Hidden But Still Seen

We sat around the table discussing the logistics of the days to come, hashing out details and making plans when our host began to apologize for the perceived annoyance behind us. 

“It’s the dog. She wants in.” 

All of us around the table were pet owners so we encouraged our host to let the girl in. She scratched at the door and whined on the covered porch but as our host walked toward her, the fifty pound pup began to jump in excitement. Her big paws echoed as she did so, and she made no hesitation in coming to investigate the semi-strangers seated around her dining room table. She sniffed and prodded, she nuzzled and nudged. She shed a bit and our host apologized again.

I laughed.

When we spoke to her and acknowledged her presence, all of our voices, with the exception of our host, became elevated. 

We welcomed her to our meeting.

Her name is Scout, the dog not the host, and she captures what a Southern canine is. She is heavy footed and clumsy, slightly overwhelming and full of love with no shortage of kisses. Our host scolded her and attempted to shoo her away from our glass table top work space. 

Scout was beside me checking out my bag. I was petting her behind the ears at the time when the scolding and redirective came. She made a move away from me and attempted to hide. I started to laugh at the irony.

“We used to have a dog that would hide under our glass table and look up at us thinking she was hidden” my friend across from me said to the group. 

I began to laugh even harder. 

How many times have I been like this, like that dog? Doing my dead level best to hide when my idea of a hiding place is completely transparent. I will be wallowing in sin and trying to hide that from the Lord, from myself even. How many times do I think I can hide from Him, and truth is, I might as well be a 50 pound shedding, slobbering, retriever, beneath a glass table top. 

There is nothing in all creation hidden from him, (Hebrews 4:13) but how many times do we attempt to hide ourselves from him. How many times have I held close those secret things that He alone can sort out, make right, and heal?

As we all laughed at the absurdity of this pup’s reasoning I acknowledged there are times when I am no different and just as irrational.

The whole experience also reminded me of my children. When they were little they would cover their eyes thinking just because they couldn’t see me, I must not be able see them. Hide and seek was always a bit less challenging back then. 

It would take years for them to realize that their not being able to see did not negate my ability to see them, much like the Lord I reckon. Just because I do not always see Him working doesn’t mean He isn’t, and just because I think He can’t see me, doesn’t mean he can’t.

I Saw It Coming

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Psalm 143:8

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A crow sat cawing above me, that usually puts me in a bad mood but even the incessant noise couldn’t ruin my disposition. The gentle fall breeze blew and the cool was a welcome reprieve. The last of the knockout roses left dropped a few petals, fall was definitely making its way in.

I love fall and the beauty it brings. Almost all the good things in my life have happened in fall so I welcome it when it arrives in Alabama. 

That morning as I sat in the cool, I remembered the night before. I’d been sitting at the kitchen table, when my husband had interrupted my thoughts, calling me to the front porch. Supper was done and after a long but good day of ministry, I was tired. I sat doing some before bed things as my teenage children completed chores and homework assignments. My husband who was standing at the front door implored me again,

“Come here you gotta see this. All y’all c’mere.” 

We halted out activities and did as he’d asked. He was standing in the yard pointing to the heavens. He does that a lot. Sees things in the clouds with a clarity no one else sees. I often feel like I’m taking a heavenly pop quiz for which I am utterly and completely unprepared. 

The sky was full of clouds, streaks of purples, blues, and dark pink. The sky looked majestic, yellows gave way to oranges and the beauty of it all was stunning. Surely he was pointing out the beauty of the sunset. 

This one would be easy. 

He pointed again and asked, “You know what that is?

“A sunset.” 

Surely he doesn’t think I’m so ignorant of the skies that I do not recognize a sunset. I followed up with a compliment of the sky.

“It’s beautiful! That is amazing!” 

His upward pointing hand fell to his side, “No Baby, that’s the cold front.”

How had I missed this one?

“Tomorrow will be a beautiful day and the temps are going to be amazing. Fall is on its way Baby!”

