Ain’t Nothin’ Like a good Yarn

There’s a hymn I like. I like the words “I love to tell the story….something, something” I forget the rest but then I hum the tune. I like it because the words resonate with me. I do indeed love to tell a story. I love to hear a good story too.

Once in the third grade I learned another name for story was yarn. I underlined that vocabulary word, yarn, put a dash out beside it and defined it as a narrative of adventures, or in other words, a fabulously told story. I’d already had much experience with such things. I come from a long line of yarn spinners, and by the time 3rd grade rolled around and provided me another name for a story, my love of one had already been declared.

240_F_174659593_Jt21ciyKWDwmmTcreU84GRrwon5WPkQZMy Aunt Sis, yep that’s a thing, an Aunt Sis, a for real person, who can spin a yarn better than most. She filled my 9-year-old ears with tales of the poor Hinkle children barefoot and stair-stepped playing for hours in the woods. She told of me about adventures long since passed and mostly forgotten, adventures that’d’ve even made Huck Finn jealous. I reckon the love of a good story comes from deep within the roots of who I am.

Part of a good story is the teller. The narrator of the story has the power to make or break it. I practiced my yarn skills growing up and to this day when my story gets a little heavy on insignificant details, a little long on the verbiage my mama will often, in an exasperated tone say “For the love!!! Land this baby!!” That means, I’ve talked too long and it’s time to wrap it up. Sometimes I can hear her in my head when I am posting on the Facebook, writing out a Blog post, recounting my day, any number of storytelling mediums. I can hear her saying the same “For the Love! Land this one already.” I’ve just a mind to do that.

There is a particular Storyteller who happens to be one of my favorites. I love how he carefully weaves his words together to produce such an accurate picture I can almost smell those biscuits his mama cooks or feel the air of the Alabama mountains. Unlike another one of my favorites, I’ve never met this guy. He’d likely say, “Amy Martin who?” unless of course he coincidentally knew one of the other 900 Amy Martins in the state of Alabama.

He regularly writes for 2 of my favorite periodicals. I asked mama just the other day if she’d gotten her latest edition of the issue to which she holds a subscription. His writings require trips to the library for me to catch up on his wordsmithing publications. However there is one, that like many Southerners, my Mama holds a subscription. She reads it and places it on the coffee table knowing I’ll make my way there to read it. I will often head to her house, make myself a Pepsi on ice, settle in my favorite chair, flip to the next to last page of the newest issue and find his article. We meet regularly, the Author and I, having settled in for a one-sided conversation with an old friend. It is a few moments every month I truly enjoy.

So when recently I inquired about the location of her latest issue to my dismay she said, “No, I let my subscription run out.”

photo-1469708105586-50396e970312I debated going to library or even the dreaded Big Store of Confusion to see what my friend had to say for the month. But as it would happen, after a drive in a torrential downpour, peering through foggy windows and a safe arrival 10 minutes late for an appointment, I looked on the waiting room table and there he sat, as if he were waiting for me to come in from the rain. In that long-awaited issue, He talked of New Orleans and beads and hotdogs. I mused at his statement about the men in Dr Seuss hats, “because you couldn’t get snockered enough for a Dr. Seuss hat, even if you had not grown up Congregational Holiness.” The King must’ve known when he prompted its placement on a table, I needed it desperately. A little something just for me. It was in fact, a reminder that the King knows the little things and the big things and is concerned with the details of my life.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. Psalm 139:1-4

 

Attention to the Details

“My word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”        Isaiah 55:11

She comes from a long line of art lovers.

Her Daddy, Mama, and Grandmother are each artists in their own right.

She loves to draw and it is the form of communication where she is most at ease. I’ve learned much about her from studying those drawings. Sketchbook after sketchbook filled with telling information. She has aptly named them journals. Every week since she was in about the 3rd grade we have attended weekly Bible Study. Since we began, our Bible Study journey our Bible Study day looks a tad different.

It starts on the Tuesday night before with “Set Up” and finishes on Wednesday evening as I collapse into a jello-like heap on the sofa. Wednesday night supper is always referred to as “Brain dead food” because I am so brain-dead I can not even think clearly sometimes. Studying the King’s Word in-depth has been real good medicine in my life and I am thankful that it is readily available for me and my Modern Day Bethany Three.

