Friday, January 31, 2014

The Empty Chair

In one brief moment, I realized that all of the questions I had about my new journey had been answered. God’s reply wasn’t in words, but in a gut-wrenching feeling that I was right where I needed to be in that moment.

“Please don’t cry, Mrs. Shadrix.”

I could barely breathe, much less talk. The more I tried to contain the lump in my throat, the harder it was to hold back tears.

There had been many times when I doubted myself. I wondered if I had made a mistake of leaving a job as a magazine editor, which I loved, to venture into a career that I knew nothing about. 

At 40 years old, I became a high school teacher.  And, in my 40 years, I had never encountered a 16-year-old pleading for me to not cry.  

I looked around the room at the other students who were holding back their own tears. Each of us desperately tried to avoid looking at the empty chair in the classroom. But, it was there and it showed us no mercy.

Just a few days earlier, the orange chair embraced life as she casually took pictures of herself on her computer. Wearing a pink shirt, she took a few pictures of herself on her classroom Mac computer before the bell rang. One was silly and one was sweet. So fitting.

Her big eyes had a way of taking hold of your soul. Even when she was being mischievous, looking in them left you powerless.

She was sitting in that orange chair during the first weeks of school when I called her name and asked her to meet me in the hallway.

She had lied to me about something the day before and, as I told her, lying was something I couldn't tolerate.

Her mouth said, “I didn't lie,” but her eyes said, “Please just love me and let me get away with it.”

“Yesterday, you looked me right in the face with those angelic eyes and you lied to me,” I told her. “I care about you and I can’t let you get away with lying.” 

Caring her meant writing her up.  It was my first lesson in teaching. It's not about being mean, but it is passing on life lessons to young people. 

She will never know that I didn’t feel prepared to teach and that she was the first student I had to formally discipline. She will never know that I didn’t even know how to complete the discipline form.

She will never know that if I could go back in time, I would spend every moment in class letting her know that I did, in fact, care about and love her. I would implore her to not go out on a late night ride with her friend.

I would plead with her to have mercy on me so I didn’t have to hold back tears when talking about her death to her classmates.

I would beg with her to not leave that chair empty every day.

No one really prepares you for dealing with the death of a student. But, God did prepare me.

When I was able to talk, I asked the class if they had ever heard about the stages of death. I asked if anyone had ever even talked to them about death.

The room was silent. 

"No one talks about death, Mrs. Shadrix," one student whispered.

In that moment, I realized that when I was a young women and changed my major from journalism to social work, it was God.

In that moment, I found myself pulling out of my memory, Elizabeth Kubler Ross and the five stages of death from her groundbreaking book, 'On Death and Dying." It was God.

I realized that the brief time I spent working for Alacare Home Health & Hospice prepared me in some way for that moment. It was God.

In that moment, I realized when I left the world of social work behind me to take a dream job at The Anniston Star and Longleaf Style magazine, it was all God.

In that moment, I realized becoming a high school teacher was all God.

In that moment, I stared at the empty chair in my classroom and knew I would never forget the life that it once supported. I knew the pain of mourning is real. The denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and anger are all real.

Day in and day out, other students fill that empty chair now. Stories about that mischievous girl, who made everyone call her "Tha Boss" are told. Sometimes there are laughs and sometimes the words trail off. Questions of why are still asked.

I try not to ask why. I only imagine that now, instead of sitting in that old orange chair in my classroom, she is sitting next to a throne and her angelic eyes are now seeing Him. It is God.


In memory of Brittney "Tha Boss" Bonner.
4/24/1996 - 12/8/2012


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Come on in

When I was a young girl, my grandmother had a living room in which no one was actually allowed to live.

My brother's and I felt if we breathed near the room, the plastic on the chair might disintegrate.

Our very lives might also disintegrate if we stepped into it.

So, we risked our lives and held our breath when we walked by the room.

The only time I recall spending any amount of time in that room was a rare visit with my dad in which he played a Mad magazine record of Alfred E. Neuman's "It's a Gas".

It was a dream come true for my older brother and our dad, who shared a moment of pure 12-year-old laughter while listening to the record.

I didn't pay much attention to the symphony of flatulence. For, on that day, I was stunned that we survived. It's a precious memory of my dad and brother that I dearly hold.

