Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

FYI, this blog is intense. There’s nothing funny in it unless I insert a knock-knock joke… we’ll see.

“Ma! Dorothy!”

I entered Mom’s room around 2am. Hands clenched behind her head, she called out into the darkness for her deceased mother and sister.

“Mom, it’s me, Pauline.” She turned her head the opposite way. “I’m over here, Mom.” Her head moved toward me as her eyes tried to focus.

“Where’s Pauline?”

“It’s me Mom. I’m Pauline.”

Focusing her eyes on me, her face relaxed.

“Were you sleeping?”

I assured her I was and that I very much wanted to return to bed.

As soon as I entered my room, guilt washed over me. Why couldn’t I be more patient? What must it feel like for Mom to not know where she is and who is there? 

Then sadness washed over me. Mom’s life is simple. She moves from her room to the table, occasionally onto the porch where the dogs lick her hands and check her bib for food scraps. A cat may hop into her lap or circle the wheelchair. She’s cared for and we love her, but it’s hard to watch. Harder to live.

Recently, my pastor began his message with, “We’re all going to die.” He quoted Larry King about his obsession with death.

I face death every day in the face of my mom. Before her, I watched my father die. I know what it looks like from a growing old point of view.

It ain’t pretty. But it’s not the end of the story. For a follower of Christ, there’s eternal hope. It’s not our best life now.

Good thing.

And I don’t even have a thing to complain about.

But I do–complain, that is.

My pastor went on to speak about the resurrection. Here’s what Paul said in I Cor. 15:53-57:

 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is a great promise. Victory over death.

The book of Hebrews helps me understand life, death, and the resurrection better when it describes Abraham’s life:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8-10

When I’m overwhelmed with the decline of my mother or sin in the world or my own sin, I need to remember this…

I’m not home yet.

In America, it’s easy to want to hang around on earth.

It’s comfortable.

But it’s not home.

My mom is almost home.

She’s knockin on heaven’s door.

One day we will all be at that door and the only way to enter is through faith in Jesus Christ. Not good works, not church attendance, not even the stuff we didn’t do. Just faith.

Not to accept this free gift brings judgment.

So let me tell you a knock-knock joke. You decide if it’s funny…

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Will you enter?








Google Verses Grandma

“So it’s normal for newborns to take short, frequent feedings the first few days, but especially the first 24 hours,” Sarah stated as she unwrapped her newborn son–my grandson, Silas. “Their stomachs are small but double in size within a few days.”

“How do you know?”

“I read several articles about it. Also, when you put Silas to bed, make sure there is nothing in the crib with him. No blankets, no stuffed animals, and always put him on his back,” she instructed.

Sarah wrapped Silas tighter than a Moe’s burrito and handed him to me.

“Does he have hands and feet?”

Sarah grinned.

I took my grandson from my daughter and placed him into his white crib with soft gray elephants imprinted on cotton sheets. No bumpers. No toys. Just baby.

“Looks kind of stark in their. Can’t I put a little something in with him. He barely takes up any space.”

“No, Mom. Things are a lot different than when you had me.”

Tell me about it. Baby straight-jackets, Transformer strollers and a swing that could double as a space ship. I’ve been wondering if babies need grandmas anymore when moms have Google.

In fact, I’ve wondered how I’d even do as a grandma. Never been a “baby” person. While all the other women oohed and aahed over tiny infants, I kept my distance. And when someone just handed a newborn to me, the child invariably screamed.

So my questions was, would Silas like me, and would my daughter need me when she has Google.

The answer is Yes, and I didn’t have to Google it.

Google doesn’t burp the child (I’m an advanced burper…), or change a diaper. Although Google could conceivably sing to my Silas, Google can’t hold him close to its ear and whisper I love you in-between songs. By the way, I sang a 20-minute original musical about all the dogs I’ve ever owned. The tunes were suspiciously similar, but I took great joy filling Silas in on The History of Canines within the Hylton Family set to music.

Google can’t (at least at this point), fix dinner or clean up, or laugh with my daughter and son-in-law. And Google definitely cannot and probably would not pray for my grandson. I do.

A few days after Silas was born, Sarah asked me if I had a great love for him when I saw him for the first time. I had to admit I did not. I was committed to loving him because he’s my daughter’s child and my grandson. I didn’t automatically feel love for him because I didn’t know him.

