September 29, 2011

Something Old, Something New

I step inside and breath deeply the musty smell of old. I almost didn’t go in.

I sit out in the blue SUV, my hair fresh with new color from the beauty shop. The cowboy who does my color might mark me off his calendar if he knew I called it that. He prefers “hair concepts.”

Hair Concept day is my day. I love it. It is my indulgence. It’s an hour and half drive over to the salon. I slip in the DVD for Bible Study for next week. It gives me a chance to think and pray as I drive. I won’t be teaching but I’ll be writing journal prompts for my classes. I feel satisfaction that I am multi-tasking.

Antique shops are all around the town I visit every five to six weeks. Nothing demands my immediate attention so I decide to go for a browse before I make my way home.

Something about wondering around old things slows life down for me. I think it is the way an antique store is arranged that does it. The display of things in disarray causes the eye to have to focus, look top to bottom, the body to weave in and round to see the pieces of history scattered all around.

A tiny child-size grand piano, shiny black with twenty keys calls me to the tag. The grandbaby isn’t close to sitting on that little stool. I move on. I see memories, dishes that I once pulled out of my grandmother’s cabinets, those she collected out of laundry soapboxes. I see books. I have the urge to buy at least some as I ponder whether books with spines will be printed much longer.

I slow to it all and I let the things that remind me of my childhood bring my heart to thanksgiving to God. Ann Voskamp taught me this as she wrote of her journey to joy in One Thousand Gifts.

Checking for dovetails on the drawers of an oak desk, modern life brings my slowing to a halt.

My cell phone rings.

I answered knowing already whose digitized voice would be coming through the speaker. A few minutes earlier, my finger had pulled down the holes on the dial of an old table phone. I waited for the dial to reset between the numbers, pretending to call my childhood home. New phones identify their callers even before a word is spoken.

“Are you glad I called and didn’t text?” her first words.

I smile because she knows I only text because it has become necessary. I want to hear the voices of those I love and I love hers.

We catch up after weeks of me not hearing her voice. She fills me in on graduate school and papers that must be written, and most importantly, progress on wedding planning. I miss her but once again I give thanks, a lifting of my heart to the Grace God for allowing me friendship with this young woman. The girl, who with her best friend, made time for Bible study on Monday nights while literally working her way through college.

“I have wanted to ask you something since last February----and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to---but this week I decided that I was going to ask you, ok?”

I couldn’t imagine Anna being intimidated about asking me anything.

“Ask,” I say. “You know, anything that I can do for you, I will.” My mind races thinking on what she might have needed since February.

“John and I want to add more Scripture to our wedding. I wanted to ask you if you might be willing to read a passage during the ceremony?”

She went on about why she was asking me to do this sacred reading---and soon tears started sliding down my cheeks, another gift. Joy tears. Ann would be happy that I am getting it, the practice of thanksgiving.

Anna and I said our good-byes while I stand in the midst of the old and she stands on the cusp of the new. My sweet young friend is marking off days until she wears the white dress, walks to her bridegroom, and blesses an old friend who will read from "the greatest story ever told" on her big day.

I leave empty-handed but not empty-hearted. My hair looks great but my face, a mess.

September 26, 2011

Rearranging My Nest

The TV had been blaring football games and commercials for hours when he came in. We  piled around on couches and chairs---his brother, stretched out on one couch nursed crushed vertebrae from last Thursday’s football practice. His sister, his brother-in-law and baby niece, all were gathered before the flat screen in the great room.

Dad slash grandfather, the only one who might have known how much I wanted that moment, watched over the chocolate cake on the counter, monitored its disappearance from the plate. The cake policeman turned back the teenager from taking just about a fourth of it in one serving.

And I was there, waiting all day for the boy to drive through the delta and walk in the door of our house. When he arrived, my longing to have them all here would close the hole in my heart.

I realize my writing of late reveals that I am struggling with rearranging my nest.

The past two Sunday nights, Jeff and I have been out driving during the time the switches happen. We saw them at the dairy bar, the fast food chain, the gas station, and at the barbeque restaurant. Kids with backpacks and suitcases rock back and forth on legs stretched between momma and daddy. As far as I could tell they were amicable trade-offs after the weekend likely spent with dad.

I witness the switches, a lump crawls up my throat and I swallow hard, hold back the tears. My family broke apart when I was thirteen. I don’t know the circumstances I am witnessing and I cannot judge. Still my heart breaks open.

The boy no longer has his own bedroom. He sleeps in the guest room. He is far from a guest in my home, in my heart.

He plays with the yellow dog in the back yard. He pulls out the compound bow to show his dad and brother how accurate he has gotten practicing in the bow room where he works. I slip out and watch him hit his marks. I give him the “at a boy” that feeds his temperament.

I notice him gathering things. I know it won’t last much longer and the door will swing the other way. The boy, or should I say man, will drive back between the fields to the town where he will study and work and live.

