The beauty of y’all

In choir practice this morning, Leon (who hails from Mississippi) made a comment about the word y’all, and how we just seem to forget that “you” can also be plural.

It made me think about a training class I’d attended earlier in the week.  The trainer was from somewhere “up north,” and said she hadn’t ever gotten used to saying y’all, so she hoped we were OK with “you guys.”

Sigh. Well, ok, but just not from my lips. Y’all is a lovely and infinitely useful word. You see, I am a Southerner.  I know that on the 8th day, God created coffee, crawfish and grits (in that order). And God looked at Creation, and said:


Now…a couple of very important (and oft-misunderstood) points about the word y’all:

1) Y’all is a contraction of the words “you” and “all.”  Therefore, the correct spelling is not ya’ll, but rather y’all.

2) Y’all is not singular. Ever.  See #1 above.

The word y’all is much more pleasant to the ears than the term “you guys.” The former is a soft, easy short “a” sound, and the word rolls off the tongue like velvet, no matter how quickly or slowly it is uttered.  You guys, on the other hand, invites nasal sounds and even, depending on the speaker, a possible dipthong on the word “guys.”

I remember my shock in grade school when we were learning about contractions, and how to spell them…and that y’all was not a “real word.”  Excuse me? And as noted above, it is only plural, in spite of how it may be used in the singular by those trying to “speak southern” (bless their hearts).


Y’all is not only polite; it is genuinely inclusive.  While “you” can be plural, it may be confusing when used in a group.  For example: “You come for gumbo this evening, OK?” This is fine if you are speaking to an individual without anyone else around.  However, if the invitation is uttered to a group that way, you may wind up with only one person showing up (and the rest of the group being insulted).

Y’all come for gumbo,” however, makes it quite clear. If you want to reiterate that the invitation is indeed meant for the group (in case there may be any doubt, or someone might think the invitation was for the individual and their family), “y’all all come” is perfectly acceptable, in spite of its apparent redundancy.  Think of all y’all and y’all all as slightly similar to using a reflective pronoun.

Y’all all come, make sure you bring your mom ‘n ‘em.” (Or you could say “papa ‘n ‘em” or “Marie ‘n ‘em” or whatever.) This means brings everyone y’all were just talking about, or “bring your usual entourage.” (It also means you made a whole lot of gumbo.)

I would love to see a southern revision of the Book of Common Prayer:

The Lord be with y’allAnd also with you. Lift up y’all’s hearts…

Y’all welcomes everyone with a smile.  It is itself an invitation to slow down, to relax, to breathe.  The Shema begins with the words “Hear, O Israel!” In the New Testament, Jesus uses those words when He proclaims the greatest commandments.  I think he was basically saying “all y’all listen!” While that may sound odd, it’s easier to imagine than his saying “OK, you guys…”


Peace be with y’all…with all y’all.

For an interesting geographic discussion of the use of y’all, visit


How’d y’all do?

“How’d y’all do?”

It’s a query I hear (and use) often.  I ask my husband that when he calls from the boat landing after a day of fishing.  He’ll ask a friend that about their hunting.  Someone played football/softball whatever? Had a garage sale? Got through a hurricane, flood, tornado, storm?

How’d y’all do?

No one in Louisiana has had to ask what that question’s been about this past week Everyone around here knows about the insane amount of rainfall this past weekend.

Breaux Bridge

Aug. 13, 2016 in Breaux Bridge, La.  This was high ground.

A shrug, a slow head nod. “Did ok.  Lotta water in the yard/garage/shop/street but the house is OK.”

A shrug, a sigh, a slow head shake.  “Well, not so hot.  Everything flooded. House, cars.”

Then, there are the stories about someone waking up in the night, getting out of bed and realizing they’re in water up to there.  Or the folks who had to climb into the attic and out of a window, or hack a hole in the roof.  It’s a sickening feeling, watching the water rise and knowing there’s not a blasted thing you can do about it.  Been there, done that, no fun.

water dave rita

We’ve had high water before…

On the other hand, there are the stories of kindness.  Travelers stranded on the highways for hours were cared for by people living nearby.  Not just water and snacks, but home cooked jambalaya, red beans, etc.  When in doubt, bring food.  People helping neighbors and strangers.  Perhaps that’s why there hasn’t been a lot of national news on this story; Cajuns (and “adopted Cajuns”) know how to fend for themselves and each other.  Just do a quick search for “Cajun Navy” and you’ll see what I mean.

