Thursday, January 13, 2011
We looked at one another with anxious expectation. Under my breath I whispered, “How much longer do we have to be here? I’m ready to go!” The hubs quickly began walking back toward crazy Elvis-man and told him, “We’ve really, um, enjoyed our visit, but it’s time for us to be heading toward Oxford. We’ve been on the road all day and we’re getting pretty tired.” This was not the news Elvis-man wanted! He wanted us to stay longer and see every detail of his prized possessions! He told us the longest tour had lasted 12 hours and we could stay as long as we wanted to. All I could think about was how anyone had survived 12 hours in that horror-filled death trap!
Back into the house we were led. I was instructed to pick up a three-ring binder and open it to any page. This 2 inch thick binder was filled to capacity with sheet protector covered, type written pages. He told me to open it and read the page. I began to quickly scan it and felt the now all too familiar punch on my arm indicating I had not correctly understood his directions or read his mind. I was to read it OUT LOUD. O-k-a-y. Here goes… “August 3, 1991…Arsenio Hall Show…Arsenio says that Elvis is…” Our host cut me off before I finished to tell me that he had more notebooks just like that one. I, once again, was rendered speechless. On each page he had written the date, the television network, the name of a TV show, and the content concerning Elvis. This man, clearly OCD, had typed up every single time Elvis Presley’s name had ever been spoken on TV. Who has that much time? And even if you have that much time, WHY would you do that? This truly was a man unlike any other I had ever seen. In a world full of crazies, we had found their leader. He was the most neurotic of them all. Then it was the hubs turn. Of course, all the while the crazy man is asking us if we know anyone in the television, book publishing, movie making, etc. industries. That we could go into business together and market all of his findings and collections and we’d be “millionaires”. My hubby was instructed to pick up a scrapbook-type notebook. Inside was the horror of horrors. There, pasted into the scrapbook, was page upon page of Elvis’s name—cut out as a whole name, individual letters pasted together from newspapers and magazines. It was like looking at a real-life ransom note and we were the ones who’d been kidnapped. The hubs did all he could to compliment the crazy man and encourage him to lead us back to the multi-locked door. A disappointed look again came upon his face. He said he took pictures of all of his “guests” and he wanted ours. He posed us in front of a velvet Elvis painting and snapped a photo. There it was. The last photo before dying. That was the one the news channels would flash onto the screen after they found our decomposing bodies in the Mississippi backwoods. At least we were smiling—after all, we knew where we were going!
After the photo was snapped, we were led through a curtain into a makeshift hallway. It was lined with hundreds upon thousands of snapshots. Were these the others? Were these the ones who made it out or the ones who didn’t? Were we to be the next on the wall? It was more than we could take. We both became insistent that we had to leave. “Oh, but I didn’t get to tell you about the flowers from Elvis’s grave!”, he said. You know, at that point, if someone had told me I would have to crawl to Oxford on my hands and knees to get out, I’d be telling you about my scars right now. We again insisted that it was time to go and, reluctantly, we were led back to the front door. Freedom was in sight!
We were asked to sign the guest book and told the tour was, “$5 each, but if you’re not 100% satisfied, I’ll give you your money back!”. Are you kidding me?! I’ll pay you gladly if it means you unlock that door. The hubby handed over the money and like magic, the man unlocked the doors. After over an hour of his non-stop Elvis babble, we had finally been released! We stepped out the door into the twilight of a Mississippi sunset. Without speaking, we walked hand-in-hand back to the car. I punched Oxford, Mississippi, into the GPS and he cranked the car. For a full 1.5 miles, there was no sound—no radio, no talking, nothing. Barely a whisper, I heard the words “I thought we were going to die in there.” escape from my beloved’s mouth. With a sigh of relief, all I could say was, “I did too, honey. I did too.”
Looking back, it’s a really funny story. One that causes plenty of “Unh uhs!” and “No he didn’ts”. It’s definitely one for the record books. We’ve been asked if we’d do it again if we ever went back to Mississippi. I’ll let you figure that one out!
