Byrdlandia Is Growing: On The Day That You Were Born

(This was lovingly written by your Birdie, Amelia.  Your parents graciously let me stay with them the week leading up to your birth.  I was a witness to your special day.)  Isaaca38weeks-5677

On the day you were born, Amelia, May 21, 2014, the sun shooed the darkness from our world  at 5:37 in the morning and along with its growing light, woke up the laying hens in the coop underneath the kitchen window.  We all heard their clucking songs and busy bodied chatter as they told the world that the wait for you was almost over.  Of course that came as no surprise to your mom and dad, Isaaca and Peter,  because your mom had been in labor all night.  

The song birds in the trees heard the hen’s racket and decided to join in the chorus.  Their song was heard loud and clear: “The night is over and today’s the day!”  Along with your mom, dad, and myself, there was a doula there, a woman named Joy and  I’m still not convinced that she wasn’t really an angel sent from heaven with short, dark curls and a smile that would calm any first time mother. Joy had been summoned and had arrived in the dead middle of night to give  both emotional and physical support for Isaaca.  She agreed with the birds as she gently put pressure on Isaaca’s lower back and finished timing a contraction.  It was time to go to the hospital.

Millie, it’s always an odd, surreal feeling when you leave your house to go to the hospital to have a baby.  I remember when I had your mother, I looked around my living room before I walked out of the front door and thought, “The next time I come into this room, I’ll have a baby in my arms.”  I walked outside to the car and on the way I stopped.  I looked around my yard at the cheerful flower pots that had recently been planted and the patio chairs placed neatly on the porch.  The next time I watered them and sat on my porch, I would have a little baby.  The paradigm shift was happening for your parents now and the world was at that moment making room for you.  It was a magical feeling that already felt weighted by your presence.

We were giddy,  yet already exhausted when we got into the car to drive to the hospital.  It was like vacation, graduation, wedding day and every birthday we had ever celebrated, rolled into one.  There would never be another day like it and in the way that time seems to move forward in slow motion in an ethereal way when your world is changing at that precise moment, I saw things I usually didn’t see.

You came into this world on a day when the pink peonies were in full bloom in the garden; their heavy, luscious blooms arched over almost to the ground as if to say, “Welcome, Your Majesty.”  Their heady scent wafted up into the humid atmosphere and the earth sighed with contentment.

The highways were dressed up in their finest: Queen Anne’s Lace tastefully displayed in shallow ditches and clumps of proud tall weeds and forest trees.  Nothing like a little royal lace to make the occasion special.  Only the best for you, little one.

The neighbor’s cottonwood tree was complying with the day’s wishes too.  It was doing that “thing it does in May” and released its little cottony puffs out onto the gentle breeze and made the entire road look like God had taken our world, turned it upside down, given us a good shake and made snow fall!  It was as if we were in the perfect world of a snow globe. Nature was showing off its magic tricks for you, my dear.

The silver-gray clouds wanted to rain for you and the sun wanted to shine for you, their silly sparring giving us the weather report that your birth day would be “partly cloudy with a chance of showers.”  Oh, the drama you were already creating!

We arrived at the hospital and I was so excited and absent minded that I bumped into the car parked in front of me!  Luckily, I caused no damage but I seemed to be adding my own drama to that day!

photo (4)Within a few hours, everyone of your aunts, uncles and close friends to your parents had filled up the waiting room on the Labor and Delivery floor at Vanderbilt Hospital. Your older cousin Lily, took off down the hospital corridor with her pink blanket trailing behind her as she gibber-jabbered to anyone who would listen:  “Where is my new cousin?”

I slipped into the birthing room with your mom and dad and room full of caretakers.  There was a mid-wife, the doula and some hospital nurses waiting to welcome you  into this world.  The room was semi-dark and there was a type of primitive music playing in the background.  It was like calming, spa music.  We spoke in whispers and watched as Isaaca’s body took over.  My heart was beating in my throat and your dad and I were crying for joy…for the wonder of it all.

