May 21, 2012

Jadeite, Routine, and Shaking Things Up

I remember years ago I took Martha Stewart’s Living magazine. I don’t know why really. She set the bar so very high for home keeping and gardening. I do love jadeite. Her love of the cheap glassware moved it out of the flea markets and thrift stores into the glass cases in antique shops---at very steep prices. (Ree Drummond loves it too.)

The Fire King jadeite dinner plate size is a reminder of time when Americans ate smaller portions at small tables, in smaller houses, in a much smaller world. My white plates from Williams Sonoma outlet would make a nice charger for the little jadeite plate.

But I digress about the dishes.

One of the things that I always looked carefully at in the magazine and secretly wished I could do was the calendar near the front of Living. It held a daily rundown of things to do each month to keep the house and the garden immaculately. To follow this calendar was to live the dream life, to have it all together, manageable and idealic. I knew it was sure fire way to being accomplished.

I never did one single thing on that calendar.

Those were days when having a routine was just not part of the life plan. It would not have been even if I wanted it to be.

The kids were young and life was happening at a breakneck pace. The calendar was filled with ball schedules and piano lessons. The in-betweens were packed with varied unplanned activities that happened in life with my kids underfoot.

Martha couldn’t have someone write a calendar for life as a mom with children. Nothing can or needs to be planned out so well.

I was reflecting a couple of days ago on life in the here and now and how life has changed since those days.  This is what I realized:

I miss the lack of routine of life with young kids.

Fifteen years ago I would never dreamed I would think such an absurd thing! But it is true.

Now life is not so unpredictable. The schedule is less cluttered. I can pretty much choose what to do with my day. But often I don’t do much of anything. I piddle through and don’t get much accomplished unless there is something urgent on the horizon.

I check the calendar early in the day to see if I have something. My house is not in Martha order and I have no excuse. I have awakened to a routine in the middle of my life that is----let’s just put it this way---boring!

I have no one to blame but myself when I think of the routine that I live most days. It is comfortable and it is not. It has been good for me and it hasn’t. It has made me contemplate and is transforming me.

In the routine that has been mine for some time now, I have gotten the time to think and live closer to the One who loves me. I have explored my love for writing. And I have wrestled with the past and the future.

And that is why I am considering discontinuing writing this blog. It has consumed me more than I want to admit. Maybe even becoming a kind of idol in my life by demanding my attention, calling me to comparison, and needing to be affirmed.

My blog that I had only occasionally dropped words into until last August has given me gifts--- fills time, allowed me to explore how and what I could learn about me and my Savior-----about how to live life in the middle. But it has also kept my tail in a chair, a computer in my lap, and has eaten up a lot of time.

This morning I coming to the conclusion that I need to shake it up.

I am not sure how my search for the less-than-routine life will all shake out?

I am sure it won’t end up looking anything like Martha Stewart’s Living.

Since I have ended so many of my blogs with a Scripture. This is the one that comes to mind today:

I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.  (Ps. 16:7-9)
_____________________
Still I count the graces with Ann:

- celebrating 26 years with my man at an historic hotel
- dragging him to an antique fair
- seeing Naomi in her “silly” swimsuit
- finding a free-trade basket from Ghana for to hold the toys
- gathering little clothes for Haitian children
- watching Olivia grow in Annie’s womb, beach ball size :)
- fish tales
- the boy finally headed to work
- nieces and nephews that I adore
- sideline seats at the youth kickball game
- no-bake cookies

May 18, 2012

Eternal Perspective

Cemetery in Paris, France

I visited cemeteries on Mother’s Day weekend. The one where my grandparents are laid to rest is "decorated." The day designated so that everyone comes to put fake flowers on stones inscribed with names and dates.

I walked with my husband to his mother’s stone in another place. I don’t know the day of decoration. And I don’t go there often, hardly ever.

We pull faded flowers from holes honed in granite. Dry sticks had held them in place. He folds the plastic stems of new vibrant fake blooms, wraps them in tape, fluffs yellow and orange flowers, shoves them tightly in their places. Standing guard, they cheer up the stone that bears his last name and mine.

