Steve & Betty

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“The Red Balloon”

For most of my life I remember that my maternal grandmother, Mae Horton, had difficulty walking. Her knees were not cooperative in a day when knee replacement surgery was only experimental and not overly successful. Granny eventually ended up in a wheel chair. This immobility did not stop Granny however, her mind was forever in motion and she did not stop learning, loving and reaching. Granny ruled from her favorite chair. We all knew that Granny was in charge, including sweet Grandaddy. What Granny said went and NO one dared to dispute her. In spite of her dictatorial matriarchal rule, we all loved Granny and we KNEW she loved us.

My baby sister, Brenda, and I spent a great deal of time with Granny and Grandaddy from the time we were born. Our paternal grandparents had died before our father and mother were married, so we never knew them. Granny and Grandaddy Horton lovingly filled this void. In 1987 I moved to Central Florida and my visits were limited due to the distance. My sister continued to see Granny and Grandaddy regularly, as she lived less than 2 miles from them on Florida’s East Coast. Brenda and Granny had always been extremely close, as she helped my Mama care for Brenda when she was born. My Mama was not well for awhile after Brenda’s birth and I was only 18 months at the time and still required much care myself. Their relationship was magnetic. Brenda was in and out of Granny’s house throughout the week and always stopped in if she was going shopping to see if Granny and Grandaddy needed anything.

You would think from the previous paragraphs that this is going to be about Granny and it partially is, but not solely. This is about my sister, who loved and lived and longed to stretch her wings and fly from the time I first recall recognizing her as a person. This is also the story of the “Red Balloon”.

Twenty years ago and prior to my Granny’s death, Brenda had a wonderfully amazingly imaginative dream.

In the dream she was pushing Granny in her wheelchair down the walkway in front of Granny’s house. She was taking her for a “walk” around the neighborhood. It was a perfectly beautiful day. The sky was bright blue and almost cloudless, except for a few cottony clouds floating in on the eastern breeze from the Atlantic Ocean, less than a mile away. Brenda and Granny were enjoying this special time together and looking up in to the sky. About the same time they both noticed a tiny red dot descending. As the dot came closer and grew larger they realized that it was a balloon with a string attached. It was the type of balloon that our children were always given when we shopped for groceries at Publix; they were filled with helium and had a ribbon attached for holding onto. It was odd that this Red Balloon was descending instead of ascending, however. All the balloons we had seen before would ascend if not firmly grasped in our children’s sweet little hands. Many balloons were lost in the Publix parking lot.

This Red Balloon continued it’s descent until it was directly in front of Granny. In childlike awe, Granny reached out and grasped the ribbon. Immediately she and the Red Balloon began to ascend. Brenda watched helplessly as Granny and the Red Balloon begin their ascent into the Stratosphere and disappeared. Before Brenda could become totally frantic, she saw the slightly larger dot begin to descend once again. As it drew closer she could see that Granny was still grasping the ribbon. Slowly the descent continued until Granny, clutching the Red Balloon, was standing in front of the wheelchair. Granny then released the Red Balloon to continue it’s return through the layers of atmosphere, walked wordlessly, easily and painlessly to the back of the wheelchair and pushed it back into the house. Granny’s knees were completely whole after her mysterious and wonderful ascent into the ‘heavens’ .”

Although in actuality, Granny’s knees were not whole, this dream was a lovely gift to both Brenda and Granny. Brenda shared the dream with Granny and it tickled her. Granny had a fantastic sense of humor and adventure. I believe that often Dreams are God’s communication with us and this Special Dream gave Brenda a peace about the hereafter that she had not known prior to receiving this “heaven sent video”.

