Unexpected Dividends

I’m not much of an investment banker. One would think one must have something with which to bank and to invest to be an investment banker. I am of the lower economic echelon, therefore I get a bit confused on how all that works. I think the general idea is to take some money, give it to an organization, said organization makes a copious amount of money and gives you your money back and then some. If said organization loses money, then so do you. Nothing gained, everything lost. I could be way off, and that process may have another name, like scratch off lottery, but I kind of think that’s how it works. Keep in mind I am the same person who will frequently lose a bet over a simple math calculation to Scott Martin.

I do think on a day to day I am making investments, but they are of a different nature.
Included are, investments of my time, my skill set. Investments of words, investments of money (albeit small amounts), investments into friendship and other people’s lives, but investments nonetheless. Some of the investments I make, I don’t see the payoff. Sometimes, well lots of times, that is frustrating for me. I’m not known for my patience. Several years ago I made the widow’s mite kind of investment, or at least what I thought was.

My heart was hurt and broken to bits, my vision skewed by the world around me. The King’s people especially frustrated me and I wanted nothing more than to not invest in them, despite being a them. I just wanted to crawl into my bed of hurt and pull the covers of disappointment and cynicism over my head and sleep. As I pondered putting on the pj’s of self pity the time-consuming practice of Bible study came up. I had always enjoyed knowing about the King’s book. I’d read it and occasionally studied it, liked it, found it fascinating. I certainly didn’t love it, not even close.

bible-christian-christianity-272337So on a warm September morning one who knew me well insisted I drive across town to the Bible Study where I was sure to find out where in the King’s book my dinosaur questions could be answered. I went reluctantly.

Over the course of time, something happened, the investment of others began to pay off and I was reaping the benefits. I was beginning to see how the King’s economy works. I grew to love that book, and now the thought that I haven’t always makes me sad inside. Eventually the need to drive across the town would not be necessary and not only did I figure out the Dinos, I began to appreciate the King’s book a bit more. As I meandered around in my pjs of hurt I was asked to pray, to pray about making an investment, an investment I viewed as one of epic proportions, for it would take all that I had to give, and the payoff wasn’t guaranteed.

I wasn’t sure if I were willing to risk it. I’d have to think about it. A few weeks later I received the go via the TV weatherman. Give it everything. Blindly. Stand back and reap the dividends I’d never even begun to consider. For several years now, during the school year, I’ve invested in Wednesday.

Wednesdays have been aptly named by a friend of mine as “Wipe out Wednesday.” At the end of each Bible Study Day, I’m exhausted.

Over the course of time, I’ve counted snacks and crafts, I’ve sparkled, sorted, and separated and herded Sheeps of all manner to and fro. I’ve disciplined and discipled, and doctored boo-boos. I’ve hugged, now I’m both the initiator and receiver. I’ve pondered, cried, and laughed so hard my body has physically hurt. I’ve surveyed a room full of women seeing each one as absolutely stunning, convinced this is how the King must see them. I’ve prayed with, cried with, and have just been present with women from all walks of life. I have seen prayer after prayer answered and over time healing has come.
This weekly investment though can cause one to grow weary. During the summer months it isn’t as easy to see a payoff. During the summer months when one is not in the thick of it, the encouragement to press on is difficult to distinguish as well.

This brings me to a dividend I never expected. I had the privilege of glimpsing into that in the most unlikely of places.

best-friends-blond-hair-bonding-1574650It looked something like this. Recently, when asked what she wanted for her birthday Charlotte told me 2 things, a set of colored pencils and time with her friends. After some text messages and such, the plan was in place. Despite not realizing it until well into the evening, the friends all had a common denominator, their Mamas were made up of Wipeout Wednesday Workers. I observed them as we traversed the roads picking up and meeting and such, one-by-one the meeting of the last just as giddy as the seeing of the first. Their conversations tickled me and I inwardly laughed, remembering those years when I was their age.