The art teacher explains perspective. I was in seventh grade. She says the closer to the horizon, the more distant, the smaller things become. And that is true when you draw a line across a page and draw a road with poles lining it.

But standing there, remembering the lives that shaped me and the one I love, I don’t feel the distance small. He reminds me it has almost been twenty years since his mother slipped into heaven at fifty-eight. But twenty years doesn’t keep tears from falling.

I passed an old stone. The letters faded, lichen covered. There, in stark reality is the cross, honed deep into the pitted rock.

The cross stands at the center of history. It is the point on which all things before and after are judged. My perspective on these graves hinges on what I believe about the One who hung there to conquer death.

We walked away. I glance toward to the Eastern horizon.

Linking with Lisa Jo at the Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Friday.

The word for this writing prompt:  Perspective

May 14, 2012

Destination Eternity

Annie twisted the knob on the GPS, tapped in the address and we're off to turn right in half a mile and then left at the next road. We take the voice's advice religiously. Really we aren’t that worried because if we make a mistake, the voice through the speaker will assure us that “she” is recalculating our route.

We are visiting family in Atlanta and we decide to take the babies to the aquarium. It seemed a better choice than the zoo for babies. The lighted tanks would draw their attention. They could follow the shapes and movements of the creatures of the sea through the thick acrylic viewing tanks.

We push them in strollers. They catch glimpses of yellow fish and the giant whale sharks. They watch the manta rays doing a ballet of sorts, curling up and over, sailing in the water like giant kites.




I had forgotten what the sea holds and what I never see.

I remember that I must see with eyes of faith. This world doesn’t have viewing windows that let us in on what is just past our seeing but exists all the same.


Faith knows that the address we must enter in daily is eternity. Our path there is planned, calculated:
Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Is. 30:21)
Eventually, we are all going to get to our destination. We can go without direction or we could choose to walk by faith. We can choose to listen and follow. Our faith isn't blind. It sees the undeniably unseen.

Some will go in the way that seems right and find themselves lost without hope in this world--directionless and unbelieving that the sea holds anything but salt water, believing life on earth's dirt is all there is. They deny the darkness beyond this dimly lit world, the gulf of sin that separates them from the Holy Creator of All.

Others will go the way of faith. They know their preset destination is Eternity with Christ Jesus. They listen for the Small Voice from the Big God as He leads them to the place that is just beyond their seeing. This is the life that pleases God. They seek to settle their hearts there. Maybe it is the hardest life to settle into, to live peacefully here with an eye on there. It's tempting to crane the neck, to want to see what's coming around the corner.

We must learn to live in the now before we can settle our hearts into living in our final destination.

To live by faith we must see what is invisible and hear what in inaudible. We must grasp the mystery when reality is just beyond our understanding. Faith isn’t built on great hope but truth in hard reality---glimpses of grace along a path scattered with beautiful nibbles igniting the appetite for the more.

I stand by the big tank, a high-definition underwater peek at a greater reality, and I am filled with wonder.


_________________________________________
Counting the graces with Ann:

- babies eating blueberries
- watching Sadie and Jordan turning their tassels
- five generations celebrating Mother's day
- homemade Mother's day card and plastic Ninja accessories for his "cool" Mom
- heartfelt love from the pen of my man-boy
-for getting to parent children and grandchildren with the man I love
-for getting to the gate just in time to make the flight home
-graduation parties with kids we watched grow from the crib to the car
-pointing out wonders to the grandbaby
-watching Ashley be a mother to Nora
-the way Naomi says Eliot--with several "L" sounds as it rolls off her tongue
-cancer, God is bigger than cancer (this one is hard)

May 7, 2012

Thank You Momma


Thank you Momma---

For Giving Me Life,

For loving me unconditionally,

For making expert Chicken and Dumplings,

For loving to fish even when you can't swim,

For being an awesome grandmother to my kids

and a great great-grandmother to Naomi and

For loving my husband like your son.

Thank you

For never quitting on anybody

and working hard

and creating beauty with your hands.

For letting us play ball

and ride horses

For not killing us when we backed your new car into a tree.

For playing whiffle ball with us and

For forgiving us for laughing when you fell running to first.

