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

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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.

Crown Him King

We have a standing rule in our house, when it is your birthday you get to choose the activities for the day. This past Birthday for the lone Male child yielded an unusual request, however in the context of Shelton it wasn’t so unusual.

I should probably preface with – prior to the request I had lost my keys, my purse, and was running half an hour behind for church. I hadn’t yet lost my cool but I was indeed perturbed

When the Birthday Boy asked to attend “big church” citing “We can make it there by the second service and we won’t be late.” I said yes. We made our way there and sent a text to Dad letting him know where we were and to our surprise he made it in time to take a saved seat just in time for the first song. As the Worship set progressed with words of reckless love and love unparalleled the song set shifted to an old hymn.

architecture-building-chapel-532720.jpgI sang it as if it hadn’t literally been decades since I had sung it. Standing next to my family in the tiny white church that I grew up and was married in, the lyrics came back to me with such clarity that I knew immediately what the next line was. I closed my eyes and immediately realized, deep within me those words resonated with me. I have always wondered why I refer to Jesus as “King.” He is my King and I adore Him but just never quite figured that out about myself. Yet there I was singing:

“Crown Him with many crowns, the lamb upon the throne.”

‘’He has been King to me a long time, and that must have been cemented in me when I was much younger and much shorter.

I realized in that moment with my Birthday Boy on one side and my Husband on the other, that for me, the Word of God which I quote to myself often had come full circle.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

I often quote this verse to myself, to remind me to persevere in the training and raising of my own children. Yet, there in that moment the King let me see that declaration of His Kingship and royalty had never left me even in my old age. If anything, it had only grown deeper and been more solidified with time.

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Shared Lunch

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. Luke 6:38

It was dark outside, the upcoming time change evident. It had been an excruciatingly long day. We were headed toward home, yet the to-do list loomed ahead. The questions from the back seat had begun to come with a regularity that accompanies uncertainty and hunger.

“Are we about to eat supper? We haven’t eaten supper yet.”
I decided to engage the source of the questions rather than attempting to dodge them.

“As soon as we get home we are going to have supper. Did you like your lunch today? The Chicken-salad wrap?”

“Yes ma’am! It was SO good!”

“I’m glad, I thought maybe I had added too much salt when I made it. I’m glad you liked it.”

“It was so good I didn’t even share it. I mean I did share part of my lunch but not that part.”

I was a tad concerned, whenever kids are involved, eating allergies are always in the forefront of my mind. “Um, who did you share your lunch with, and what did you share with them?”

“Nolan. We all shared our lunches with him. He only had a bag of chips and I gave him two rice Krispy treats and two goldfish packs – you know those are his favorite next to blue Doritos, Somebody gave him cookies, Oreos..and..I can’t remember what else but he said ‘thank you’ and he was ‘all full.’ ”

I giggled at that one. In my head I responded. “Full. After all that… I bet he was. That sounds like a Carb load for a giant about to run 26.2 miles”

As we meandered down the road another voice from the darkness of the backseat. The deep male voice spoke up.

taco-1018962_1280.jpg“Well, Heath gave me one of his tacos. He said I could have it if I wanted. It was JUST like I like it too! A Taco-Bell one with the soft sides and only the meat and cheese! It was SO good! And I have been wanting one of those for a while”

I giggled again. In a completely different lunch room, at the same time one Martin was giving and one was receiving.

I was immediately reminded of the early church, the one in the book of Acts, Chapter 4:

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (34-35)

Those Lunch Sharers and Receivers are studying the Book of Acts in Bible Study, and as they came together for most of their (admittedly) favorite part of the day, they literally cookies-194872_1280.jpglived it out. I giggled as I thought about the distribution of the gold-fish shaped crackers and a leftover Taco-Bell taco; how the distribution differed from the aforementioned Infant Church one, yet so very similar in genuineness and generosity that there was no one left hungry or wanting, because in the Spirit of the King and in the Spirit of sharing all were taken care of.

Those of us who are Christ Followers are called to “Not grow weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9), and “To share bread with the hungry” (Isaiah 58:7). I believe that the King blesses us so that we may bless others. (Genesis 12:2)

There is an old adage that says something to the effect that children learn not what we say, but by what we do. I suppose in the instance of the Lunch Room that particular day, those children had learned by what they had seen and by what they had read.

Everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. Luke 6:40

 

Grace Upon Grace

A Story for One of “Those Days”

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

It was more for me than for them that day. I had managed to run late, damage the underneath parts of an already tired ol’ minivan, missed breakfast, needed gas in the husband’s substitute unfamiliar vehicle, forgot important paraphernalia, said a profanity or two, and I was hanging on by a shred of a thread.

