Gratitude in the Midst of Sorrow

Just moments before I snapped the picture of the balloons headed Heavenward I was sitting in a somber service of remembrance. I was moved by the courage of the Mama and Daddy. They’d lost their precious one and they were making a public plea. Their Dear One had been a recent victim of distracted driving and they had made the most of the opportunity and occasion and implored those present not have cause to experience the pain and hurt they were in that moment.

There are times in life when we are given a captive audience and we can make the most of such an opportunity or not. I sat in awe of their courage, strength and dignity. The Mama and the Daddy, in that moment, they were proving themselves trustworthy. They’d asked those in attendance to avoid distractions while driving. They were speaking to the loved ones seated around them asking them to reconsider picking up their phone the next time it begged for their attention while they were driving.

I listened intently as I sat amongst a dozen or so people, all of whom I share a genetic makeup, as we honored the life of a precious one, who also had running through her body a common DNA as those people surrounding me, the same thread as her Mama. I marveled at these dozen or so people. To my right, my cousin, Dinger as she is best known, more of a sister-like figure to me than actual cousin. To my left, my Mama. A few moments ago I’d heard a statement from her sister Nancy that I already knew.

“You look just like Mama.”

As the service ebbed and flowed and the sting of tears sat just beneath the surface words of joy and remembrance filled my ears, memories filled my mind and I held my Mama’s hands. As my eyes looked back and forth, I noticed Mama’s hands looked just like the ones slightly to the left in front of me, propped up on the back of the chair, they looked like the ones to the right of Dinger, and the set directly in front on me. Those hands, were my Mam-Maw’s hands.

I distinctly remember them wrapped around a Hull Brown Drip Pattern coffee cup. She would use those hands to pull weeds, feed animals, quilt and sew. Those rugged hands would hang up clothes to dry and hug tiny frames, they’d wipe tiny hands and faces with scalding hot water and Clorox saturated dish rags. Those hands could make a sweet tea that I only wish I could replicate. I’m quite sure when Mam-Maw made it to Heaven Jesus would have declared that she was in charge of the Sweet Tea making. Despite not having had it in 30 years my mouth still longs for that Devine sweet nectar.

As I sat there and listened, I looked at the ones seated around me I thanked the King. I thanked Him for good childhood memories that dozens of cousins, aunts, and uncles filled. Long summers of adventures and fun. I thanked Him that I never eat a kraut and weenie that I don’t think of my Aunt Sis and the summer my sister and I had deduced that she must’ve been pregnant because all she ate was kraut and weenies and she’d recently purchased a high chair. Two coincidences developed from some lean economic times and a practical need being met. We cleaned her entire house that day. We figured she didn’t need to be on her feet in her condition and advanced age. We sat on the steps leading to her den, formulated a plan befitting a seven- and five-year-old.

I thanked Him that the one physical feature that all of us share are early onset crows feet and laugh lines. They are evidence of our good sense of humor and laughter. We are a funny lot, those that share the name and genetics of that side of my family.

I thanked the King for the life of the beautiful young lady who had left our world way too soon and tragically, but I did so knowing that she would not be forgotten. She had not died in vain for the message was given, and the warning heeded. I thanked Him for allowing me to be made up of good, strong stock. His word says that laughter and a cheerful heart are good like a medicine and I thanked that He has abundantly gifted me with those very things.

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Translation Please

My oldest had asked to go to prom. The Homeschool Prom. I laughed at first, irony at its finest I thought.

“Mom please. My friends are going and I think it’ll be fun.”

After some research and such, I agreed.

She counted down the days. We borrowed a dress. She texted her Grandmother and Aunt Kel to let them know Prom was a go.

The Countdown reached its single digit numbers. Preparation plans firmed up within the context of a Girls’ Day Out.

The morning of the prom we met early at a fancy full service salon, the kind that offers bottled water only and boasts fanciful cosmetics and skin care products. All manner of Skin Serums guaranteed to rejuvenate and excite skin with moisture, yielding one soft and supple skin. Last I checked that was also known as lotion, but I reckon at $25 per ounce, just putting “Lotion” on the bottle rather than “Skin Serum” would be poor marketing.

My sister, who has a much better handle on what is fashionable and trendy took charge, ordering updos and treatments. I stood to the side, not really knowing what, much less how I should request the aforementioned full services. My sister ordered a blow out for me. I’ll be honest I glanced in the direction of the bathroom wondering if the salon blow out was the same as the blow out with which I was most familiar. Seeing the obvious concern on my face she said,

people-2561845_1920.jpg“They are going to fix your hair. Calm down. It’s my treat.”