Yes, there is a certain amount of “self determination” and self-sufficiency in that, and this isn’t always seen as politically correct.  Too bad.  It’s what we do, it’s what many people do in Louisiana and beyond. It’s common human decency, although if you watch the news too much you may become convinced that this no longer exists.  It does, though, and is out in full force this week as everyone does whatever they can to help someone else who’s dealing with the flood aftermath. Self sufficiency doesn’t mean all alone; it means that there are people around you who will help – just as you help them when the need arises.

We did OK.  Family, house, business, staff, all ok.  Too many other folks we know – not all so good.  We’re on high ground (relatively speaking in south Louisiana) but a lot of folks live in new subdivisions that were “not in a flood zone” – and therefore don’t have flood insurance because no one ever dreamed they’d flood.

water in the cane

Cane fields don’t usually look like rice fields…

I read today that the equivalent of one and a half Lake Ponchartrains fell on Louisiana within a few days. That’s a lot of water.

So what are we doing?  What we always do.  Back to work, do what you can to help wherever you can, swat the mosquitos, and be grateful.  Oh, and bring food.

How’d y’all do?

Shrug.  We’ll get there. We always do.


Want to help Louisiana and show some love?  New Iberia artist Paul Schexnayder has designed a print that expresses the resilience of Louisiana, and ALL proceeds go to the Community Foundation of Louisiana Disaster Relief Fund.  The 11 x 14 print is $45 and the T-shirt is $20, and comes in adult and youth sizes.  I love how Paul’s work shows hope and joy in even the darkest of circumstances.  To order, or for more information, look up Paul on facebook or find him via his website.

Service through song

This morning, the first Sunday of Lent, we will be trying something new at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany: A plainsong psalm.

Since I’m the one singing the plainsong, I am now thinking yikes, what did I get myself into?

plainsong psalter

Sure, I chant psalms sometimes for myself. I’ve even recorded a couple.  I’m fascinated at how these ancient words, translated into a language that didn’t even exist when they were written, are set to the simplest music.  Plainsong is very…well, plain.  And while I love occasional vocal pyrotechnics as much as the next soprano, there are some things that have no place for them.  (Such as psalms, and the Star Spangled Banner.)

It helps to realize that this isn’t a performance, it’s a service.  While I’ve written before about the give-and-take between audience and performer, this is different.  Anyone involved in the liturgy is involved in an act of service, and that naturally includes the congregation.  Now that I think about it, I’ve attended services in the (distant) past that left me feeling excluded, and it’s probably because they were more of a performance than a service.

The dictionary (Merriam Webster, in this case) gives several definitions of the word service.  One is the work performed by one who serves; help, use, benefit.  Another is a meeting for worship.

How can I serve?  Today, just show up and chant so that the words and tone are clear, the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.

Powerball fantasies

It’s all over the news. Powerball, the multi-state lottery, has a record payoff.  It seems as though the whole world is rushing to their local convenience store to buy a ticket.

The odds of winning?  Let’s just say that you’re more likely to be struck by lightening while riding a unicycle and simultaneously juggling bunny rabbits than to win this thing.  But still, it makes for interesting conversation.


I was talking with a couple of friends this afternoon, and the subject came up.  At that moment, the jackpot was something like 700 million dollars.

What would you do? Whatever would you DO with that?  It was interesting that we all had pretty much the same reaction.  Think of all the good things you could do with it. We fantasized about the causes we would each benefit, and found we had quite a few concerns in common.

Driving home, I made a list in my head.  Veterans and wounded warriors.  Homeless.  Military families.  Educational programs. Those trying to turn their lives around after being caught up in human trafficking and drug abuse. Those fleeing religious persecution. Those struggling to rebuild after catastrophic weather events. Enabling people to start small businesses and farms.  My list, it seemed, was endless.  It was both close to home and worldwide.