He patted my shoulder, perhaps out of sympathy for my inability to see what he had seen and interpreted, perhaps because he is no stranger to my affinity for fall. 

He then began to outline the push of cold air that had formed a roll cloud, the skies above were made up of waves of clouds and you could literally see the front that was bringing in the cool of the following days. 

As I sat that morning and felt the breeze I realized the night before I’d literally seen the cool on its way in. My husband had literally pointed out cold air, something previously unseen by my eyes, as it altered the atmosphere in such a way to create a thing of beauty. 

There are times when I don’t see it coming, the change in the atmosphere, life circumstances. I get blindsided by the unknown and unforeseen. However, I can rest in knowing that I know the One who knows all: the beginning, the end, the in between. I recently was reminded of a quote by Corrie ten Boom, which put that reality into perspective for me. She said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” She is correct, we can absolutely trust the One who is never caught off guard and never guilty of saying, “I never saw it coming.”

Thanks a Lot

“Do you know how lucky you are?
How fortunate?
How blessed?
Do you know how incredibly good you’ve got it?”

Those words rang through my mind as I traversed the roads, curvy and double lined paved strips of asphalt, familiar to me. I’d been to the library where I borrowed a book or two to read, free of charge pending I don’t lose it and return it on time. While there my kiddos placed folded pieces of paper with a name of their choosing in a box labeled “name the Guinea Pig” I am fairly certain Gerard was at the top of the list of names they’d narrowed down for the recently acquired library mascots. After the library I was heading to the pool with my children, all nearly grown, yet they did not shrink away from me or avoid spending time with me. Not as often as I thought they would at this age anyway.

Do you know how blessed you are despite living in a tumultuous time, adversity at multiple turns, pestilence and affliction, despite circumstances that would declare otherwise?
Do you know that you have breath in your lungs and Spirit in your body?
Do you know how blessed you are?

The thoughts were somewhat foreign to me as I struggle sometimes to have a good attitude.

I am a glass half empty-pessimist most days kind of gal. Truth is negativity comes easier to me than positivity. I find it most ironic that my blood type is actually B-positive. It is as if the Good Lord Himself needed to infuse me with the reminder to be positive from 120 days post birth when total red blood cell type conversion took place. Up until then I carried within my veins my Mama’s O positive blood type and I reckon the Lord also knew I needed to be rapidly transfused with that B-positive blood type because I was a jaundiced little gold nugget for quite some time, or so I am told and photos indicate, as I have no recollective memory of it. I digress.

I once went to a conference and a speaker spent an hour telling everyone how to be happy. She ended her talk with a statement backed by her research regarding happiness.

She said, “Research shows that the happiest people are not necessarily the wealthiest people, the people who have the most material things, the people who have climbed the corporate ladder. Those are the very people I would think are the happiest. Research has shown the happiest people are the grateful people. The ones who spend their lives being thankful.”

I smiled as I immediately remembered the favorite Madame Blueberry episode of VeggieTales that I had nearly memorized by heart as it played on repeat as my children were growing up. Madame Blueberry had discovered that all the things from Stuff-Mart couldn’t make her happy but that a happy-heart is a thankful-heart.

I try and remember that on the days I do not feel overwhelmed with joy is it because I am not overwhelmed with gratitude. The King’s word says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Don’t get me wrong I have yet to get it right and my grateful days could stand to be increased in quota but the King’s word is true, and I can trust the key to happiness is stamped with the word “Grateful.”

Not as Young as I Feel

“In her mind, how old do you think she is?” I asked.

Sometimes my thoughts come out of my mouth rather than staying inside my head. I hardly even know it happens sometimes. 

Scott Martin said “Forty.” 

I surveyed her petite frame, read her lips as she took a long swig of coffee and said “Oh that’s good.”

I wondered how old she felt, how old she views herself to be. The age I feel and my chronological age are not always congruent. I wondered if she felt the same. 

She had to have been at least 80. 

Despite having three children, having conscious memories of a time when everyone didn’t have a cellphone, knowing that I’ve been married over 20 years this year and been a nurse for a tad longer, in my mind I am seventeen.