I'm not sure if anyone outside of our family ever sat in that living room. Maybe they didn't live to tell about it. My grandmother was a Mississippi Southern Belle, but her stare could stop Medusa in her tracks.

When family visited, they usually sat in the informal living room. As a young girl, I knew style. The informal living room, with it's brown panel walls, plush carpet and orange and brown striped cushions, was my Panel Pad. It was the room with the color TV, where my grandmother rolled my hair, where we napped on recliners, and where we lived in pure bliss.

Time and families have changed. Children are no longer scared of anything. There are no formal living rooms, no paneled walls, no plush carpet, no orange and brown stripes.  No Mad magazine paper records.

Our homes are cozy and cluttered. We are too busy for company. Too advanced for our own good.

The last time I let a friend in my house, she told me that I needed to clean my sink in the "powder room" because there was dried toothpaste in it.

I think she even cleaned it.

I'm only assuming this because when I remembered the toothpaste a few days later. It was gone.

Truth be told, I should probably invite her over more. She could do wonders on my stove.

Until then, I may get nostalgic and wrap some plastic around a chair.




Friday, June 07, 2013

A non blog about not blogging

It's been so long since I've posted anything on this blog and I'm really not sure where to begin. I don't even consider it a blog. Everything I have on here is just re-posts of articles I've written because I can't make up my mind if I should even have a blog. My reasons to not blog include:

  1. I'm too boring to blog. 
  2. My family doesn't want me to write about them. Which makes a boring blog.
  3. I spend too much time reading other blogs and wishing I could blog like them. 
  4. I spend too much time on things that are not blog worthy. Like, staring at my pantry and wishing I had the energy to alphabetize my canned food items like I used to do. I wonder what kind of fool puts her canned food items in ABC order? Then, I wonder if I should write a blog about people who put their canned food items in ABC order  
  5. I get distracted easy. In thinking of blogs, I remember I was supposed to do something but I can't remember what. I know I will remember when I don't need to remember it any longer. There's nothing worse than asking yourself, "Did I pay the power bill" when the power goes out. Then, I think that might make a good blog post. "Things you remember when it's dark and cold and it doesn't matter anymore."
  6. I look at colorful and witty blogs, written by beautiful women with long hair and no wrinkles or pimples, and I have blog envy, which causes me to have a low blog-esteem. I thought about changing the theme of whatever this is and so I browsed through a few templates. I couldn't make up my mind if I were "Elegant" or "Minimal" or if I wanted two, three, four or a gazillion columns. In the end, I just opened another tab and looked at a photo album of a friend on Facebook and tried to find at least one wrinkle or pimple on her face. I wished that my hair was long. I knew I needed to get off Facebook before I opened another tab to order a wig and Googled a blog about wrinkles. Who needs a themey theme on a blog that isn't really a blog anyway? I'll just stick with the books in the background to make me appear intellectual.
  7. I tell myself that blogs are only read by people who want to start blogs. The world will one day be filled with all of humanity each having their own blogs and no one is really reading the blogs except to make sure no one else has a better blog. 
  8. I don't watch reality TV so this only adds to my credibility as a complete bore. 
  9. I've already forgotten what I was writing. That's another reason why I probably shouldn't blog.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ordinary Teens, Legendary Shots

By Theresa Shadrix
Longleaf Style magazine
Winter 2010/2011

   Legends are usually born because people seem to have an internal hunger for accomplishment, even for greatness. We lift up those who are bigger than life or have excelled with high expectations. Not too many legends are born from boredom.

Carson Stalnaker, 17, is a typical teenager and it was a typical day five years ago that he and a group of friends were playing basketball in the driveway of his Hoover, Alabama home. “We were bored in my driveway and just started to shoot,” Stalnaker said.

Stalnaker and his neighborhood buddies were all around 12 years old when they bounced basketballs off his house or from his neighbor’s roof and into his portable basketball goal. The shots started off pretty simple and soon morphed into what seemed the impossible. The neighborhood boys probably all had dreams of playing in the NBA, but that wasn’t on their minds that day when they first attempted their shots. Instead, they wanted to get amazing basketball shots, ones they deemed “legendary,” on video so they could compile it into a DVD and sell it to the friends. As modern youth, they decided to upload the homemade videos to YouTube.

