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

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com


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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Not My Forever Home

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.                    2 Corinthians 5:1

House hunting was surreal to me at the time. It had been so long since I had been a homeowner I somehow felt like I was pretending. We had moved from house to house, and I had long declared we moved more than a band of gypsies.  I had seen the grand old house on the internet, social media most likely, and from the moment I saw it I was head over heels in love. I looked through those pictures dozens of times. I imagined myself living there and what my days would look like. I have a flair for the dramatic and an overactive imagination, so before long I had myself tied up in a mortgage, living my best life in the century-plus beauty built by the Railroad Man. In my imaginary world I had forgotten completely the obstacles to be overcome. The Old Girl had a contract on her, in person she was in disrepair, she needed so much in the way of work. I lacked the budget and the skill to bring her up to code. As the closing date for the contract that was on her drew close, my realtor called me to say she was off the market. I cried.

How could I have been so wrong? I just knew the Old Girl would make me happy. I mourned her loss and felt lackluster about continuing the home search. I was in such despair I had failed to recognize the goodness and faithfulness of God.

I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:3

I had seen past her peeling paint, saggy floors, uninsulated walls, faulty wiring, pest issues and insurmountable yard work and made her mine in my imagination, how could anything even compare? Every subsequent house after that, paled in comparison and I always managed to find something wrong with every house we went to.

My Husband and our realtor must have grown weary with me and my constant complaints. They are both patient and gentle souls. Both love music, are musically talented, and both love the Lord. We had been to see a home my husband had found. It was modest, in a neighborhood, had all but one of my boxes checked, no fireplace. I just kept saying, “I just don’t know.”

We were sitting in my realtor’s office when she spoke one of the single most life-changing, thought-provoking truths to me. As I write this, I wonder if she even knows. I wonder if she has any idea the impact she had on me that sweltering summer evening. She was perusing the MLS again, looking for anything that might fit us. She knew how much I loved the Old Girl that never was and she sympathized but she’d advised early on that it was a lot of work and that we would be tied to that Old Girl every free moment we had. As we had spent another day traversing the roads and shopping for abodes she had to have been tired. I just kept the “I just don’t know” monologue up. She put her folded hands on her desk and leaned forward in my direction. She said my name to get my attention. 

“I think you’re like me, this world is not your home, and there is not a house on this planet that is going to make you happy.” If she’d’ve had a Nerf gun and hit me between the eyes she wouldn’t have made more of an impact. She was right. My dissatisfaction was not that I could not have what I thought I wanted or that every other home was subpar.

My problem was I was looking in the temporal for the contentment of the eternal.My problem was I was looking in temporal for the contentment of the eternal. My forever Home is Heaven; I am just passing through this earthly one. I made a decision that day to purchase the all-but-the-fireplace checked box house. I live there now. It is my home. We have spent hours in the yard, gazing at the Heavens. It has become a work from home weather office, a school. It is just right for us, and it amazes me still that I have a back porch where I can look at the trees and talk to the King. He knew all along what I needed, not just a home but someone who could see beyond my protests and speak the Truth in Love to me. Recently, I said something about the Old Girl, a reflection or a memory perhaps, when my son declared his favorite house is our home.

“The one we live in now?” I clarified.

He confirmed it was. He is content, and in his contentment I came to the realization I am too. 

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

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Upturned Not Uprooted

When I was younger my Aunt Sis was notorious for her plants,

“I put ‘em in the ground and then after that they’re on their own.” 

We were standing in her yard across from my Mam-maw’s house, I was maybe thirteen. She had flower beds and shrubs of nearly every variety of the annual variety, hence the vowing of independence she spoke over her plant life. As she dug in the ground and planted she would teach me the difference between a Japanese Iris and a standard Iris. She had gobs of Irises and buttercups. She would thin out and redistribute those tubers because,

 “They [Irisis] don’t do as well all bunched up together.” 

