If You Give a Pig a Pearl

It’s gotta be my overactive imagination that gets me where it does sometimes. One shining example is when I was five years old, it was late summer, and I was starting Kindergarten that fall. I was outside swinging on my swing set and playing with my dog Suzy Q. She was to be my trusty steed and I was to jump out of my swing onto her back whereupon we would ride off into the sunset, carefully avoiding Mama who was cutting the grass in the backyard. I had outlined the plan to Suzy just as I had seen it played out on a black and white Western television show. I had explained in great detail the trajectory of my five-year-old body arcing and coming to rest upon her back; I had taken great care with explaining at what point my trusty steed was to ride away. Suzy was half a saint Bernard and half a basset hound dog. She was low and slow, perhaps riding straight, tall, and briskly off into the sunset was not to befall us, but ride we would. As I pumped my legs and gained altitude, ready to exit my swing onto Suzy’s back, tensions climbed. I closed my eyes and leapt from my swing. My trusty steed, low and slow indeed, stupid…no.

Suzy saw me, gravity pulling me to the ground like opposite poles on a set of magnets, and she moved. I hit the ground squarely on my right arm. I cracked my wrist just before school began, and as I am right hand dominant, Kindergarten proved to be a difficult, cumbersome, and itchy task. That plaster of Paris cast weighed more than half my scrawny body weight, and I felt like I leaned to the right all of that fall. It was my overactive imagination and expectations that got me there. I see it now. In hindsight.

So it should come as no surprise to me or anyone else when I heard this verse,

Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

that I imagined a pretty pink pig wearing a pearl necklace. I imagined that the King was saying, you can’t pretty up a pig… it’s still a pig, albeit one wearing an expensive accessory, a pig nonetheless. 

For years that has been my mental picture, my imaginative interpretation of that scripture and for years, much to my dismay, perhaps I have been wrong. 

I read the verse again, lined the words up in my brain, and realized that the King was speaking plainly, I had just not seen it. Pigs are notorious for being… well pigs. They eat a mess of slop without regards to their origins. They are dirty and love to roll in the mud, and while pigs serve some purpose, they are not known for their genteel disposition. To be called “a pig” is not a complement. 

Pearls can not be eaten, not by pigs anyway, and despite the value of a pearl, a pig has no way of understanding that a single pearl could purchase him scrumptious slop for a lifetime. A pig doesn’t pause long enough in his gustation to ponder and examine such things. If you give a pig a pearl he will turn and attack you. Throwing your pearls before swine has nothing at all to do with a pretty pink pig in a pearl necklace. 

The reality is pigs were not domestic in Israel, and if you threw them pearls, something not edible, they’d turn around and attack you for it. Be discerning to whom you toss your pearls, and trust Jesus to give you the wisdom to do so. 

Hashtag BoyMom

We have known each other for a while now. We are all older, a tad wiser, and we have experienced much of life together. Years ago when we first met at work, our children were young, single digits in age, they – like us – have grown and aged. We all have sons and we had landed there a while. They are all different ages and in different stages of life. Many of our experiences are the same; we could all trend on the social media with the hashtag BoyMom.  

Their sons are grown and have entered the professional world. One has been drafted by the NFL and will no doubt do extraordinary things, the other is a bussiness-man in Atlanta. I wondered if they could have foreseen what the future would hold for their own boys so many years ago. I wondered what it takes to raise boys that become those kinds of men. 

“Motherhood looks different when your son outgrows you,” I thought. It saddened me to think what that was going to look like for me as my own son grows into adulthood. As I was thinking, their conversation shifted. They were talking about their boys becoming men, growing into adulthood, taking on responsibility. 

My thoughts shifted to another mother of a son. Another Boy-Mom

A young virgin, who was blessed and chosen among all the women to be the bearer of the long awaited Messiah, she would give birth to a son and he would save His people from their sins. Could she have foreseen all that the future would hold for her own boy? 