They talked comics and Marvels and DCs and mission trips and church and music and snacks and oh how they’d missed one another. They captured a “night butterfly” known to the rest of the world as a moth and tormented the hater of winged creatures of the group until I confiscated said night butterfly. They ate more than a swarm of locusts and my picnic bag looked like it had been merely a light snack. They giggled and shrieked over the thought of a port-a-potty and oohed and ahhed over a fireworks display. They circled up and every time I said “Girls, we’re prayin’!” they dutifully bowed, and immediately quieted and it hit me none of them was unfamiliar with the act. As they giggled late into the night, talking and shhhing and talking again I clearly saw the payoff. The King’s book says as metal sharpens metal, two King’s kid friends will do the same (Paraphrase Amy Martin style).

I am thankful that once again the King’s economy means investment from me, dividends for my children. My imagination wandered that night and I saw each one of them grown, sharing that common denominator of friendship and Bible study, and I wondered where it would take them. Among them they are sure to change the world. The possibilities are endless: artist, comedian, athlete, missionary, nurse, spy, administrator, teacher, mom, wife, writer, pharmacist, doctor. At the heart of them all is a love for the King. And as the Mama of one of them, I can say confidently, that is what I desire most.

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Old Testament Roll Call

I felt about as far from the Old Testament as I could have gotten. I was floating in a chlorinated pool with depths ranging from 3-12 feet, my head back, feet elevated, certified lifeguards towering above me, and Today’s Country Music singing behind me.

My friend says that he has done a lot of research via the YouTube and has figured out that country music of old just isn’t the same as country music today. We had gotten into a discussion about Old Tyme music several months before and he had set out to uncover the change of sound. Up until that moment, I had forgotten about our conversation we had one day at work a while back.

He stated his hypothesis void of any context clues.

“It’s the neck stretch”

“Huh?” I was deep in thought and I couldn’t have been farther from the Grand Ole Opry if I’d’ve been in Australia.

“It’s the neck stretch. Back in the day the Country Singers used to stretch out their necks and it’d make that twang sound. They don’t stretch their necks anymore.”

As the country music played in the background, bass kicking and drums drumming, words of I don’t even know what but I do know I didn’t hear a thing about cheatin’ hearts, cotton pickin’, country cookin’, or Mamas. There was no Jesus, prayer or lost loves as far as I could tell. No semblance of church choir or preaching’ in the lyrics.

I was pondering on the neck stretch and how a lot of life seems to revolve around a lack of neck stretching; it seems folks used to be willing to put their neck on the line for their neighbor but that happens less and less these days. It made me especially thankful for the Ultimate Neck Stretcher who died for me and for the entirety of the world.

In my imagination I was meandering somewhere between Nashville and Calvary when the Old Testament role call behind me jolted me into the moment, the stray beach ball that landed squarely on my forehead most assuredly aided in jolting me back to the present.

“Miriam!”
“Samuel”
“Elijah”
“Hannah.”

activity-beauty-blue-61129-2.jpgI giggled. The bearer of those names were tiny toddler and teenage frames clothed in shark swim trunks and modest tankinis, not the Old Testament Players for whom they likely had been named.

With my eyes closed to shield the sun, I smiled and thought of the gravity of those names and the legacies they carry.

A sister of Moses who celebrated beautifully that God had saved her and her people, having just crossed the sea on land and escaped the pursuing Egyptians.

One born to a barren woman, who when God called said, “Here I am, your servant is listening.”

A prophet who called down fire from heaven and consumed a waterlogged sacrifice to demonstrate that One Jehovah God is more powerful than the multitude of prophets of Baal.

A barren woman promised she would dedicate her child to the Lord, and dedicate him she did. The very same son who was ready and willing when the Lord called.

Shakespeare asked the question, “What’s in a name?” in Romeo and Juliet. I have pondered that a few times this summer myself. What does a name matter? As my mind tends to do it wandered to a particular verse in the King’s Book. A verse that talks specifically of the King’s Name.

Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There is but One name that the whole of Creation will bow, and that is the Name of Jesus. There is but One Name that has been the bearer of the greatest burden on history, and that is the Name of Jesus.