So when I said to them as we attempted to make our way down the road, “Ok guys let’s people-2597796_1280pray.” I knew immediately it was more for me than them. As they each said their prayers, each as unique as they are I immediately began to feel better. The feelings of inadequacy, condemnation, and guilt were beginning to dissipate.

As I began to petition the King I prayed that he would freely give “Grace upon Grace upon Grace.” I was asking Him to pour out that Grace without hesitation or reservation. I immediately began to hear giggling. An attempt at muffling the laughter proved ineffective. It got louder, and before I could close out our prayers with an amen the muffled giggles were spilling out with such fervor that I stopped short of amen and said,

“What May I ask, is so funny?”

“Grace upon Grace upon Grace!”

“Bahaha!!!”

They were all three rolling with laughter, their cheeks big and smiles wide, they could hardly talk, I was dumbfounded. I had merely asked the King for triple helpings of His grace to help me make through my already crummy, had hardly begun day and my progeny could hardly maintain composure.

As I already formulated my defense and rebuttal, scolding in the form of reprimand, I asked for clarification. How was my prayer laughable?

“Can’t you just see it Mama?! Bahaha! Grace on top of Grace on top of Grace. Stacked up!? Bahaha.”

By now the laughter was side-splitting and I still had no clue what was so funny.
Normally in a situation where I need clarification from my children I at least make an attempt at composure. There was no hiding it now, I was less and less composed and curtly said “What is SO funny?”

“Mama GRACE!” Grace had now turned to a three syllable word to emphasize it. “Ga-ah-race!”

“Can’t you just imagine how she would be with her tiny little legs?!” They all three burst into another fit of laughter and I smiled, I was beginning to understand. Despite being late to the party, their laughter was contagious so I imagined what they were imagining, and I too began to laugh uncontrollably.

My Mama has an older Dachshund named “Grace.” She is much like other Senior dog counterparts. She likes to bask in the sunshine, she naps with a regularity you could set a dachshund-1920_1280.jpgwatch by. Grace is slow to move and gets “stove-up” as Mama says nearly daily. She hides when she is annoyed, her bark is bigger than her missing teeth bite. She is always in the mood for food and will “beg” on her hind legs for anything, but snubs the fancy dog foods my mama buys. When she visits us she can be found chomping on the cheap dog food from the General Dollar Store. Mama always says I’m telling a story when I bring it up.

Grace is good Senior adult company. She is playful on her on terms and has been known to play opossum better than an opossum.

When I prayerfully asked for the abundance of Grace my children literally pictured Grace, the dog, stacked up. Grace on top of Grace on top of Grace. The mental image they had all along had now taken hold of my imagination and I was done for. I was laughing as hard as they were. I could just see her tiny legs on the back of her older Doxie frame, annoyed with the Grace atop and bellow I felt confident that Middle Grace would be visibly annoyed and would verbalize said annoyance.

By the time we reached our destination my attitude was entirely different, I felt better already and in an instant realized the King had not delayed in freely giving what I’d ask. In giving Grace on top of Grace on top of Grace, the laughter and joy brought forth were the very strength I needed to tackle the day head on and left me in awe once again of His marvelous gifts.

Then he said to them, “for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b (ESV)

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Sin Sickness

I do not love vomit. I would venture to say I am in the majority more than the minority on this one. After all, how many people do you know that say “I love vomit.” My Mama and my Husband both say they “refuse to vomit.” There are times though when one just can not help himself, or herself, times when the Tummy Bug hits and emesis is an inevitable nemesis.

Recently I was doing what I do, I was just meeting a little one, when she looked at me and without warning vomited all over me. I was covered in soured milk colored mucus filled vomit. Her vomit lying on my skin. Inside I was squirming. I wanted away from that nasty throw-up, yet the little one who was now in my arms – I had instinctively picked her up – needed my help. I reassured her all would be well. I spoke gently to that little Lovey and told her even though we had not yet been formally introduced, I was pleased baby-child-close-up-47090to make her acquaintance and was there to help. She showed no gratitude. She didn’t smile. She did not wrap her sickly arms around my neck and express to me how grateful she was that I was wearing her vomit and aiding her. Rather she cried and fought and smeared the vomit further. After I did a quick wipe, bathed her, wrapped her in a warm blanket and set about seeing to my own hygiene, the King does what He will do oftentimes. He showed me something beautiful.