Thank you for meals and laundry and hemming lots of pants,

For taking us camping and making us be Girl Scouts.

Thank you for singing and loving Jesus.

You are beautiful.

And when I grow up

 I want to be just like you. 

Somethin' Else

My dad made his first mistake on his career path when he was a small boy. I am not sure of his age because stories take feet and change over a half-century of telling them.

He'd come to the cotton field white for harvest. He had to be there because both my grandparents were picking. He didn’t have to work, but he wanted to. He was bored and had something to prove.

While hunched backs kept eyes focused on plucking the white fibers from their prickly cradles, the boy grabbed a sack and found his own row down the way. He picked it clean--- all the way to the end. Thus, began my dad’s resume’. My grandpa put him to work.

Last Thursday, I headed out to the country in the late afternoon. I called Dad’s cell to see if he was out of the hayfield. He wasn't---says to come down there if he’s not back at the house when we arrive.

Dad’s had my boy, his oldest grandson, on the tractor the past few days. Daddy cut and the boy scattered the hay. The boy who sat on the Deere had never pulled a tedder, coaxed the wet grass up to breathe the air to dry in the sun. They are cutting the fields early this year.

Daddy moved to the world soon after I began my adult life. His résumé had filled as I grew up. He had his failures, but he had more successes. The export of factories out of America took my Daddy with them---to Central America, to Africa, and back. 

I missed him but he was fulfilled, happy. We talked often. I knew how he spent everyday. From early in the morning to late in the evening, he worked.

He was there when his first grandchild was born three days after Christmas. He has loved his grandchildren but rarely spent time with them one-on-one.

While we are our phones, he talks to me about my son. These days in the hayfield he has come to know him.

He tells me that the blood that runs in his veins, the blood that coursed through that of his father now runs through the veins of my boy. 

“That boy will work. You only have to tell once and he is on it. When he gets a break someday he’ll do all right. That boy, he’s somethin’ else.”


I swallow hard, eyes blur wet but I don’t cry. I already knew what he told me, but hearing him say it, knowing he knows it----it feels like I am ripped open.

It’s not the painful type of heart-ripping. I feel a wide open freedom to receive this grace, free and filling.

Grace reminds me of the blood that does more than work---blood that was shed to pay for sin, blood that trumps the curse. Sinless blood was shed for blood that toils, that works the ground, bales up the thorns with the hay--- the summer provision rolled up, prepared for the dearth of winter.

I think of my Heavenly Father leaning toward his left, toward the Son, lifting his head giving a nod to the children of God.

 “Look at them, those redeemed by your blood. They are becoming just like Us. They are somethin’ else.”

We bring Him joy.

It was this joy, the joy set before Him, that Jesus came-- died for sin in our stead. The great chasm closed. The Father looks upon the sons of man, not with wrath, but with great satisfaction that the blood of Jesus covers, make us righteous before the Holy Father.

Before time began, He planned that we would be somethin’ else…”and so we are.”



See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (I John 3:1-2 ESV)



… my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.  (I Corinthians 15:58 ESV)


They got all the hay in barn before the soaking rain. The boy added to the résumé of his experience by going to the field working with my father. He will work other fields in the weeks to come.

My field grows no cotton, nor hay, but my hand is on the plow and I won’t turn back. It is my great desire to work my field with my Father---not because I must, but because I can.

As the day draws near, the earth groans, and the sons of man wait for his appearing.

"Bring in the harvest, Lord and let’s head to the house."
________________________
Counting the graces with Ann:

-crawfish boil in the backyard
-laughter with friends under the "super moon"
-prayer with my "spiritual daughters"
-Alli headed to Rwanda, to teach, to love
-watching boys grow from babies to men
-sweet encouragement from the one who has the wisdom of years
-prayers of hope for the broken
-healthy men in the house after tick fever and strep
-thunder alarm clock

May 4, 2012

Real at Mid-Life

Maggie is contemplating mid-life too.



This is my real:

I feel deeply. I love deeply. But I don’t express either very well.

I am passionate but often lonely.

I am not depressed. I am just not sure how to live in this gap in my life.

I enter into the opportunities God sets before me. Sometimes they are many. Sometimes there are few.