Brenda became widowed almost 4 years ago. Her “Mr. Bill” was the “love of her life”. And after losing him the void was fathomless. My sister had also been quite ill herself for many years, and with each passing year she grew more twisted with crippling scoliosis, causing her organs to become compressed and damaged. She was a truly gifted artist and her home was filled with paintings and sketches of paintings she planned to do, but her body failed her before she could complete the ideas she had stored in her brain and on post-it-notes throughout her house. Grasping a brush or a charcoal pencil for any length of time had become excruciatingly painful. But like Granny, her mind never stopped creating beauty.

On July 28, 2016, I received the most horrible phone call that I had received to date; my Brenny had died. I was overwhelmed with grief and intense loneliness. My seemingly “forever sobs” were deep and ragged. The one remaining person who knew me best and longest was gone and I would never be able to share another “sister moment” with her.

But God is Good, as the movie, “God’s not Dead”, reminds, “all the time”. So while sitting in a chair in my Brenny’s house a few days after she had died, God granted me a sweet gift of the reminder of the “Red Balloon”. In the twenty years since my sister dreamed of the Red Balloon and Granny, she had been through so very much, physically, mentally and emotionally, but on Thursday, July 28th, 2016, I believe she reached up and grasped her own Red Balloon and left all that behind. The last text she attempted to send in the moments prior to her leaving this earth was, “Oh I see…”. Obviously I will never know what she truly saw, but I choose to believe it was her own “Red Balloon” and that she grasped it with the childlike delight she possessed in everything she attempted right up to the very end of her earthly life. 

Red Balloons.php

On Sunday , August 7th 2016, a group of Family and Friends released red balloons into a blue, cottony clouded sky in her honor. I know Brenny would have been applauding with glee.


My mother passed away this year.  As my sister and I have rummaged  through her “stuff”,  memories have flooded our thoughts like a brook overflowing a beaver dam. Many hundreds of old sepia and black and white pictures have surfaced flooding us with thoughts of times that we had forgotten and some that we had never known. Some pictures brought smiles and others tears, but all brought precious memories of family.

Searching through each box we also found stories that my mother had written and even one of mine that Mama had saved. Enjoy my memory of Sundays, a little girl, Granddaddy Horton and the porch rocker.


“As the sun filtered though the stained-glass window and played on the pew in front of me, I grew more and more fidgety. My mother’s hand, resting gently on my leg, reminded me to be still, but my thoughts still wandered. After all, the best part of Sunday to this 5-year-old girl had yet to come.

Each Sunday, my maternal grandparents would go home with us after church. I always loved being with Granny and Granddaddy Horton and hearing the stories of the “Old Florida” that they had grown up in…..stories of huge blood thirsty mosquitoes, rattlesnakes hiding in the orange groves, shaking their rattles in warning and panthers screaming in the night.  Nothing since has fired up my imagination quite the same.  My grandparent’s anecdotes were so colorful that I felt like I had lived through their experiences, rather than just hearing of them.

In those days, we called the noon meal “dinner”–not lunch as we do today. Sunday dinner was always wonderful. Just thinking of those tantalizing flavors causes me to salivate even now: crispy fried chicken, real mashed potatoes, creamy gravy, fresh green beans, sliced vine-ripened tomatoes, crackling corn bread with melting butter, rich chocolate cake and hand-churned vanilla ice cream, were on the menu most Sundays. But this was not what caused me to fidget each Sunday, as the Preacher’s voice droned on and on while my thoughts escaped the walls of the church.

My Granddaddy Horton was a tall, thin man with beautiful snow, white hair. I learned from my mother that his black hair had turned white in his early 30’s. This always made him appear older than he was. To me, he seemed like a kindly patriarch, such as Moses, who I learned about in Sunday School– when I wasn’t fidgeting. I was the first grandchild, so I held a privileged position.  And I never failed to let anyone know it when they challenged me for my throne–Granddaddy’s lap.