As I sat in the chair I was asked multiple questions like, “What treatments for your hair do you participate in?”

“Um, I wash it.”

The stylist, clearly not amused, then asked what style I would like my hair.

“Whatever you think. I’m not picky.”

Obviously I am not stylishly astute. I have a particular pair of shoes I wear nearly all of the time. They are comfortable and they are my favorites. They do not particularly match anything I wear but as I said they’re my favorites. They are evidence of my function-over-fashion mentality.

The stylist fastened the cape around my neck and proceeded to carry on with her tasks.

At the end of it all, my girl had a beautiful updo and I had been blown-out to look like a fancier version of myself.

We declared we had just enough time for a sit down lunch, and headed to a favorite Bistro-type restaurant. I’ve come to realize Bistro just means, “you’ll probably have to wait a little while to be seated.”

As we finished our delicious meal and prepared to pay our check and move on to the next item in the day of special preparation, my oldest put her eating utensils down, indicating she was finished.

My sister looked at her and said, “You full?”

My girl nodded.

“You don’t want to be all bloated in that dress. You have good panties?”

I nearly spit my water with lemon all over the table. I nearly choked. My oldest looked as alarmed as I had over the aforementioned blowout confusion earlier that day. This time though, I knew what she meant.

I clarified. “She means, you’re going to want good support under your dress.”

A wave of relief visibly washed over my girl.

Sometimes we just need clarification. A translator of sorts. The Holy Spirit was a promised Helper, a translator of sorts. When the Holy Spirit lives in us then He has the ability and is willing to translate those words or phrases. In fact, he can and will translate the very heart of God for us.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth…. the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John14:16 & 26

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Heavenly Prep Class

I am not a music person. The old expression ‘Can’t carry a tune in a bucket’ is completely bass-guitar-chord-close-up-96380applicable where I am concerned. I’ve come to realize that is only disturbing to those who are. My husband is a music person. He can hear a tune once, maybe twice and can make those same sounds come out of a guitar. The bass kind. There are different kinds of guitars, but music people already know that to be true. It took me years to learn that.

I like music, like to listen but it is not a requirement for me to concentrate. I’ve witnessed my husband work and his productivity is always better with a tune playing in his ear. I do not have now, not have I ever had rhythm. Evidently it is comical to watch me try to clap in time, or so I’ve been told. My husband can pick a rhythmic beat up from nowhere. We can be in a crowded restaurant, barely able to hear ourselves talk when all of a sudden he will begin drumming his fingers on the edge of the table. I do not have that ability, not an iota of it. Sometimes in church when the band gets jazzy the clapping will begin. I’m lost.

A while back one of the band leaders began to clap, to demonstrate over her head for all to see exactly how to clap in rhythm. (My fellow church-goers must share in my rhythm deficit.) I giggled, knowing I was a lost cause, I tapped my foot per my usual and kept my hands busy doing other things.

The music doesn’t speak to me like it does to some, lyrics and notes married together in a sort of poetry. The King will speak to me at times during those times of worship and I’ve been known to jot those words down, often after I’ve written it down I’ll hang on to His Book or my pen, less aware of my inept abilities.

So when the singer lady said

“Y’all we are practicing for Heaven!”

As she clapped and encouraged the others to do so I really giggled knowing full well that I was likely to be in trouble once I got there. I’m fully aware that when I reach my eternal home I will receive a new body, one that makes the current one pale in comparison, but I wonder if I’ll get a new singing voice and the rhythm that should accompany it. I sure hope so, lest I risk having to attend Remedial Praise and Worship Class.

I admire those who are musically gifted, I am thankful for them as they are reminders of how I will spend eternity, worshipping the King in song.

Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day-to-day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. Psalm 96 (ESV) 

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Least of These

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“There’s another one.” She was sitting by the sandy shores of the Gulf Coast, her reading glasses much too fancy for her modest swimwear. The kind of bathing suit a Me-Maw sports. Her just slightly younger companion sat silently beside her and nodded in the older’s direction.

I surmised they were sisters. Sisters by birth, Sisters in faith. Both had silver-gray hair piled high on their heads, their dark and weathered skin no stranger to the sun. A small cooler sat between them and must have contained ham sandwiches on thick white bread, a sweet red sliced tomato and mayonnaise that wouldn’t dare be a reduced fat. A summer lunch bounty that one longs for in the middle of winter. They had a small portable radio, the kind with an actual dial and antenna that extends and bends for better reception. I just made out the sound of a “singing,” old-time favorites that speak of a Promised Land and Happy Days. I watched as the older concentrated on a mass of tangled netting and seaweed in her hands. I followed her pointer finger and just barely animal-animal-photography-beach-63282.jpgcaught a glimpse of movement. I determined I needed my own readers to clearly see what she was pointing at. A tiny, less than half an inch sand crab. She had liberated it from the washed up tangle and it was scurrying to safety.