It was word of mouth and the click of the mouse that helped spread the word about the kids from Hoover with the “legendary” basketball shots. Since they called their video compilations “The Legendary Shots” that’s the name that stuck. Stalnaker and his basketball posse are quick to point out that they are not legends. “We are just normal kids,” he says.

From the driveway to YouTube, the boys and their shots piqued the interest of a public relations firm and their basketball shots were featured in national Hampton Inn ads. The first commercial aired in December 2008, then others ran in January and February 2009. A fourth one ran in January 2010.

More national attention came last year when Evan Sellers made a shot from atop the Vulcan stature in Birmingham in August 2010 and the “Legendary Shots” crew was crowned king of “The Farthest Basketball Shot.”

It’s interesting to note that a group of Texas A&M students started their own trick shot team called “Dude Perfect” in 2009 and they claim to have made the “World’s Longest Basketball Shot” from the third deck of Kyle Football field at Texas A&M in September 2009. Between fans, it’s a battle of “longest” versus “farthest.” The Dude Perfect team was selected in the most recent Hampton Inn ad too. But, you won’t hear any of the Legendary teens complaining and they refuse to say anything negative about Dude Perfect.

Stalnaker noted that they’ve been making these shots and posting them online for over five years and they aren’t out to make this into a contest. “We just want to have gas money to go to places and make shots.” He also noted, as did Stalnaker’s mom, Jill, that they don’t want to do this for the rest of their lives. The teens are all high achievers in academics and plan to go to college to pursue careers. “We all want to go to college,” John Massey said. “And we want to share the love of Christ.”

Dude Perfect is complimentary as well. “We want to support them. We think it’s cool that they use their platform to also glorify Christ.” said Tyler Toney, Dude Perfect Co-Founder. The Texas group mirrors the Alabama teens in more ways than trick shots uploaded on YouTube and Hampton Inn ads. Both groups have a strong Christian influence and raise money for charity with profits from advertising on YouTube. Stalnaker said they are supporters of Compassion International and Project125K, which seeks to assist orphans in the United States. Dude Perfect also sponsor children through Compassion International.

There are distinct differences between the two groups as well. The Legendary Shots are normally driven to locations by their parents, the only hint of management is Jill, and their website is far from flashy. They are, as Stalnaker likes to point out, just a group of teens that likes to have fun.

While Stalnaker and his friends may have changed physically in five years, not much has about the way they get the shot. In September, I witnessed first-hand as the teens attempted shots at Talladega Superspeedway. While only one teen can make the shot, others assemble a line to retrieve balls and help with direction. The Legendary Shot crew at Talladega was Carson Stalnaker, William Snoddy, Evan Sellers, Chase Martin, Jeffrey Higginbotham, Bryan Anderson and John Massey. Most of them grew up in the same neighborhood at Hoover. Martin and Stalnaker had a chance meeting with Sellers on a family vacation at Panama City about two years ago.

Of course, the youth bounced basketballs and filmed them and Sellers became a part of the Legendary crew. Sellers played basketball until 9th grade and was a quarterback at Pinson High School his junior year, until he suffered a back injury. He didn’t have to think twice about joining the group when they returned home. “It something we go out and do to have fun. It’s one of those hobbies we do.”

At Talladega Superspeedway, Stalnaker is clearly the one everyone looks to for guidance. After an interview with TV24, the boys began scouting possible shots at the track. The first shot, by William Snoddy, was on turn four on the track. But before that could happen, the boys had to pump air into a few of the 11 basketballs they had gathered from their homes .

Then, with the assistance of the dads, the goal was set up on the track. Snoddy climbed the 33-degree asphalt track and started bouncing balls. Everything is off the cuff and there were no painstaking measurements done by the boys. “Move a little to your right,” one would yell. “Hey, throw harder,” from another. Finally, after about 15 minutes, Snoddy made the basket on the 57th attempt and everyone, myself included, screamed with excitement.

The second shot by Stalnaker from the top of the Gadsden Tower, was, according to Talladega Superspeedway president, Grant Lynch, the tallest spot in Talladega County at 140 feet. Battling wind, gravity and a three-phase power line, the attempts were a little more risky. Lynch was a little nervous when the basketballs bounced off the ground and hit the power line a few times. After 45 minutes, Stalnaker made it on his 62nd shot. “I high-fived my mom,” he laughed.