But after my 20-minute-mini-musical, and lots of burpings, and diaper changes, and staring into his soulful eyes, I can honestly say I do love Silas.

Just this morning, I checked out recent pictures of him. There he was on Instagram–his soulful eyes, and soft mouth. To tell you the truth, I really miss him.

Google is a big help, but it’s not Grandma.

I am.


Waiting for Baby

“I’m nervous about the first week,” Sarah confided. Expecting her first baby, she googled everything. I didn’t know I should’ve been nervous since google hadn’t been invented.

I’m glad.

But here we sit in the Starbucks courtyard of UNC Hospital with the prospective grandparents and google or not, we’re nervous. Nervous about the first week and month and year and lifetime of our grandson.

And happy, too.

I’m nervous about being a grandma. I mean, I wasn’t the best mother. Often I yelled. Sometimes I slacked off. Many times I failed my daughter. Yet, here I am.and my little girl going to be a mother.

Who knew almost 28 years ago as Tom and I circled Crest Lake Park in Clearwater, waiting for my water to break that this day would come.

She came into our lives and we were never the same. In the quiet of the night as I nursed her, I marveled at her tiny lips and  small hands that grasped my finger. At three years old, she pursed her lips and defied me, feet spread apart, arms crossed. I remember stating, “Will you just grow up!”

And she did.

Only after she built a playhouse with her dad, and dressed up her little brother in a nightgown and put a fake crown on his head. After she excelled in school and put me to shame. After she stood up to me again one night, calling me to repentance over sin in my life.

And then she transferred to a different school to finish her major and our relationship changed. Softened.


Then she married a fine man from an excellent family.

Now she’s going to be a mother.

So David’s parents and Tom and I sit at a hospital Starbucks both nervous and excited.

None of us knows what it’s like to be a grandparent.

I know it’s important.

And worthy.

I think it’s gonna be fun. And heart-wrenching, and amazing.

When I tell someone I’m gonna be a grandma. They drop whatever they’re doing and look my square in the face.

“You’ll never be the same.”

I believe them.

And I don’t even need to google that.

A Tail of Two Puppies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The asparagus popped and so did the bugs. We built a pond for irrigation and it leaked. Farmers markets began and we were behind the eight ball–again.

Tom and I drove home separately from our first market of the season. We’d made a little money and practiced setting up our booth so we considered the day a success. Tom texted me this message:

I’m on the way to the vet. Found a puppy. You’ll be impressed.

I met him at the vet. Cuddled in his lap lay a tiny brown and black bundle with a pushed in nose. “He ran across the road in front of me. I got out of my car and he came right to me. You see his back paw, it’s mangled. Looks like it was wrapped in barbed wire.”

My sweet husband held the puppy securely as we waited for the vet.

After we’d spent over half the money we’d made at the market, we took him home to the farm and our Cracker-Barrel-Sized front porch. It’d been a few years since adopting a puppy and we hadn’t made any preparations, so through the first few days of howling, crying, and general mayhem among our other animals we got almost no sleep.

“What shall we name him?”

We decided on Barnabas. He’s a character in the Bible whose name means Son of Encouragement.

That was a step of faith.

Within a few days we heard another howling in our yard. A second puppy moved onto our porch. We named him Cooper.

Puppies are almost the best thing on God’s green earth. Tails wagged each time we came to the house or visited the porch. The terrible two terrorized our three rescued cats and annoyed our standard poodle, Sam.

After a hard days work, Tom and I would lie on our backs in the front yard and let the puppies lick our heads and jump on our chests. it was by far the favorite part of our day.

Since we’d made no money in a very long time, we tried not to spend much money on them. But puppies needs collars and medicines and shots. We kept them in a pen on the front porch, but as time went on, we’d let them run in the yard as we worked. One day the dogs disappeared. After frantically calling and searching for hours, all three of them ran up from the pasture in front of our house.

It looked like a scene from Homeward Bound–Sam leading the way with Cooper nipping at his heels. Barnabas limped behind, barely keeping up, all three wagging their tails with smiles on their muzzles.

There were several of those days where one minute all dogs were accounted for and the next minute they were gone. We spent half of our time farming and half of our time running after dogs and half our time caring for my mom. (I know there are too many halves–you get my gist.)