I grabbed the attention of my youngest who watched as The Older continued to work diligently, little said in the way of explanation except a word or two. She had in her hands a slew of salvaged sand crabs. I giggled to myself as my youngest was in awe of the “mini crabs” as she aptly named them. One by one The Older painstakingly freed them. Not a word of gratitude from the tiny captives, yet she persisted. We stood for a moment and admired her handy work before we carried on with our own beach combing.

We walked steadily, feet washed by the cool waves, eyes downward looking for a special prize or oddity. As we walked I pondered. I wondered why in the world someone would spend their afternoon freeing tiny sand crabs from a mash of trash trapped in a discarded mesh bag. Then the King, He spoke. He does that from time to time, He’ll speak a word and grab my attention.

“Least of These.”

He let that sink in a moment and then,

“Least of Mine.”

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40  ESV

I thought about those crabs, how they were least, insignificant really in my opinion, and realized to the Beachside Liberator they were important enough. I wondered how many “Least of these” hadn’t been important enough to me.

The Least of These began to run through my mind…
…Quiet times neglected to perceived more important callings.
…Prayers that weren’t pressing enough to pray.
…Conversations that didn’t seem worthy of having.
…Promptings that went ignored because surely it wasn’t for me to do.

As I walked and pondered I apologized for those opportunities the King had given me, the ones in the form of a tangled up tiny sand crab and rather than take the time to help, I simply ignored it and moved on, barely an afterthought in my day.

The Crab Liberator was proving herself trustworthy, she’d been given little and despite how small and seemingly insignificant, she was being faithful with it. I mused that maybe next time she would stumble upon a sea turtle tangled and in need of her services.

I asked the King to make me more aware, to be ready for, and to welcome those Least of These opportunities knowing that when I am faithful with little, I can be one of His trusted with much.

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Phony Pitcher Plants

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free! John 8:32

A while back in the middle of the night I found myself watching a documentary on the Pitcher Plant. Perhaps it was my groggy state, or my laziness I watched it in its entirety. I can assure you it was not an overwhelming desire to know more about the carnivorous plant that kept the television channel on the program.

A little while later my husband and I were talking to a friend. He’d asked did we know what a pitcher plant was? My husband and I spoke simultaneously each with a different answer. I was the affirmative, he was the negative. As our friend spoke of a pitcher plant bog in southern Alabama I listened with interest; I did make a note but was not adding it hard and fast to the vacation agenda.

When our vacation arrived we spent one day, as we have done traditionally for many years – Martin Adventuring Day – with no real agenda except to make our way to a favorite small town.

As we traversed Highway 98, the scenic and not-so-scenic we encountered locals and beautiful older than Alabama trees with hanging Spanish moss. We saw old homes that I mused must have been made of good stuff because despite their obvious age and numerous destructive weather phenomena they would have witnessed, those old bungalows were still upright. Just before we crossed some big bridge over a bay we stumbled upon the Pitcher Plant Bog.

I am not sure exactly what type of fanfare I expected for a mass of meat-eating plants. Perhaps I thought we would find a guide or two, dressed like the documentary folks, or that character from low-budget jungle movies that have some long-lost field worker found wearing a hat with mosquito netting, khaki shorts that meet tall brown calf covering socks, a shirt with lots of pockets, and a slightly diminished British accent.

pitcher-plantAs we took the self-guided tour in the blazing heat of the Alabama Sun we spied several of the carnivorous plants. After an hour or more We had taken a few photos, all agreed that – they weren’t nearly as large as we thought they’d be, – there sure could be a lot of snakes hiding out, – we were hungry, – it was “hotter than the Devil’s armpit” out, and – we had seen enough.

As our day moved on and we adventured our way to the various places, I put the Pitcher Plants in the back of my mind.

Several weeks later we were at a clubhouse of sorts. Over the course of time there all of us had gone to the restroom. As I walked in I noticed the imitation flower arrangement sitting on the commode tank, a decorative piece, clearly placed there for its exotic look and appealing colors. I knew immediately what it was – an arrangement of fake Pitcher Plants. As I sat cautiously, I giggled and wondered if anyone else had given much thought to the decor of the bathroom. As the carnivores looked over my shoulder I became a bit uncomfortable and found myself speeding things up a bit.