But, I ain’t even gonna lie, there have been times I’ve wondered if any of them even absorb anything. If the days of “doing their homework” isn’t just a check off on the day to avoid the wrath of Mama and teacher and going to the aforementioned Bible Study isn’t just a time to see their friends. Recently, after a social skills inspired game of Apples to Apples I instituted mandatory quiet time. Charlotte positioned herself into our sunroom. When she emerged she had independently completed a most complicated adult Bible Study lesson. Evidently she was able to recall the answer to a question I had about a particular something from a previous week, and in answering had begun to draw what in her mind’s eye was the answer.

High_Priest_Offering_Sacrifice_of_a_GoatI was in awe of the detail. The special Priestly Garments, even when we studied it, the details amazed me, perhaps it is because I don’t always see the details. A few weeks prior, we studied the covering of the priest, his role and all that surrounded his duties. We noted how all of that was a word picture of what was to come and we Martins decided we were glad we were living in the time of Grace, the time after Messiah. When we no longer needed “ginger cows” aka a red heifer to be purified.

We giggled when we thought about how Daddy would look dressed as a Priest or how mad I might be if I weren’t one and couldn’t talk to God directly. We rolled when we decided Shelton wouldn’t so much mind the smell of it all and how gross so many of the duties were. We’d concluded Shelton could in fact, be the only one of us that could’ve carried out the duties without losing his sacrificial blessed lunch.

The conversations we’ve had as a result of studying together are some of my most treasured, that I’ve tucked away in my mama heart. None of which we would’ve had if we weren’t studying the same thing. I love that in her illustration, Charlotte made light of a dreadful situation, that despite the obvious presence in the desert and the constant whining of the Israelites, there was still joy and silliness she found. I’ve said often, throughout that year’s Journey from the Red Sea to the Jordan River, that I totally can identify with Moses and even the Lord. I know what it’s like to make a trip with a bunch of ungrateful, whiny kids, and I can sympathize. The Martin 3 usually look at me blankly and don’t say anything.

Truth is I’m one of the whiniest ones and no doubt the King thinks the same about me. It is to Him I am thankful for opening the door of His Word for us Martins, for easing the trip through the desert place, for giving me glimpses into how He works in the life of the Martins, and for the reminder that He concerns Himself with the details.

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Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

A Good Friday

“My stomach hurts.”

That was all he said as we exited our vehicle that Good Friday. I had just capitalized on the opportunity of a captive audience as we drove to a friend’s house. I had taken the opportunity of a captive (in a literal sense, they literally were captive in my van – not to be confused with intrigued and spellbound) audience to elaborate on the events of that First Good Friday. As the Martin 3 and I traversed the roads I spent the time telling them the timeline of Jesus’ last hours. I want them to grow up with an ever-present knowledge of how He loves them and what He was willing to do on their behalf.

As we meandered over the curvy roads I explained how He healed an ear, was dropped down a hole, stood next to a known murderer, who despite a warning Pilate had to free -beaten. I took an opportunity to remind them of the world history they’ve learned and the role of the Roman Empire. I reminded them of the Passover we had experienced the night before with some friends and the significance of the Pascal Lamb. I told them how He was beaten, and not only was He beaten, He was mocked and humiliated, hurt beyond anything we could imagine. How at the very moment He needed the Father, the Father wasn’t there.

catholic-celestial-christ-37737.jpgI told them about the temple and the veil and how human hands couldn’t have torn it. I told them about words He spoke from the cross. I explained how crucifixion works and how Jesus died before there was an opportunity to receive the final blow leading to death. I told them this and reminded them over and over and over that the motivation for such a terrible thing was Love. A love like the world had never seen before. A love like no other. A love for each of them. A love so strong that Jesus took their place. He took my place. He took on the sin of the world.

As we reached our destination the heaviness was palpable in the car. The chatty Martin 3 were silent a moment. Maggie, who seems to understand best how much she needs the King, expressed her love for Him and was delighted to know what He said from the cross. Charlotte, my silent ponderer, just looked around, and I could almost see her thoughts of silent reflection. Shelton, only said the above statement.