I always ponder on her this time of year. I was doing just that, imagining her wrapping her baby boy in swaddling clothes, lying him in a manger, tired, weary, elated, and unsure; pondering in her heart what it meant to be this boy’s mom, when the Preacher Man caught my attention. 

“You know why the shepherds knew right where to find Him in a town packed to the gills with people who’d come to town for a census?” 

It was a rhetorical question I knew, but I realized I did not know why. I’d always figured it was the star, or the… well the innkeeper let the cat out of the bag… maybe it was the… well… I didn’t actually know how they knew, I had never once asked myself that.

“Those shepherds weren’t just any ol’ shepherds, they were the keeper of the sacrifice.” This part I knew, the Bethlehem shepherds were responsible for rearing lambs to be sacrificed in the temple. Those sheep were special, they were to be blemish free perfect lambs to be sacrificed for the sins of the people. 

The Preacher Man  answered my question for me. 

“Those lambs were special. They had to be perfect so they were wrapped in swaddling clothes at birth and placed in a designated place of safety, like a manger, so as not to hurt themselves from thrashing around at birth. There was a place that was done, those shepherds woulda known where that was when those angels announced it.”

All my life I’d missed it, I can about quote this one from memory

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 

 I had missed a little word, sign. There it was, written out in scripture – the how they knew. 

That new mother, that ultimate boymom, had used what she had available to calm and quiet her little one. The Baby born that would change the world. That once and for all sacrifice for the sins of His people, the sins of His Mother, and the Sins of you and me. She likely couldn’t have known nor understood what was to come, what we have the perspective of history and scripture to know, but she was obedient and faithful beyond her seeing and that is all that was required of her in that moment. As time would unfold she was, and is, the ultimate Hashtag Boy-Mom. 

She’s Just Makin’ Noise

It had been a particularly difficult Sunday start. It was nothing short of miraculous that we had arrived to the Church-house intact. 

I found myself in the position of adversary for the teenage daughter. She was angry at my insistence on her obedience. My mama used to say to me that I’d better “toe the line.”  I had no idea what that idiom meant in reality, but in our house it meant I’d better straighten up or I was going to experience the dire consequence that accompanied my choices. 

On the way in the door I’d said a quick prayer, the kind mothers everywhere must pray. It was something along the lines of “Lord give me the strength not to lose my mind up in here.” My other two children heard me and giggled at their not-a-gansta mama prayer.

As I worshipped and sang, prayed and petitioned, my adversary sat beside me and fumed with protest. She declared, “Don’t touch me!” when I’d accidentally brushed up against her, and I thought for sure we’d go toe to toe when I removed from her possession a smuggled in tumbler filled with apple juice. 

She applied her lip gloss during prayer, and just when I’d had almost enough and was certain that not-a-gangsta mom prayer might go unanswered, she unzipped the loudest sounding zipper in Alabama. Even the Preacher-Man who was speaking on the authority we have been given through Jesus, glanced in our direction.

Her Daddy was to my left, and while he had not been with us when the showdown began, he has learned to read the signs. He had patted me when he made his way to us as he left the stage from his weekly praise band gig. He had heard the zipper and felt me stiffen. 

He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “She’s just makin’ noise.”

He is observant and direct. When he speaks to me, a man of few words. I’ve learned to listen when he speaks, to focus and pay attention because he doesn’t often repeat himself. I have also learned while he is not always profound and earth shattering with his words, he is wise.

“She’s just making noise.”

It was his way of saying to let it alone, let it go, and do not let the action of someone else influence me so much that I lose focus on the task at hand, on the King and what I had been instructed to do. 

I’d allowed her disobedience to become my own.

Without even being aware I had lost sight of what I was to do. The noise of another drowning out the whispers from the King. In wisdom, my husband was telling me to ignore the noise, focus and pay attention to the One who is never just noise and Who has the ability to speak peace and calm to my tumultuous heart even in the center of conflict. 