A third attempt by Evan Sellers from the top of the Scoring Tower was halted because the wind became so intense and the teens really wanted to take a ride around the track in the pace car, courtesy of Talladega Superspeedway.

Rumors of the boys faking their shots hold no ground for everyone who witnessed the patience and perseverance from that day. And, they all point out patience is what it takes to make a legendary shot. “You gotta keep shooting. Don’t give up and keep trying,” Stalnaker advises.

And keep trying they will do indeed. Big Communications of Birmingham asked the group to make shots at various well-known landmarks in the Birmingham area. Stalnaker’s mom, Jill, said they will continue making legendary shots as “long as it doesn’t get in the way of grades.” Until then, they will be ordinary kids who just don’t want to be bored.

Check out the Legendary Shots on YouTube. Click here.
Theresa Shadrix is managing editor of Longleaf Style magazine and has yet to make a legendary shot.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chapmans share talents, pain during "A Night With the Chapmans"

Mary Beth & Steven Curtis Chapman
By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
December 2, 2010

At A Night With the Chapmans on Nov. 14 at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, Steven Curtis Chapman and his family came together on stage, just as they have off stage — supporting each other, sharing their talents, lifting up the name of Jesus and initiating support for orphans.

Before a packed sanctuary, the band Caleb opened, featuring Chapman’s sons, Caleb and Will Franklin, as well as Hunter Lamb and Scott Mills. Then Chapman performed current and past hits. After the music, Chapman’s wife, Mary Beth, spoke to the audience in a summary of what she penned in her book, “Choosing to See.”

“I told God that I would never home-school, adopt or speak in public,” Mary Beth joked. However, she has home-schooled her children, Emily, Caleb, Will Franklin, Shaohannah, Stevey Joy and Maria Sue, the youngest of whom are adopted from China, and joined her husband on this 34-city tour for the first time to speak to audiences about her journey in faith and with her family.

Chapman has been at the top of the charts and the depths of despair. And through it all, his faith in Christ and his family have been constant.

The contemporary Christian musician has sold more than 10 million records, earned Grammy Awards, American Music Awards and 56 Dove Awards, but nothing could prepare Chapman and his family for the death of his youngest daughter, Maria Sue, on May 21, 2008.

The day was casual and almost mundane. Chapman was in the front yard on his cell phone; Mary Beth was in the house working on plans for their eldest daughter Emily’s upcoming wedding. In the backyard, the three younger daughters, Shaohannah, Stevey Joy and Maria Sue, played on the playground. When Will Franklin came home and drove toward the house, he was neither speeding nor talking on his cell phone.

As he drove around the house to park in the back, he did not know Maria Sue was running toward the car to ask him to lift her onto the monkey bars.

“He was the best big brother,” Chapman said of Will Franklin. “He would do anything for her.” In a tragic accident, Will’s car hit Maria Sue and she did not survive the impact.

As Caleb the band played songs from its new independent album, Caleb the eldest son shared the emotions of dealing with his sister’s death.

“As a lot of you know, May 21, 2008, my little sister went to be with Jesus,” Caleb said. “There’s a moment when tragedy hits and you find yourself a mess.

“Everything done on this canvas is a blur. When we step back on the other side of eternity, we are going to see the full canvas. What the world saw as a huge mess is God’s canvas,” he continued.

Mary Beth said when she looks back at that time, it is difficult to see anything. “It’s like I’m watching myself. Everything I believed up to that moment was true or not.”

But she said that as she lived a parent’s worst nightmare, she felt God’s presence and could feel that people were praying for her family.

In his latest album, “Beauty Will Rise,” Chapman reveals the emotional journey he has been on since 2008. He said his inspirations for songs come from life, and “Beauty Will Rise” is evidence of that fact. In every song he has ever written, he reveals what he is learning about God, he said.

“In all cases it is God revealing Himself.”

An essential element of the tour for the Chapmans is not just sharing their sorrow. It is the continued mission to help orphans. A Night With the Chapmans is sponsored by Show Hope, a nonprofit organization created by the Chapmans that offers resources and adoption grants. In July 2009, Show Hope opened Maria’s Big House of Hope, a six-story building dedicated to Maria Sue that assists in caring for special needs orphans. Located in the province of Luoyang, China, the program serves children under the age of 5.