“My stomach hurts.”

Those 3 words made me understand exactly what he was thinking. Shelton is much like his mama and when I am deeply troubled by something my stomach hurts. When I empathize with someone who is hurting, my stomach hurts. I reminded him that all is well, because despite the events I had just described. Jesus is alive and He loves us. He is close and we do not have to be afraid. And he came to take away all the hurts.

Then in the time it took to walk from a curb to the front door of a friend’s home his stomach no longer hurt.

A Good Friday indeed.

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As you go about your day tomorrow, Good Friday, meditate upon the the stomach churning events of that Friday some 2,000+ years ago. Allow yourself to absorb the gravity of the sacrifice He made, so that Sunday you may rejoice in the victory of His resurrection.

 

Hashtag #PalmSunday #StunnedSilence

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” 

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

John 12:12-15

 

Every summer our family, along with my Mama and my sister and her family take an annual beach trip. We prefer the Alabama Gulf Coast and the very most western part of the Florida coast as our vacation destination. That geographical location is familiar and when we go there it feels like home. We aren’t real big on attractions or extras. We are typically there for the sand and water. We have a few dining dives we like to visit, but this is limited to a just a few and most of them can be visited in a coverup for a late lunch or happy hour, shoes may or may not even be required.

The Martins always take a Day field trip, educational in nature so as to count at least one day of vacation as a day of school. We’ve been to the art center and the nature center, the library. Scott Martin proudly boasts an Orange Beach Public Library card he obtained on a previous excursion to the local public library. (The beach library will give a card to near anybody and there is no such thing as a late fine there. We determined we are well suited for the Orange Beach Library.) Other than the aforementioned, there aren’t really any predetermined plans. If I had to classify us, I reckon I’d call us laid back in our vacation approach.

We are fairly consistent in our vacationing, that is except for the year of 2010. That year the Gulf Coast of Alabama experienced an oil spill and we vacationed in Panama City. That year we stayed at a fancy-like place with huge pools and “fun for everyone.” That year Maggie Martin announced to some random kid in the huge pool “That’s my Dad. He’s a lot bigger than my Mom.” That one still makes me giggle all these years later.
The look on Scott Martin’s face was priceless. I don’t even know if hashtags were around back then but if they were this just might have been a sampling: #NoWords #StunnedSilence #WellTheresThat #Random #ICYMI #Duh #What #WeDontKnowYouKid #ThisFancyPoolNotOurStyle #BigDad #BigMomToo #RandomKidWeNeverSawAgain

Anyway, that vacation proved to be different in many ways. One thing though was the same, I awoke early and headed out of doors, the King’s book and the earliest of the Martin risers alongside me, specifically the aforementioned sharer of random and obvious information.

beach-beach-chairs-coconut-trees-261186.jpgAs we sat on the balcony overlooking the fancy pool, a team of landscapers was already hard at work. They had been tasked with trimming the palm trees. The fancy pool of the fancy resort had dozens of them. There was a climber who sawed, like he used a literal saw, no plucking or pinching, those branches had to be cut away. There was a gatherer and a cleaner-upper; the jobs were many and I marveled at how there was a lot of work going into the palm tree trimming. Heavy duty work, the very thing vacations are not made of. They were focused and deliberate in their task, beads of sweat rolling down their faces. I grew tired just watching them.

As the King’s word sat open on my lap I watched those trained individuals make an unintentional carpet of palm branches and it hit me. For all my years that day, the one known as Palm Sunday, had seemed, well, lack luster to me. The following week is my favorite, after all, that’s where all the action is, all of humanity’s sin debt paid for and the King conquered death, once and for all.

In addition, the week prior to Resurrection Day serves to frustrate me that a group of folks could be yelling “Hosanna!” To the King one day and not even a week later the same fickle folks are yelling “Crucify Him!” I’ve always just imagined their praise was half-hearted and insincere, that was, until the palm tree trimming. I realized in that moment that to remove palm branches and make way for the King would have required a deliberate action. There would have been considerable effort required to lay those palm branches on the road that Sunday morning, a degree of sincerity, would have served as the motivation required for such a laborious task. It occurred to me in that moment that I am those same fickle folks. Sincere and devoted one minute, caught up in the moment the next.