“They have made a noise in the house of the Lord.” Lamentations 2:7

Badger Baby

There were blankets, quilts, and a comforter on the floor. My little doxie tilted her head in puzzlement. I had seriously interrupted her world of play so early in the morning. I was making my bed and as a direct result of fitful sleep my sheets needed tending to. The fitted sheet had popped off the corners and the flat was nowhere to be found. My husband stood opposite of me on his side of the bed, staring. I could hear what he was thinking. 

“How exactly do you manage to do this? How are you capable of tearing sheets completely off the bed in the midst of sleep?” 

He doesn’t actually say it anymore, twenty years of being bedmates and he doesn’t have to. He is a solid as a rock sleeper. He stays in one position, on his side of the bed, his bedding is nearly just as it was the night before when he entered  the bed as when he awakens. 

I had removed everything and thrown it into a tall pile on the floor while I sorted out my post slumber sheet confusion. 

The most playful doxie has earned many nicknames since becoming a Martin. She is “Happy Baby”, “Crazy Baby”, “Crazy Eyes”, “Mae-Mae”, “Happy Eater”, “Stinky-Baby”, “Silly-Baby”, “Kissy-Baby.” She responds to most any name and is most enthusiastic when she does so. She is a dapple doxie with unique coloring. She looks like a myriad of chocolate foods. She resembles cheesecake brownies, Baskin Robbins Chocolate Peanut butter ice cream, a Toasted Marshmallow, and a chocolate ribbon I make for the family, “That good cake you make” is actually what they call it. 

So as she tilted her head toward the towering obstacle in her path blocking her exit, I giggled. “What’s the matter Mae? Did Mama mess up your plan and block your path?” The tower of blankets where ten times her height, the passageway between my bed and the furniture hugging the wall completely occluded. There was no way over, no way around, no way under the pile. Macy was stuck and there was no way out, no way to the other side. She whined as she surveyed her circumstances. That got my husband’s attention. He leaned over and saw her predicament. I made some comment about having to work quickly to clear her path because she had no way out. About that time he said, “What’d you say?” as I caught a flash of her brownie-colored body heading out of the bedroom door. 

Where I saw no way out,  overwhelming obstacles, Macy had not been deterred. She realized what I had not. She had been made for just such an obstacle as this. Where there was no way out, her long and low body flattened out and she crawled beneath my bed to freedom on the other side. She had been given just what she needed to make it through a most daunting situation. She couldn’t have walked under my bed. It is too low for that, even as vertically challenged as she is she would have not had clearance for her head. Immediately the King’s Word came to mind. 

 

Isaiah 43: 19

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

That puzzled pup reminded me that the Lord makes a way when there doesn’t even seem to be a way and that He can be trusted to do that even when my eyes can not see how that is even possible. 

I do not have to try and figure out the way out of so many impossible situations if I trust and have faith in Him to make the way.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say, if I can figure it out, that isn’t faith at all. 

Macy’s ancestral dachshunds were made to hunt badgers, they are low to the ground, to track scents, and long so they could hunt into badger burrows. She was equipped to make that escape long before I had presented the obstacle before her. She rarely uses that equipping, she is more of a snuggly baby than a ferocious badger hunting baby.  She did remind me though I am like her in that I have been given the Holy Spirit through my faith in Jesus to equip me in those moments of obstacle presented to me and that He has promised He will make a way. He is the way. 

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

              -Jesus Christ 

Good Works and Ground Beef

It was to be a lovely birthday party. Gracie had requested a “camping-princess party.” One can search the General Dollar Store all day but I can assure you, one will not find a princess in a sleeping bag printed upon a plate. My friend, Michelle, had already checked. She called me and asked if I would be up for just such a challenge. I couldn’t guarantee a bunting with a sleeping-bagged princess but I would see what I could come up with. We arrived at the campsite early and hung paper lanterns and buntings, we glittered and sparkled that campsite up so well, the soon to be campfire would pale in comparison to the decor. 