The odds are astronomical against my being tonight’s Powerball winner.  But then, they’re pretty much the same for everyone holding a ticket, and eventually, someone will win it.

I like to think they’ll do good things with the winnings. In the meantime, maybe I should dust off the unicycle.

Match Update

Yesterday I received an email from the Donor Contact Team at  I had been wondering what the status was of my possible bone marrow donation, but had also been told it would be a “hurry up and wait” situation.

The email thanked me for my willingness to donate, and informed me that while I was a match for the patient, the patient was not ready for a transplant at this time. Possible causes listed were problems with finding a caregiver, problems with health insurance, or a change in the patient’s condition. I know that might mean that the patient has taken a turn for the worse, or is deceased, and I find myself wondering about this patient, her family, her situation.

I’ll never know, and can only commit to remaining on the registry and to continue to say “yes” if needed.


Signing up as a potential donor was easy, easy, easy.  If you’re reading this and aren’t on the registry, why not take a moment and find out more about it?  Every potential donor deepens the pool of possibilities.

Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday

It is Mardi Gras eve in south Louisiana – or Lundi Gras – and it’s raining.  I’m tucked inside, with no real desire for paradegoing either tonight or tomorrow. I enjoy parades and beads, but the weather doesn’t look inviting, and wet beads are pretty yucky.

Yesterday at church, it was mentioned that Mardi Gras isn’t on the Christian calendar.  Of course not, but it’s certainly on the Louisiana calendar!  Our French and Acadian (mostly Catholic) heritage ensures that, and I pause to think about this custom of “one last fling” of indulgence before the penitential season of Lent. While some go far overboard with indulgence, most of the southern part of the state simply eats too much, drinks too much, and fights over cheap plastic beads thrown by people on floats who have been drinking too much since the early morning.  It’s an excuse for a party, and we love parties, and we love fun.  Mardi Gras is fun and everyone puts aside their worries for a day.

MardiGras Mardi Gras parade in south Louisiana

Then comes Ash Wednesday, where some wear hangovers, some wear ashes, and some wear both. We come back down to earth, go back to the office, and usually spend some time in prayer and/or church.  In a sense, we experience two opposite extremes of behavior in a very short period of time.  Mardi Gras reminds us of the make-believe and the unreal (and often surreal); the “kings” and “queens,” the masking where we can pretend to be our alter ego.

For Lent, some give up chocolate, some give up crawfish, some give up coffee.  (I would posit that my giving up coffee would be more penance for those around me, but that’s besides the point…) I gave up “giving up” tangible things for Lent years ago, instead choosing to devote more time to a spiritual practice – or giving up a bad habit.  Last year I gave up whining, and found my life so enriched that I pretty much gave it up for good.  Ash Wednesday – and Lent – invites us to explore who we really are. It’s not about giving up a “something,” but rather about receiving something precious.

I wish you a safe and fun Mardi Gras, and a holy and fulfilling Lent!

A Shawl for Jean

My fingers move quickly, a bright red aluminum crochet hook dancing around and over and up and through soft green yarn.  I think of Jean, whom I do not know, but is sister to a friend and who has lost her second child.  My friend told us the story this evening at our prayer shawl gathering; her sister had lost her daughter (aged 54) several years ago and now has lost her son as well.  None of us could possibly imagine her pain, her grief.

It must be agony that only Divine Love can heal, and even that takes time.  I don’t even pause to wonder; I pull out the soft green yarn I bought a few weeks ago.  I didn’t know who that shawl would be for when I bought the yarn, I just knew that it would be for someone in need of prayer. Tonight, I know it’s for Jean, and I start to stitch.

I watch the hook, feel the yarn.  This is a particularly soft yarn, a single ply acrylic with long, subtle color changes in hues of green with occasional gold tones.  My hook slides around it like butter, and I am soothed by the simple act of yarn over, pull through. I think of Jean, praying for her, hoping to send just a little of this simple serenity her way.

I think of my own two children, both young adults. They make mistakes, and are trying to navigate the world in that collegiate neither-land between “home” and “on their own.” Sometimes they frustrate me, and sometimes they surprise me with spurts of maturity.  I give thanks that they are both healthy, vibrant, good and kind, realizing the rest of responsible adulthood  will come with time.  I realize that door has shut for Jean’s children, and I pray for her comfort.  I feel assured that she will have it; I also know it will not be without great pain.