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Chameleon Living

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Ephesians 5:1 NLT

The overhead loudspeaker crackled to life. A familiar voice announced a page for an individual.

“Mr. So-and-So please call blah-blah-blah-blah.” There was hardly a pause, “Mr. So-and-So please call blah-blah-blah-blah.” I had no idea to whom Mr. So-and-So was referring and despite the familiarity of the voice, I had no idea what the speaker looked like. The overhead loudspeaker went silent and the familiar matter-of-fact voice of my coworker standing behind me spoke.

“Ruth-Ann’s been in Alabama longer’n I’ve been alive but she refuses to acclimate to the accent. She still talks like she’s in the north.”

I literally burst out laughing and spit out the water I had just taken a sip of. I snorted and turned around.

I knew exactly what he was talking about. I had never actually knowingly laid eyes on Ruth-Ann. I do not know her state of origin, her last name, if she wears glasses or not. If I had to pick her out of lineup I’d have to be blindfolded because I only know her voice; she has a distinct accent, not at all like my own. She sounds, well … northern.

As I pondered on the statement, I thought about the acclimation that takes place when we inhabit a place for any length of time. How we take on the accent of those around us, words and phrases of the speakers. Case in point, I watch a lot of British TV and find myself saying the following:

                    “That’s Brilliant!” Instead of “That’s great!”
“Queue” instead of “Line.”
“Rubbish” instead of “garbage.”
“Bin” instead of “trash can” and “tin” instead of “can.”

Without even knowing it I’ve acclimated to the television vocabulary. I’ve become like a verbal chameleon, speaking like those I have heard.

As I thought about Ruth Ann (if that actually is her name, I have no idea) and her apparent refusal to acclimate to the Southern-speakers around her, I found myself challenged.

This world is not my home, yet there are times you would never know that, not based on my behavior anyway. I look so much that the world and so little like Christ that others can not distinguish the difference residing in me. I walk around so defeated and beat down you’d never know I possessed the joy of the Lord. Perhaps I should live more like Ruth-Ann, with such intention as to not look so much like the world around me and more like the unique me I have been created to be.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 MSG

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Mama Mended

She handed me the bag with a fancy boutique name I could not pronounce,

“You won’t forget will you?”

My Mama knows my nature to forget things, I assured her I would not. I put the Boutique bag beside me on the front seat. She had told me it was a shirt for a coworker. I knew what she meant. The natural assumption would not have been that Mama went to the fancy Boutique store, the kind with a name that is pronounced “Booty-que” instead of ”Boutique.”

I knew for a fact she was not likely to have been into the fancy store with the fancy name as it was likely located in a mall. She hates to “shop,” is fairly practical, and typically “shops” the on-sale racks. She is always stylishly put together but a less than sticker price cost. When we were teenagers and would go shopping, she spoke the same mantra prior to entering the store, a shopping with teenage girls sort of battle cry,

“I am not buying it unless it’s on sale!”

She wasn’t dressed in a tartan nor did she have her face painted as William Wallace running headlong into a field of enemies, but she was firm. She said it and she meant it. If those name brand jeans that everybody wore and wanted weren’t on sale, we knew not to even ask. The battle cry has become my own as I now too, shop with teenage girls.

My Mama is a mender of things. Hemmer of garments, repairer of zippers, sewer of stuff. Someone is forever asking her to perform the aforementioned to garments and things. She has a standard response, “Let me take a look at it and I’ll see what I can do.” I am not a mender, I do not know my way around a needle and thread like she does. My work is sloppy and elementary compared to hers. I struggle with basics, however, one of my most fond memories of growing up is when she taught my sister and me to sew a quilt square. I chose the “Ohio Star,” a series of squares and triangles sewn together to form something of beauty.