As soon as Sunday dinner was over and I was excused, I’d place my small hand in Granddaddy’s large calloused one and lead him to the porch rocker. This is where my thoughts had been leading me all day. On Sundays, our front porch became a magical place. On his cozy lap, Granddaddy would take me to marvelously exotic places with the help of the Sunday “funny papers”. As the afternoon wore on, we would explore all the places that came alive to both of us as he read of, “Little Orphan Annie”, “Alley Oop”, “Mutt and Jeff”, “Brenda Starr” and of all our other Sunday Friends. Through Granddaddy’s voice, I learned what it was like to be adopted by Daddy Warbucks, to be a comedic cave man, to live the life of a glamorous red-headed reporter, and to experience so many other exciting adventures .

I will never know if it was the love in Granddaddy’s voice, the gentle motion of the rocker or the balmy breeze that always seemed to find its way to our front porch; perhaps it was a combination of all three, but once I learned to read on my own, I was never able to recreate the spell that was cast on Sundays with Granddaddy, in a porch rocker with this little 5-year-old girl.”









When Life Happens….

It has been too long since either Steve or I have shared here. Unfortunately, life has caused us to not always be available to put “pen to thought”. I feel challenged to once again begin sharing with those of you who wish to follow our journey with this Eulogy I was privileged to share at my mother’s Celebration of her Life in June 2015. I pray you are encouraged.



Betty Joyce Horton Stallings
b 7/4/1931-d 6/10/2015

Our Mother, Betty Joyce Horton Stallings, was born on the 4th of July, 1931. As a child she always thought that the fireworks and other celebrations were in recognition of her birthday. To be honest, my sister, Brenda and I wondered why our birthday celebrations never compared to Mama’s.

I am glad she had those special thoughts, because coming from a family that did not have a great deal of monetary wealth, she learned early that if she wanted something that was not in the family budget she had to work for it. When she wanted a bicycle she sold watermelons. She even commissioned her friends to sell for her and receive a percentage of the profits. She baby sat, weeded gardens and grew and sold vegetables to purchase a trumpet. Her efforts enabled her to buy such a nice trumpet that the other band students begged to play it.

From the beginning it was obvious that Mama’s skills were not in the areas of normally accepted domesticity for her era. If Brenda and I needed something sewn, Big Granny would be our go-to-person. Mama didn’t bake cakes, so our birthday cakes came from Langbehn’s Bakery. But she could take a piece of wood and with her band saw and imagination create magical things, including our slingshots and rubber-band guns, which made us the envy of all our friends. She was an expert marksman and with her 22 rifle, which was an anniversary present from Daddy, she kept our yard on 45th Street free of venomous snakes. Mama was Daddy’s right hand when it came to preparing the cars he painted in his Automotive and Paint and Body Garage. She had a light touch and could smooth out the surface of the cars so that you would never be able to tell where the damage had been. Because of Mama, Brenda and I grew up knowing that we could do and be whatever we desired. Nothing was labeled as being just for girls or just for boys. Mama was truly ahead of her time.

If you knew Mama you know that she had a very special relationship with Jesus. Consequently, I can not share anything about Mama without including Him. Mama began following Jesus at a very young age. She began practicing her faith as a young girl by sitting the family dogs down and teaching them about Jesus’ love and encouraging them to receive Him as their Lord. I imagine there was a little “Hellfire and Brimstone” thrown in to keep their attention. As she grew up there was less “Hellfire and Brimstone” and more love. She wanted everyone to know the Love of Christ and receive Him as their own personal Lord and Savior. She taught Sunday School, Children’s Church, and led Youth Group. She facilitated Bible Studies in group settings and as a one-on-one mentor.

My Mama would be the first to say that she was not a “Saint” and that anything that was good in her was because of her placing her trust in Jesus. While in Junior High I told a classmate that my mother was perfect. The classmate said that was impossible, nobody was perfect. I very quickly told her that she was wrong according to Matthew 5:48, that reads, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
I have since learned the true meaning of that verse and that my Mama was not perfect, but one of the things I loved about her so much and strive to immolate, is how easily she loved others. She was one of the least judgmental people I know. She believed her assignment as a Believer was to share the Love of Jesus to all she met, but allow Jesus to do the changing. I personally am a recipient of her non-judgmental love.