As I watched that fancy resort grounds crew trim those palms, I made a note and dated it so as not to forget that act of worship on that first Palm Sunday so many centuries ago, and to remind myself that to obtain a palm branch would have been difficult and would have to have been chosen and deliberate just as my worship of the King should be. The fickle folks and I have more in common than I’d realized and because of that picture of deliberate choice and act of worship, the commemorated day, Palm Sunday, for me is less and less about the fickle folks and more and more about My King who rode a donkey, the worship I offer him. His love and grace, his willingness to suffer that would set a plan in motion that has been the catalyst for the single most life-changing event that I have ever experienced and for that… there really are no adequate words and it leaves me in stunned silence.

Library Lover

I was a library aid once.

I used to know the Dewey Decimal System and it’s complimentary card catalog with such accuracy that I rarely had to use any resource or cheat sheet when shelving books. Now the library boasts a librarian from the computer… a cybrarian. He or She’s not very personable but it gets the job done. In my opinion the Cybrarian is not nearly as tactilely stimulating. I can still feel my fingers glide over thousands of tiny cards alphabetically organized. Their yellowed hue and unmistakable scent a testament to their age. Only the new additions to the the library shelves boasted crisp white cards. All of their text, typed out with an old fashioned typewriter, they held the key to knowing where knowledge lay.

When I was younger, like maybe 5, I remember sitting cross legged on the floor of the nearest public library sounding out words that would string together to make a sentence. backpack-books-bookshelves-256431Sentences constructed together to make a page and those pages made a story. The day an old house in Paris covered in vines came alive to me was a day that changed my life. Perhaps deep in the recesses of my mind that emergency appendectomy (it would be 17 plus years before I heard that word or knew what it was) and that smallest of girls helped to persuade me into a medical profession. Perhaps not, but one thing is certain, I always have and do love a public library. I could list the reasons and they include but are not limited to:

-Magazines I am too cheap to buy, but still love to peruse are not in short supply.
-The library is quiet. I need quiet to think, therefore it is a thinking space.
-I love the the smell of books. Smells solidify memories for me I suppose.
-The library is free. A good public library is a good budget friendly way to spend an afternoon indoors. I am sure those in-door-bouncy-parks are nice too but they cost money and the library does not.
-My children have a shared love of the library. They frequently ask me to drive them to a favorite one or two.
-I’ve found myself lost and in need of healing, many times that healing has resided within the pages of a book.

I have come to understand that within words there is power. The power to transform, Words are transforming and none more so than the Bible. Perhaps, long before I loved the King’s Word, I learned to love the place where words were housed. Perhaps am element of foreshadowing as it were, that would illuminate my path just as it is promised in His book of Psalms.

Psalm 119:105, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

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She Laughed and So Would I

I sat working quietly. The two Ladies behind me were old friends. Their lives overlapping at work and in their non-work lives. Both nearing retirement age: both I had known many years. They had known each other for a long time. Decades perhaps. The common denominator for their outside work acquaintance: voices that make up a choir that sings for audiences across the nation. Both can frequently be heard humming or singing to themselves songs I often recognize and some I do not.

They were discussing a trip, perhaps an upcoming singing engagement. They discussed airline preferences, and they talked of plans. I halfway heard what they were saying as I was not actually a part of the conversation. I try not to be an eavesdropper. One joked with the other who has been married a number of years, more years than I have been alive. “Are y’all going on a honeymoon?” The other howled with laughter and managed a “No.” that rolled out with a number of syllables as she laughed.

adult-afro-beautiful-1056550The Jokester continued, “Well don’t be coming home pregnant.” Now they both were laughing, and honestly so was I. I giggled to myself at their banter. I smiled at their lighthearted friendship knowing there was no offense given and none taken.

“Girl, don’t you worry! I couldn’t make a baby with a recipe!” I was literally about to start laughing audibly.