My house is quiet, and it is nighttime, so I chant the 23rd Psalm very softly, the sound soothing much as the yarn.  I release these simple acts and prayers into the Divine, back to where they came from.  I feel a soft ripple in the Universe, and imagine wings as angelic helpers tend to Jean here on earth.

God Incarnate, Man Divine

It’s a quiet Christmas morning.  My husband David is cooking his amazing crawfish etoufee as a Christmas gift for his uncle, our daughter (home from college) is sleeping late, and we’ll see our son and the rest of our families later today.  Last night was a choral Christmas Eve mass followed by a  gathering of family and friends at my mom’s house. I spent yesterday running back and forth between office and home (happily within walking – or running – distance) cooking gumbo for the evening meal and taking care of business.

David and I were reminiscing about Christmas mornings when the children were little, waking us up to come and see what Santa brought. Those were good times, and these are good times, too.  A bit less frantic, with more time to cherish togetherness.  We’re lucky because most of our families are nearby, and we can spend time with nearly everyone over Christmas.

On this Christmas morning, I am thinking of words from the hymn All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name: “God incarnate, man divine.”  After all, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the incarnation.  And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.

I’m reminded that the Incarnation means not only that God is with us, but also that God is in us.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  John 1:12-13 (NIV)

We are children of God, having “God DNA” so to speak.  If we are children of God, how can we ever be separate from God?  We can choose to act as though we are separate from God, but that’s not reality.
God works a miracle every time a baby is born, bringing another child of God into the world. That child can never be separate from God.  It’s my wish this Christmas day and every day that we may all recognize our place as beloved children of God.

For a Christmas musical gift, click here and choose an mp3 file to play “Rock My Baby Jesus.”

Shawl Ripples

A prayer shawl warrior friend of mine (Margaret) recently completed her first shawl ministry project: A baby blanket for a preemie baby born to a friend.  Margaret had carefully chosen the yarn and the pattern, and committed herself to picking up a craft she hadn’t done in some years. Love and prayer for this baby were stitched into every yarn over, and once finished, she sent it to the family. I’d heard about this wee babe’s fighting spirit as we sat and stitched, and knew that she was wrapped in a wide community of love and support.

It seemed that the critical time had passed.  It seemed that this tiny fierce spirit would win out over her early and precarious start in life, but it didn’t happen that way.  A day after the blanket had been delivered, tiny V. slipped away from this world.  When I heard what had happened, I called Margaret.  I was thinking of something that had happened to me years before, when my own response was “what?  I didn’t pray enough?”

Prayer shawl Prayer shawl I made for a friend Jan. 2014

When I was working as an oncology social worker, we had a young patient with advanced colon cancer.  She was terrified of death, and also terrified of life. She was guarded with her life story, but clearly had been exposed to some very toxic faith concepts.  I spent a lot of time with her and also enlisted the help of Pastoral Care, but the twisted messages of a demanding, punishing God were seared into her brain.

I did what I could as a social worker, and I prayed.  I prayed that she would have a spiritual healing so that she could face whatever she had to in physical disease.  Perhaps she would heal physically, perhaps not, but surely God would deliver spiritual healing?

It didn’t happen that way.  Her cancer spread swiftly in spite of surgery and chemotherapy, and she died much sooner than anyone had anticipated.  I drove to the funeral home, having That Long Talk With God along the way.

“Why?” I said.  “Why?  I know she was so scared; she was afraid of You, and You could have fixed that!  In fact, You’re the ONLY one who could have comforted her, You could have at least healed her spirit so she wouldn’t have been so scared!  Why didn’t You?”

A whisper came to me, so sudden and surprising I could not have thought of it myself: I did heal her spirit.

I realized it was true.  I don’t know if it happened before her soul left this earth, or if a release from this life was the best healing left for her, but I knew in that moment that she had indeed been healed and that her spirit was truly, finally, at peace.
So what does this have to do with prayers and a blanket for a premature infant?