I didn’t mention the arrangement to anyone, it was out of my mind in no time and I moved on with the tasks I had at hand.

As our time at the clubhouse came to a close I was approached by Shelton, his hair dripping from hours of swimming. He pulled me and insisted I “see something important!”

I gave in to his imploring and followed the point of his finger to the bathroom,

“How do you like that? Do you think anybody knows when they are using it those could eat them if they were real?”

He burst into laughter, I laughed too at his recognition of the those and how a similar thought had crossed my mind.

We parted ways, he to the do his job of outside pickup, and I to the kitchen to put away leftovers.

As I packed away the leftovers My youngest petitioned me loudly from down the hallway.

“Mama! Maaa-ma! Come quick!”

I bolted down the hallway to see my youngest pointing at the commode. A slight panic overtook me. “We’ve ruined the clubhouse toilet- where had I seen that plunger?!”

“Look Mama! It’s the plants!”

She had recognized them too.

Relief washed over me as I praised her for her recognition and excitement. I tucked the experience in my mind and moved on with my clean up duties.

Prior to the Annual Martin Adventure, we had no idea what those weird-looking plastic plants were. There was no recognition of their power or uniqueness. We had no point of reference really. After the hour at the bog, the Martins knew and even found the humor in such an oddly placed plant.

pexels-photo-208278The King’s Word can be like that. When we do not know it, know the Truth it encompasses, understand the solidarity that accompanies it when studied together, and the comfort it freely gives, we are not able to recognize it when we are confronted with a counterfeit. When we are fed a fake we do not know it, we do not fully recognize it, because we have not experienced the genuine.

Shelton and Maggie recognized the likeness of the Pitcher Plant but because they knew the real one. They also recognized there was no threat of the fake ones sitting on the back of the potty.

We must know the Word, must long to explore and understand its Truth so that when we are confronted with a fake we are able to recognize it as such.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:16 ESV

 

Psithurism

I do not have now nor have I ever had an exceptionally green thumb. Green is my favorite color and I love to be outside. The appreciation of the smell of grass, trees, and dark dirt runs deep in my veins. I come from a long line of bare feet preferred to shoes.

legs-1149846_1280My Mama’s mama, my Mam-Maw was green before it was even a thing. She composted before it had a name in hoity-toity magazines as a way of enriching one’s soil. She never discarded a non-biodegradable milk jug in the trash. She repurposed them into bird feeders, kitchen scrap collectors, toilet brush holders, and ice water containers. She would fill them with water from her kitchen tap and place them in her ancient non-frost free refrigerator. I can still remember my sister and I scraping the “little ice” from her freezer and eating it – we ate shaved ice before it was even a thing! That milk jug ice water was the coldest and best tasting water. I’ve had all manner of bottled waters since and they all pale in comparison.

She’d take a brown paper grocery sack and reuse it until it was soft and leathery-like and no longer good for hauling stuff to and fro and then she’d cut it up for us “youngins” to play with. I’ve purchased many a pretend item from an imaginary store with tender made from paper bag scraps. She made clothes from old Jim Dandy feed sacks, and she could and did make an entire quilt out of scraps of fabric. I doubt she ever called it “repurposing” or “reusing” or “reducing” she seemed to believe everything, even bits of rubbish deserved a second chance at life, and she aimed to accommodate.

robin-3474979_1280She loved trees, she loved to watch them and smell them. She would go outside, sit, and then she’d grow quiet. She would speak only to point out a squirrel nest or a particular kind of bird home. She used to tell me that each of her grandkids was represented by a particular kind of bird. I wish I’d had the foresight then to remember everyone’s. I only remember mine. A Robin red breast, she’d say “because they are unique and Mamie you are a unique youngin.” She saw something in me I reckon that I didn’t and evidently the Robin red breast had the same qualities.

The trees and outside seemed to give her life and as I’ve gotten older I’ve witnessed my mama head out-of-doors for some life giving and soul filling. As I have gotten older, I to do the same. I have a particular place in the backyard that serves to recharge me when I am depleted mind, body, and soul. I talk to the King there and listen to the breeze whisper through the leaves. It never ceases to amaze me that wind through trees sounds so much like rushing water in a stream. All of my senses are fed as I sit in the quiet of that place. Often I will leave my phone inside so as not to be distracted by the things of this world, half an hour there can fill me up for ten fold that time of pouring out.

birch-bright-countryside-618608.jpgI was spending an afternoon doing the aforementioned, when I thought about life-giving trees. As I exhaled deeply, the thought that my carbon dioxide would be turned into oxygen confirmed that life-giving hypothesis. I pondered on and chatted with the King and I recollected another kind of life-giving tree. The one my precious King was nailed to. The tree that ran red with blood spilled so that I could enter the Holy of Holies and talk freely with the God of the universe. A tree that lent itself to an unimaginable death so that I, we, could be part of a new covenant established and be in relationship with God.

