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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Favorite Gift

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Me: “What was your favorite gift you got for Christmas?”

She said nothing, she just smiled and pulled out of her gifts a folded piece of paper. As she unfolded it she smiled, more like beamed. When she had received it nearly a week prior she had cried. She was speechless, but she wept with joy.

As she turned the paper to face me, I knew what it was, I could see the crease marks beginning to show signs of repeatedly being opened and folded back up again. I wondered how long it would remain in one piece. I marveled at how overjoyed she was and at the simplicity of her gift.

She rubbed her hand across the words and said, “It just makes me so happy.” The favorite gift was a gift to others, strangers across the world whom she has never met and ones who will never know her name. It was the gift of food and nourishment for a Mama and her baby for a month. Starvation halted and salvation offered. It was what she wanted more than anything. All I can say is I am not worthy to have been given such a precious child, yet I have been. For reasons that will forever boggle my mind, the King chose me to be her Mama and I am humbled that He would do it and I am privileged to witness what He is doing with her

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25:40 NIV

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Adventurous Eating

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 CSB

We had planned to have a low-key day, I was scheduled to work so we had not planned on a large family meal or visits with extended family. We had resolved that we would celebrate that Day’s events the following day. When the unexpected surprise came that we could spend our time together we opted for Chinese Cuisine for our family lunch. We dressed casually. I donned my “Go Jesus it’s your Birthday” shirt and jeans, and out the art-bokeh-bright-1455985door we went. Our favorite Chinese place is about a 20 minute drive away, we sang together loudly with the radio and saw only a few passing cars. It was obvious it was Christmas.

When we arrived at our favorite eatery the parking lot was already filling with vehicles. We pulled our tired ol’ minivan into a spot and I chuckled at all the surrounding fanciful, luxurious, cars dotting the perimeter. As I am prone to do, I imagined my ol’ minivan attempting to converse with the other transportation vehicles and the awkwardness of it all made me giggle out loud.

“Why you have an actual key for your ignition?” (In my head I imagined the Beamer parked adjacent with a female slightly foreign voice.)

“What do you mean you don’t have a backup camera?”

“You mean your seats are torn and sutured together with duct tape?”

When asked what I was laughing about, I knew I would have to explain, so I just said, “Nothing.”

Our wait time was minimal and as is customary we perused the adjacent oriental market. I said repeatedly to my Martins, “Look with your eyes only! NOT your hands!”

When we were seated we were placed in a large corner booth. We “selfied” and chatted and decided on our lunch cuisine. To each his own. Some simple. Some came with a warning from our waiter, Jack, “It very authentic. You sure you want? Lots of tofu?” My adventurous eaters grinned and nodded in affirmation. Jack relented and wrote it down on his notepad, I figured he might be saying to himself, “That’s not going to end well.”

As we waited for lunch to arrive a family was seated next to us in our big booth. The mama was giving seating directions in English and then would speak in brief segments of what I assumed was Mandarin Chinese. She sounded as most Mamas do, instructing where to sit and ordering drinks. She would answer questions and was as good at deflecting any melt down inducing answers as any experienced fencer might be in warding off blows from an equally skilled opponent. As they sat, the youngest boy was brought a cup with a lid and straw.

boy-child-drink-332091.jpg“No! I want a big-boy cup like you! I’m not a little kid! I can do it by myself!”

The bilingual Mama shushed him as she ordered something and then clarified in English, “Roasted Snails.” I thought I might fall over. None of our table occupants even flinched except for me.

The smallest in stature again protesting his drink cup.

“No!! I can do It ALL BY MYSELF!”

His wise bilingual Mama continued to busy herself with Mama-at-the-table tasks: Ordering for the non-bilingual people at the table, spreading out napkins, placing silverware out of reach, moving the mid-table carafe of enticing temptations. She looked like I have before, and even like I do now, a universal maternal meal time standard of operating procedures.

As the meal meandered on, ours and theirs, I was replaying the conversations in my head.

The “I can do it all by myself!” mentality spans the world of age and geography.
I’ve said it myself a time, or ten. I say it often actually. I do not like to be dependent, to ask for help. I do not like to need help. Yet by that very mindset I’m in direct contrast with what the King desires for me. He wants me to give my burden to Him, to come to Him. His Word says,

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

As we left our favorite place and I imagined my tired ol’ minivan having made friends with her upper class neighbors (perhaps she vowed to see them soon), her occupants were full and happy having spent time together. This Matriarch occupant was especially grateful for having remembered, in the King’s economy, it takes more resolve and strength to be dependent on Him than it does to do it all by myself, and in doing that, knowing He will sustain me.