This past November, Wesley and I felt very privileged to be asked to help re-create Kids Church. It was a huge task to take on, but the ideas started flowing almost instantly. Together, with our amazing pastors, we started to work. Everything was getting a makeover! The new name for the ministry would be Rooted, with the theme verse Colossians 2:6-7. It was our goal to get kids in a “rooted” relationship with Christ, constantly building them up, so that when the season’s of life came and went, they would be “grounded”, and knowing they had such a relationship would cause them to overflow with thankfulness to their Savior. The transformation was revealed to the kids on the first Sunday of the year, and they loved it! For us, seeing it come to completion was kinda crazy! It all came about with just “ideas”, and turned out to be our testimony of the last year of our lives. We’ve always been committed to following Christ, but sadly when the up’s and down’s of life (the seasons) came we would take the blows for so long and then seemingly crush under the pressure, because we weren’t firmly “rooted”. It’s all very sad to admit, but the smallest things would knock us down. We would get our feelings hurt, practice unforgiveness, and harbor bitterness. (All unknowingly, mind you!) And we wondered why things were never quite right in life!? It wasn’t until a time of complete separation from life as we knew it, that we finally were able to breakthrough into a new way of living. In one of my recent blogs, I worded it this way, “I can't get the planting of a seed off of my brain these past two months when I think about the circumstances of my life last year. The seed gets buried in the ground. Total darkness. Total isolation. Taken away from things familiar, comfortable, and precious. And through it's death, LIFE springs forth! Not just once, but MANY times over! WOW!! That's us! God took me to a place of darkness, and isolation for the purpose of us to truly find "our calling" in life! Our call was...to die! It was not linked to my profession or a foreshadow of the steps that needed to be taken. It was direct, plain, and simple. Our "calling" was to die! Die to ourselves daily, so that Christ could truly dwell in us(Gal. 2:20).”. How fun to see that now two months removed from starting this project, we had unknowingly put our recent life testimony on walls for all to see! It is a project I will never forget! Walking in that area of our church will always be a constant reminder of the wonderful things God has taught us, and the awesome plans He has for us!
So, in all of that, I am very proud to present the ideas that God gave us, created into something that can hopefully be used for years to come! I’m constantly thanking God for all the ideas that keep flowing! Can’t wait to see what we can create next!
Before: Sound booth area in the making
Before: Stage in the making
Before: Stage + our big mess
Should have painted the walls before construction
After: Winter wall
After: Spring wall
After: Summer wall
After: Sound booth and half of fall wall
Entering Kids Sanctuary
Above door, leaving sanctuary
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The kids loved the snow! I will be glad when they reach the ages of really being able to enjoy it though! I also long for the day when I have the proper clothing in the house for such cold weather playtime! Nate probably wouldn't have been able to walk in the 7in. of snow anyway, but it sure didn't help the matter for him to have to walk in cousin Xander's hand-me-down boots, sizing 5 sizes too big! He thougt it was hilarious, though! Anything makes him laugh! Poor Bella insisted on building something, so her little hands practically frove in her gloves, which weren't made for digging in the snow! She really enjoyed riding the sled being pulled by a four-wheeler though one her little hands got a chance to warm up! And little Marleigh lasted all of 10 minutes out in the cold, but she would have been in on all the action had I let her!
Other than our great play day, our days have been lazy ones. Just watching movies, playing games, and eating like crazy! That's what snow days are all about! I think I will be well rested to start the semester next week! By far, the greatest part about this storm has been that we have kept power the entire time! PERFECT!
As we heard the Elvis music crank up, the hubby jokingly said, “Maybe that was a dead body in that garbage bag!” Yeah, right. The guy couldn’t be that crazy! Walking into the dark old house, we were overwhelmed by all that we saw. It was more than our eyes could take in. From floor to ceiling, even tacked to the ceiling, were Elvis photos, records, shower curtains…it was surreal. Could we really have just walked into a home? Surely this was a museum, although a poorly kept one, instead of a place where a man (with a family?) came to retreat from the stresses of the world. The sweaty, silk-clad man returned to the door and re-locked all those locks we had heard him unlocking. Quickly he began to tell us all about his love of Elvis and how he had collected his treasures for virtually his entire life. We could barely hear his words over the ever-increasing thump of our heartbeats! Had this man, whose dentures were far too big for his mouth, seriously just locked us in the house?!? And why was he getting louder with each word? As quickly as he’d locked the front door, he unlocked a second door and motioned for us to go in. “Uh, no, you first” didn’t seem to compute with his brain. He appeared agitated that we hadn’t followed his directions, so we quickly walked into the room. Naively thinking he’d leave said door open, he entered the room and locked the door behind him. Okay, really? We’re locked in this tiny room with you? This was more than we’d bargained for and were beginning to feel more and more uneasy. He enthusiastically told us about the roll of carpet that was identical to the carpet in Graceland and how that home was “imitated—never duplicated!”.