I recently learned that Psithurism is the name given by science to the sound of the wind through the trees. I also learned that spirit in the Greek is pneuma, or breath. Perhaps the Creator purposely designed it so that when that pneuma, or spirit, was breathed into us, a holy CPR of sorts took place. The catalyst for that Life resuscitation began on that tree with the death of Jesus. Death defeated and the King resurrected.

My Mam-maw wasn’t super theological. Her eighth grade education carried her as far as possible given her difficult life and hard economic times. She knew the Bible. She couldn’t really quote the Word verbatim, she would have buckled if she would have had to preach a sermon, but preach she did. A different kind of preaching I suppose, the kind where words are few and actions speak loudly. She loved the Creator and she valued His creation, I strongly suspect that is why she honored it the way she did.

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Treading Water

She calls it the Lord’s Pool, God’s Pool on occasion. I have no idea why, but if I had to guess I would say that I told her it was His pool because He provided the way to go there.
As long as she’s been alive it has been a staple in the Martin Summer. My niece Ellie Grace, gets to spend a large majority of the summer as a Martin and because we frequent the pool so does she. That particular pool became a part of our everyday many years ago.

It all started one summer some years back, to date one of the most difficult summers for Scott Martin and myself. We were ill-equipped house parents at the local children’s home. We had 3 unique Martins of our own, a home full of diverse and unique children, and some marital trials that we just were not equipped to sort through. The pool became beach-children-enjoyment-870170.jpga welcome and frequent diversion. I remember spending those first of many pool-going times counting. Counting people to make sure all were afloat, no one had drowned on my watch. I also spent a lot of time treading water. Hours in the deep end turned to days it seemed. Teaching children the art of something that is second nature to me, something I could do long before I could walk. Reaching for little hands extended in my direction constantly encouraging and cheering on, “just a little farther, you can do it.” Reassuring time and again that the water was nothing to be really afraid of but to be watchful and on the alert at all times, a healthy fear, is what my Mama calls it.

I spent time squeezing those same wet extremities into puddle jumpers and arm floaties. Applying layer after layer of sunscreen. I applied sunscreen like layers of sealant covering sun exposed bodies. Countless cans, bottles, tubes in all manner of SPF but none less than 30, have sacrificed themselves in the name of UV protection within its enclosure. I’ve secretly often wondered if all that sunscreen has left a hole in the ozone just above this tiny oasis. And I would tread water, sometimes for hours. Trying with everything that is in me to stay afloat. I would cheer from the water as wobbly terrified knees made their way to the end of the diving board, the dull thud typical accompaniment for the inexperienced jumper in contrast to the high-pitched clang of the experienced diver.

I’ve judged multiple cannonball, back buster, belly buster, toothpick, can opener, and amateur diving contests, all the while I would tread water. Unable to take hold of anything but the water itself. I’ve witnessed countless Mamas utter words I’ve uttered myself and seen record numbers of cardboard crust pizza place pizzas make their way there, their boxes discarded in the familiar garbage cans that dot the perimeter. Things have changed, yet somehow they seem to stay the same, and I would tread water. I would return home exhausted and energized all at the same time. My own stringy wet hair, sun-kissed shoulders, and “noodle legs” proof of the day’s adventure. The deep never alarming or scary to me, but exhausting just the same.

I’ve packed thousands of pool snacks in all manner to feed the hungry masses declaring their starvation. Their behavior and famished declarations would lead you to think they’d never seen food. Needless to say, a mere 30 minutes before they had devoured a Popsicle from the snack room freezer purchased with quarters from a ziplock bag that is itself a staple in the pool bag. The plastic ziplock bag of coinage shares space with books that have worn and tattered covers, dog-eared pages made that way from constant trips home and back alongside soggy towels and pool toys. I carry them just in case, not because they’ve actually been read, because they haven’t. To date, I can not think of one book I’ve actually started and finished there.

benches-clouds-daytime-832975.jpgThese trees that surround that place have witnessed much. In the Martin home alone it witnessed, Ellie Grace’s first steps, the emotional caution that always follows a period of uncertainty, countless refereed arguments amongst those named Martin, milestone birthdays, a visiting raccoon that had a hankering for sweets, his craving quickly satisfied by said arguing Martins. Each upcoming school year lesson plans laid out and navigated on the umbrella covered wrought iron table, none exceptionally level, but very functional all the same.