I was wearing the yuck of another, of one who did not even know me. I had taken upon myself the gross of someone who was not grateful and did not have the capacity to do so. I was wearing the sick of one who needed my help yet could not ask for it. As I washed in the sink beyond my elbows for sometime and cleanliness began to take over I saw my King hanging on a cross wearing my sin, a substance far worse than vomit. He willingly allowed Himself to be covered in it so that I could take on His Righteousness. I wondered in that moment, as He hung on that wretched cross, having endured a beating that left Him unrecognizable, if He was squirming on the inside as I had been. I wondered if He wanted to rid Himself of the nastiness of my sin and ugliness of heart. As I rinsed and readied myself for my next task I gave Him thanks for His willingness to exchange my proverbial vomit for His literal righteousness and healing.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

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James Spann’s Labcoat & The Fried Green Tomatoes

I like a good southern food. Years ago I learned to cook green tomatoes, okra, potatoes, chicken, squash… all the same, and the best way… fried. Dredged in flour or cornmeal fried in oil in a cast iron skillet. That’s the only way I know to do it. Perhaps I am the only one, but as I have said before, I am food weird. I do not particularly enjoy the foods I cook. There is one exception to this rule, and that would be when I make southern home cooking. I come from a long line of “Pickers” while they cook. Just seeing that in print looks weird – I should clarify. When one prepares food one may “pick” meaning to taste one’s food during the “fixing” phase or one does not “pick” meaning one does not partake of one’s food during its preparatory stages.

I tend not to be a picker, again when making southern foods, this is the exception. I am compelled to eat that first bite of fried okra, fried green tomato, steam-fried potatoes and onions, or fried squash. I am convinced that southern fried foods must line the Marriage Banquet table of the Lamb and His Bride, but I have one complaint about such near to manna from heaven.

My one complaint about fried food is how it makes the house and my clothing smell. It annoys me terribly for the aroma of fried foods to infiltrate my clothing and walls forcing me to smell it long after the I’ve cooked and consumed such delicacies. The odor serves to taunt me.

Recently I found myself frying up some green tomatoes. My Mama had joined us for supper and as we ate them she said, “These taste just like my Mama’s.” She turned to my youngest child and said, “Your Mama makes the best fried green tomatoes.” I might’ve blushed a little at such an esteemed statement of praise. As supper drew to an end and we cleaned up, suddenly I remembered James Spann’s lab coat. It had been in my kitchen and surely had taken on the aroma of supper’s fried smell side effects.

man-1378638812bhr.jpgScott Martin was the something-or-other of the Weatherreadyfest of 2018. As the something-or-other he was responsible for helping to get things ready and prepared for an event in St Louis. One of Our local favorite meteorologists, James Spann, was scheduled to do something that requires a lab coat. Scott Martin mentioned this in a to-do list kind of passing, and I set my eyes to looking for and acquiring said lab coat. Scott Martin knows me well enough to know if I am given a task I will do my best to accomplish it. Lab-coat for local celebrity needed, must be minimal is cost, and “not dingy-looking.” Consider it taken care of.

As it would happen I found the perfect specimen at a local discount store. The kind of discount store that is random at any given time, boasts a variety of “discounted” items and is not necessarily known for its neat and organized appearance. The kind of store that doesn’t give you the hangers when they wad up your purchase and toss it into a flimsy plastic bag with some other store’s name on it. Perhaps if I had of received a hanger none of the following would have happened.

The day we made the purchase, I hung the bag with the wadded attire on a chair in the kitchen with every intention of hanging it up and ironing it as needed. Then I had planned on carefully packing and sending it to St Louis for the event. By the time I realized I had left it there in that bag, it was too late. Fried green tomato smell permeated the white cotton coat. I imagined for a moment Mr. Spann walking around the stage, giving his presentation alongside Ginger Zee, both getting a whiff of old fried green tomatoes every time he raised his arm and directed the audience’s attention to tornados and polygons. I imagined him stopping mid-sentence, looking for a plate and Ginger smelling his coat which served as a reminder of her time in Alabama. I imagined him slinging the taunting garment aside and mumbling something about a dry cleaner and some Febreeze. As my active and hardly accurate imagination took over I was reminded about the King’s Word and what it says about smells. Aromas.

That we are to be the pleasing aroma of Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:15 “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

We are to be so covered by Christ that he infiltrates every part of our lives in such a way that folks know we are a part of Him. His love should be like that Fried food infused coat that we put on and it permeates everything that we do. In essence, the aroma of Christ is Love, and that love should stick with you and wherever you go, just like the aroma of southern fried goodness.