Preemie hand

I could imagine some of what Margaret was thinking. She, too, was having That Long Talk With God.  I made this blanket as an act of prayer… and it didn’t do any good. There were so many people praying for her.  And now the family has another reminder of their loss.  My prayers for V didn’t do any good. Boy, did I know the feeling.

No?  How can prayer ever NOT do good?  There is no way we can tally the effect of prayer; sometimes it seems to make a miraculous difference and sometimes it seems to vanish into nothing.  One can say “if nothing else, it helps us” but I believe there’s a lot more to it than that.  Any form of prayer opens one to Spirit.  An object made with prayer carries the intention with it. And sometimes the unexpected happens.

Margaret is a teacher, and one of her 5th grade students (Em) sat next to Margaret on the way to a field trip.  During the ride, she asked about the blanket that Margaret was working on. This opened up a conversation about the blanket, the baby, and faith. No “preaching” here, just a simple conversation and a child’s opportunity to observe faith and compassion.

Later, Em surprised Margaret with a handmade pillow with the word “Faith” on it.  Em knew that Margaret must really love the baby to make such a thing for her, and Em loves Margaret, so Em made something for Margaret that expresses that love.  She also understood that Margaret is a woman with a lot of faith. Em had lost her own mother not too long before this, yet still could express love and faith.

Margaret and I both had reactions of “my prayers didn’t do any good” and yet I know that’s not true.  A young woman with cancer moved into the surprise and joy of discovering a loving God, just in a different way from what I’d hoped for.  Margaret’s blanket touched Em in an unexpected and healing way.

And baby V’s parents have a single photo of their tiny daughter, wrapped in a blanket made with love and prayer.  We don’t always see results of prayer, and when we do, they don’t always look like we’d envisioned.  But the prayers are heard, and a prayer shawl or blanket is a tangible reminder.


I was a smartphone holdout for a long time.  I still don’t have an iPhone.  I’ll admit a fondness for Android, probably because my Samsung screen is big and I like that little green droid guy.  There are still plenty of things that others use their phones for that I don’t, but there are some apps that I’ve found to be very handy.  One of them is Bible Gateway ( that gives me a verse of the day, right there in my face on the screen.

Today’s verse is one I’ve always loved:

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)

Of course, what vocalist wouldn’t love this verse?  Just reading this makes me think of the joy of making music and the sensation of being in tune, or atunement.

It’s a physical thing.  You’ll recognize it if you know what to listen for. Two tones perfectly in tune don’t “wobble.”  They don’t waver. The sound waves are perfectly aligned.  If you saw a graphical readout of the two waves, they would be identical.  When two tones (or melody lines) match perfectly, it’s bliss.  When they’re close, well….it’s tolerable for most.  When they’re off, it can be downright cringeworthy.  Something inside of us knows it ain’t right. (This is why I don’t watch American Idol!)

But atunement – being in tune – that’s right.  You feel it, you know it.  You feel the energy not just matched, but multiplied.


Being in tune with God is like that.  You think you’ve got it, until you really get it.  Then your realize that gee, you were a little (or maybe a lot) off.  But when you’re in tune with the Divine…it’s that feeling of being at peace, of being connected.  It’s a knowingness that you’re on the same wavelength.  (And if that sounds trite, it’s probably because it’s a really good analogy.)

That’s not always an easy place to get to, and I wonder if it’s really possible, but we can at least try.  One facet of God is that God is like a benevolent, ever-patient music teacher.  God puts up with our flat notes, sliding pitches, wobbly tones. We hear what it sounds like, and hear in our mind what it should sound like.  Most importantly, we know what we want it to sound like.

Then we have a choice.  We can either be sloppy and fake it halfway, or we can take our time and make the purest, most perfect tone that we possibly can with the instrument we have.  Making that tone of our lives the best that we can is, I think, extoling God with music and song.  It’s making a joyful noise – and we do it because we want to, because it is joyful!  Even if music isn’t your thing, you can sing (or work, or write, or play, or whatever) with joy to the Lord.  All that really matters is that you make it the best you can, and the Divine will be glorified through your gifts and your joy.

You’ll be in tune.