The Martins have always had an uncanny knack for ushering in thunder, requiring a 20 minute hiatus. I don’t mind the hiatus so much yet the snack bag is given a workout.

The items of the lost and found have never stayed lost for very long, the Martins have a way of finding something lost or broken and giving it purpose. Recently a game of “whack-a-mole” was played in the 4 ft by Charlotte and Shelton with an abandoned and faded pink noodle. Imagination, necessity, and discarded rubbish are the makings of invention for the Martins.

As time has passed and much has changed and much has stayed the same, I find that I don’t tread water as much. I’m finding that the investment early on is paying off. I suppose that pool, the summers are an allegory of parenting itself. Invest early, do your dead level best not to drown or let someone else drown, and when they are older they’ll take to the water with a healthy fear, never fully aware of the sacrifice that was made on their behalf. As second nature to them as anything, and they will pass that art on to their very own.

The King’s Word says something to that effect:

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

The days of being waterlogged and weary have turned into life lessons and memories that they will carry with them forever. Ellie Grace named it the Lord’s Pool and it is indeed, both metaphorically and literally. I am beginning to understand that all those days of treading water, I was never alone, laughter was never in short supply, and watchful eyes from above were always present.

Featured photo (edited):
Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 
01.29.2015,
CLEMSON, SC, UNITED STATES
108th Training Command- Initial Entry Training

Good Days, Bad Days

Some days are harder than others, some are chocked full of joy and pleasure, days when a vacation is far from one’s mind. Then there are some days that are down right difficult, from one hard thing to another, the stuff weariness and depletion are made of. Most days are a mixture. Glimpses of both joy and hardship, the mundane and exciting all rolled together, the determination at the end of it all a good or bad day contingent on which of those was the majority.

Recently I had one of those days when at the end of it all I could not determine which of those it was. It began later than it should’ve as I had a restless and sleepless night before, sleep that was tainted with weird dreams not nightmarish but not exactly fun. The kinds of dreams when one awakens one finds herself groping for reality and a sense of “did that really happen?” As I stumbled to the breakfast table, waking Martins along my way, we congregated at the breakfast table.

A weekend of BLAST fun, lack of sleep and routine was catching up. The youngest Martin fresh off a “bad weekend” where at one point she reminded me of someone who had been on a bender still reflected in her dark brown eyes. We were a sight to behold, a group of weary souls seated around our hand-me-down kitchen table.

“Find a verse or scripture and tell me about it.”

I knew, I know that soul refreshment and strength for the weary could be found in the King’s word. We all needed to hear it as much as I needed them to say it. Ragged Bibles spread open amongst cereals and milk, bananas, frozen and rewarmed egg rolls, quick warmed biscuits with homemade jam, leftover pizza and a cup of coffee in a chipped Jesus mug.

The verses chosen were as diverse as the breakfasts.

A verse in the beginning and how it was good, light brought forth from darkness and how we are light, reminders that The King is a strong tower and shelters His own, a comfort and very present help in times of trouble. A memo to the Martin 5 who don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you, a reminder that the battle isn’t ours but His. We adjourned our impromptu meeting and headed to quickly get dressed and brush new braces and orthodontia appliances, put on deodorants and be ready in 10 minutes as now we were late.

We kissed Daddy goodbye, headed to the car and began our trip to doctors, errands, and art. We played “The compliment game” at the youngest’s insistence. She was finally beginning to come around and I gave in to her characteristic pleas; they were a welcome return. We traversed roads and I was glad to see a recliner sitting in the median of 280 because I honestly thought I’d lost my mind last week when I was the only one who had seen it when we’d whizzed by it.

We stopped by a favorite library for “just a minute” and checked out an anticipated movie sequel. We made it to art just in time and by the time I put my tired ol’ mini van in park I was so glad to not be in motion and for an hour to not have to think.

I relinquished the Martins to a favorite art class and for a moment I was still. Within an hour we were back at it again, headed to the pharmacy and back home before dark. flatfoot-76564_1280.jpgWhen the tire blew out I simply stated the obvious and the drive to a safe spot was a difficult one.

I delegated tasks, thrust the van manual in the direction of the panicked one and said, “Sit. Read this and tell me what to do.” The panicked one had no way of knowing this wasn’t my first rodeo and I knew what to do. The outnumbered male went to work, as if it were a second nature to jacking and loosening and changing.