I thought for sure in this Chess-game-like moves of words, that this was the final move. The check-mate and surrender from the Jokester knowing she’d been one-upped by her opponent. Beat at her own game. They both laughed and as the Jokester carried on with her business she nonchalantly said, “Well you know that’s what Sarah from the Bible said and you know what happened to her.”

Their laugher roared, echoing down the hall. I had to stand up and walk away lest I risk bursting with laughter myself.

I too, knew about that Barren Sarah, the one to whom they were referring, the woman whom God promised to make a mother. The woman who in her old age bore her husband a son, Isaac, whose name means “he laughs.” Abraham and Sarah both laughed. When the Lord promised that baby to the geriatric couple, they laughed.

I’d’ve laughed too. All those years of a fruitless womb, month after month of disappointment. I can understand that. Sometimes I find myself laughing so I do not cry. Sometimes I laugh at the absurdity of some things. I suppose it may have been a combination of both when Abraham and Sarah laughed. They laughed so they did not cry and they laughed at the absurdity of the thought of ever becoming parents together. But just as was promised, within a year Sarah bore a son and he was named Isaac.

I once was barren, I too, once knew that heartbreak, that hoping for a child, that disappointing void I felt, a chasm created between my husband and myself because of unspoken stress, blame, and strain.

I remember that feeling of impossibility that Sarah must have felt too and many barren women since have felt. Another Biblical womb and the question of pregnancy yielded words of impossibility, the speaker asked simply, “How can this be?”

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:30-37

Luke 1:37, NOTHING is Impossible with God. Not A Thing. I wasn’t nearly as old as Sarah when I was barren but I grabbed hold of that promise that nothing was impossible with God, and as it was so with Sarah, my barrenness no longer defined me and became a statement made in past-tense. However, I still cling to that Word like my life depends on it. The truth of the matter is, there is nothing God can not do, His Word says so.

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Peace-Filled Postage

 

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86:15-17

When we were younger my sister was a collector. At any given time she’d have a “collection” going. She collected all manner of things: trolls, cherubs, clowns. She collected sentimental things and not so much. Nowadays we’d call it hoarding. She was particularly good at collecting stamps. Ever so often we would have to make our way to the cramped stamp store on the top floor of the mall, Century Plaza to pick up a stamp or 10 to add to her collection.

I never really minded much because post stamp purchase we would make our way to Hickory Farms for a tasty sample of cheese and an inevitable beef stick purchase. If Mama was feeling real generous we would also be the recipients of a double doozy cookie and an impromptu trip to the Afterthoughts, a purveyor or fine 90s costume jewelry. It frequently featured a buy one get two free special affording Mama, Kel, and Me our own black plastic bag with a delightful accessory to call our own. I liked hoops, plain hoops. I still do. Kel liked big flashy earrings. She still does. All that to say I remember vividly those days. But the stamps, they never appealed to me, not really. To be frank they got on my nerves a bit.

batch-business-close-up-209641Recently Scott Martin began receiving a monthly parcel in the mail. The content of said parcel is most definitely of value but my favorite feature is the stamp on the top right of the envelope. I giggled when the first introduction to this monthly parcel yielded a batman stamp. From then on I’ve found myself looking forward to the choice of stamp atop his parcel. There have been, presidents, scenery, landmarks, and just for the eclipse last year, some eclipse ones, you can hold your thumb over the picture of the moon and it will eclipse. We kept that one and put it on the fridge.

A while back I found myself sans Martin children at a meeting we frequent. This meeting always has a “free table.” Much like their Aunt Kel, my Martins are “Collectors” so the free table affords them many a treasure. A pair of megaphone cheerleader socks, a book written in the 1960s that I am certain no one will read. A puzzle missing 3 crucial corner pieces. Any number of one man’s trash becomes a Martins’ treasure. Treasure laid out with an invitation of “Free” scribbled onto a piece of folded copy paper. We always leave with more than we came. So when I found myself at the meeting with no Martins I was certain I would leave empty-handed. That was, until I came across the stamp collection activity. There in yellowed envelopes were dozens of stamps begging to be catalogued and loved. I thought for certain my Maggie would love them. I couldn’t have been more wrong. She was not in the least interested.

close-up-colors-images-709237I had attempted to discard them several times since the meeting but I just couldn’t do it. They make me smile. I feel nostalgic when I see them. I wonder about the mail they’ve carried across the world. What those letters might’ve said, who might’ve written them. I’ve wondered about the hands that have purchased them and those that have removed them from their parcels. I’ve even wondered if the spit that licked them might be analyzed to reveal the licker was famous. Perhaps JFK licked that 1/2 cent Ben Franklin when he wrote to Jackie. Far-fetched and symptomatic of a way too overly active imagination I’m sure.