We left the campsite to run by the grocery store for supplies and to pick up the birthday girl and her guests. It was to be a lovely spend-the-night camping princess party. As we stood in the grocery store, I watched Michelle toss buns in the cart, and she declared she had “cow at home” she was picking up.

I knew precisely what she meant, as I too offered my cow, “Do you need me to grab some of my cow, when we run by my house to get my girls?”

She and I, along with several of our friends and acquaintances would purchase and share a cow, have it processed, frozen and would then consume it. She and I had been known to split a quarter of a cow. When we did that she was always responsible for the mathematical part, the dividing of our quarter into eighths. 

We arrived back at the campsite, had pizza for dinner and made s’mores and crafts. Those 8-year-old girls had a lovely time. They laughed and laughed and my friend and I did too. While they danced and played and behaved like little girls full throttle in the middle of a princess camping party, we laughed about things middle-aged women laugh about. It was a glorious night that lives on in my memory as one of my most favorite. The party was set to culminate in a cookout-picnic to include the boys and families of the girls, the next day. 

The next day, the boys arrived, brothers and daddies. I helped to prepare burgers and fixings while a candy crammed crown pinata was strung from a tree by the tallest of the dads. As Michelle removed packages of white-butcher-paper-wrapped ground beef I saw her counting. She was drawing imaginary lines in the air, I watched her hands move, she moves her hands whenever she is figuring mathematical things out. Her fingers dance in a rhythmic way akin to drawing; it looks like she makes plus signs that hover invisibly over the object she is focused on. 

When we first became friends, she was an accountant turned seamstress so that she could be at home with her small babies. She always drew those imaginary lines when she was sewing and figuring fabric dimensions. I have seen her move her hands just like she did over those packages of ground beef more times than I can count. 

She asked me how many buns we had. I told her the total we had purchased the day before. She reached down into the cow cooler and pulled out another package of meat. She pattied the meat into burgers and headed out to the grill. I laid the table with buns, chips, pickles and condiments in an atmosphere of the princess camper theme: pinks, sparkles, shiny napkins and party horns.

At the end of the cookout-princess-picnic I marveled at how the clean-up lacked one element that is always characterized by my party or meal planning. There was not an uneven number of burgers and buns, thereby resulting in either a leftover, bunless burger or excessive buns destined to become breadcrumbs. As I cleaned up, the thought never crossed my mind, the answer lay within the prep work and an action I had seen a half a dozen or more times. 

I was thinking about that event one day recently when I stood over the meat counter at the grocery store and I was trying to figure out how much meat to buy, too little or too much is my typical. I remembered how she stood over those packages of meat. As I meandered down Memory Lane, I had recalled something she mumbled simultaneously as her fingers danced over those 1 pound packages of ground beef. 

Four, into one is a quarter. It would take two packs of beef for every one – an eight count package of buns. When she asked me how many buns we had, she simply calculated that number by four and figured out how many packs of meat she would need. Then she evenly divided those packs into four quarter-pound patties. I stood there in the Piggly Wiggly and I laughed out loud in the direction of the meats. I was amused that I had finally figured it out. 

I am fairly certain, the rump-roast-purchaser to my left was not nearly as amused by my seemingly random meat induced hysteria. 

“Four.” She had simply said “four.” My mind worked as I stood in the Piggly Wiggly, my gaze fixed downward into a sea of red rectangular mounds. 

Four. 

She had prepared perfectly  in advance by way of her mathematical skill the task set before her. I had witnessed her do it numerous times before and never quite figured out how she always managed to get numbers correct. I always just figured it had something to do with how her brain worked. 

It dawned on me later, in that perfection of plan and preparation she is like the Lord. And like my taking a hot minute to figure it out, I am like…well…I am like me. As per usual, sometimes it takes me a while to get it, to connect the dots, and figure it out. 

His  word says is Ephesians 2:8-9, 

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We were created to do good works, not for our salvation but because we are saved. And not just random haphazard works but good, perfect, works that God prepared for us in advance. Taylor made. Specific to me, specific to you. Good works that the King of the Universe determined in advance for us. 