One of those children is Oliver, an adopted son of Jason and Kelly Blackburn. Oliver underwent lip surgery last summer at Maria’s Big House of Hope. Jason, minister of children and media at Hillcrest Baptist Church, New Albany, Miss., traveled with his wife to Shades Mountain Baptist for the event.

“I never expected our lives to intersect with [the Chapmans],” Kelly said. “I never expected Maria’s life to impact ours.”

The Blackburns plan to travel to China in December to bring Oliver, their third adopted child from China, home.

Jason said he is grateful for the Chapmans, Maria’s Big House of Hope and the vulnerability of the Chapman family. “I wish more people understood the need of adoption. The church is the answer and God can work through the church.”

The Chapman family will continue their mission for orphans and sharing their experiences. Chapman shared his advice to Christian songwriters, and it seems to be his advice for life. “God puts us in very unique places. So bloom wherever God plants you.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bonding on Bains Gap

This was an email I sent out to some friends on December 16, 2010, explaining what happened the night before on Bains Gap Road, located near Anniston, AL.

Well, I've had quite the adventure yesterday and just want to thank those who helped out a few folks stranded on Bains Gap Road.

First, I would like you to know that the report I'm about to tell you is not fiction. I lived through it and it involves a magazine editor, a school nurse, a school bus driver, a school aide, an emergency room nurse, two school transportation workers, two Anniston police officers, a state trooper, two guys in a tow truck and a crew of county transportation workers, plus a host of AT&T cell phones which were useless and a few good Verizon cell phones with low batteries. 

Somewhere along the way a hunter was seen in our midst but he went back into the woods and was not seen again during this adventure on Bains Gap

On my usual trek across Bains Gap Rd to White Plains yesterday I had no worries. It was around 2:10 p.m. and on the top of the mountain, I pulled off the side of the road to talk on my cell phone. I hung up, waved to a Calhoun County Sheriff's Deputy car as he drove by, then watched as he slowly drove down the mountain. I pulled out to make my way down the mountain and immediately hit black ice. 

Now my mini-van endures quite a lot on a daily basis but when it hit that ice, the poor thing was sliding towards a guardrail. I happened to notice that on the other side of the guardrail was a rather steep incline that closely resembled a cliff. I really was not in the mood to die, so I turned the wheel of my mini-van to the left and decided the ditch was better than the cliff.

A few moments later, a big burly SUV drove up the mountain and attempted to pass me. The ice would not have it and so, the SUV slid back, slightly embracing my mini-van, then came to a halt.

It was at this point that I started to seriously hate AT&T. As I sat in my mini-van, in the ditch, my finger was tired of dialing the Anniston PD and getting no signal. So, I was lucky enough to have my son's cell phone with me, which is with Verizon. I dialed Lt. Stemen with the Anniston PD, my old buddy from the Crime Bulletin days, and he said that he would have a car sent our way. Meanwhile, I notice that the driver of the SUV, Allison, is a dear friend from high school and a nurse with the Calhoun County school system.

Allison and I notice a school bus coming up the mountain. The bus driver, Kim, stopped the bus when she realized that the SUV and I were not merely hanging out on the top of the mountain for the fun of it. Meanwhile, a truck came up the mountain and he didn't see the ice. His truck slide back and almost hit the bus. Then, he came to a halt. We later find out that the driver, Chris, was on his way to work at Stringfellow ER and he was pulling around the bus to see if we needed any help.

So, there were all were, on the top of Bains Gap Rd waiting on the Anniston PD. Then, cars started to show up and we had to get out and direct traffic. It occurred to me that Bains Gap Rd needed to be closed. So, I walked around in circles staring at my two cell phones until I had service on the Verizon phone. It was so cold that my eyelashes are frozen. I called Robin Scott with the McClellan Development Authority and told him that people were coming up Bains Gap Rd, we were all stuck and someone needed to close the road. He probably thought it was a prank call, but needless to say when I called my husband he said that he heard Bains Gap Rd was closed.

Long story short, the Anniston PD arrive but are not sure who has jurisdiction because it was US Fish & Wildlife owned property. And, as luck would have it, the local office had been shut down in recent months. They wait and wait and are finally told it is the state's jurisdiction. So, then we wait for the state trooper. 