One restless night I organized an envelope of “210 U.S. Stamps” into colors. ROY G BIV to be exact. Just the act of quietly sitting and sorting brought a calm I hadn’t felt in a long while. I studied them and wondered and as I made the determination where each one belonged, I pondered its message.

There was one that struck me. I’m not much of a signs and wonder kind of gal, but I was in awe of that one. So many times as of late I’ve just not known what to do and I’ve resorted to looking for a sign. There printed on a 4 cent stamp from who knows when in history were the words “Pray for Peace. In God is our trust.” I don’t suppose He could have made it any plainer to me. The fact is I know Him, I just do not always whole-heartedly trust Him, and Peace has been known to allude me for far too long. I am thankful for the discarded collection of stamps and I am thankful that once again the King shows Himself faithful by using the discarded and seemingly unworthy to sooth my broken heart and to set me straight when I’ve been uncertain of the direction to take.

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Reflections of a Heart in a Handbag

We were seated in a circle, our bottoms in seats made of gray plastic and shiny chrome metal. There were ones with arms and ones without. I prefer the withouts; they have a bar across the bottom where I can rest my feet and turn my lap into a desk. I do not need the arms, they make me feel confined. We gather weekly to discuss the King and study His Word. We are intimately acquainted with one another. When you pray regularly with the same people, your heart gets knitted with theirs. Nothing bonds one soul to another like prayer.

She was seated diagonal and across from me; if I were seated at 12 o’clock in that chair circle, she would have been at 4 o’clock. She tends to like the arm chairs. She is older, has a beautiful smile, and always greets others with a kind word.

That particular morning we were discussing Myanmar. A country I was only vaguely familiar with. The Map Lover of our group was holding her hands in the air drawing imaginary places with her hands,

“If India is here, then Burma, Myanmar is here.” Many nodded their heads in recognition. I shook mine. Geography never has been my strength. I am more of a craft-kind-of gal. The Map Lover tried again to explain; clearly she saw a puzzled look on my face.

The 4 o’clock-no-arm-chair occupant placed her handbag in her lap. I thought she would pull out a crumpled tissue or maybe a mint. As I said, she is older and I doubted heavily chocolate-bar-1636220_1280there were any novelties of adventure in that bag. If it’d’ve been my purse she were holding, she could have reached in and pulled out a pen, a pencil, a permanent marker, a half eaten candy bar, a lint covered mint that lost its packaging, who knows when.

If she were holding my purse she could have pulled out a ziplock bag of change designated for drink and snack vending machines, a plethora of long ago expired coupons, a receipt or two that were at least half my height from that store that must pride itself on giving long receipts with lots of words and savings after the total.

If it were my purse, she could have pulled out a wallet so unorganized and bulging with random things that it garnishes comments every time I actually pull it out to pay, I rarely do that because it takes nearly 5 minutes to cram it back into my purse and something always falls onto the floor when I do so.

If she were digging around in my handbag, and not her own she could have pulled out a few pieces of makeup, a spoon fork thing (a spork), and 3 stray dollar bills.

She wasn’t holding my purse though, she was holding hers, and she carefully unfolded a piece of paper and said, “Here, I have a map of India.”

adult-book-business-297755She pointed and then moved her hand to the right and said “Here is Myanmar.” She passed it to the left and it made its way around the circle. When it got to 12 o’clock, my seat, I held it gingerly in my hands, the crease marks indicative of numerous unfoldings and refoldings. I rubbed my hands over the paper, made soft by time and use. I marveled at the names of the countries, some familiar, some not, and I knew in that moment why she had that map. How she was able to pull it from her handbag as naturally as if it were a tissue or other items found in the depths of a woman’s accessory for necessities.