Perfect callings that each of us are to fulfill. We are not all called to be preachers and teachers. We are not all called to be writers and speakers. We are not all called to international missions, but we are all called and created for a specific purpose in the family of God, in the Body of Believers.  

Michelle asked me to merge the world of dainty princess and rustic camper because she knew and had the confidence (even if I didn’t) in me to pull it off. She sees in me a potential I do not always see, and in that, yet again, demonstrates how she is like the King. 

Soft Landing

We were sitting outside in a breezeway. The early morning sun had risen high above us when a few short hours ago it had been behind us. We were sweaty and hot but not miserable. We had gathered to do what we have been called to do, and in that calling I think it fair to say, we all find peace and encouragement. There are five of us that are co-laborers in that calling. We are all ages, different places in life, all having different careers, husbands and children, all different yet all the same in sharing the goal of  ministry. 

I am convinced that it is the Holy Spirit that binds us all together so well. The oldest of our team is a grandmother, they call her “Cheech.” She has a gaggle of granddaughters that we as a team have become quite fond of. We have declared, they too are our coworkers in Christ because one or more of them is with Cheech on any given day. 

As per usual Cheech was working away and the Baby Girl of our group at just barely a year old became slightly disgruntled with her position in the stroller. Our leader, The Writer, she is actually a writer where I just dream of being one. The Writer loves a baby and pounced on the opportunity to hold the fussy Baby Girl. The Writer had been sitting next to me, and our conversations had meandered like a cool stream on a hot day. We would pause and pick up, each conversation refreshing to the soul. We paused again, for her to pick up the fussy baby. She bounced Baby Girl and talked softly to her. The Writer and I exchanged stories of the babies in our lives, the very babies that are headed off to college or are already there. 

Our own babies that once would snuggle in close, when the days were long but the years were short. We reminisced about a time when toys littered floors, diapers filled shopping carts, and snacks were always within reach. I found myself joyous and sad at the same time.Baby Girl was getting sleepy so she fussed some more.We talked and she entertained Baby Girl who soon did as babies do when sleep overtakes all other desires. I giggled as Baby Girl nuzzled in close to my friend looking for a soft spot to rest her head. 

The Writer is tall and lean. She is beautiful and graceful. She has features that often remind me of an English Aristocrat from bygone days. Her dress is uniquely her own, her clothes are often long and flowing and just give credence to her appearance. She carries herself beautifully, sometimes she reminds me of someone walking among clouds. She is genuinely beautiful. However, if you ask her, she takes none of the credit and gives it all to Jesus. That is just how she is. He gets the credit for all of the good things that she is. 

As Baby Girl shifted back and forth, The Writer  laughingly said, “It’s all the sharp edges.” She is thin, and unlike me, her bones are not covered and softened by even an ounce of adipose. The truth is, I do not have a sharp edges anywhere unless I happen to have a pair of scissors in my pocket. I have often said babies are fond of me because I can give them a soft place to rest. Eventually Baby Girl found a satisfactory spot to lay her head and dozed off in the arms of The Writer, both were in a place of happiness and rest. The Writer sat back in her folding chair, baby in arms, and we continued where our conversation had left off. We talked of plans and of the Lord. We always talk about the Lord. If our conversation steers away from the Lord, she always brings it back to Him, she is just like that. 

The Writer appears sharp in places. If one judges on outward appearance alone, one would think she is not a soft place to land. And it is in that regard she reminds me of the Lord. 

It would not be so far-fetched to say to some, “He can appear harsh, distant, and uncomfortable.” He is by definition often with the appearance of  the sharp edges. But when you take the time to know Him, to talk with Him, to learn His character, you realize He is the best of places to land. He is full of grace and beauty, truth and authorship much like my friend, The Writer.

 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul andspirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Mr. Beaver gets it Right

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

This is one of my favorites. 

He isn’t safe but He is good.

It took me a while. 

Some things do. 

It takes me a while to figure them out, that is.