I seem to be waiting a lot. And I know that at times I forget what is important---that I am blinded by what is right in front of me, the next thing.

Mid-life is a surreal wake up that crept up and surprised me, leaving me with so many questions about the past and the future.

I don’t know that I have adapted to this techy world of communicating by texts and emails and facebook posts. 

Despite all this, I wouldn’t change anything. Nothing. Because this life is a gift and I may only have this day to breathe the air of this earth.

I am thankful that the air I breathe is not polluted, that fresh water runs from my tap. I am thankful the floors that I will sweep today are not dirt. I am thankful that I don’t have to feel guilt over that because this is the real life God gave me. 

I am also challenged that my place in this world calls me to greater responsibility to those whose realities are much different than mine.

And I am like a watchman on a wall, looking into the horizon. A new day is dawning. I will walk into the second half of my life with more wisdom, more intention, and more compassion than ever before.

Why? 

God is real. And He really loves me----He really loves the world. 

I hold out my hands and my heart----pray, “Lord, fill me up. Pour me out.”

He has and is....

Writing today on the Gypsy Mama's writing prompt: REAL

May 2, 2012

The Mirror Image

The antique high chair
Cradles a seed-cushioned lap desk
A makeshift pulpit.

My audience mocks me
Speaks every word I say
Reflecting
a mirror image,
A face I know well.

I listen to what            
the image says and I wonder
if she really reflects me
or just who I want to be?

I talk about days when
Fear and insecurity
Motivated my life
Led me to a place where
God sent His Word
Healed me
While a hair dryer hummed
In my ear.

The IPad records,
The phone keeps time,
a stop-watch.
I practice because
I might be
Doing this story telling
with fear and insecurity.
The image knows that I am.

I pull back the curtain
Open the door, sit on the rock ledge
warm with the afternoon sun.
The back porch is the place
I often perch to pray—over pine trees
Songbirds flitting and darting
Nest building.

No words, I listen-pray.
I leave the interceding for those
Who stand beside me, battle for me
They know that I tremble to tell,
know I find it hard to embrace the call.

The breeze soothes
The sun embraces.
I know the story.
I didn’t make it up.
A gentle blowing …
In still silence..the Word says
Trust.

I slip on the starched white shirt,
The canary yellow linen jacket,
Blue jeans.
Grab the big blue NASB I got the year
God sent the healing Psalm.
Manila envelope clutched under my arm
I am out the door.

And He goes with me
To the stage,
A voice through a microphone
And then He embraces the lady
who steps from the front row
To weep in my arms
that are really His arms.

She weeps
Because my story is hers.
Wrapped up, 
the pain released 
gentle sobs
upon my shoulder.

Closed eyes see clearly.
Eyes closed in prayer,
Surrounded by praise.
The mirror image fades.
The image of Jesus 
reflects His life
revealed in me.

I wonder
at the Mystery
of the One who made me
in His image.
Some day, face to face.
Until then in the mirror dimly.


Last night, my church hosted a community-wide worship event for women. The event crossed many  denominational lines. This is our third month to meet and we plan on meeting at a different church each month. The only men in the room were running the sound board! We had nine women on instruments or singing leading worship, and three speakers who gave testimony to the grace of God in their lives. I was one of those speakers.

(By the way, we like men but they do the same thing we did last night every month. Our inspiration came from what God is doing among the Sons of Thunder. We call the women's ministry Daughter's of Light.)

It was quite humbling for me to speak to my community, a place where I have lived for over twenty years. I need to be humbled--- over and over again. I have lived in pride and I know I could "catch" it again. I come down with it occasionally. I promise you that.

One thing I know is, I will never get over what Christ has done for me. As Jennifer Dukes Lee said in a blog last week, "This is the very best way to destroy a story: never tell it." I took her up on the advice from her post, battled away the insecurities and I told the story--- twice in the past week. That isn't something I do often. It just happened to be what God called me to on this leg of the journey.

This story I struggle to tell?  

You can read a short part of it here: From the Deepest Well, the Way Up is Up. 

My advice is never get to the place where the way up is up. The truth is that "the way up is down."