It was in this tiny, hot, pad locked room that I began to feel like we had made a real mistake. The more this man talked, the louder he got. The louder he got, the more he threw around his hands. The more he threw around his hands, the more his false teeth began to slip around in his mouth. I was creeped out. This was not what I’d bargained for! A few Elvis pictures, maybe a half-eaten pork chop, but not this! As he was talking, I was looking around the room. Apparently this irritated Elvis-man. He began to swat at my arm so that I’d look at him while he talked. When, in his fervor he used the phrase “chop up my family into tiny bits if I’m lying”, I nearly soiled myself. How did we get ourselves into this and how in the world would we ever get out?!?! That joke about the dead body in the garbage bag began to replay itself in our minds. Louder and louder my heart began to beat. When Elvis-man told us his wife had given him the ultimatum of her or Elvis and he chose Elvis, well, how do you respond to that?! And then he told us his son’s legal name—Elvis Aaron Presley [Last_Name]. Oh my word. This was over the top.
He led us toward the kitchen where the smell would have burned the hairs out of a rat’s nose! To this day we could not describe for you the putrid smell coming forth from that kitchen. Our eyes fell upon the strangest sight of all—and that’s saying something in that house! There, on the kitchen table, was a life-sized plastic Nativity set. Inscribed in Sharpie marker on Baby Jesus were the words, “The King loved the King of Kings”. Oh my. It seemed we had stumbled upon a religious man?! It was in the kitchen where the man, who had begun to hit our arms more frequently, cranked up the volume on the Elvis tunes. I looked at the hubs with a terror unlike any I’d ever known! I thought my ears were bleeding from the sheer volume when the crazy Elvis-man took the karaoke mic from the radio and began shouting at the top of his lungs, “KING CREOLE LIVED IN NEW ORLEANS!!!!”. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted my Mommy! But mostly, I wanted out of that house! The hubs told the man to turn the music down…he didn’t seem to like that, but, thankfully, he obliged. As I checked my ears for blood, he led us to the back door. Sweet Jesus in heaven had heard my heart’s cry! We were being released from the house of horrors! Except for one minor detail I had forgotten…the six foot high fencing with razor wire. The back yard was not an exit.
It was there, in the backyard, that the wild-eyed homeowner began to tell us his dream for sleepy Holly Springs. He wanted to buy the whole town and turn it into an Elvis themed retreat for all those who loved the King. His home was to be the jailhouse…in homage to “Jailhouse Rock”. He’d even built an electric chair, and I, he told me, would be the next to sit in it! What’cho talkin’ ‘bout, Elvis? Unh uh. Not me. Not gonna do it. Nope. I’m not…okay, I’ll go look at it. We found ourselves walking across the yard toward a homemade electric chair—wires, screws, a car battery?!?! We looked at each other with a knowing look—this was it. This was where we’d go to meet Jesus. In the home of a crazed Elvis fan in a backward town of rural Mississippi!
We excitedly traveled up the interstate from Jackson toward Oxford. A quick turn down a quiet highway and we were on our way to Tupelo. We enjoyed our quick visit to the “shotgun shack” where Elvis entered the world and discussed our next stop—the famed Graceland Too. We figured as the good fans we are, we should see all the Elvis sites. So, down the highway we went. We found our way to the quiet town of Holly Springs, Mississippi. We stopped at the town square, took a few photos, and even popped into a tiny diner. The sweet elderly waitress was the epitome of the Southern small town stereotype. We asked her if the house in question was still open to the public and she said, “Why, yes, honey! He’s always there. Sugar, if you just go knock on the door he’ll let you right in.” And that’s when the real adventure started.
We drove to his home, parked our car, and began the short walk to his front door. As we’re walking down the sidewalk toward his home, we saw a man carrying trash to the curb. We thought that must be him! The hubs asked him if he was the homeowner and if he still gave tours. After what seemed like the longest time, he began to look us over—up one side, down the other. He then said, “Yeah. Go on around front. It’ll take me a couple of minutes to get cleaned up, but I’ll be right there. It’ll be something you’ll never forget.” You know, in hindsight, that should have been our cue to march right back to that little rental car of ours and head back toward Oxford, but no…we hadn’t come this far to turn back now! Around to the front of the house we went quietly discussing why he’d still have those Christmas decorations out—it was June. Then we questioned all the razor wire around the top of his 6 foot high chain link fencing…and why on earth his cement lions on the front porch were being held down with chains and padlocks. It was odd yet intriguing. Patiently we waited. Suddenly the sound of Elvis hits began to loudly pour from within the house. The sound of multiple locks being opened turned our attention to the front door. The front door opened and there he stood—dripping with sweat wearing a black silk shirt unbuttoned far too low. We gave each other a “are you sure about this?” glance and headed in the door. We could never have prepared ourselves for what we saw and were about to experience…
The hubby and I love to travel. Behind our love of God and each other, it’s our greatest joy. I love the thrill of the hunt as I search for the perfect airfare/rental car/hotel deal. The hubs loves the thrill of researching all the things to see and do in the location of choice. He especially loves to find all the bizarre “roadside attractions” for times when we’re road-trippin’. We don’t know which part is more exciting—the planning or the actual trip! Either way, we love it and are grateful for work schedules that allow us a full summer of travel time.