My Mama was an anointed and gifted writer. Many of you have been recipients of her letters/epistles, but she would be the first to say that she was only the Scribe for the words that Holy Spirit revealed to her. Much of the material that she used in Childrens’ Church and Youth Group was original. But every time she put pen to paper to write a letter, story, poem or song she felt humbled to be chosen to share God’s message.

Before we could read for ourselves Brenda and I learned much of what we know of the Lord at our Mama’s knees, looking at pictures and listening to stories from our Family Bible. One of the most important things she taught us is that the Church is not a building or a denomination. Instead it is the people who are Followers of Christ who make up the Church. When I was still in elementary school my Mama was inspired to right a song about this very thing. These are the words from the chorus.

“Take me out of the Ivory Towers,
From behind the Stained-glass windows,
From off the Plush pews.
Let me walk among the people, as I use to do.
The world is looking for reality.
They’ll only find that in me,
But only as they see me in you.”

If Mama was standing before us today she would sing these words in her beautiful vibrato alto voice and encourage each of us to live in such a way that the world can feel and see Christ’s Love. Mama’s earthly journey is over, but her legacy lives on in each of us who knew and loved her.

In closing I wish to share John 14:27, a verse that meant so much to Mama. Those who received letters from her would recognize it as one that she often wrote on the back of her envelopes for all who came in contact with them to see.
“Peace I leave with you, Peace I give unto you: not as the World giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”




A New Journey:Not on my Bucket List

In 3 hours I will be heading to the hospital. I’m to be admitted today for heart surgery tomorrow. For those who know me well, you know that I am active and healthy. Three years ago I hiked  Machu Picchu, Peru and also climbed one of the highest points in Lake Titicaca. At that elevation I was a little winded, but nothing I couldn’t handle. But on September 28,2012 I woke up in Atrial Fibrillation and within in days discovered that my Mitral Valve was in need of immediate repair.

I am so blessed to have been surrounded by prayer these past 45 days. I am at peace, in spite of the fact that this was not on my “Bucket List”. I don’t understand why this has become part of my journey, but I do know that my God is in control. Apparently this is one more step on this path I walk to make me fully aware of that.

I know that God has been directing me each step of the way. He has blessed me with wonderful family and friends who know the power of prayer, a great and perceptive primary doctor, a cardiologist who was quick to recognize my fears and ease them with his encouragement and a surgeon who has a picture hanging in his reception area with Jesus standing behind a surgeon in O.R.

Again, why has my journey taken this path? I don’t know.  But I do know that I am in God’s hands and that is the safest place to be.


“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

I wrote last week of two friends who were lost to this world, but whose memory will always be alive with love in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to know them. Their passing has caused me to be more reflective than usual.

On Thursday of last week another childhood acquaintance, David Gore, died. He was a year behind me in school……..he died by lethal injection. He will be remembered to.

What causes someone whom I’m sure was a much loved son, turn into someone  capable of  the heinous murders he committed?  What happened to create such a twisted mind? ………….And how did someone who grew up along side me in Vero Beach, Florida end up finding pleasure in causing such pain and agony in so many lives and destroying the peace and tranquility of our “paradise” .

I remember David Gore well…..I saw him often as we passed in the halls of Vero Beach High School.  He appeared to be shy, lonely and withdrawn. There was something about him that made him seem younger than the rest of us; more fragile.  He wasn’t in the group of friends that I hung around with. To be honest he wouldn’t have fit in……..and I don’t think we would have welcomed him anyway……I saw him daily, but I didn’t see “him”.

As I said, I have been very reflective this past week and in my reflection I have had this question tumbling through my thoughts. What part did I possibly play in creating the monster that the young David Gore became?