I tend to think of safe as a physical manifestation. I wear my seatbelt because it keeps me safe in a car crash. I look both ways to cross the street because that’s safe. I lock up medications and keep poisons out of the reach of children. I know the phone number to poison control. When my children were babies, I didn’t just have a car seat properly installed in my car, I took the multi-day course and test to learn and be certified to do it myself. 

I am hypervigilant to keep myself and those I love safe, and safe is good – but this Mr. Beaver quote seemed to contradict that entirely.

I like safe. I like predictability, and I like knowing what to expect. 

By nature I am none of those things so I tend to gravitate towards those things, those types of people. My husband is that way, safe, loyal, predictable. Most people use the terms “easy-going, relaxed.” I am rarely easy-going or relaxed. I think the term is “high-strung” definitely not “safe.”

I rocked back and forth between this quote for a time. Had he (Lewis) gotten it wrong for the sake of authorship, good writing just to sell books? I ruminated over this one like a year-old piece of salt water taffy, and I kept coming back to the acknowledgement in the statement about his character, 

“He is good. He is King.” 

After months (yes, months) of pondering, I realized it was my definition of safe that was the actual issue. I thought safe was keeping me from harm and in that regard I was not entirely correct. I had only viewed safe in the terms I had outlined above. Physical safety alone. 

What I had not taken into consideration were the other aspects of His nature that I can not understand. His ways are not my ways; His thoughts are not my thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8) If they were, then I would have on my hands a messiah of my own making and He would cease to be God. 

When we follow Him, when we walk in tandem with Jesus, our lives are never going to be the same. We are confronted with the things that are unpredictable, unprecedented, and have the ability to stretch us, to transform us, and to make us more and more like Him everyday. 

We are no longer in place of expected predictability but rather remarkable, unpredictable, benevolence. 

He is not safe, not like I traditionally think of safety, but He is good, He is God, and …

HE IS KING.

The King Cares

Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-8 MEV

It started with a hooker….

I have a few narratives in my life that could begin that way…

This summer I have been reading. I chose to read random, suggested, long put away things that I would not have read during a typical school year. I have borrowed books from the library, ordered one or two from the online book purveyor, picked out copies of things from my own library, and I’ve read books loaned to me by friends and family with the promise, “Read this! It is so good!” For the record I found that one merely meh. Lukewarm at best and I was moved more by the Jerry Lee Lewis biography than the weeks on the NewYork best seller.

One of my borrowed selections was a book about Birmingham’s Magdalen…Louise Wooster, a Turn of the twentieth century Madame. Embedded within a book outlining her entrepreneurship here in Birmingham was her own autobiography. I opened that book expectantly and I finished it heartbroken. Like many women of her time, of our time too I suppose, her support system failed. Parents passed, provisions not prepared, she was used and abused. Eventually she was led into a life of prostitution, and finally she became an alcoholic and drank herself death. I know the story well, it has played out in my very own life, and I am a mama of three children as a direct result.

The book gave insight into lore and traditions and fun facts – I love a good bit of trivia. The benevolent Belle Watling in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, is based on Lou Wooster. The book debunks this as likely, but historically it could be possible. Also, when she died, businessmen from all over the budding Birmingham area who had been among her clientele sent their empty carriages as representatives of themselves to line the processional. A dark long black snake stretched for miles. She is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery, Downtown, and that’s where our worlds collided.

In her autobiography she mentioned how she loved fresh flowers and in her early days, pre-soiled-dove days, she grew brightly-colored cutting flowers that brought her joy. I completely identify with this very thing. Some people do not like receiving flowers for various reasons, but I am not one of them. In fact, I love a flower and I grow them just so I can bring them inside and enjoy them even more.