“I’ve got this mom.” I marveled at how literal moments before he’d “Bob Rossed” his artwork and now he was changing a tire. I knelt and helped and reminded and encouraged. When the spare was put on we were pleased with our work, but once was the van was down we were as deflated as it was. A flat spare. I almost cried. It was getting darker; the day nearly caught up with me.

About the time I almost lost it, Fred, who works at Valspar, who wore a yellow shirt, offered to help inflate the flat spare tire. I wanted to say to Fred, the obvious, that the youngest had been struggling for days and so had her Mama and Daddy, the middle was on the Autism spectrum and that wasn’t all black grease in his hands, some of it was paint. I wanted to shout that the oldest beautiful soul may be quiet but I could tell by the look on her face she was churning inside. I wanted to scream that the doctor’s office doesn’t call you anymore when your lab results are sketchy, they send you a text and tell you to follow-up in a few months instead of a year and end their text with their perceived rhetoric of healthy living, diet and exercise, use of sunscreen and cheery call if you have questions closing.

I looked at Fred, and all I could say was, “Thank you.” Soon he returned with a good as new spare, his yellow shirt smudged and stained with black. I thanked him again and he told us to be careful. Daddy was now on his way and as the night sky began to show itself we continued on our way. When we arrived home I discovered the frozen dinner I had planned to cook was still frozen and cold; Scott Martin had hesitated to break the bad news to me. As I cooked an alternate dinner and we congregated back at the kitchen table. We thanked the King for supper, protection and healing. We asked for provision and continued as aforementioned. Everyone complimented the chef on her preparation of fish-sticks and potatoes from a box. Her instant pudding dessert was “so good can we eat it for breakfast tomorrow?!”

Some days are hard, others are harder, but there is One who is true, who sends glimpses of Grace and confirmation in the midst of the chaos, reminders that He who begins a good work will bring it to completion and that He is at work even if I don’t think He is.

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Sweet Speech

My traveling companions were weary, I was weary. The plane was packed with weary travelers. There were 30 rows, 6 across. I am not a mathematical genius but last I checked that meant there were at least 180 passengers on that jam-packed airliner from the cozy airport in Colorado to the big Dallas one we had been diverted to. I was in the middle seat closest to the lavatory and the airplane kitchenette. I could clearly hear the airline attendants conversation as we were in flight and then later as preparations were made for landing.

They had been cheerful, willingly handing out sodas, pretzels and such. In my mind I was already mapping out the next step, we had been delayed at the Cozy airport, a canceled flight to be exact. The experienced Traveler in our caravan had declared that an outright canceled flight was not an experience she could recall. Yet there we were, essentially stranded but knowing that the King had His hand on us. We had dedicated our trip to Him, in fact it was His business that had taken the four of us Gardendale area girls across the country to the Shadow of Pikes Peak. For several days we had trained together, cried together, eaten together, taken pictures, and most importantly prayed together. In the final moments of that unplanned flight into Dallas though, those memories and thoughts were in the far corners of my mind. Getting to the gate labeled Birmingham, was my priority. As I listened to the sounds in the kitchenette, I had already determined who was in charge that night, which of those ladies who had served us pretzels and demonstrated how to buckle seat belts and place oxygen masks on “in the event of an emergency.” Each had been tasked with a job and I could discern who was who among that flight crew.

aircraft-2104594_1280I had likened this crew of ladies to teams I had worked with in the past, the experienced and usually in charge one, the funny one, the chatty one, the one who missed her baby and was more than ready to be home, the just-there-because-she-had-to-be one. They were a familiar lot, although I had never actually met them until just a few hours before.

The Baby-misser had spent much of the short flight in the kitchenette talking about child care options. I sympathized. I had been there, I recollected a time when I worked the night shift, dropped my littles off at Mother’s Day Out, and while other mamas were grocery shopping and doing the things out for which Mother’s Day Out was intended, I made my way to my minivan parked beneath a shade tree, where I proceeded to crawl into the back and sleep for a few hours until the appointed pickup time. Those days were hard, a different kind of hard than the current days. Those days when my littles were little were physically exhausting. Days when a trip to the Big Box Store never meant leaving without diapers and wipes. Now the trips to Big Box store yield no more diapers but more in the way of copious amounts of foodstuffs and costly plug-in things. I find in comparison the days of late are emotionally exhausting more than physically. My teenage children sleep and sleep, something my Littles rarely did.