I recognize the mathematical probability as null if in fact I were actually seventeen. I have a seventeen year old, two actually.  I remember vividly my life then. The summer before my senior year at the PVHS, my days were filled with pool time and late night phone calls, trips to the Galleria and snack runs to the Winn-Dixie. Novels of superficial subjects and magazines filled with how to’s of boyfriends, makeup and “true” stories. 

My skin was darker and tighter, my ears filled with songs about long lost country loves, Love shacks, Ragdolls, and elevator loving. I didn’t worry too much about finances or politics. I wasn’t all that wrapped up in Who I was becoming, mostly I just lived in the moment. My future planning wasn’t too far beyond my upcoming senior portraits scheduled to be taken in the school library by Olan Mills. I didn’t wonder too much about where I’d be in twenty years, yet here I am, more than twenty years later, clearly not 17, a mother and wife and as quickly as the last twenty passed I find myself wondering how quickly the next will pass.

As I surveyed the woman diagonal from me, wearing a red cotton button up  shirt, Capri pants, and sensible shoes, I felt sure that if I had asked her she might have to give pause before she answered me, the same way that I do when asked about age. Somebody says “You’re as young as you feel.” Some days I would agree, other days I might not.

I desire to be intentional about the next twenty, maybe by then I’ll feel forty. 

Maybe Scott Martin’s assessment wasn’t so far off after all.

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Making It Home: House or Home?

I tend to exaggerate a bit. 

I’ll throw in a randomly high numerical value when I’m describing some things. I’ll just add in an extra zero or two or twelve for added emphasis. 

There is one case in the Martin world that requires no additional exaggeration. The number of homes we have lived in. I’ll often say we are Gypsies, the inference being we’ve moved so many times one could not possibly call any one particular place our home. The irony is this, we have moved a lot, many times, in all seasons, for various reasons. We’ve rented homes, we’ve purchased homes, we’ve borrowed homes, yet we have done all that moving within a geographical 20 mile radius and twenty year time frame.  

We have identifiers that refer to the various houses, the Street name, unique architectural features we noted, the time in which we lived there. 

I always like the “weird” houses best. The ones with wonky floor plans and the ones with old bones. 

When it came time to move, no matter the reason or circumstance, good or bad, I always wept. I always stressed believing the next house just couldn’t be a place we’d call home. 

It was one of the moves, a downgrade of sorts, it was one of the bad circumstances, when I cried about not being able to give my children a home. A place of refuge and contentment. I longed for them to have a place that was theirs, ours, that felt like home and not the less than fabulous place where we were headed. I was grateful that the Lord had graciously provided us housing, but I was less than thrilled about the four walls that encompassed that. I just kept thinking how this was so not where I thought life would find me at this point in life. Surely I’d be further along financially or something by now. I used to imagine forty was so old and just shy of retirement to the old folks home. I have since changed my mind. 

In those days we were to be moving to the less than fabulous housing option. 

I was down, dejected and upset with myself, a professional woman, a woman with 3 children once again feeling like we were starting over.  I found myself in a puddle of tears crying to my mama. It was one of those big ugly cries where the crier sobs incoherently to the hearer. The kind of cry that runs rivers of streaky mascara downs one’s face. That kind of crying is followed by stinging eyes and the occasional post cry hiccups. I was a mess. 

My mama had wisely waited to speak until those intermittent hiccup silent moments. 

“It’ll be nice Amy. It’ll be fine.”

Hiccup, “How?” 

How came out in two syllables.

 “How-ow is it gonna be fine. We are moving to a teeny tiny dumpy stinky place?”

She paused and in her wisdom, the kind that must come from the Lord Himself, years of living, and infinite experience in dealing with the fairer sex in fits of hysterics. 