That day she waved in my rearview as I drove away with the unseen garment in the bag. I had no idea what she had done to it. She’d said it was a shirt but that’s all I knew really. I was just the courier. I have transported formal gowns, wedding dresses, swimsuits, pants, dress shirts, Bermuda shorts, a pair of firefighter bunker pants, little bitty baby birthday bow ties. The items she has touched and relinquished to me to return are too numerous to recall.

jacek-dylag-jo8C9bt3uo8-unsplashI made my way to my destination, half forgetting the bag on the seat beside me. As I pulled into my parking space I was mentally mapping out how I would return the garment to its rightful owner. She is one whom I love and adore so and was trying to configure how I just might fit in a quick visit. I was thinking as I realized I was parked crooked so I backed out of my space, looked left and right, and pulled back in just a smidge straighter. I noticed to my left one who was going to the same final destination as the package that I had been entrusted with.

I rolled my window down and yelled her name to get her attention, “Hey can you take this to Casey Rae for me? It’s from Mama!” She nodded and came closer to my cattywampus van. I thanked her as she took hold of the still unseen shirt. I straightened up again, and by the time I exited my van the shirt and the new courier were long gone. I had done my job, I knew that I had handed the precious cargo off to one who was trustworthy and would, in fact, deliver it accordingly.

That evening, Mama asked me, “Did you give the shirt to Casey Rae?”

“No Ma’am, not exactly,” I said in between bites and looked up to see her expression. I knew she would be disappointed; I had not completed my task.

I mumbled between bites, “I gave it to Moffis to give to her.” Mama nodded in approval knowing that the shirt arrived to its owner promptly and just as she had intended it to. As we carried on our conversation about other things I thought about how that bag from the fancy Boutique had been in a sort of a relay, many hands touching it, transporting it, for the achievement of a common goal. Each of the couriers playing a role seemingly unimportant but in reality just as significant as the Mender’s role. I was reminded of this verse, found in 1 Corinthians 3:6

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

That verse says that in the Kingdom our jobs may not be equal, may not seem to be of the same caliber, but are all important. Ultimately it is God who does the big work, the work of Salvation, but every time we carry the gospel to another, we are a part of that work. When I handed off that package to Moffis, I didn’t go into a full explanation of the contents, no more than Mama had when she handed it to me. Yet, our work, the delivery of a fancy bag and its contents, was as crucial as the mending had been. Perhaps if I were writing that verse to fit that scenario it’d read something like this:

Mama mended, Amy carried, and Moffis delivered.

Strange Economic Times Indeed

It felt awkward to have someone serve me, after all I’d come to serve that week and not to be served. I’ve learned long ago that I am filled by pouring out. It’s a weird economy. So when they offered a free lunch post-VBS, my low budget jumped at the chance. I feed teenagers now and with that feeding comes a hefty grocery bill. It is especially hefty during Vacation Bible School Week.

Many years ago I’d forged one of my dearest and best relationships over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich over just such a lunch. We both held wiggly babies, brown paper sacks on the table in front of us. Those wiggly babies are teenagers and now they too serve in VBS. That mama and I have been friends going on decades now. I treasure that and had it not been for that PB&J I am not sure we’d be the friends we are today. A free lunch and a chance at friendship were all it took for me to say yes when my teens asked if we were staying.

As I stood in the serpentine line that meandered around the corner I smelled grilled burgers and dogs, the kind that someone else cooks and never seem to be replicated at home, the kind that only requires that tiny packet of ketchup. I spied mamas and grandmamas with little ones herding them like disobedient cats. Chatter came from every direction, and crafts and goodies from the day littered the premises.

I was near the end of the line. It took a while before I finally reached the door leading to the food line.

burger-cheese-dinner-161674A gloved hand reached out to me and the Womenslife minister asked if I wanted a hamburger or hotdog. I paused. She repeated clearly. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard her. I had heard her. I just wasn’t sure. (I was thinking back on that moment and the scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie has gone to see Santa to request the coveted Red Ryder BB Gun. He has stood in line but when faced with the gravity of requesting the prize he goes completely blank and repeats “football” in a robotic fashion.) I chuckled at how I must have appeared to sweet Sheila, standing there, blank-faced, stunned into having to choose, a hamburger or a hot dog. In a Ralphie-like response, I squeaked out “hamburger.”