We hear a lot more about bullying today than we ever did when I was growing up, but I can assure you that bullying has always been around.  I just don’t think we had a name for it or because of the lack of media involvement, awareness of it. There have always been a group of kids who were the underdogs and another group who seemed to enjoy seeing those misfits be abused both physically, mentally and emotionally.

David Gore was a misfit and I abused him. What was my abuse? I totally ignored him. It was as though he were a ghost walking the halls of our school. I looked right through him. What might he have become if he had felt more acceptance from me and others like me?  Maybe nothing would have changed for him. Maybe the die was already cast. But I will never know that if I had reached out to this sad and lonely classmate and helped him wade through the tough times of being a teenager in a clique-filled high school would he have found peace for his tormented and twisted soul……. I will never know.

It’s too late for me to reach out to David Gore, but I hope that each time I see someone who appears to be out of place, sitting by themselves, head hung low, that I will remember my classmate who started life as a precious baby and ended up taking the lives of other precious babies and subsequently died by lethal injection on August 12, 2012.

I hope that I never forget that, “yes, I am my brother’s keeper”.


How Will I Be Remembered?

Yesterday two people in my life died……one was only 38 and the other was 60…..I don’t know the particulars.

As a child, Zak, the 38 year old, and his family were close friends, but as time passed, as often happens,  they all moved out of our lives.  However, I still remember him and his family fondly. My heart is hurting for them today.

Nicky, the 60 year old, and I met in first grade. We had classes together all through school and then finally  graduated together. I moved away when I got married and we lost touch. She was one of those sweet people who was liked by everyone……..Again my heart hurts.

I am reminded today of how fleeting life is and how we are promised only the second we are living in right now……With that in mind I have to ask myself how would I be remembered if suddenly my life were to end.  I’m not just talking about my family and friends who I know love me and would miss me, but what about that lady in the supermarket that I almost ran over with my cart, because I was in such a hurry. Or the man on the motorcycle that I nearly  cut off, because I was late for work.  And what about the young man who knocked on my door while I was vacuuming to share his “faith” with me.  I was so curt with him………How would they remember me?


One Candle

Imagine finding yourself sitting in a small dark windowless room…..void of all light, completely black. You can not see anything in that room and as you sit there you can almost physically feel the weight of the darkness as it surrounds you. Then you realize that you are holding a candle in one hand and a match in the other. You strike the match against the floor, light the candle and the darkness retreats. The light brings you a sense of peace, hope and joy. You are now able to find your way out of the room.

This world with all of its seemingly insurmountable problems; war, disease, famine, economic decline and each individuals own personal problems, can create a very dark atmosphere much like that dark room.  Could this be why Jesus said to his believers  not to  hide our light, but to put it on a lamp stand where it can be seen by all? (1)  I was privileged to witness one of those lights being used to dispel darkness the other day. It encouraged me, but it also challenged me.

I had to go out of town the other morning and as I was returning I realized I needed gas , so I pulled into a station.  I went into the store and got into the gas line to pre-pay.  I was the third person in line.  The first person was a young woman carrying a small baby, next was a middle-aged man and then myself.

The young woman had counted out  stacks of coins: pennies, nickles, dimes and a few quarters and placed them on the counter. The cashier counted them and it appeared to me that the man in front of me was becoming a little impatient.  When the cashier completed counting the coins, the young woman left to pump her gas.

The man in line ahead of me now stepped up to the counter to pay for his gas with a large bill. The cashier rang up his gas purchase and started to  hand him the change, but he said, “No, put that in that young lady’s car.”  I guess I had misread his concern for impatience.

I watched as he walked out of the store. He walked over to the pump where the young woman was pumping gas and spoke with her. I assumed to let her know to continue pumping gas into her car until it stopped.   The cashier said, “You don’t see that very often.” and I agreed with her. We both had witnessed a beautiful example of compassion. We had seen a candle lit in this young woman’s darkness by a perfect stranger.