“It always is Amy. And as many times as y’all’ve moved, it’s never the house that makes it such a nice place. Not the place that makes the home, it’s you. It’s your unique way of putting things together and hanging stuff on the walls. It’s how you’ve always hung up the kids’ art like it’s a masterpiece and how you place things around that make you happy, the things that are uniquely Amy, that’s what makes your house your home. You love your kids and they know it and to them that’s all that matters really. When they grow up it won’t matter if there was crown moulding, hardwoods throughout or not, what will matter is that you made them a happy home and gave them happy memories wherever you’ve lived.” 

The tears began again, this time the silent cleansing kind. The kind of tears that wash away pride, hurt and disillusionment. 

“You’re right I reckon Mama.”

 I thought about what she’d said, about how I had done exactly that, how I’d collected all the prize rocks and random trinkets they’d presented to me over the years and given them a place of prominence. I thought about the original artwork made by my children hanging framed in various places, or the random sticks collected over time. 

She was right of course. What had always, what has always made our home has never been the four walls surrounding us but instead the five souls within it. Our home has always been established through and by the King. Over the course of time I have learned that a house and a home are two different things and despite having more than a dozen houses, I’ve had but one home, and it is to them and to my King my heart is bound. 

Sweet Sugar Baby

The old men sat in the old-as-Moses fruit stand. It’s furnished with 1960s era arm chairs, boiled peanuts, and an assortment of fruits and veggies. Two of the men sat swapping pictures and swapping tales while the proprietor helped the couple in front of me. They elbowed their way in front of me, picked up string beans and threw them back into the carton. “These are dry. Won’t be any good.” The man said to his companion. He loudly said to the elderly proprietor,

“Where these tomatoes from? They local?” 

They aren’t from around here I surmised.  The couple, not the tomatoes. 

The tomatoes were only sort of local. Alabama grown yes. Warrior, Alabama grown, no.

The proprietor offered an explanation, “They ain’t made it up this far yet.” The gruff talker did not respond, I nodded in understanding. It’s not time. The summer tomatoes grown in Blount County, Alabama, don’t begin to ripen en mass until the weeks following July 4th. It’s as if Independence Day itself heralds in those sweet juicy tomatoes. Perfect for slicing, dicing, making a sandwich with, or eating by themselves. If you have ever had one, you know. If you haven’t, I’m gonna pray for you. It’s like nothing else in this world. The finest of culinary expertise has yet to replicate the goodness of a July homegrown tomato. 

They aren’t from around here I surmised. 

As the gruff talker and his companion made their way to their car, arm full of I don’t know what and the customary free banana included with every purchase, I stepped up to the register. My attention was shifted to the matter at hand, I smiled as one of the Old Timers sitting showed the other his great-grandson. “Just look at that boy!” He was one proud grandpappy and the other was happy to oblige. They laughed at whatever antics had been captured in digital photographic documentation. 

I asked the proprietor about the cost of his watermelons and then pointed to a dark green variety. Green is my favorite color, and I marveled at the richness and dark, almost black, shade of the ones to my left. 

“Which ‘uns?” He asked me to clarify. 

“What’s the difference in these?” I patted the dark green specimen and gestured toward the striped green ones. 

He walked over toward me and he lovingly patted the dark green one, “ ‘Dis un is a sugar baby. It’s sorta sweet like.” 

I told him to my knowledge I’ve not had one but I sure did love sweet. He giggled, and I asked if the chosen one he was patting was a good one. He laughed. The old timers behind him laughed, and he said one of the most profound things I’ve heard in all my life. 

“It’s hard to know without seein’ inside ‘em and without eatin’’em”

I thought about that and giggled.

“I reckon that’s true for a lot things.” I said 

I told him I’d take the patted sugar baby and he completed my sale. I had to enlist the teenage boy Martin to carry my watermelon. 

At supper that night I cut it for dessert. I couldn’t wait until after my meal. That sugar baby was so sweet and so juicy. I ate more than a serving size with my supper.  And more for dessert and then again for breakfast the next morning. The tomatoes might not have made it up this far yet but, by George, the watermelons had. 