Colossians 3:12-14  (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

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Christ and the Corrective Lenses

My friend MJ lay next to me snoring lightly, the big drops of rain falling from the tree tops that were adjacent to our “treehouse” retreat accommodations sounded like something entirely different from than the peaceful pitter and tinkling I was used to. I surmised it was my, until now, not-so-close proximity to the roofline. Despite the sleep promoting environment, I was awake. Wide awake. I figured if I was going to be awake I should go ahead and be a little productive and be about my favorite early morning activity, studying the King’s Word. The open blinds let in just enough light for me to see outlines and large objects. In order to not wake my friend MJ I would have to rely on my dimly lit phone.

I reached for the little yellow case holding my contacts.

Fact: Minus corrective lenses I can see nothing clearly.

Fact: I wear my glasses while I sleep so that when I awaken I know where I am. Too many close calls have yielded such a strange practice.

Fact: I now require readers to see small print so I have to put in my contact lenses and then don said readers. Double Corrective Lenses. Bifocals are the next step but I am just not ready to surrender to that one.

blur-blurry-bokeh-347139.jpgMy relationship with corrective lenses began some 32 years ago. I was 8. I had no idea people had faces, trees had actual leaves, or billboards were sources of information. I was in the 4th grade. I had the standard old school eye exam. When asked what the first letter on the chart was I answered honestly, “What chart?” Needless to say my mama got the note that a follow-up eye exam was required.

The day she took me, was like any other. I rode in a car with faceless but familiar people,
I entered a large foreboding yet vague structure and sat in a chair. My information supplied by my other senses, the smell of potatoes chips, candy, and cleaners mingled together. It smelled like the place I got shots, the pediatrician’s office; it didn’t sound that way though, there were no crying and coughing babies. The chair felt different, they were grown up chairs and the pediatrician’s office had my size chairs.

As per my usual I began to ask questions. Where were we? What were we doing here? Would it hurt? How long would we be here?

I have always been a question asker, it is my primary source of information and learning. Sometimes my questions intimidate people; sometimes they think I am criticizing them and their way of doing things. In my adult life I have learned this and have altered how I communicate in just such a situation. I ask the King questions daily. I used to be almost ashamed of that, like I didn’t trust God when I questioned. I understand now that is simply how I learn, and because He loves me, He welcomes my questions. He often answers me back with questions.

*****

“Lord, I’m struggling. I feel overwhelmed and unsure. Why Lord?”

“What is your name?”

That is The question He asks me most. Just last night I was talking with Him and he whispered over and over,

“Don’t you remember?” “What is your name?”

My answers always initiate a pondering that answers my questions. I digress… again.

*****

As I completed my eye exam, I cautiously answered questions and waded carefully into a sea of unknowns that this day had brought to me. When the eye doctor placed the cold metal Phoropter (I did not know its actual name – the Google helped me with that answer when I asked that question) over my face, the cold sensation of the metal and ability to see simultaneously cemented in my memory. I still remember that feeling of joy and elation.

I. Could. Finally. See. The. Chart.

adorable-beautiful-black-and-white-325687.jpgI rattled off those letters like an expert. I knew them and I boldly proclaimed their names to the eye doctor. It wasn’t until he moved the miraculous Phoropter that I was deflated. How could it be? My joy instantly turned to sorrow. He escorted me to my mom, spoke to her briefly and she walked me over to another mysterious section. She told me to pick out some glasses frames I liked. One needs to see one’s image in the mirror clearly to determine if one likes one’s glasses. Needless to say my first pair of corrective lenses were less than attractive. Despite their appearance they were life changers. I’ve come to realize that is often the truth of life. It is oftentimes the seemingly small moments, seemingly insignificant things that are life changers.

I could see. An entire new world opened up to me. My senses worked in tandem to give me information and reveal the world around me. My mama says I read every sign from here to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and if she had to hear “Bates House of Turkey” one more time she was going to scream. (I should probably bring to her attention the fact that at least I don’t do that now – where every other signs boasts a difficult to pronounce name of an attorney. She really would scream before we got to the Tank Farm heading southbound on 65.)

When we come to know the King, to have a relationship with Him, it completely changes our perspective of the world. Like putting on corrective lenses for the first time. In the Book of John, Chapter 9 there was a blind man whom Jesus made to see. He was born blind and upon meeting Christ he was healed and made to see. This caused a great debate among the ones who needed rationalization of the process. The man’s response is a classic. It is recorded in verse 25.

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25

One Thing I DO know is I was blind, but now I see. Simple isn’t it? The gospel itself is simple. With Jesus our entire perspective changes and in areas where we once were blind, with Jesus as the Change Agent, we now can see as well as a fourth grader with her first pair of glasses seeing her Mama’s face clearly for the first time in her life.

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