She is a prayer warrior, (those exact words were used to describe her just yesterday by the Map Lover). She has that map because she prays for those people who live in those far away places. People she has never seen and likely will not ever visit.

She is visual and I have no doubt as she is praying she places her hand over those places as she petitions the King on their behalf. She is a Promise Keeper and when she promises she will pray she does.

I ain’t even gonna lie… I had realization in that moment as I passed the paper to my left so it could make its way back to its owner, who just as carefully as she had opened it, closed it and put it back in her handbag. I pondered the contents of the heart reflected in my purse and the contents of hers, also reflected in her handbag. As the conversation moved on and the subject changed, I held back, pondering on the people I do not see or know personally and how the King has declared we are to go to all nations.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Not all can go, but all can pray and I was challenged to do that very thing. To pray for people I may not ever meet in places that I do not know. But knowing that matters not, for the King knows them and He loves them too.

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Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

 

Familiar Sounds

 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

I sat reading in the favorite 2nd Chance Store the Martins like to visit. It was a noisy place but I could make out the all too familiar albeit faint sound of Lego bricks, thousands of them being separated by small fingers. Thousands maybe millions of small building bricks being sorted. A giant plastic container of them being sorted like sand by tiny hands. Roving eyes looking for just the perfect half inch piece. It was a sound I learned to discern over time thanks to a Lego Lover of my own. From the time those building blocks were no longer considered a serious choking hazard prohibited by yours truly, my Boy has been playing with them.

I learned to store them in a plastic container years ago because lying scattered on the floor just was not an option. It would only take one time stepping barefoot on one of lego-708087_1280.jpgthose curse-word-inducing-devil-bricks in the middle of the night to compel one to purchase said plastic bins for storage. My Boy has likely spent the equivalent of years sorting said Lego Bricks in the very same manner. Plastic on plastic falling like gold doubloons through the hands of a searching and creative child.

Perhaps it was those hours of listening to the background music of childhood play that had attuned my ears to that sound. Immediately I was able to identify that noise as some unknown-to-me child repeated that same behavior in the giant 2nd Chance store. Despite the other noise of the some 23,000 square foot emporium I could pick out the sound and correctly identify it. I tend to tune things out, I had already tuned out chatter and post Christmas excitement, a PA system requesting specific shoppers to come to a specific location, and overhead classic rock, the kind spun on the retro vinyls like the store sells.

I was reading a good book and found myself in the presence of the Reformation. I had been transported back some 500 years and nothing had yet been successful in bringing me back to current day. That was until the sound of play made its way to my hearing. The voice of Jesus is much the same. John 10 talks of a Good Shepherd whose sheep are so familiar with His voice that they can recognize it and immediately discern it from other voices they hear.

That rainy night in the 2nd Chance Store was like that for me. I knew the sound of filtered plastic building blocks so well that when I heard it in the background, half a football field away, I could discern that noise despite the crowd’s chatter and rock and roll songs playing. I could discern that sound in the midst of chaos. I could pick that sound out because I knew it too well. I had spent years acclimating my ears to it. So much so, that I could hear it best.

When we know Jesus, The Good Shepherd’s voice, we can pick it out when we are being bombarded with the sounds of this world, the voices from all directions, all telling us something conflicting. When we know how He speaks, we can discern that above all else. We don’t learn that voice from an occasional conversation, we learn it from daily communication. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t always spend time getting to know His voice, listening to Him. I spend a lot of time talking but not near enough time listening. May I strive to become so familiar with His voice that I can pick it out of a proverbial 23,000 square foot 2nd Chance Store with the discerning accuracy of those plastic blocks on that rainy night.

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Best Laid Plans…

Our routine was changed. Sunday morning would have to be altered a bit. An afternoon family outing would require us to be somewhere promptly at a specified time. We would have to be intentional about our worship. We are chronically late and we chronically run behind. I used to never be late, if I were late it actually meant I was on time. That was until I had children and a husband who moves at a slower pace than I.