Lou also talked about the church women of Birmingham. She was careful at the time not to mention actual names, but she didn’t have to. They were the upstanding Christian Women of the community. She would offer them money and they would gladly take her immorally obtained funds. Yet the one time she called on them for help, for assistance that would cost them nothing but time and attention, they shut the door in her face in the name of Christian dignity. She would say in her own writings that she believed in Jesus and in His work, but that she did not want what it was that these women claimed was Christian. That resonated with me! Perhaps it is because I and generations before me have been rejected in the name of Christ, knowing full well that very act contradicts Christ Himself. When I finished reading I decided to visit her gravesite and to take her flowers, a single act a century later to solidify for myself to love better, and that, as mama says, just because you have Jesus is your name doesn’t mean you act like Him.

On Tuesday we headed out for adventure, by now I had read another few books and had a few history lessons in a graveyard up my sleeve. When we entered the cemetery we were met with a sign on the office. It began with, “Covid,” and I knew we were on our own to find Lou. We turned left and traversed up the hill full of monstrous Oaks, some standing tall and strong, others toppled by time and storms. We saw names familiar because of roads and communities, schools and hospitals that still stand bearing the names now written in marble. We learned via the googles that this place was 22 acres, and I knew then, finding Lou without guidance would be impossible. So as I stood and looked eastbound I asked Jesus to help me find her so that I could give her the gift I’d brought. We drove and hunted and looked, and we read from a history book of Birmingham’s early people. I figured Lou’s visit would have to wait until another day, post COVID when the world rights itself.

We were within walking distance of the exit, when a tree caught our attention. A single lightning strike had struck a huge tree. We are the wife and children of a meteorologist, so we parked the car to investigate. The headstones around us now secondary to this impressive force of nature. It was clear that very recently a single strike had stripped the inner bark into a strip of wood that fell in one piece onto the ground, chunks of singed bark thrown about the perimeter. I walked to the opposite side of the tree, the side that faced the road, and I marveled at how untouched it was. Totally normal on the front, singed and broken on the back. “You look like me.” That was the thought I had for the old tree. You look good where the people see, but where but a few can see, there is a fresh and open wound. I circled back around and began picking up the pieces of bark, by now Mama was a hundred yards away and she held a piece up. What tremendous natural force had thrust that projectile such a far distance. I picked up and moved diagonally and as I looked up, the bark led straight to Lou!

I screamed, “I found her!!! I found Lou!” I sent Mags to the car to get my flowers. Elated I could give her the gift and astonished that Jesus had heard and cared enough to answer my prayer in a most literal and tangible way! I took several pictures so that I can not, even if I try, forget that He cares and He hears and that He uses all that hurt and trauma for good even if it just doesn’t seem possible. We left soon after, filled with stories and pictures of other things and headed for our next adventure that had to do with the cedars of Lebanon. Those are other stories for another day but they too served as tangible reminders of the King and how He rolls.

I Failed College Chemistry

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Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8

I failed college chemistry.

I enjoyed it and even though I had failed my introduction to college chemistry. I actually learned a good bit. Several of those things I can still recall today and actually use in my day to day. I failed the class, but I had a decent teacher, who despite my inability to balance equations and recall the common scientific nomenclature of certain things, was able to teach me a fair amount of material. I failed because I did not actually apply myself, nor did I want to.

Chemistry was a requirement for my diploma, (I am told it no longer is) and it required a lot of time I did not want to invest. There was the class time and the studying plus the lab. Too much for me to do. I attended class, took notes, listened to lecture but I did not fall in love with chemistry. I can tell you that NHO3 is ammonia and that HCO3 is bicarb, NaCl is table salt, and H2O is water but I have no idea what a covalent bond is. I can not recall what the majority of the elements of the periodic table are, although I know Au, Ag, and Pb, like I know my zip code.

I failed the class, but I likely retain a fair amount of material even decades later. I made an A in many other classes, but I have no idea what they are, or much of what I learned. I took bowling, but I know I didn’t make an A in that class; I was the worst bowler my instructor had ever seen. She told me so, and the handicap I had to put me on level with my fellow students was nearly triple digits.

By definition of the college classes I took, the presumed failed class should have made less of an impact on me, yet clearly it did not. Those A classes made such limited impact I can hardly recall the details of them.