I was pulled back into reality as the Leader echoed words of sympathy and exhorted the Baby-Misser to press on. She offered a few words of sage advice and was interrupted by the Funny one hanging up the special phone and giving a hearty “Hmmph.” I listened between closing compartments and announcements of time and temperature awaiting us in Dallas and then the leader made the statement of the day.

“Sugar Up Girls. That plane is not getting in. It’s been delayed.”

Groans of frustration from the kitchenette. I surmised her years of experience had taught her that the cliché that “more flies can be caught with honey versus vinegar” must have proven to be true. As the leader of the pack she was telling her girls, that they were about to meet a lot of grumpy flies and it just might prove beneficial to be sweet rather than sour.

I giggled as she said that and My companion to my left looked at me with her large dark, expressive eyes (sometimes she reminds me of a Margaret Keane painting) and smiled. Clearly my jovial manner was puzzling. I wondered what the King’s word had to say about the matter. As my friend and I buckled and prepared for landing I made a note about the Sugared Up Flight Attendants and carried on with the awaiting journey ahead.

Sometime later as I was recalling that night, I searched the King’s Word and found in Proverbs the following:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24 

The Experienced and In Charge One had been right all along. I wonder how many times my speech had been like sour vinegar, my words more hurtful than helpful. Multiple I reckon. How many times should I or could I have “sugared up” before I spoke? Too many to count. May I be challenged to “Sugar Up” more often and my speech be like sweetness and healing to the body.

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Good Medicine

A joyful heart is good medicine,But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

 

Sometimes I go through life so distracted that I hardly notice the world around me. Sometimes my mind is so far from my body, it’s a wonder I stay in one piece. I am not consistently that way though. Sometimes I notice such small details that they serve to bog me down and overwhelm me. I find myself perseverating about those details and become so distracted and weary I feel like I am moving through molasses in December.

This recently happened on a trip to the doctor. It was pouring down rain outside, I had been running late, the parking was terrible, the waiting room filled. I appeared to be the youngest patient that afternoon. I was weary to my bones and found myself sluggish and overwhelmed.

maxresdefaultA bright pink scrub clad young lady was steadily opening the door that led to the back, calling names and waiting patiently for her elderly patients to rise and make their way toward her. I noticed that many of them had names popular for infants. Names like Eleanor, Everett, Henry, Sylvia. It tickled me as I recalled the King’s Word that says there is nothing new under the sun.

As the waiting room emptied I found myself alone. Seated amongst tattered magazines, a clearly outdated one boasted a new Baby Princess, per my recollection that Princess is now somewhere around 3 years old. There was a tool magazine “where good tools come first.” “Versus what?” I wondered, “where Bad tools come first? Or maybe last?”

As I reached for the outdated Princess magazine my hand felt something wobble beneath it. I hadn’t even noticed. I took a second glance to see what I had touched, and noticed an ant farm. I shook my head. Was this my overactive imagination again? Had I just imagined next to the tattered magazines, pages softened by mindless flipping in an effort to pass the time… had I just imagined an Ant farm? Surely not. What would an Ant farm be doing in a doctor’s office?

I looked again, ant farm presence confirmed. I had a mental image and thought predictively, “This is not going to end well.”

ant.farm.14Taped to the top of the Ant farm was a small piece of paper, it read , “Press the lid down firmly all the way to avoid ants escaping.”

Suspicion confirmed. That sign was there for a reason, it hadn’t ended well. Ants had indeed escaped previously, someone or someones needed a written reminder to keep said ants contained.

I started to laugh. The kind of laugh that used to occur whilst I was in church, the kind of laugh that one absolutely can not control and will result in a pinch on the right shoulder from one’s disapproving Mama. The kind of laughter that occurs when one’s 14-year-old cousin has just stuffed the nostrils of Mrs. So-and-So’s “for real fox stole” with paper balls. Every week that foxes nostrils would be cleared of the white occlusions, just so said 14 year old cousin could send one into hysterics yet again. It was a vicious cycle that yielded unrelenting laughter. The kind of laughter where a whole body shakes and tears come to one’s eyes, the kind of laughter that can not be stopped no matter how much one desires to do so. That kind of laughter simply has to run its course and will often give way to side pains and a stomach ache.

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

I can say honestly as I went to the doctor that day I went in search of feeling better, good medicine as it were, but in His goodness the King allowed me to see the very thing that would lead me to the medicine to my soul. Laughter. After that hearty giggle I felt better already and I hadn’t even actually seen the doctor yet, but the Great Physician had seen me and brought joy to my heart and laughter to my weary soul.

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