I was handed various side items and then a drink of my choosing. I sat down at a table next to my own teen, the once wiggly baby, and asked how his day of herding 3rd graders had been. He filled me in on the “flight risks” and “runners.” Being that he was a former runner, a kid at risk to vanish in the blink of an eye, abandoning VBS to the unexplored other things, I suppose he is akin to them and has a knack for picking them out of a crowd of 8-year-olds.

We sat at a table and P.K. handed out napkins. He made his way around a room full of volunteers, shaking hands, speaking words of gratitude and appreciation. Offering extra napkins to sticky fingers, messy faces, and Mamas in need. Paper napkins, that week I’d handed out my share, placing little cookies on each one for snacks. Now I was the recipient of those same kinds of napkins. I cast my eyes down as I thanked them, those who were serving me, but felt filled up by their kindness and sincerity of appreciation.

It was awkward to be served and not to serve but as the tables turned and I was being served I was reminded why the King came. To serve and not be served and how it must fill Him up when I serve others. A strange economy indeed.

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Lessons from Lizzy

“Lizzy Lessenberry!” Isn’t that just the most perfect name?! Mama’s voice was on the other end of the phone. I agreed it was a nice name but seeing as how she’d named me some forty years ago, I figured she’d’ve thought the same regarding my name. “Amy Elizabeth! Isn’t that just the most perfect name?!” I’d never heard such and I giggled at her excitement.

She had just finished telling me how she had taken Grace (her senior spoiled rotten dachshund) to the vet for a check-up. I laughed at that too. I am not such a vet checkup kind of dog mom. I am more of a keep the shots up to date, yard dog, feed them the food from the General Dollar Store kind of dog mom. Mama has told me many times, Grace is the best gift I have ever given her. She means it. So as she recounted how she had taken Grace for a check-up and another senior Doxie had been brought in “to be put down” she just couldn’t bear the thought and now Grace had a new roommate.

Grace and Lizzy Lessenberry.

I rolled, “Mama, do you really think Grace is going to share your affections?” She assured me Grace was fine with it. I was a bit less convinced.

“She has cataracts, but all old gals do, you know, and a slight heart murmur, but she is spry and lively. I just think she needs to live out her days in happiness.”

animal-black-blue-169524.jpgI laughed again, thinking Yep Ol’ Lizzy Lessenberry don’t know how good she’s got it now, car rides to the hardware store where she is pushed in a cart up and down the aisles of fixtures, paints, and aromatic lumber. Stops by the Starbucks on the way home for free pupachinos and maybe a quick nugget run. Weekly baths in fragrant doggy bath oils and now check-up visits to the vet. Yessir, ol’ Lizzy might think she’s already died and gone to doggy Heaven.

It wasn’t long after Mama got Lizzy that I learned a few extra things about her – lessons in perseverance and making the best of a difficult situation. Lizzy doesn’t have a tongue. Well, she has one, but most of it is missing, lopped off somehow in her younger days. She has adapted. She submerges her head to drink, eats on the side of her mouth, she still nuzzles as if she is licking her owner when she is happy, but she does not have a tongue to give those sloppy kisses with. She has earned the nickname “Bee-Bop” from Scott Martin because that is what he says she does, Bee-bops down the hallway or around the patio. Lizzy bounces and greets each new day with such enthusiasm.

A while back Lizzy had bee-bopped and bounced her way outside for her morning potty break. If I bounced to the bathroom the way Lizzy does, I would leave a trail behind me. Lizzy does not, typically she is quick to do her business and return to the kitchen for her morning hydration. Grace is slow and often hesitant to do the aforementioned. She doesn’t like to walk in the wet grass so early. Lizzy, however, is quick to relieve herself and bounces to her food and water bowls without issue.

clouds-cloudy-farm-236047.jpgOne particular morning, she deviated from her norm as the fresh dew-covered grass had faint lines scrolled across it. I hadn’t actually noticed it at first until Lizzy was smelling those exact lines. I knew she couldn’t be seeing the lines but she was following them exactly. She bounced along those lines and I realized she was following a bunny trail. She had caught scent of the maker of the lines and lost focus of the task at hand. I called her name, and after the third time, and in a distinctly more stern tone, Lizzy Lessenberry refocused on her task.