We realize that we need sand. The Anniston PD are trying to find out how to get sand but are told that no one is sure who controls the road and if Fish & Wildlife will allow the Calhoun County road crew to get us sand. We sing Mr. Sandman while waiting on the school bus and all of the stranded passengers bond. We talk, we wait, and we dig into our purses for candy. We stare out of the window as it begins to sleet. Very hard, cold sleet. We laugh a little and then we begin to wonder why on earth no one is sending sand.

My Verizon cell phone battery is almost dead and my AT&T phone, like everyone else’s, is useless. Allison has a Verizon phone so I call Sherry Sumners, my dear friend at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce. Trying not to laugh so she won't think I'm pranking her, I tell her that I'm stuck on the top of Bains Gap Rd and need sand. Could she possibly call someone to find out who controls the sand and who can get some to us?

The state trooper is now on the scene and he attempts to pass the school bus and the truck. He slides back. His car has now joined the group of cars stuck in black ice. He does his duty of filling out the accident report. He bonds a little with everyone on the bus and he leaves us to bond with the Anniston PD. My husband had called a tow truck and now they show up. They park behind the bus. They only slightly slide. Jason and Mr. Hammonds with Howell Body Shop now join the wait for the sand. 

Finally, we are told the sand is on its way but the truck couldn't make it up the mountain. Cause of ice on the road. We are beginning to wonder if perhaps we are part of a psychological experiment. From the warm school bus, we wait more, we eat more candy, we bond, and we watch Trooper Putman, the Anniston PD and the tow truck crew freeze in the elements.

The EMA is also keeping in touch to make sure that everyone is ok. At one point they called to tell us to stay on the bus and not go out in the cold weather. They ask if we need anything. We tell them sand. 

The Calhoun County transportation crew finally arrives. Their truck slides, pours sand, and slides some more. Conversations get a little heated, we hear, because the county does not wish to hand shovel sand. Cause it is sleeting and you can't wear a Snuggie and shovel sand. It's really cold!

We kind of feel bad when it's reported to us that the trooper tells the police that he will "take in" anyone from the crew who does not assist in hand shoveling sand. We are not sure what exactly happened but the sand truck puts more sand on the road and they are all working hard. Then, they run out of sand. The truck travels back down the mountain and comes back. Eventually the men are shoveling sand and are able to move the SUV and the truck belonging to the ER nurse. My mini-van sits alone and will be towed. I leave with Allison in her SUV. The school bus, the wrecker, and the trooper are still trying to figure out what to do.

Allison and I feel extremely guilty as we drive down the mountain, go through McClellan, back to Oxford and get something to eat through a drive-thru window. We feel as if we've deserted our new friends, the bus driver, the school aide, Howell Body Shop, Trooper Putnam and the road crew. We discover that Allison's husband, John, has called everyone trying to find out why no one can get us off the mountain. He tried to locate my husband so they could get on four-wheelers and drive up to Bains Gap Rd to get us. Bless his sweet country heart!

By the time we get home, it is almost 9 p.m. We still can't stop laughing because we were stuck on Bains Gap Rd for six hours. I'm just glad that my eyelashes have thawed.

So, through it all, I learned there still are knights in shining armor, or perhaps in this case, knights in four-wheelers. It also pays to keep cell phone numbers of people who get things done. On behalf of the Bains Gap Posse, I want to thank Sherry Sumners, Lt. Rocky Steman, Robin Scott, the Calhoun County sand crew, the Anniston PD, State Trooper Putman and Howell Body Shop. Also, Mr. Fincher with the Calhoun County school system who made sure to keep in touch via the bus cb and the EMA. 

I'll never forget my six hours on the school bus with my Bains Gap Posse: Kim and Melony, who normally transport a group of special needs children everyday and kept us all entertained by feeding us candy; Chris Smith, the ER nurse who would have saved us should we have needed medical aid; Kevin, who we renamed Ricky for some reason, who works for the school system as a mechanic and deserves credit for all the work he does to keep the school buses in top shape; Mr. Hammonds with Howell Body Shop who might want to consider a job in stand up comedy; Jason with Howell Body Shop who took action when everyone else was trying to figure out who was in charge and Allison, my dear sweet friend from high school who made sure that everyone laughed more than cried.

