to the church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service, but both of the babies had the sniffles, so we stayed home. Staying at home kept the babies from getting out in the elements, and it gave me time to clean more in the house, wrap my last presents, and prepare some Christmas day foods for the following day when we would be hosting the Christmas lunch for our families.
For several years, Sean and I have jogged in the evenings on a track we keep mowed around our 6 acre field at the base of a low-lying mountain behind our house. We always jogged together, but since the birth of the babies, we had to take turns while one of us attended to them. On this Christmas Eve, Sean jogged first. When he came in, I took my turn. When I jog alone, I plan the rest of the day’s activities, pray, sing, or simply admire my surroundings. This evening wasn’t any different, and as I jogged, I watched the gray clouds roll over the house and the field, and I talked to God about a white Christmas. I joked and smiled that He did not answer my prayer about a white Christmas yet again for another year. At the top of the field, I tried to envision our house, our red barn, the field, and the rolling hills in the distance all blanketed in six inches of snow. I made a huge sigh of disappointment.
I was finishing my last lap, and as I reached the summit of the field where I always go from a jog to a walk, a gust of cool wind surprised me and compelled me to fix myself on our house. It was the gloaming of a cold-steel colored evening, but I could still see everything well. I gazed at our house. Our living room, which is in the back of the house, has two huge windows, and I could see the lights of our Christmas tree. The gloomy disappointment I had experienced a few moments before gave way to an illumination of joy and thanksgiving. Inside that house were my two blessed children and my husband who loves me, and in my heart was Jesus Christ, the real reason for Christmas not snow. It may have been a gray, Tennessee Christmas Eve outside but everything, even the cloud-covered, humid evening was perfect. I didn’t need snow or one-horse open sleighs! I smiled and tears unexpectedly ran down my cheek. I went down on my knees and thanked God for all my blessings and for a perfect, gray Christmas.
Haven, Ammon, Carter, & Sean “Gray Christmas” 2008