There she was being a four-legged example of me and my walk with the Lord. So often I lose focus, distracted by the things of this world that I abandon the work that has been assigned to me. Likewise, the Holy Spirit has to call my name to get my attention and to get me to refocus on what I have been tasked with. I am grateful that when I stray, when I lose focus, the King is right there ready to redirect and to guide me just as my voice did that early morning for the perfectly named Lizzy Lessenberry.

Dirt Digger

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God create mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

 

In my kitchen, I have a sign that says, “Sometimes when I open my mouth my mother comes out.” It probably wouldn’t be so funny if it weren’t so true. The older I get, the more I find I sound like her. The older she gets the more she looks like her own mother.

“Mama guess what happened today while we were at Grandmother’s!”

My brain began to imagine all manner of scenarios and possibilities, an infinite number swirled through my head. Last time I had heard that statement they’d found a rodent skull and brought it to me for my approval. Like Carter and Carnarvon uncovering King Tut’s tomb, their exciting archaeological find was destined to change the world. At least that’s how they’d acted. So, when asked, all I could honestly say was, “I have no earthly idea. What?” Maggie, unable to contain her excitement and wait until I’d finished taking dinner from the oven spilled out a sentence that forced me to give a puzzled glance toward Mama. As I slipped off my oven mitts and carried on with the tasks of dinner prep, I learned that apparently not only did Mama’s small-town Alabama have a garden club, and in a somewhat stalkerish-like manner they combed the streets looking for yards to win their beautification award, but also, I was standing in the presence of their latest winner.

granny-1280445_1280“It’s really informal,” Mama said.

I giggled and Maggie proceeded to give, in detail, an account of how they’d been going about the day when the doorbell rang, and Mama had been presented with the award. I’m still a bit foggy on some parts of the ordeal, but it is perfectly clear to me why she won.

She loves the dirt. She likes to be outside. On any given occasion she can be found, sans shoes, clothed in overalls meandering about her yard with any number of garden implements. Her summer zinnias are breathtakingly beautiful. She will be the first to say being in the outside air is healing. I used to not believe or understand such a phenomenon until she proved me wrong.

Once I had the bad pneumonia. The can’t-shake-it-despite-big-meds-and-a-week-in-bed pneumonia. My kids were little and if it weren’t for an army of help I’m not sure they’d’ve survived my infirmity. I was ordered home to convalesce. It was January and it was cold out. Every day I talked to Mama and every day she’d said for me to go outside and get some fresh air. Every day I said ok and when we’d hang up I would roll over and go back to sleep. That was until she grew tired of my apathy and said: “Give the phone to Scott.” As I rolled over I heard him say, “Yes ma’am” and “ok bye” followed by dragging sounds indicative of moving stuff, opening and closing doors, dings of a microwave, and before I could say a word of protest he was dragging my pajama-clad self out to the front yard. He wrapped me in a quilt, shoved some warm hot toddy beverage in my hands and balcony-life-person-103127explained that I was to stay there “Cause your Mom said so.” By the end of the day, I’d taken a turn. I was finally on the road to recovery and the end of sickness could be seen. All because by proxy of my Husband I had obeyed her.