As I reflect on life I am discovering it is not always the success in the world’s view that has the greatest impact. It is not always our appearance of having it all together that makes the most impact. I would venture to say it is our transparency and our realness that often is the most memorable, makes the most impact, and brings the most glory to Lord.

We strive to do all things with excellence, but excellence is not necessarily perfection. We are imperfect creatures made perfect by the love of Christ. May  all that we do be beautifully carried out in such a way that brings honor to the King.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. Colossians 3:23

Filling Big Footsteps

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

“You’re following in your Mama’s footsteps aren’t you?” 

I have heard it half a dozen times in my lifetime. I’d often nod my head, acknowledging the speaker was correct in his or her assumption. Truth be told though, I never really understood exactly what that meant. It sounded good. Ask near anyone who genuinely knows her and they will tell you that my Mama is a pretty good one to follow. She is gracious and wise. She is a peace-maker and brims over with hospitality. So why wouldn’t I want to follow in her footsteps. I just never fully understood the meaning behind it, so I would agree. In many regards I have unknowingly followed in her footsteps and as I tend to to do, I just accepted it as such and moved on. In my mind we wear almost the same size shoe, so it didn’t seem odd to me that I was stepping into her shoes, after all they fit just fine. Clearly I had confused two expressions, “having big shoes to fill” and “following in someone’s footsteps.” 

To follow in someone’s footsteps means, To pursue something that someone else (often a family member) has already done. 

Having big shoes to fill roughly means that it’s going to be hard for you to do the job as well as they did it.

For most of my life, well all of it until now, I reckon I did not fully understand what I was agreeing or not agreeing to in regards to shoes and footsteps of others. That was until recently anyway.

pexels-james-wheeler-1522285We had made our way to our annual beach vacation trip. The previous year had not yielded such a luxury, so this year was an especially anticipated event. I counted down the days and would decide “How many more sleeps until the beach.” I would say in my head “Two weeks from today, where will I be?” The answer was always the beach, no matter if it was two weeks, two days or tomorrow. I was ready. More than ready. I had been depleted for quite some time, and the waves and the wind, the constant of the always-the-same, never-the-same gulf leaves me filled up and ready to push through. I have been known to sit and to soak and to hear the King speak through His creation. I have often said, “A rainy day at the beach is better than a sunny day at home.” I am not sure if that rings true for everyone, but it does me. 

As the thunder began to rumble off in the distance and the sky darken, I knew we would have to head indoors soon. It had been a successful day for me, one filled with books, and snacks, sun-kissed shoulders, and a breeze that drowns out the noise of the world better than anything else I know. My feet looked like they’d been dusted with caster sugar.

My Sweetheart had worked some while we vacationed, catching up on things neglected at home; then he made his way down to the seaside. He isn’t filled by it like I am, but he does enjoy a lazy afternoon listening to music, people watching, and most of all watching the sky. It was the same place, sky watching, several years ago that ushered in a career change for him from artist to meteorologist. 

As the sky darkened and he nudged me I knew it was time for our party to return indoors. We gathered  up our belongings, and began the arduous task of take down. 

Loaded down with a burden of camp chairs, trash, all manner of sandy toys we made our way up the beach. We moved single file, our party of ten, and I was directly behind my husband. As he walked, his large size 14 sandal-clad foot made exaggerated depressions into the sand. Without realizing it I was following in his footsteps. Then I began to actually step in the places he has stepped. The walk was so much easier when I would place my foot just where he had been. The sand already packed and solid made for easier stepping. His stride is larger than mine and that proved tricky but the burden I carried was much more tolerable when I followed in his footsteps. Many times after, as we made our way up, I noted that following in his steps was always less of a hardship than going my own way. I likened that to my walk with the Lord. Sure there are times when following Christ can feel awkward, when His stride doesn’t match mine, but I can follow in His footsteps knowing, He already knows the way, He has already made a way, and in fact He is the Way. 

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NIV

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