As I walked out of the store, the young woman had just finished pumping her gas and the man was nowhere to be seen. I could tell that the young woman had been deeply touched by this strangers act of kindness.

Yes, it only takes one lit candle to chase the darkness out of a room, but what if all of our candles were lit……… what would that look like?



(1) Matthew 5:14,15

I’m Back……………….

I’m back! After 39 days, 2 antibiotics, nasal spray, inhaler, vaporizer and much, much prayer, I feel human again. Or perhaps I should say super human, since sickness is certainly a part of being human. I am blessed with good health. In fact so blessed that I take it for granted.  And that is not a good thing. God has granted me the gift of health and I will try to never take that gift for granted again.

I often see people in wheelchairs, or with canes, some even  attached to oxygen tanks, as they look wistfully at those of us who aren’t dependent upon those things to get around. I said I see them, but in fact until the last 39 days I didn’t really SEE them. Now I find myself really looking at them and saying a prayer that they will recover and be able to live a more active life.

You see I am 60 years old and a grandmother, but I am a grandmother who still climbs trees and slides and dances crazy dances with my granddaughters.  I want to continue being able to do those things and more. So with God’s help I will take better care  of myself when I feel a sore throat coming on. I will be more “obedient” when Steve says I need to rest.  And I will pray for those who suffer from chronic disabilities.





Deaf To The Noise Of The World

From my earliest recollection, my maternal grandfather was deaf…..not just slightly, but stone-deaf…or I think that is how it is said. When ever anyone wanted to speak to Granddaddy they had to yell. That is how he and Granny always communicated. As a little girl, I thought my Granny had the loudest voice of anyone around, but as I got older I realized Granddaddy was deaf. I never thought much about how Granddaddy’s world must have sounded to him or about how much he missed, until recently.

Two days after Christmas I woke up with sinus pain, an ear ache and felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. In addition to the ear ache, my ears were so clogged that I could barely hear. I felt like I was in a vacuum and unless my husband was close to me… well as facing me, I could not hear his voice. Thirteen days later, after seeing the doctor, being on an antibiotic and nasal spray, plus many, many prayers, I could still barely hear. Talk about frustration. So this was my Granddaddy’s world.

While waiting for my hearing to return, I’ve thought a lot of how much time I spend listening to stuff…..unnecessary stuff. Not my granddaughter’s sweet voices, or my husband saying hello, as I pick up the phone or any of the other myriad voices that make my life complete, but stuff that just crowds my mind, not allowing room for the things God is trying to teach me. I was reminded during this time of how Jesus pulled away from the crowd and all it’s noise (1) and how scripture reminds us to “separate” ourselves from unholy things(2).

I’ve decided that separating oneself from the worlds’ noise is a good thing and something that I need to regularly put into practice. I’ve discovered that when you can’t hear the noise of the world, it is easier to hear the Voice of God.

Since the 27th of December I have been forced to pull away, because of my inability to hear, but I wonder if, as my hearing returns, will I remember this lesson or be drawn back in to the “crowd and it’s noise”. Jesus says. “Come away with me.” I hear His voice so clearly.

I wonder if when Granddaddy had that sweet smile on his face, as he so often did, was he hearing the Voice of God?

Shalom……. Betty

(1) Matthew 14:22,23

(2) 2 Corinthians 6:17


I stand at the edge of the end, excited about the soon coming beginning.

Thankful for all that has been, for it has caused me to open like an aging, but still fragrant rose.

 My openness has enabled me to see each day as a gift; a sweet-smelling gift from God to share with whomever I meet.

To share with whomever is in need of a kind word, a smile or understanding; a bit of myrrh or frankincense.

I have no need to force change on those needy souls, as time changes us all.

My only mission and challenge is to love and embrace them just as they are.

Yes, I stand at the edge of the end and breathe in the aroma of a new beginning.

Thankful for what is to come.


 Shalom and Happy New Year…………….Betty

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