Last summer, we decided to do a trip that involved flying and a road trip. For me, it was the best of both worlds! We decided to fly to Jackson, Mississippi, to visit some of my friends, and while there, road trip around the state to see all of the highlights. We’re both big Elvis fans and thought a stop in Tupelo, “The King’s” birthplace, would be fun. Imagine our excitement when we learned of a road-side attraction known as Graceland Too. Yes! A house fully devoted to all things Elvis—and within 30 minutes of Tupelo. It was perfect and we couldn’t wait to add it to the itinerary.
Day one of our trip was the day! We flew into Jackson early enough to visit one of my friends at her office. Low and behold, one of her co-workers had been to the illusive roadside Mecca that we so desired to see. He regaled us with humorous, yet edited, stories of visits he’d made there while a student at Ole Miss. He said it was simple to find and a “can’t miss” place to see. Little did we know what awaited us in that sleepy Mississippi town….
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
December was a month I was glad to see come and go! In fact, it did just that; come and go! Very quickly! If it weren’t for all the happenings that made me vastly aware that I was living life, I would have sworn we skipped that month on the calendar. Hmm…that’s actually a good idea! LOL We stayed on the go ALL MONTH LONG. Christmas parties, concerts, rehearsals, my sister’s wedding, and working at the church kept us going! I stayed up so late on many nights making cookies for class parties, studying for my own exams, and helping kids with projects for the end of the semester. And in our free time (insert laughter here) we seemed to stay sick the entire month. We passed the stomach virus all around the house in a matter of one week, and had every possible cold, cough, and virus known to man. We were decking the halls with vomit instead of boughs of holly. So, of course the month also included several trips to the doctor and pharmacy! (And a good amount of Lysol-ing EVERYTHING!) Boo! I missed every church service in Sunday due to somebody always being sick! And if you know anything about me, you know I hate missing church!
We somehow all managed to be well for Chirstmas though! It was very hectic, but oh so enjoyable! I LOVE watching kids be so excited and surprised on Christmas morning! We actually tell our children about the whole Santa hoax, because we want them to know that our blessings don’t just fall out of the sky from some cosmic guy who gives us everything we want. We want them to always know that every physical thing we are blessed with is because of the Lord, and He always gives us the things we need and sometimes the things we want! So, though some would say we’re weird, it’s fine with me. They were just as excited to see if they would be blessed with some of the things they wanted! It was so much fun!
On Christmas Day, we were surprised by our first White Christmas! How awesome that Marleigh’s first Christmas was a white one! We cooked for my side of the family that day and let the kids have a little more Christmas fun with a few more gifts! It was tons of fun, but the best was yet to come! The next day, we left our snow behind, and were hopeful for warmer climates as we headed to Florida for the kids first trip to Disney! Sadly, we arrived to record low temps for Florida, and we were very ill-prepared for such weather, but it was Disney or bust! I felt pretty yucky when we arrived, but I could only figure that I was slap worn out from all the Christmas activities and just needed rest! So that’s what I did! Our day at Magic Kingdom was a cold one, but very magical as we watched the kids enjoy every minute! Nate gave the biggest hugs to Mickey and Minnie, and Bella was Princess for the day! Marleigh just sat back and took it all in, but you could tell she was having a grand time! Although I had an absolute blast, I lived on Advil all day and couldn’t have been happier for my head to hit the pillow that night! Long story short, a visit to the nearest minute clinic confirmed strep throat and I spent the rest of my vacation being delirious from such a high fever. I was told that the weather was much better by the time we left Florida, but couldn’t be a judge in that area. Feeling better for the ride home, we stopped by one of our favorite places, St. Augustine, and wore Bella out by climbing to the top of the lighthouse. It gave us a good enough naptime in the car to make it to our resting place for the night, beautiful Hilton Head Island! Ending our vacation with a morning walk on the beach, we headed home the next day to celebrate the New year at home!
And here we are…eleven days in to 2011! Wesley ended up with strep as well in the meantime, but everyone else has had much better progress with their health since December! I was also very excited to finally make it back to a Sunday morning church service at the beginning of the year! It felt like I had been out of church for an entire year! The snow has been pretty and so much fun too! I anticipate what the rest of 2011 has in store for us!