I thought more and pondered on what the Old Timer had told me. You really can’t know about the subject until you experience it for yourself. In the case of the watermelon, the fruit wouldn’t be demonstrated until it was put to the test, the test of supper that is. As a Believer I am like that sugar baby, I can look like a fine specimen of a Christian all day long, I can even call myself Christian, but until I produce sweet, beautiful fruit that declaration of faith isn’t demonstrated. The King once said that “you will know them by their fruit.” (Matthew 7:16) And in the case of that sugar baby it’s when we are put to the test that our fruit is at its sweetest.

Is It Well

It’s no secret that the Martin mailbox can be as erratic as the Alabama weather. We go days and never get the first parcel. It frustrates me when the box is empty. Then the drought ends and our mailbox will be crammed full. It is ironic and almost comical because I love mail. I love junk mail. It’s true, one of the quirky things about me. The junk mail is a little bit like a gleam of sunshine in my day. When I’m expecting a letter, I’ve been known to put something to mail in the mailbox, raise the flag, and watch for it to be lowered just so I know when the outgoing is exchanged for  the incoming. It is an oddity I know, just one of those weird things about myself I’ve learned to embrace rather than change, fight, or feel defeated over.

So the afternoon I opened the mailbox and found a letter addressed to me, I smiled.

I surveyed the envelope. I knew the handwriting, another oddity, I connect people with their penmanship. It’s weird. Years of paper charting and public education aided in honing this craft. Before I’d surveyed the return address I knew the Sender.

The Sender had scratched through and scribbled my address a time or two, clear evidence of the gypsy life Scott Martin and I have lived the last several years. I opened the unexpected card to find a glitter embellished scene of a table. The sort of random card one might find at a DollaStore. I opened to read an assortment of life events and details. The Sender was catching me up as it’d been a while since we had seen each other, an invitation to get together, a recent doctor visit yielding a tragic and debilitating diagnosis.

I reread the words, I paused, standing at the end of my driveway, my heart ached, sentence fragments filled my head. Too young. Why? Help must help. No. Too sad. Tragic. Words filled my brain, silence filled my mouth. Nothingness gave way to a gasp and I continued to read on.

The Sender had asked me to pray. She knows I will, that I do. I continued reading and at the end of it The Sender expressed love and gratitude and a familiar signature followed by

“It is well with My Soul.”

Stunned. I stood there, tears filled my eyes and the fragments hung over me like poorly placed photo booth props.

“Well?”

“How?”

“Sad.”

“Me?”

“Pray?”

As I tucked the card back into its envelope, I was careful not to divulge what I had just read. I thought about the writer of that song, one I’ve known since childhood and how he penned those words after tragic and seemingly senseless loss. I imagined him standing atop an Atlantic crossing ocean liner and how the very waves of sorrow rolled like the waves below. “It is well with my soul.” I’ve pondered on that many times in recent history. When trouble and tragedy seem to be around every corner. The loss of a loved one, A wayward child. Job troubles, financial distress, uncertainty about the future, fear and anxieties abound. That morning, as my heart is heavy, my words inadequate. I knew this, the prayers are many for the broken-hearted, and my words are few. This I know for certain, I can trust that King is near, and in Him alone it is well and Hope abounds.

“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.” Isaiah 43:1-2

Favorite Fork

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE WEARY MAMA

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV

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I have a favorite fork.

My favored fork randomly appeared in our cutlery drawer some years ago.

I really have no idea from whence it came but it’s particularly spindly handle fits my unusually spindly fingers quite well and as most know my arms are spindly too. They do not match my not-at-all spindly trunk shaped trunk.

The Martin 3 know my affinity for the favored fork and will often lay it at my place when setting the table for dinner.

At last check my dirty fork went into the sink basin, that was some four days ago when my work stretch began. As far as I knew that fork lay dormant and dirtied in the sink.

Recently on a post work day evening, I happened to open the cutlery drawer, and there lying on its side was my favorite fork. Pristine and put away, waiting and ready for my spindly digits to wrap around it.