She was my hero that day, your mother.  There were no medications to be taken, nothing to dull the pain.  We never heard her cry out or lose control during the process of your birth.  She was focused only on you; only on holding you in her arms.


The midwife said it was time for you to be born.  Your dad was so brave.  Peter caught you in his arms as you slid into the world at 2:19 p.m.,  all seven pounds and five ounces of you! He placed you on your mothers tummy and soon cut the umbilical cord that connected his two favorite girls.

You were so beautiful on the day you were born, Amelia Lynn Groenwald.  Covered in a downy fuzz, you were a true, Tennessee peach!  Blonde hair, blue eyes…the perfect combination of your parents.   AmeliaIsBorn-8143

One by one the family members and friends slipped in for just a peek of you and the proud parents.  What they saw was nature at its finest,  bonding at its closest and a little family that was totally wrapped up in a blanket of God’s holy love.  The magic of that one moment made those who already had children, want to go home and make more glorious babies. It made those who had not yet had children, imagine themselves settling down and having their own offspring.  It’s like when they saw you,  Millie,  and the love your parents had for you and each other…seeds were planted for your future cousins to be born.   And that, dear Millie was exactly what this Grandma wanted to see!  Grandparents do not mind collecting more grandchildren!

Eventually, we all left you and your parents at the hospital to bond together and be pampered a bit.  Many of us went out for dinner to celebrate and toast your arrival into our beautiful world.  We all compared the baby pictures of you we had taken on our smart phones and began texting them to Grandma and Boppy in Chicago and Pops in North Carolina.  They would all be arriving in town to see you over the next few days.  Already, your world was accommodating and celebrating you, Princess Millie!

On the night you were born, Millie, the sun edged its way out of the sky at 7:50 p.m.  A few lightning bugs glowed in the big oak trees and the night swallowed up the day in one big gulp.  The stars were exotic jewels and the moon was a soft, luminous pearl.  It was all for you, Millie.  “See how they shine for you?”

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Here’s a song for you:
















Confessions of a Scared White Woman


 All we knew to take with us into this hell-hole of an apartment complex was love.  I hoped it was enough.  

I always thought that by this time in my life, I’d be like Ruth Bell Graham, sitting in my mountain home at my breakfast nook, looking out over the hills that I loved as I drank a cup of tea and wrote inspirational notes to those who needed a sweet word of encouragement.  Instead, I’m standing in my downstairs apartment on the intracoastal waterway looking at a winter’s thunderstorm come in from the southwest, bringing its watery grey sheets of rain across the narrow pier, scattering the shells left earlier by hungry gulls.  I always wondered how the shells piled up and then mysteriously disappeared overnight.

I have no sweet notes to write to anyone today, (or most days, for that matter.)  These days I remember a lot from ministry experiences and the years we raised our children.   I’m thinking that these stories are part of their heritage, to be told to our grandchildren and shared by our friends.  I’d like to think that if I write them down, they can encourage or entertain, at the least.  Here’s one from 1995.

“We came from Bethlehem, Georgia bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle.”
― Barbara KingsolverThe Poisonwood Bible 

We’d been asked to come and minister at an apartment complex in Orlando, Florida:  George Town Apartments.  It was in the Pine Hill’s area and was nicked named, “Crime Hills.”  We couldn’t wait to get started.  So ready to make a difference in the world, we were fearless and had no idea what to expect.  Ever read “The Poison Wood Bible?”

We decided to have our first meeting on a Wednesday night.  Rita, the apartment manager, had taken a two bedroom apartment and turned it into a clubhouse.  Chairs were set out in the living room and Bill’s keyboard was in the corner.  With great music combined with a message designed to touch the heart of  this troubled mini-world we had found ourselves suddenly assigned to, plus light refreshments,  we were ready to take up our challenge.   Let the good times begin and let our light so shine before men!