Now when I am sick, she doesn’t even have to ask, she knows I make my way to the outside to absorb and take in the healing of the sunshine and air. She’s often right, in fact, I’ve not really ever known her to be wrong that much. She’d beg to differ though because that’s just how she is. She is humble and kind, caring and loves unconditionally. She is easy to talk to and has an amazing sense of humor. She is artistic and talented, but again she’d beg to differ because she’s just like that. I have never known another quite like her and I hope and pray that there will come a time I am given the compliment that I act like my Mama.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Philippians 3:10

A Time to Dance

I was a bit early to the one of many annual dance recitals that take place every Spring. It was hot. According to the car thermometer, the Alabama summer was already making itself known despite it still officially being Spring. Humidity and heat – the makings of longings for a pool and fully functioning air conditioning. I was “hot as the Devil’s Armpit.” Sweat dripping down my back and the thought of a heavy meal nauseating. I enjoy people-watching (I tend to be a bit voyeuristic in nature), so despite my sweaty back and underlying nausea, I took the opportunity to people-watch.

dancer-682443_1280I find it ironic to be such a clumsy non-dancer type I’ve spent many an hour at a dance recital. Little frames with tutus that bounce with every energetic step. Slicked back updos (my particular participant and her cohorts were sporting a “side bun” held firmly in place by enough hairspray to open the ozone layer. Little lashes highlighted with initial introductions to mascara. Shiny lip gloss. And so many sequins the airport landing lights pale in comparison.

I giggled as I watched the same scene play out over and over. Mamas herding those energetic bouncing tu-tus to and fro, gripping bag upon bag filled with I don’t even know what, emergency hairspray and sequin adhesive I suppose.

Daddies dressed in their Sunday best counting the minutes to shed their tie and unbutton their collars. Siblings long ago lost in an electronic device, video games preferred over recital. Perhaps there is a video channel dedicated to just such a thing, perhaps not.

Grandparents and great grandparents braving the heat to cheer on a beloved grand baby, declaring they “Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

shawn-ang-513551-unsplash.jpgBouquets of flowers purchased to gift the performers, destined to wilt a little in the sun, all except for those few prepared recital veterans who had brought a preparatory styrofoam cup with water. I mused at how despite their obvious differences and backgrounds, for this moment in time on this particular day, they were all the same, sharing the common denominator of coming to see the cutest and best dancer there, their own. As I watched then file past me I was reminded that this season with its updos, tutus, sequins, and fun, this season is a familiar one, a season of dance.

The King’s Book says there is a season for everything a time to mourn and a time to dance. Perhaps that is why those days, those recital days are so meaningful, because it has been declared by the Lord Himself that there is a time to dance.

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And a time to rest!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
  a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
   a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Rocks of Ages

Once I was cleaning out my tired ol’ minivan and I came across a common sight. Amongst the half eaten, hardened french fries, empty water bottles, numerous scraps of paper, and other various evidences of a Martin Family occupancy, I found a pile of rocks. They lay gingerly between seat belt buckles, having been collected just a while before. To the naked and untrained eye those rocks seemed ordinary, as ordinary as any other rocks but I knew these were not just any ol’ rocks, but for reasons I can not fully articulate these rocks were special.

The bunch that made the trip home and now lay anticipating a final resting place in kitchen window were fewer than were initially collected, but I had to limit the number lest I risk an additional 20 pounds of cargo riding around in my van. They had been collected on a typical “Martin Adventure Day.” We have those days often enough – it may be a quick trip to the fascinating recycle plant with the metal-oddity graveyard on its walls. Or it could be a trip to the local creek whereupon we talk about the vermilion darter that could be credited for saving a favorite place to swim and play. That miniscule fished saved a creek jam packed with memories and adventures of my own childhood. I tell the Martins those stories so as not to lose them to time and the break-neck speed of this life. In my mind when I am transported back, I remember the tales of family lore, a most vivid childhood memory standing on a muscadine covered walking bridge, cramming the delicious fruit into my mouth while my Mama was nearby sitting and visiting with our church friends. Ms. Christine’s house may not have actually been yellow but in my memory it was and I can still feel the juice running down my chin and the rushing water below my bare feet. That memory is one of my sweetest and most treasured, and when I am sitting on the banks of that creek I am reminded of it.

beach-15712_1280-e1560444522639.jpgI am unsure the origin of those particular rocks, but if I had to guess I would say there is a high likelihood they were collected as I traveled back to that happy place in my memory. To tell the truth, I’d forgotten they were even in my van, usually they make there way to the windowsill of the kitchen quickly, perhaps those particular rocks were abandoned at my urging that all van occupants carry their own “stuff inside.” So it wasn’t until some time later when I needed the “WayBack” seat to be flat that I found them and brought them back to my remembrance.