My Mama had less gardening time in her younger years and in mine, but did have an uncanny ability to call a botany kind of roll. As we drove down the road or passed patches of wildflowers she would point out Queen Anne’s Lace, Oak Leaf Hydrangeas, Trumpet Vines, and Tiger Lilies also known as “Ditch Lilies.” We would occasionally go to the Leath’s Greenhouse (and I honestly thought it was Leaf’s Greenhouse because that made sense in my head) and she would name marigolds, zinnias, Asteraceae, daisies, (Shasta Daisy’s were her sister Margaret’s favorite.)

fuchsia-4594792_1280I learned to recognize the frequent and familiar. Azaleas were a familiar and over time I have come to love a wild azalea more so than a not wild azalea, the distinction was never given to me but I can recognize the difference in the two varieties. The wild azalea has a large open bloom, they tend to be pale pastel in color, and  in my imagination look like little floppy hats perched on the ends of the branches. 

I am much like Mama and now I do the same. My children show about as little interest as I did back then and I figure perhaps that limited knowledge of roadside plants is somewhere taking root on their memories. 

Nowadays mama and I will ride down the road and have a ten minute conversation about it being too early for ditch lilies and not soon enough for the Shasta Daisies. Tiger Lillies always bloom “during Vacation Bible School time” Mama said, “they just seem too early to be blooming right now.” I agreed as we drove on and thought maybe time was passing by at breakneck speed or perhaps the mild winter could account for their early bloom. 

waterfall-2556072_1280When we stopped the car and made our way down a steep embankment to a gorge that opened with a waterfall on the left and a creekbed of rapids on the right we both were taken aback by the sheer beauty of it. The hike down had been as Mama declared “treacherous.” I had almost abandoned the mission as the Martin 3, my 11-year-old niece, Mama, and I scrambled and scooted our ways to the bottom. I was glad that I had not abandoned the mission before we were able to see the beauty before us. 

As the younger members of our party played, mama and I sat in amazement of the green lush and the cool and shade made by the rock overhangs. We pointed out particularly fascinating or eye catching things to one another. We sat on rocks and fallen trees, we picked up rocks shaped like things, a perfect isosceles triangle, a unicorn horn, a heart. The water was cold, ice cold and the rocks not nearly as slick as some creek rocks with which were familiar. The falls rumbled and roared so we had to talk louder than normal, yet in the midst of it all was such a peacefulness. 

“Look at that.” She pointed to our left and above us, there was what appeared to be a beautifully blooming wild azalea suspended over the water. We determined we could not definitively call it an azalea because while the blooms looked that way, a bush it was not. It  was more spindly and vine like and hung upside down growing toward the water, rooted in the rock cliff. I wondered out loud if it had been a recent storm victim having been pushed down by violent winds and left to die uprooted, tangled and hanging inverted. Mama said she didn’t think so and as we sat some more and hiked a bit more I realized that it would’ve looked deader had that been the case. 

“How do you reckon that even happens?” Mama was a few steps ahead of me. She paused and said, “I guess when you’re a little acorn and you take root, you don’t really pay attention to the direction.” I thought about that and how despite the circumstances, the odds unfavorable to that suspended plant it continued to thrive and that perhaps its longing for water, thirst for the essential, superseded what seemed the likely, reasonable, or even possible direction of growth. 

I determined I want to be like that unlikely upturned beauty. So desperate for water, Living Water, that I am willing to defy the rules dictated to me to achieve such beautiful growth. Clinging so closely to the Living Water that I am hardly aware of the anxiety producing circumstances around me. I want to cling so closely to Christ that I am hardly moved when the storms of life do their best to tear me down.  

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Moved by the Music

I am not a music person. 

 I have probably mentioned that before. Music does not move me to tears or speak to me in such a way that I am able to identify with what is being sung. I do not thirst for music or need it in my life. My husband is a music man and he needs it to work, to relax, to function. Music more or less is background noise to me. I enjoy it but I do not require it. I like it but I do not need it.

It is said that when I was little I would cry when my parents listened to country music. When Hank would sing I would wail. I have no recollection of this and while I can not confirm or deny it, I do find it ironic, though perhaps it is just a rumor. 

Rumor also has it I was named for a song of the seventies by my name, spelled differently, sounds the same I am told. I am not convinced either way but I do find that to be irony at its finest. 

My musical indifference can be frustrating to those in my life who are not like me. There are several musical folks in my world. It is not uncommon for me to receive a message containing song lyrics and I am asked to “just listen” and be moved. I added that last part. I usually just smile or behave in a cordial manner, but I am left clueless. Like a bad punchline I simply do not make the connection they want me to make. 

close-up-photo-of-a-woman-listening-to-music-813940Recently, I was driving down the road and I was moved to tears over a song on the radio.