I’d planned a weekend trip at the end of May with my daughter. Sure, I’d miss my family, but most of all I knew I’d miss those puppies. A few days into my trip Tom called.

“Cooper is sick. He can’t hold anything down. I don’t know what to do.” Tom tried feeding him rice and water from a dropper.

A holiday weekend, we didn’t even know if we could get our vet and we knew we couldn’t afford one. I tried to call, but another vet in a different city was on call and we didn’t know him.

Cooper died. Tom buried him in our yard wearing his bright red collar. The deed was done before I arrived home.

Sadness fell on our farm. But somehow Barnabas still made us smile. Often, he’d hide under the porch–refusing to come when called. Eventually, he’d obey. And as he loped onto the porch and into our lives, we developed a warm spot in our hearts just for him.

Barnabas continued to grow and fill out. He got to almost 30 pounds and began to look like a shepherd. He chased Sam and chewed on our cat, Brie.  (Who by the way likes it…) Often, we’d take Sam over to our other field where our chickens, pigs, and livestock guardian dogs Molly and Lacey lived. We decided to let Barnabas ride along, too. Letting them loose with our “girls” Molly and Lacey was the highlight of their little doggy lives.

One day, as we drove along our dirt road on the way to feed the livestock and visit the “girls,” we heard yelping. Barnabas decided to jump out of the truck and we ran over his legs. Gently, Tom picked him up and cradled him in his lap as we drove to the vet for an emergency visit.

“The back leg is broken, and this front paw may have permanent nerve damage. He’ll need to stay here for the night and we’ll get a good look at it in the morning.”

We drove home in silence. That night, the lack of whining and general porch mayhem kept us both awake.

The next day we picked up our puppy. One back paw mangled by barbed wire, one in a cast. His front paw wouldn’t work. He had only one working front leg. Each time we looked at him, our heart hurt.

The vet encouraged us to keep him quiet, so we confined him and administered medications and watched and waited.

An amazing thing has happened. Barnabas is adjusting. He’s running and smiling and chewing on Sam’s ear and Brie’s neck.

And he’s wagging his very big tail.

He’s gonna make it. And he’s happy about it.

So are we.

Farming is hard on the body. Caregiving for my mom is hard on the heart. And then there’s Barnabas. So many times I’ve been so discouraged I’ve not only wanted to quit, I didn’t even care if I quit. Not just farming, but life.

I think the Lord sent us those puppies. Because through loss and gain we experience both deep love and profound grief.

And joy.

Barnabas, Son of Encouragement, has lived up to his name.

And that is a tale of a tail of two puppies.



My Bunny Slope of Faith


“Come on, Mrs. Hylton, you can do it!” my friend’s daughter said. I wasn’t sure. We’d joined the class together while my friend, Linda, tackled the grown-up part of the mountain.

Three hours into the ski class I’d fallen a dozen times–only when I tried to move. I was determined.

To graduate, I tackled the mini-mountain and only fell three times. Smiling from ear to ear we found Linda.

“We graduated and I made it down my first slope!”

“Great! How about we try this other slope?” She showed me a placemat-sized-map of the mountains and pointed to a slope halfway up the map. I searched the map trying to find the mini-mountain I’d conquered. I found it–a quarter  of an inch from the bottom.

That’s how I feel about my faith. I’m on the proverbial bunny-slope. The placemat-of-faith looms before me. The multiple falls mock me.

Aren’t you ever going to get this right?

Thinking myself a giant in the faith only to realize I’m a light-weight.

But, it’s a start.

I’ve been praying a three-part prayer this last year: to know God better, for Him to go with me, and to see His glory. I’m beginning to understand my faulty view of both God and me. I made myself big and God small when in truth it’s the other way around. So He’s answering my prayer, just not how I expected.

But that is exactly how He works.

And did I mention grace? I’m just beginning to grasp its meaning.

Grace is helping me conquer the bunny slopes and moving me up the mountain. And it’s all done in love without a single critical word.


How’s your faith journey? Be encouraged, we serve a mighty, grace-giving, all-loving God.

Here’s a song I love to sing. Paste it into your browser and meditate on it today my friend.

And keep climbing.