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In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6

Letter Box

“Mama, why does this box keep moving around your house?”

Over the course of a few days and visits to my Mama’s I had noticed the small wooden box in a couple of different places. A long while ago it was a candy box, one of the very few gifts my Grandmother (known to me as Mam-Maw and I to her as Mamie) had ever received. I knew the box well, its family lore made its way through generations of stories. Once one of my Aunts pitched a regular ol’ hissy fit because she wanted the box. My Mam-maw had very few things that actually belonged to her and while she would literally give away the shirt off her back to someone who needed it, she wouldn’t part with that box for the sake of a whiny child’s demands.

I always giggled at that one, partly because I know all I’d have really wanted was the art-blur-box-208974long ago consumed candy it held more than the actual box. Upon my Mam-Maw’s passing, my Mama inherited the wooden box with a hinged top and fading decoupaged landscape scene. It measures no more than 6 inches wide by 18 inches long. It is no more than 4 inches deep. And it is not what one could refer to as a priceless heirloom. To be honest I hadn’t given it much thought until it started to move around her home.

She lives in a small bungalow type garden home. The first day I noticed it I had made a pit stop in her guest bath. It was sitting on the edge of the counter. I wondered if she were planning to incorporate it into her bath decor, maybe a new container to hold hand towels. I shrugged the thought off and gave it merely a momentary thought as I made my way out of the bathroom. A few days later, I was in the living room and noticed the candy box not-so-family-heirloom sitting on the coffee table. I had nearly forgotten the presumed hand towel holder and deduced she must have decided against that. Again a fleeting thought, again no more than a momentary notice. Its final resting place at the kitchen table was when I asked my Mama that question.

“Mama, why does this box keep moving around your house?”

She was standing at the stove, baking cookies. She does that. Bakes cookies. Her Grandchildren love it when she bakes cookies. They have an arrangement, she bakes the cookies; they eat themwooden-box-2552370_1920.png

She laughed as she placed the cookies on a rack to cool.

“Look inside it. There are some letters in there that are old. Mama wrote some and her mama too. Some of them are pretty funny.”

I grabbed my reading glasses, a warm cookie, and I settled down at the table to read. Opening that candy box was like opening a treasure trove for this vintage-world-loving, word oriented gal. She was right, some of them were hilarious. Some of then not-so-much. Those letters were a part of my history. As my Great Grandmother, Lillie penned them, I wondered if it ever crossed her mind that her Great Granddaughter would one day be reading them. As I gingerly unfolded and read those letters I was awestruck. Here in faded writing on tattered soft, hundred year old paper were words of mundane and everyday life, a time gone by and hardly remembered today. One of the letters commented on a bad haircut leaving an unfortunate teenage boy with the repercussions of a novice barber, dull scissors, and poor economics.

As I pieced together some long forgotten history I pondered on the art of letter writing and was reminded of one who wrote letters that I had just been studying. Paul wrote letters, many of them. His last letter prior to his execution at the hands of Nero was written to Timothy. I read 2 Timothy with a new perspective. Timothy was Paul’s mentee, protegé, and those words were the last ones Paul would share with Timothy. I suppose if I were writing a letter knowing it were my last one, I would chose the most important things to say to the reader. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit would have likely done just that.

My Great Grandmother Lille and my Great-Great Grandmother Bertie may have chosen to write about something else had they known a century later my eyes would be reading the only part of them that I would ever know.

God wants us to know Him and He penned a beautiful letter to us in the form of the Bible. A beautiful work that tells us His character, His will, His Grace and His love for us.
His word, like that little candy box is a treasure trove of words written centuries ago and unlike that candy box of letters, the Writer is just as real and alive as when the words were penned.

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Trust in the Midst of the Storm

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Prov. 3:5-6

I’m learning some things. In the last 4 or so years I’ve learned several new vocabulary words, acronyms, acrostics, terminology, and grammar. All with a common subject matter, meteorology.

If you’d’ve asked me 16 years ago if I’d be learning said subject matter, I would’ve laughed and likely said “Never.”

Something else learned. Never say never, for the King alone knows what the future holds.

When two are one, one is bound to know what the other knows. Case in point words like dew point, humidity, wind speed, rotation, high pressure, low pressure, atmospheric, thermodynamics, cyclonic, lightning (so not the same as lightening) precipitation and hurricane.