The middle Martin Male is the dishwasher in our house and most days he gets it quite right. Tonight as I pulled my fork out of the drawer, an unexpected surprise with which to eat my salad, I thought about life gone by. There was a time when that same boy could not speak, when his only means of communication was to scream, and I mourned the thought of his growing up because I was certain his quality of life would be subpar. There was time when he couldn’t use a fork much less wash one and put it away. I secretly prayed and petitioned and begged, and I was weary and as exhausted as a mama can be. That was then and this is now. And much has happened since then.

Presently he can wash and put away dishes and he does so daily. Despite the weighty, weary, worried person I was I pressed on, and I want to encourage the weary mama having to wash her shower curtain because it has been substituted as bathroom tissue, or the worn out preteen mama on her way home to talk with a ball of hormones and attitude, the mama who thinks she just can’t do it all another day, I challenge you to press on.

Stay strong.

Your day is coming and these challenging children will be alright just keep on keeping on! Press into The King and trust in His hands, you too will one day  have moments of unexpected dividends, pay off on those early days of investments in the form of finding favored forks.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV

What’s for supper?

She made her way to my house she had a meal for someone riding shotgun and she was picking up goody bags to deliver to the co-laborers in Christ who were still at the mercy of quarantine. I apologized for my rushed goodbye and sausage residue in my hands.

 “I’m in the middle of cooking supper.” She’d made a casserole for the ones she was delivering dinner.

“What’s for supper?” She asked me.

“Shrimp boil. I make it a lot on Wednesdays. So easy to just dump it all in and go.”

That was the abbreviated explanation. There really is more to it than that, but I didn’t have to explain. She knew. She understood without me offering much more in the way of explanation. 

“Ooh that sounds good.” 

She has seafood allergic people at her house; shrimp boil isn’t a good option for them, unless they want anaphylaxis and an epi-pen for dessert. I felt a pang of sadness for my friend that Wednesday night seafood boil isn’t a part of her regular supper rotation. We said our goodbyes and see you laters. I told her to be careful and I headed back inside to finishing the dumping of the items. The aroma filled my house and the lost-to-other-things teenagers began to make their way into the kitchen. 

“Is supper almost ready?”

“Did you put lots of nekka sausage in this time?”

“Mama, I’ll start making drinks, whatcha want?” 

“I’ll get the table ready, where’s that plastic throwaway table cloth?” 

I answered the questions, not necessarily in the order they’d been presented, but answered nonetheless. 

“About 5 more minutes, top drawer of the China cabinet, don’t forget to add newspaper and paper towels. I did 2 pounds tonight of nekka (“nekka” is Martin for Conecuh sausage made in Conecuh County Alabama, it’s a Martin favorite and hits our dinner rotation in some form no less than 2 times a month.) I’ll take ice water.” 

The teenage boy, the bottomless sausage pit, he towers above me now. It’s hard to believe I was just carrying him on my hip, naming him, nurturing him, teaching him sign language and begging Jesus to make him talk. Another pang of sadness. He came and stood beside me as I stirred, and I inadvertently said out loud what it was I was thinking. 

“I love to cook seafood. It always tells you when it’s done. I don’t have to guess or pull out a meat thermometer to know.” 

His deep baritone stated, “It floats to the top?” 

I chuckled, “Yeah, I reckon so, but it also tells you by,…“

The oldest teen interjected, “It changes color. Right Mama? Fish does and shrimp do too.” 

“Yes ma’am. It does indeed.” 

They’d just uncovered my Wednesday night supper choice secret in the middle of the conversation.

On Wednesdays I work for the King, it’s been nearly a decade now that Wednesday is my Bible study day. My co-laborers and I spend our Wednesdays pouring out and investing in the people of God. I ain’t even gonna lie, it wears me out sometimes. Well most times, even in the age of technology where everything is a zoom call or an internet dependent action, Wednesdays wipe me out. By pouring out I’m filled back up again that is just how the King’s economy works. That pouring out comes at a cost, everything does really, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay to know my peeps and I are being transformed by the Word of God. 