His countenance shows his slight hesitation as he rocks back and forth between leaving the yellow dog that he loves and heading on. Finally, he hugs all around, crawls in the big red truck and drives away.

As we stand in the driveway, I swallow hard like I do when I happen upon the switches on Sunday nights. It is not the same and I know it, just feels the same.

This morning I pray:

God, give me the grace to rearrange this nest. The hours he was under my roof were your gift----the years under my wing, the greater gift. Help me understand as You do that with blessing also comes pain. This is right and it hurts. Make me treasure it as a beautiful gift of grace.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

September 22, 2011

A Sticky Situation

The back door at my daughter’s houses catches on the bottom. Push, and the top of the door leans into the laundry room while the bottom grips tightly to the threshold. I never remember the tricky door so I stumble in on the second shove.

I went in yesterday to find my daughter at the stove that has cooked up suppers for at least fifty years. My eight-month old joy sat in her diaper in the high chair several feet away from her Momma. Slices of a banana filled the tray in front of her. She saw me and I got what I came for, a great big banana-filled smile.

It is strange how the mind forgets the realities of relationship. I look at my daughter and I see her working down the ingredient list of a recipe she’s making for company.

“Here, Mom,” she comes at me with a tasting spoon. “Tastes a little flat, too creamy, don’t you think?”

“Yes, maybe a few more red pepper flakes. The taste is great at the beginning but falls flat at the end. Pepper seems to always come in on the backside. I’d add some more.”

She’s been married, keeping house for over two years. There sits my grandbaby but still my mind forgets her momma isn’t under my wing. My baby has her own wings, her own chick. Just like that door, my mind forgets. She has flown. I shove that reality to the front of my mind. I walk into now.

I get the baby out. She is banana sticky. We wipe her up and down. Her Momma directs me to the clothes.

“Put on the striped shirt and the striped panties.” She calls as she stirs the soup.

“No bath?” I wonder aloud.

I work little sticky hands and arms up little sleeves. Even her chubby little thighs hold the tacky remnants of banana.

I leave through the sticky door, the flavor of life hitting me on the backside.

September 12, 2011

Forty Acres

My mind reaches to my deepest memory to the front bedroom of the clapboard house; I can still smell the man. I smell my Grandpa who slept there before I was brought in on cold winter mornings, feet dangling down, dumped over into his bed, warm from the electric blanket. Grandpa had been up for hours by then. That house sat on an acre across from the forty. Up on the asphalt road, he had moved the house on a trailer the quarter-mile from the place where it once stood, to a place where it holds only memories now.

Coal black hair rebelled the graying of time until his health failed. My grandfather orphaned during the Great Depression, he and his four brothers and sister went from farm to farm to work, maybe only for food, and to sleep, probably in barns. Life was about survival. I only know this part of my Grandpa’s story because my Dad has told me. Grandpa didn’t talk about those kinds of things.

Grandpa couldn’t read. But he could work. When those forty acres came up for sale, Grandpa went to the bank for a loan. The banker man said he could get a loan but first he would have to clear the land, prove its use for cotton or cows. He and my Daddy cleared that land and watered it with their sweat. The banker came out to see the result. With time that land belonged to my Grandpa, free and clear.

Land meant something to him. It meant security---and something else as well. My grandfather never received an inheritance but he had one to give.

As his life drew to a close, my dad and aunt helped him get a will drawn up. The obvious thing to do was to split the forty acres, twenty for Daddy and twenty for his sister. But my Grandpa wasn’t thinking in modern ways. He told them that he wanted to give at least ten to my little brother, his only grandson. The way he saw it was that his four girl grandchildren had husbands who would get them some land to make a living off of if need be, but he wanted to give his only grandson ten acres for his family yet to be. A boy could get a good start in life with a little land.

Tip-toeing around feelings and leaning on the side of fairness, modern ways won out and the boy didn’t get the part Grandpa wanted set aside for him. My brother has done just fine without that land. But he carries around everyday a part of our Grandpa. He carries his name. This given to the boy at his birth and now passed to his son. The land still pastures cows, and memories, and the inheritance cherished by a son, a grandson, a family. It is where we are from. It is home.

September 7, 2011

Helplessness, the Blessed Gift

So much wonder wrapped up in soft little baby skin--a helpless baby that tears your heart open with love. How little we know of the greatness of God's love until He sends us the miracle that enters our world. Without hesitating, we place every bit of our love in that a little one, unconditionally.

Soon this little one will demand to be fed and changed. She will throw little fits to have her needs met, to communicate there is something that she needs that she can't do for herself. And her Momma and Daddy will hop up to sooth her, to fill her tummy, change her diaper, hold her.

What a wonder that God brings us into the world so helpless and then tells us through his Son Jesus that to enter the kingdom of God we must enter as a child totally dependent upon the Savior for our salvation, for life eternal.

We cry out, helpless. God who made us comes and picks us up and holds us---the unseen everlasting arms stretched out to meet us right where we are. Our Father loves us. Oh, how He loves us.