About thirty minutes before the meeting began,  those of  us who came early decided to go and knock on some of the resident’s doors to ask them to come.  I didn’t go.  The children were all with me at the clubhouse.  Bill put on his best preacher’s smile and went to the first apartment door, knocking loudly.  A lady with a checker-board smile greeted him and asked him into her house.  He stood at the door, introducing himself and telling her about the new services that would begin that night.  He wondered if she would like to come and try them out.

Very graciously, she declined, saying, “Well, You see….My sista’s just got stabbed!  I don’t think I can make it this week!  The amb’lance is here and they’re gettin’ her ready to take her to the hospital.”  And sure enough, two EMC’s passed by Bill, carrying a lady out on a stretcher.  The ambulance was out in the parking lot.

Apologizing, Bill backed out of their way.  He was so freaked out he didn’t offer to pray for her or offer any words of comfort to the sister.  “I understand…maybe next time,” he muttered, and  moved on a little more cautiously to the next apartment to see if anyone was home.

Meanwhile, back at the clubhouse, some of the residents had started to trickle into the room.  There was a man there who seemed to be nervous and sweating profusely…either he had not had his medications that day or he had taken them all and then some!  There were a few dear old “mommas,”  who had for a few years been afraid to come out of their apartments .  They entered the room with  wide eyed curiosity, wondering if their prayers for thetumblr_lwbl09AKsK1qf84ybo1_1280 neighborhood were finally being answered.  A church, right down the sidewalk from their doorway!  A few young momma’s were sitting happily in the seats, seemingly unaware that their children were running around the room, glad to play  in a new environment.  Of course, we didn’t mind babysitting.  We took care of the children and promised them snacks for later if they behaved themselves during the meeting.  The mothers were just relieved to have someone other than themselves show some interest in their rambunctious children.

I can’t seem to recall the others who came.  I believe there was a gay man named, Richard.  It was explained to me that he had at one time been a big time night club owner (of the drag queen singing and dancing variety)  and had experienced a radical conversion over to Christianity.  He had even been interviewed on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club.  I didn’t ask questions but it seemed that he felt he had taken a fall from Grace, again, and didn’t feel worthy of God’s love.  He was mentally disabled, beaten down  and lived quietly at George Town Apartments.  He only wanted to “feel” Jesus like he used to.  I wanted that for him too!  It seemed so important for him.  He would talk and cry, remembering when he used to “be” someone.  If nothing else, he was loved by us.  Sometimes he would cook for us, Cajun food and luscious cakes…He later moved to South Carolina near the beach and lived in a trailer.  It’s funny the particular things one can remember.

The room was almost filled up and Bill was back in time to start our meeting.  Allen and Betsy Quain, our partners in ministry were there with their four children.  Between us, we had ten children!  That was enough alone to start a church!  Oh, wait a minute….We had already done that!

Bill started to play the keyboard.  We had set up a sound system loud enough to blow the roof off the building!  Rita wanted us to open the doors and set the speakers outside so that the residents could hear the music and the gospel as it was preached.

I  have to admit…Bill, Allen, Betsy and I could sing!  We sang as if we were singing  before thousands of people in a stadium that night!  People started opening the doors to their apartments, letting the music seep into their hearts and souls.  Black folk, white folk, people from the Islands….it didn’t matter.  A peace seemed to descend down from heaven over our city block.  The Kingdom of God was near and the people could touch it.

A few policemen came in as we started our meeting.  One stood by the front door and the other by the open sliding glass door.  I thought it was sweet and later mentioned it to Bill, “Can you believe that even the police came into the meeting?”  You could imagine my surprise when Bill answered back, “Oh, Donna…Rita told me she asked them to come.  She wanted them watching both doors because the word was out that we were there and we were messing up drug deals that were going down…Even messing up some prostitution rings… The prostitutes couldn’t come out on the sidewalk…You know…They were there to protect us from getting shot.”