I will admit I have been tender lately. I have learned over time, when emotions are raw, tears just beneath the surface, I seem to be tender, not as thick-skinned, and the slightest jostle leaves me exposed and tearful. 

It began with a declaration… I love You, Lord… I do. I do love you Lord. I do not always act like it, but I do.

For Your mercy never failed me All my days, I’ve been held in Your hands And all my life You have been faithful And all my life You have been so, so good… Not One. Single. Time. You have never once failed me. None, not one time have You failed to be faithful to me. I have been in the palm of your hand for as long as I can remember. Even when I thought otherwise, you have been so good, so very good to me. 

I love Your voice You have led me through the fire And in darkest night You are close like no other…Your voice, your words, the very Word becoming Flesh, evidence of your goodness. When I have walked through trials by fire and darkness by day, You are there leading me, whispering in my ear “This way Child, Walk in it.” 

I got it. I finally got it. The gut-wrenching, stop me in my tracks, leave me a blubbering mess feeling. That resonating feeling into my marrow. I understood for the first time in my over four decades of life what it is that my musical people experience every time they are moved by the music. 

Listen: Goodness of God ~ Bethel Music

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Mining the Truth

“You headed to work?” His voice was gruff yet gentle. 

“Yessir.” I was late, and was disgruntled that I had to stop and fill my husband’s vehicle with gas prior to work. I was already late and small talk would not get me to work any sooner. 

“You look like you’re going to work. You a nurse.” 

woman-in-blue-scrub-suit-holding-a-machine-3985300It was more of a statement than a question. I am old school and I wear old school nurse scrubs. The young crowd gravitates towards t-shirts and scrub pants, clog shoes and trendy things of nurse fashion. The scrub top I was wearing as he spoke, my Mama made me some two decades ago. I received it in the Spring after I had been working a mere two months.  It is one of my favorites, besides the obvious comfort that accompanies a two decades old shirt, it has donkeys wearing hospital gowns on it and that makes me smile. I love donkeys, mostly because I act like one.

I acknowledged that I was a nurse and he chattered on. He pumped his gasoline opposite me.  

“I’m headed to work too. To dig some coal outta the ground.” 

I listened as he acknowledged that without his coal procurement we would not have electricity. I agreed and I told him I was glad we had electricity because without it I most definitely could not do my job.  I began to take a closer look at my gas pump companion, he was dressed neatly in jeans, with an orange t-shirt tucked in. He was neat and clean and apart from his white beard I would not have guessed him old. We hung up our gas pump nozzles about the same time. He was smiling as he told me to have a good day, a blessed one to be exact, and to “stay safe out there.” 

He pulled away in his old Ford Ranger just about the time I pulled away from my side of the pump. 

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power aIn the short amount of time we had together he left me pondering. He was right, a truth teller. He had acknowledged a fact in a roundabout sort of way that I know to be true but have a hard time living out. I want to be what I was not, or who I was not rather, designed to be. I hear phenomenal Christian Speakers and I find myself wanting to emulate them, to adopt their mannerisms and ways of teaching and speaking. I read Christian Authors and I do the same thing. I’ll read a paragraph that sounds like it was sent straight down from the Heavenlies and think, “Man I wish I could write like that!” I understand and I recognize I am not supposed to live my life as if I am carrying around a measuring stick to see just how I measure up to others. I know that, but I’ve yet to abandon my virtual yard stick and will readily whip that sucker out and begin an “anti-me” monologue with myself. The Coal Digging Truth Teller made me realize that morning that we have all been created for a purpose, to do a good work specific to each of our own giftings. I couldn’t have gone to dig coal that morning any better that he could have done what I do everyday at the big hospital with the red circle atop it. 

Like the body of Christ we each have different roles and, metaphorically speaking, if the King had wanted me to be a coal miner for the Kingdom he would have made me one. Yet he did make coal miners so that the nurse folk of the kingdom can be complimented. We are all different and that is not a bad thing. Some of us are coal miners and some of us are nurses. Some of us are writers and some are speakers. Some of us are teachers and some of us are cooks. We are all one body with one purpose, and that is to love fiercely, hate evil, cling to good, and consider others better than yourselves.