They are no longer benign words heard on the television or in the background. Now they mean something. There is value associated with them, and I’d’ve never thought that was possible. Today I watched my man, finish his coffee and assess the weather for the day. Typically he starts with the gold standard in Alabama weather, and today was no different. As he watched Mr. Spann confirm via video what he had just told me, the catastrophic results of an approaching hurricane, I could see him thinking. His hand on his head, the strain a visible result produced by the calculation of the prediction was spread across his face. He intently listened and processed what was being said, what was not being said but what he knew. What 4 years of hard work and an A average GPA has taught him. What daily forecasts, prognostications, and such have yielded in him and he never said a word.

I’d’ve been a bona fide basket case but he just sat there drinking his coffee. Swig after swig from a cup that was a gift some years ago, a cup that summed up what he does and what I am instructed by the King to do but do not always. To lean not upon my own understanding but to press into the God of the Universe. There black pretty letters scrolled into a green background, “Trust.” Plainly written. He pondered over what was in front of him and he was living it out perfectly. He knows the facts, he knows the potential outcome, yet he trusts and he prays and he doesn’t panic. I love that about him, I always have. He is a good weatherman but an even better Man and I am so very thankful for him, for his humble and quiet leadership and for the adventure that I get to be a part of since we are yoked together and the two became one.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers,they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire,you will not be burned;the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God,the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3 

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Stink, Stank, Stunk

He stunk like sweat, cold, wet dog, and tree bark.

His white hoodie was a dingy shade of brown, his ears a shade of alarming red indicative that perhaps he had needed some ear coverings before he had headed to the yard some 3 hours before. I made a mental note and filed it under #MomFail… Sensory Kid needs ear muffs.

autumn-212733_1280He had piled the back of my minivan with numerous giant trash bags full of leaves. Had it not been 36 degrees out I might’ve rolled the windows down for a bit of fresh air and olfactory relief from the stinky teenage boy and his delivery. As we meandered down the road to my Mama’s house I strategically breathed through my mouth and made an attempt at conversation.

“So Bud you’ve worked really hard. I’m sure Grandmother sure will appreciate all these leaves for her compost garden.”

“I hope so and I hope she pays me for getting her so many.”

He has a way with words that keeps frills to a minimum, finds mindless chatter obsolete, and states what he sees as the facts; he leaves little room for argument. He is what some would consider blunt. I’ve come to realize over time that he simply states what is, and his monotone way of doing so can be misinterpreted as rudeness and even disrespect.

I nodded and responded with the truth, “Well Grandmother is a woman of her word and if she said she would pay you, then she will.”

He simply said, “Good.”

When we arrived at Mama’s she wasn’t home. She had run an errand. So he began to unload his bags near her back gate, adjacent to the area where over the summer he spent a day digging holes. She still compliments and comments on his hole digging skills. She wanted to plant some shrubs or bushes or something but the rock hard red clay proved a difficult foe. She had tried all manner of methodologies to penetrate the earth, but she admitted her senior strength lacked the ability and employed her strong, young, grandson to do the job.

He likes to work, if he know exactly what to do and how he is to do it, and he prefers to work alone. Despite the sweltering temperatures over the summer he confided in me that he liked digging all those holes, and when he took a break Grandmother had Lemonade and Fudge Rounds for him for a snack. Two of his favorites, a combo I find repulsive, lemons and chocolate, just the thought makes my tummy churn a bit more than usual.

About the time he had unloaded the last bag and relieved my already tired ol’ minivan from its added load, my Mama arrived home. He was elated to see her so we took a candlelights-candles-christmas-730584.jpgmoment to visit with her. Scattered about were the beginnings of what would become her house decorated for Christmas. (I love it when she decorates. She was farmhouse style before it was a thing. She can put together a styrofoam elf, a sprig of holly, and a Santa ornament she has had since 1984 and turn it into a vignette worthy of Southern Living.) She keeps her Christmas decor stored in her attic. Her tree is at least 9 feet tall, I mean, maybe not really, but it sure seems that way.

As we visited a moment he came too close to her, she made a face, covered her nose with her shirt, and I laughed.

“Shoo, he’s stinky.” I laughed again at the obvious statement.

“I know. I had ride over here with him, but he insisted on making your delivery tonight.”
She laughed, and I commented on it beginning to look a lot like Christmas. About that time she said, “Hey Shel, can you help me get some things down from my attic?”

“Sure.”