Years ago shrimp boil was reserved for special occasions and to some degree I guess it still is. We have minimal in way of clean up as I literally dump the meal out on a lined table, there’s no request to eat separately or in front of the TV on those supper nights, clean up is a breeze, one big pot to wash and very few utensils in general. When we are finished, on the rare occasion there are leftovers we pack those up for lunches and such the following days, we roll up that paper lined disposable tablecloth and with the remaining trash and toss it in the can. 

Thursday is garbage day so it is a perfect opportunity for me to remind the garbage chore person to gather trash and drag the can to the street. 

We don’t shrimp boil every Wednesday, sometimes I am just too tired, or haven’t planned that far ahead and we have something else for supper, something less exciting or not as easy, something that doesn’t let me know when it’s cooked fully thereby taking the guesswork out of my supper rotation routine. 

Those shrimp boil suppers have taught me a valuable lesson about the King’s economy. Very often our motives don’t match the actual consequences of our actions. His economy takes ashes, burnt ruins, and transforms them to beauty. His economy trades death for life, conquers death by death, opposes the proud and uplifts the humble. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Loud Table Talkers

They were a table of professionals clearly childless and in the prime of their working lives, out for a late lunch. I have no idea what common thread brought them all there or under what circumstances they were having that late lunch on a Monday afternoon. They did not make me privy to such table talk but I could not help but listens as they loudly declared the expense of Uber versus Lyft, hangovers from the evening before, sounds of gunshots in the night, “good” parts of the city verses “bad” parts. I cringed a little when they said that. I love this city, all of it and I was personally hurt by their statement. 

They prattled on about old homes, abandoned schools and 7 degrees of Charles Barkley. 

 “People here all know someone who’ve met Charles Barkley” 

They are not in that lot and to be quite frank neither am I. I’ve lived in Birmingham my whole life and I’ve never met Charles Barkley one time, but maybe I know someone who has and I am just unaware of it. They took inventory of landmarks they’d been to and some they needed to get to, there was talk of kayaking and hiking, yet none seemed to be rooted here in this red dirt and the “Old as Moses” barbecue place seemed to be a stop, or a check off on a list things to eat while in Birmingham, not a place they’d been eating at since they were children. They talked at a high volume as if they were the only folks in the place. 

They took a selfie with the waitress. I felt sure, none could boast what my mother-in-law once did to me. We had come for a birthday lunch and she tapped on the lid of the signature sauce saying “My mama used to carry these in her glove box.” When I quizzed her why and when she declared “She really liked that sauce, it had’t’ve been around 1957 or ‘58.” The world here was a bit different back then I thought at the time.

I imagine my husband’s grandmother who’ve I have only seen in faded sepia toned photographs, loving that sauce like her one day would be granddaughter-in-law. I was thinking about that when my pondering was interrupted by my youngest. 

“Why are they taking so loud?!” 

She was frustrated with their verbose conversation. I had already noticed that some of them seemed to be nursing the aforementioned hangovers with additional libations. I merely stated in response, 

“They’re just happy to be here.”

She shot back, “Well we’re happy to be here and we’re not that loud.” She was correct of course, we were happy to be there. Her older brother had evidently taken the same inventory I had and said bluntly,

“They’re drinking the ol’ tongue loosener.” 

He too was correct. 

I had just taken a drink of my co-cola (that’s how legit southerners will say coca-cola if left unchecked by their environment or company). When he stated the obvious, I nearly spit it out across the table.

My youngest asked for clarification which he quickly offered to give. I stopped him. He is not as genteel with his wording of sensitive matters at hand. I explained and as I listened to the young, professional, loud-talkers and immediately a verse, one that speaks of life and death and how it can be found in the tongue.

Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

There are words spoken that can bring life and encouragement and there are words that do the very opposite, bring death or in my case make the hearer cringe. As the young professional, touristy people left the restaurant and we settled into our meal I found myself grateful not that they were leaving, but that they had been there to demonstrate to me that if my tongue is to be loose may it be loosened with words of life and not ones of decay and ruin. May I always speak of light and life especially when I do not think anyone else is listening.