I used to just leave him in the dust, be about my business and leave him to his own devices. I used to literally sit in the car and honk the horn incessantly until he finally made his way toward me. By the time he arrived I was aggravated at his insensitivity and he was annoyed with my impatience. That was until we both realized that if we were ever going to make this two becoming one marriage deal work we were both going to have to learn to give a little grace.

Now, despite the fact that it still bothers me to be late (aka just be on time), I can compromise, and in doing so I’ve learned to communicate clearly the actual time we need to leave factoring in unexpected traffic issues, potty breaks, and forgotten things. This seems to work, some of the time anyway.

That particular last Sunday of the year I knew we could not revert to our normal plan. We would never make our destination on time. I devised a foolproof plan, Dad would do his thing (a long ago weekly commitment of playing in the worship band) and duck out early. I along with the children would do something altogether different. We would attend a favorite first service, albeit further from home, it is noted not to “run over” as much. We would worship with friends and meet Dad at the coffee shop promptly after our far from home nearer to our destination Church Service. At promptly 10:30, we would depart together, thereby ensuring our scheduled arrival on time.

As we prayed on the drive in, the kids and I thanked our King for different things and things the same as well. I told them that as I had prayed for our word for the year, the King had graciously given, and it was actually a phrase rather than a word. I giggled as I told them that He had imparted it through the Book of Acts. We have been studying it together this school year and the thought of carrying Acts with us into the next must have made me giggle. I wanted them to know I would be praying it and saying often through the coming year. Pay Attention

“Pay attention.”

“Huh?” almost at once the three of them questioned. Irony At its best I mused.

“Pay attention.” That’s our family is word this year.

In our world of perpetual distraction, when days go by I wonder how I’ve even made it to the end of it, time flies by at breakneck speed and it feels I’ve just had breakfast and it’s time to kiss everyone goodnight. I need the daily reminder to pay attention.

“Pay attention.”

As we arrived on campus, pulling in to see the constant, larger than life, picture of Grace, the Cross before us, the drizzle had become more steady and the clouds heavier. I commented on the choosing of a parking place and pulled into a spot I felt certain would guarantee us a ride on the dry bus. I never turn down curbside service even if it means afterward I have to walk a bit extra. Also despite being married to a meteorologist, I rarely know the weather or have a working umbrella. Again, irony at its best.

As I chose my space and pulled in my Martin progeny protested.

“Mom there are so many like way closer!”

“Mama where is everybody? I thought we were late.” I knew we were right on time, (I’ve intentionally set my car clock up a few minutes. They have yet to catch on and I’m not telling them. It aids my getting there on time cause.)

Admittedly I was puzzled though. Usually by this time those front row parking spaces had long ago been captured by the early-in-enough-time-for-two-cups-of-coffee-and-a-doughnut people.

I still hadn’t caught on as we opened the door and I hugged a beloved greeter friend, and she handed us one of the many worship guides she was distributing. Usually by the time we arrive most of those had already been dispensed. I still hadn’t caught on.
It wasn’t until we entered the worship center, few seats were occupied, we had our choice of seats, (that never happens I thought) and the praise band appeared to be practicing that I began to question how on-time-slash-early we actually were.

It was just as we settled into our choice seats that I looked at the long ago and just as forgotten email I received weekly outlining the events of the coming week. I had assumed it said what it should: this week would be good, it would be a great way to end the Old year and step into the next by coming to church, don’t forget year-end tax things. Business per usual.

As I opened my email, the subject line caught my eye. “One 10:00am service this Sunday” I literally laughed out loud.

I broke the news to my children, who for a moment thought I would make them leave. They loved worship here. How could I? I recalculated my painstaking plan and travel times. About that time they all began to contribute just how we might make it work. We were already walking toward the door when their pleas yielded results. I decided we would stay. Cheers reverberated in the mostly empty building. Charlotte leaned over and said, “Mama what was that word?”

“What word?” I said

“Pay attention.” she said softly in my ear.

Had I paid attention I would have known. Had I paid attention I would have known ahead of time that the timing might not work out as well as I had planned. As is customary with the King, He used that reversed tardiness to teach me to yield to Him and to pay attention even in the small things and as is always customary, His plans are better than my best laid ones and for His Word declares it so.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 ESV

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