Rocks have been a staple in my home, going on 17 years now. They’ve served as numerous presents and gifts. They’ve served as tools and toys. Each has been carefully chosen and picked up. Some are placed in a pocket or in a purse. Others are carried in a fist. Some rocks are shaped like hearts. Some are smooth and some rough. Some are unique in color but are carefully chosen and found to be worthy of making its way to our home.

The rocks are an ever present reminder The King; He likens Himself to a Rock. He names Peter, Cephus – the Rock. He has declared that the rocks will cry out to Him is if we fail to do so.

I recognize soon there is coming a day when the rocks will cease to be gifts for me, when my kiddos will lose the wonder of choosing those gifts. In the years of late I’ve begun to see a steady decline in their collection and presentation and it saddens me. I’m reminded how quickly time flies.

I will admit that when these treasures appeared in my backseat I was overjoyed and delighted to find them there. Reminders that my Rock, my Salvation, will sustain me fully in the coming years through the change that is inevitable, and I can trust that the Rock will uphold me even in the midst of uncertainty.

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No Words

I like to write. I like a word, well more like words. I like the spoken ones, the written ones. I like the words that sound the same but have entirely different meanings, homophones. I like their, they’re, and there. I like words like adjunct, antithesis, and abundantly.

I am rarely at a loss for words. One need only to spend a few moments with me to realize I will fill the gaps, the times of silence with words. I seem to have been born with them in my mouth. Most of the world spends its days learning to speak. I have spent mine learning when not to speak. I have learned that when I am silent, someone else will fill the gaps with their words.

My Mama used to say, “Sometimes there are just no words.”

She spent many a nursing year as a Hospice nurse and she’d heard all manner of words spoken in an effort to comfort the bereaved, well-intentioned words spoken in attempt to make the Dearly Departed’s passing more palatable. My mama knew, the reality is, sometimes there is absolutely nothing that can be spoken by humanity to make things better, to make a bad situation better, words that usher in comfort and good intentions.

Sometimes Mama would use that phrase when she had observed something so bizarre or unique that she lacked the vocabulary to adequately describe it. She used it like an old Southern Lady might tilt her head and proclaim “Well I declare dear” as she has been enlightened on some new idea.

It should not have come as a surprise to me when I lost the words. When they just were not there. I’d found myself shaken to my core and try as I may I simply could not make the words I needed to. I found myself repeatedly in stunned silence. I would attempt to lightstock_503199_download_medium_user_43204746pray and there were no words. Sometimes there would be tears, hundreds of them, they fell as readily from my eyes as words so often do from my lips. I would try to speak but it was like I could move my mouth and no audible sound came forth. I would be screaming inside but not even a whisper was there. My written words were just as few, I would attempt to sit and to write to journal what I knew necessary, but I just couldn’t. My fingers would glide over the qwerty keyboard and nothing…no punctuation, no sentence fragments, no run on sentences and comma splices, the repeat grammar offenses I make. I would slam my hands down on the keyboard in frustration and vacate my chair out of disgust.

I tried all the “tricks” to stimulate communication, reading a favorite author or two, having a more intense and intentional prayer time. I tried to talk nonsense and fluff in hopes that deeper and more substantial words would push their way through. I would pray. And suddenly one day I had the realization of something I had not known before, a promise I have known as truth but never truly experienced. As I poured out my heart and grieved I found myself telling God what He already knew.

“I’ve got nothing.”

He knew, he always knows and by way of provision He brought to my remembrance something I knew, have known, for a long time.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 ESV

He reminded me through His word that there were no words, but there didn’t have to be. He was, He is, interceding on my behalf in a language of words known only to Him. In the stunned silence I could trust He would pray over me exactly what I needed. I could trust that healing would come and that soon enough the words would return.

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