Note: I learned a few days later that a special meeting was called by the Calhoun County Commission and that Bains Gap Road can be monitored by the county. Also, Howell Body Shop had to tow my van and had to pull the county truck out of the ice.

Hug someone you love today!
Blessings,
Theresa

 

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sandi Patty opens up about her life in new book, album


Sandi Patty

By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
November 4, 2010

Looking over the edge of a cliff is sure to make even the most adventurous person nervous. But for Sandi Patty, it’s a chance to see the divine.

“Living on the edge isn’t always the most comfortable existence, but it’s a place where we tend to do more looking around for help, which, for Christians, means looking for God,” Patty said.

In her new book, “The Edge of the Divine,” Patty reveals how she looked for and found help in dealing with both internal and external struggles through her relationship with Christ.

Her first original album in seven years bears the same name, and both projects are very personal in nature, offering an insight into why the Dove and Grammy Award winner took the bold step of having lap-band surgery Aug. 26, 2008.

One of the most difficult challenges in the post-surgery process was changing her focus on food. Breaking up is hard to do, Patty admitted, so she wrote a breakup letter to food, which she shares in her book.

“I’d seen that overeating is more about what’s happening in my head than in my stomach,” she said.

The surgery didn’t come without risks either. A year after the lap-band surgery, Patty had an anxiety attack. With the help of her doctors, she realized she had to take special care when on tour.

Having the surgery was not easy, Patty admitted. She has lost between 75 and 80 pounds and said she would like to lose 10 more pounds. But to tackle the external issue of being overweight, she had to face serious internal issues.

“I kept coming back to that point of realizing weight loss is an inside job,” Patty said. “Jesus didn’t go through (His) ordeal so that we could merely survive. He said He did it so we could have life and that we might have it more abundantly.”

So the surgery was only part of Patty’s journey, as she had to come to terms with a dark secret and the reality of forgiveness. When she was 6 years old, she was sexually abused by a female friend of her family.

“She did not hurt me, but she touched me in ways that traumatized me,” Patty said.

The daughter of a minister of music, Patty’s family often went on tour singing at various churches around the nation. The abuse happened when she was left in the care of a trusted family friend, as her parents were on tour. When they returned, she kept silent about the abuse and buried the memories until adulthood.

Patty wasn’t hindered by the abuse in regard to her music. Her life was fairly normal, and she joined her family on tour and crafted her singing ability. Then, when she was 18 years old, she discovered the “perfect” role and auditioned for The Kids of the Kingdom singing and dance team at the Disneyland Resort in her home state of California. Confident from her audition, she called the office a few weeks later after not hearing anything. She was devastated to learn that they loved her voice but felt she was too heavy.

But Patty was not about to let the rejection stop her. She enrolled at Anderson University in Indiana and eventually joined Bill and Gloria Gaither on tour. Her voice and name would become one of the most recognizable in Christian music with songs like “We Shall Behold Him.”

Patty also married, had four children and continued to focus on her music. Everything seemed to be perfect. But her marriage to John Helvering was literally falling apart. Crisis would follow when she admitted an adulterous relationship during her marriage, and the backlash from Christian radio stations and fans was harsh.

In the turmoil, Patty fell in love. “Before the court finalized the divorce (from Helvering), I fell in love with Don Peslis, a handsome, talented singer who performed with my backup group during national concert tours,” she said. They married in August 1995.

In the book, her music and her conversations, Patty is open and frank about her struggles with weight and relationships. She said her current projects and journey have helped her to see the first step in change is forgiveness, the second step is preparation for change and the importance of truth shouldn’t be ignored.

Patty said forgiveness was the key to healing in all aspects of her life. “I think that in order to really make a change you have to really forgive yourself and (others),” she said. “You have to unearth some not-so-pretty chapters in your life story and come to peace with some very difficult ones. I really do believe in my favorite verse, John 8:31–32, “and the truth will set you free.”

Looking back is not something Patty does. She continues to do the one thing that honors God and brings Him glory — sing.

“For so many years, I really didn’t know how to be verbal,” Patty said. “I would find that I would be drawn to those songs that would say what I wish I could say. For so long, the songs were my heart. They still very much are, but I’m learning to use my words.”

For more information, visit http://www.sandipatty.com/.