He was happy to help although from the never-changing tone of his voice the undiscerning ear would not have known that. We have learned to read him, to know what Autism tried to make unknown. We have learned what joy looks like, and sadness. To the untrained eye well, they look the same. We know how frustration manifests and satisfaction appears. Those of us close to him do not always get it right but for the most part we do. Time and training have taught us that.

christmas-tree-1792267_1280.jpgAs he helped his Grandmother with her tree he did so relatively quietly. He spoke to Grace, Mama’s older Doxie, who has a knack for naps and snoring. She had come to investigate the commotion and soon settled on a rug next to her Master. She seemed unconcerned as her oddly smelling Master’s grandson hauled faux greenery to and fro.

When we got back in the car to head home I said, “Straight to the shower while I get supper ready.” In the dark I couldn’t tell if he’d nodded but I knew he had heard and understood. As we drove on I heard him talking to himself; he was holding a wadded up bill in his hand. I was unsure of the monetary sum but was sure of one thing, come Sunday morning a part of it would leave his hand and be placed in an offering receptacle.

Many times I will look to my left and wadded up in a tight fist I can make out the color of money. He holds it tight because he literally holds everything tight, not because he is stingy. I’ve often wondered if the money counter person gets exasperated as he or she has to unwad the crumpled bills he regularly puts into the offering.

“Halfway there, but this should be enough to buy presents for Charlotte and Maggie.”

I almost wrecked the minivan I was navigating into my neighborhood. What?!

He had worked like crazy, stunk like stink, was filthy from head to toe just so he could bow-box-christmas-1474961buy his sisters presents?! I clarified.

“What Bud?”

There was a pause.

“This is for me to buy Maggie and Charlotte’s presents. I already have some,” (hole digging money I presumed) “but I needed a bit more.”

My heart felt like it might burst. I understood fully the verse in the King’s word that says in 3 John 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
His sisters are adopted, they do not share his genetic makeup, one of his sisters drives him mad some days and one he has known as long as he has known any of us. When we brought him home from the hospital she pointed at him from across the room and declared he was a dog. She was 14 months old and I reckon from her perspective he was sort of dog-like. Noisy, oddly smelling, he slept a lot in a cage, or crib, depending on one’s perspective.

If you’d‘ve asked me I’d’ve figured he was saving up for some random Lego dude or a particular book, or those awful candies in a toxic barrel he likes. I could not have been more wrong.

As I meandered home and he talked of his surprise Christmas plans, I was reminded once more what Christmas is about. What Christ Himself represents. How He was about Compassion rather than consumption. Giving rather than getting. And Need rather than Greed.

May the very essence of Christ and Christmas fill our hearts and homes this year.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

boxes-card-celebration-688016.jpg

How Lovely Are Your Branches

I struggle a bit in the commitment area. I like change and I like it when things stay the same. I recognize the absurdity of this, as one can not have it both ways, but this doesn’t change my preference in any way.

Many years ago, nearly twenty to be nearly exact, I chose a profession for nearly all of the wrong reasons. Over the course of almost 18 years I’ve spent many a day and many a night within a particular set of walls. I’ve been snowed in, put on high alerts, been bored beyond words, shed more tears than I count, held many a hand, mourned over many a broken heart, and have witnessed more than my share of miracles. To say that I’ve learned more lessons within those particular walls than I can count would be a serious understatement.

christmas-trees-1823938_1280Year after year one thing always stays the same, but changes annually. It is secretly one of my favorite things about that place. The Trees. The Christmas Trees.

Those artificial Tannenbaum dot the premises like little gems on a desert floor. Those who know them know that they mark the beginning of the Christmas season, each one as unique and different as the ones who decorated it. They are a sight to behold, those Tannenbaum that are a lifter of the spirit and of the head.

“The Google” defined Tannenbaum this way: A Tannenbaum is a fir tree. The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.

The very description itself encompassed exactly what I was thinking, and I was amused that the Google agreed with me.

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness.pngHow very appropriate that the tree symbolizes faithfulness, for it is the consistent faithfulness and regularity as well as the ever-changing baubles that adorn such consistency that ministers to me most.

Over the passage of time my overactive imagination has given rise to the stories that those trees may hold, the hands who’ve lovingly selected their baubles, and I’ve often wondered if those individuals know how very important their handiwork is. I can testify honestly that they’ve made hard days easier, sad days happier, the mundane exciting. I also must confess I’m a little sad when they leave, but for the time being, for today, I am so very grateful for the beautiful reminders that bring a little sunshine and happiness to this world – this and every Christmas Season.