You know, right then would have been a good time for me to put my foot down; to say,  as a mother, “Bill, we can’t take our family into this hell hole!  It’s dangerous!  Someone could get hurt.”  But I didn’t.  Because I knew deep down inside of my spirit, there was a calmness that couldn’t be explained.  I had felt God’s spirit of peace descend upon us as we sang, as we held those beautiful children in our arms as their mommas worshipped God.  As we did the only thing we knew to do: love them.  Love was already in the air.  It had come in on the gentle breeze, through the windows and doors, on the music notes in the quiet summer night.  It had entered my heart, causing me to want to serve these lovely, lonely,  people.  The adventure was calling me….I couldn’t help but say, “I’m glad the police were there, then.  I may be afraid but I can’t wait until next week.”

I had fun choosing this song to go with this post.  I’m sure the writers intended it to be for two people in love.  I’d like to think this one was meant for me and the people of George Town Apartments.  It always helps to fall in love with the group of people God calls you to serve!



Counting on a New Year’s Evening


On the first night of this year, for some reason, I started counting:  counting how many

days until my fifty-seventh birthday (10 days),

counting how many excruciating hours it takes to get from Sneads Ferry to Nashville, Tennessee ( 12 hours if you allow yourself five pee stops),

counting how many miles are on my 2006 Expedition ( 120,000),

counting how much beloved change is in my change jar ( $62.38),

counting how many days until Isaaca’s (my youngest daughter’s) due date ( 152 days, I think),

counting how many birthday presents I’ll need to send for my children and their significant others this year ( 11(!) and that could change to 12 at any given moment),

counting how many days I have to renew my North Carolina’s driver’s license, ( 30 days…Ugh…I have to work on that next week),

counting how many pounds I’ve gained in the last three years and two months I’ve lived here in North Carolina (I hate to admit this but maybe…15?  Please don’t tell anyone),

counting how many months it will take to lose those pounds ( 2 or 3 if I don’t eat bread and starches and hardly anything else),

counting how many days until the beginning of the 2014 Season of “Downton Abby”( 4 days, Yay, Yay, Yay)!!!

counting how much it will cost to” shabby chic” paint a dresser I bought myself for Christmas ( $40 if I use the Annie Sloan Chalk paint I’d like to try),

counting how many hours it will take to get from my parent’s house in Tarboro to my house in Sneads Ferry, NC tomorrow if we leave bright and early ( 2 hours and 30 minutes),

counting all the blessing I’m dragging in from 2013 into this new year…( I lost count at 786 blessings and I’m really getting sleepy),

counting…I keep counting blessings…good night.

Here’s your song…


The Springtime of our Autumn

The Springtime of our Autumn

I said goodbye with my eyes as I slowly looked around the empty house.  It had welcomed me with the open arms of a friend when I first showed up on its doorstep two years ago, badly in need of a refuge and happy place.  I remember stepping into its entryway, thinking that I would be too picky and judge it as a place that could not hold my treasures and favorite things.  I was wrong.  It was perfect, an empty canvass waiting to be filled with our collections of a life time together.

Once we had a place to call home, we took a trip down to Alabama and took our belongings out of storage, bringing them to Sneads Ferry, on the coast of North Carolina.  We desperately needed a place of peace, a place to sort out our minds and rest.  We had been at the mercy of kind, family friends for over six months and it was time to have our own nest.  I set out to feather it with things that made me smile. It was a nest empty of children but full of the things they left behind and the new things I had sought after to fill the in void of familiar faces and things that go with them.

I adored the place.  Somehow, all of my possessions and pretties came together as if I had bought them specifically for that home.  Teapots and teacups, ceramic roosters and artwork with French words,  emerald green and aquamarine glass bottles, beachy quilts and shadow boxes, cross stitched needlework I had worked on through all of my pregnancies, sea glass collections,  garden print fabrics for bedding and curtains, white, creamy 1840’s bedroom dressers with mirrors,  a set of thrift store dining room furniture with peeling paint, fit for a king,  and Craig’s List “to die for” shabby-chic couches and graceful chairs with ruffles were all placed carefully in the Byrd Family Museum.203 a

There was a cherry red painted hutch with blue and pink Willow china patriotically displayed in the wide hallway and warm antique oak tables and washstands glowed in the corners.  Curtain rods wearing shirts from India and Africa hung on guest room walls with colored straw hats flirting from an angle above them;  chic scarecrows keeping an eye out for angels unaware. Oh, and our newest smile maker, a mermaid weather-vane friend, Ariel, was our dining room sentinel beauty.   I filled the dining room windows with a pair of matching antique leaded stained glass windows and lived quietly behind them as I let Fleet Foxes, John Prine and Emmylou Harris loosen the knots that were clotting up my soul, through music therapy.     203 c

At night, Bill and I would open the doors to the old, mahogany book case and gaze at the rows of shiny stemware and wonder why we had so many to choose from since there were only the two of us.  Often times we’d take a glass of wine or a cup of tea and sit on the screened in back porch.  This was a favorite spot.  We filled the corners with Boston and Adelaide ferns, red geraniums and multi-colored impatiens.  Just outside the screen was a row of pink knock-out roses and wind-chimes that sounded like a symphony tuning up when the wind blew hard. We sat on squishy patio chairs well into the night, until we saw the moon rise up over our eight foot fence.  Sitting under the patio fan, we spent time sipping and talking…talking and sipping…wondering what had gone wrong and what had gone right, how the kids were doing and most of all…how we could move near them for our next phase in life and what our “assignment”  would be.

The back porch therapy was the best, sometimes sorting through life with others; my brother Scot and his wife Kelly, fellow ministers who understood our questions and reasoning; my cousin Linda and her husband Bake, who had the ability to listen to our woes and distresses and help us comb out the tangles and knots of ministry life and sometimes… just us and God…God and us… Me and the muse…

Then, I would go and get into my other favorite spot in the house; my bed.  It was high and I bounced up on it with joy and relief that I was there and could sit in such a beautiful spot and be so blessed. I would sleep and think…think and sleep…dream and pray…pray and dream…until the day we were ready and rested up for our next adventure.

Then, it happened.  It had been two and a half years and we had waited for the “go-ahead.”  We were sitting on our happy, yellow, ruffled couches, full from a delicious dinner and the plan opened up to us, filling our heads and swelling our hearts and we knew it was almost time to go.  Time to enter the next phase…the springtime of our Autumn.  Our ground was itching and twitching underneath and roots were trembling and seeds were germinating and shoots were inching up out of the soil towards the sun.  It was time to pack up the house.  We had our assignment.

Are we well enough and of a sound mind?  Are we able to do this?  Are you sure we’re not too old to leave this behind to start all over again?  Can God give us a vision at this point in our lives to help others?  To make us feel significant in this crazy world?

We thought He could.  We were confident in the plan.  It was the “Byrd” Arab Spring.  We had mountains to climb and places to go.  People to help and grandchildren to watch grow before our very eyes.  We packed it all in, moved it into storage and began our move to Nashville, Tennessee.

I walked through the empty house, my footsteps sounding loud on the hardwood floors.  I saw birds out in the back yard looking for bird seed and I willed them to go two houses down to another bird feeder.  I checked the dryer to make sure there was no laundry accidentally left behind and I checked the toilets to make sure they’d all been flushed.  All of the words that had been spoken, all of the dreams imagined and prayers requested had been hidden in our hearts. Within the house, there was no trace of us left.

I closed the front door and made sure it was locked. I stepped back and looked at the house where we nursed our wounds and bided our time.  Thank you, God…Thank you house.  We were whole.  We were healed.  We had left the building.

Here’s your song…



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