Filling Big Footsteps

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

“You’re following in your Mama’s footsteps aren’t you?” 

I have heard it half a dozen times in my lifetime. I’d often nod my head, acknowledging the speaker was correct in his or her assumption. Truth be told though, I never really understood exactly what that meant. It sounded good. Ask near anyone who genuinely knows her and they will tell you that my Mama is a pretty good one to follow. She is gracious and wise. She is a peace-maker and brims over with hospitality. So why wouldn’t I want to follow in her footsteps. I just never fully understood the meaning behind it, so I would agree. In many regards I have unknowingly followed in her footsteps and as I tend to to do, I just accepted it as such and moved on. In my mind we wear almost the same size shoe, so it didn’t seem odd to me that I was stepping into her shoes, after all they fit just fine. Clearly I had confused two expressions, “having big shoes to fill” and “following in someone’s footsteps.” 

To follow in someone’s footsteps means, To pursue something that someone else (often a family member) has already done. 

Having big shoes to fill roughly means that it’s going to be hard for you to do the job as well as they did it.

For most of my life, well all of it until now, I reckon I did not fully understand what I was agreeing or not agreeing to in regards to shoes and footsteps of others. That was until recently anyway.

pexels-james-wheeler-1522285We had made our way to our annual beach vacation trip. The previous year had not yielded such a luxury, so this year was an especially anticipated event. I counted down the days and would decide “How many more sleeps until the beach.” I would say in my head “Two weeks from today, where will I be?” The answer was always the beach, no matter if it was two weeks, two days or tomorrow. I was ready. More than ready. I had been depleted for quite some time, and the waves and the wind, the constant of the always-the-same, never-the-same gulf leaves me filled up and ready to push through. I have been known to sit and to soak and to hear the King speak through His creation. I have often said, “A rainy day at the beach is better than a sunny day at home.” I am not sure if that rings true for everyone, but it does me. 

As the thunder began to rumble off in the distance and the sky darken, I knew we would have to head indoors soon. It had been a successful day for me, one filled with books, and snacks, sun-kissed shoulders, and a breeze that drowns out the noise of the world better than anything else I know. My feet looked like they’d been dusted with caster sugar.

My Sweetheart had worked some while we vacationed, catching up on things neglected at home; then he made his way down to the seaside. He isn’t filled by it like I am, but he does enjoy a lazy afternoon listening to music, people watching, and most of all watching the sky. It was the same place, sky watching, several years ago that ushered in a career change for him from artist to meteorologist. 

As the sky darkened and he nudged me I knew it was time for our party to return indoors. We gathered  up our belongings, and began the arduous task of take down. 

Loaded down with a burden of camp chairs, trash, all manner of sandy toys we made our way up the beach. We moved single file, our party of ten, and I was directly behind my husband. As he walked, his large size 14 sandal-clad foot made exaggerated depressions into the sand. Without realizing it I was following in his footsteps. Then I began to actually step in the places he has stepped. The walk was so much easier when I would place my foot just where he had been. The sand already packed and solid made for easier stepping. His stride is larger than mine and that proved tricky but the burden I carried was much more tolerable when I followed in his footsteps. Many times after, as we made our way up, I noted that following in his steps was always less of a hardship than going my own way. I likened that to my walk with the Lord. Sure there are times when following Christ can feel awkward, when His stride doesn’t match mine, but I can follow in His footsteps knowing, He already knows the way, He has already made a way, and in fact He is the Way. 

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NIV

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Not My Forever Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Upturned Not Uprooted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Moved by the Music

I am not a music person. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen: Goodness of God ~ Bethel Music

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Mining the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silent Carpathia

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

After the Titanic survivors were picked up by the Carpathia it is said that it was a rather quiet place.

No laughing and jeering.

No joy and excitement, as she pulled into New York Harbor laden with survivors who were still experiencing the shock of what had happened just over 48 hours before. There was no ticker tape parade waiting.

Instead there were lines of ambulances waiting and crowds who had come to see the survivors of the Unsinkable sinking.

I never really gave that element much thought until the time silence pervaded our home after its own metaphorical sinking.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42_5We had experienced a particularly bad day, resulting in Martins of all manner sleeping in different places. It continues to be the single most gut-wrenching family event of 2019. When I awoke that ominous day to realize it was real, not a bad dream at all, my attempt at normal was immediately a failure.

Routine, the normal things of life, doomed from the start. I sat down at the table for my time in the King’s Word. My time to study, to reflect, to pray, and to ponder. I couldn’t do it. I attempted to eat my usual cereal breakfast and I couldn’t do it. I gagged on my squares of rice and pushed my books aside. I couldn’t do it.

Silence was all I could hear.

The shock had not worn off yet and I just couldn’t. That particular day is cemented in my mind as a doozy, an attempt at not even normal but survival. Sub-par living at its finest.

Sleep would be elusive in the days to come, but I would find, sleepless nights like the previous one would be reduced in frequency. It would be a long while before I would awaken refreshed. But the following day I didn’t wake up silenced by shock and I didn’t gag in my cereal. Two small victories so I opted to try again with my study and while I didn’t knock it out of the park and may not be comfortable sharing some of my answers out loud, I took a baby step of faith and completed my homework from my Bible study. In doing so I took steps to press in and press on and to trust that tomorrow just might be a bit better than the previous day.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Galatians 6:9 NASB

One Door at a Time

“Can I help you?”

I shook my head no, his reply made me grin.

“Y’all just out playing?”

I laughed. He hit the nail on the head. The Martins had loaded up for an afternoon trip to the big box store that I despise, so Scott Martin and I thought we would introduce our 3 to a hidden gem shared by the same city as the Big-Box-hate-it-store.

As we meandered north on the interstate we were questioned multiple times about where we were going. I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer so I just said, “We’re going North to run a few errands.”

We pulled into a parking space a little after four, Scott made note of the time,

“They close at five.”

I was standing just inside the entrance when I met the nail-on-the-head hitting Proprietor. He introduced himself by his first name, offered us light snacks and gave us a quick rundown of all the things to see. I said thanks and told him we were the Martins.

“Welcome Martins.”

man-in-bus-247929In no time the history, weird object loving, have to touch it to actually see it, Martins realized we weren’t just on an errand, we had opened the door to a treasure trove. They were amazed by the huge doors and obsolete fixtures. The loose keys and endless supply of oddities. They are scavengers, they love a treasure and an oddity. I reckon they get that from their Mama. I too, love the very same things. As we meandered down rows and aisles, gigantic doors and ornate everythings, we picked up and held hinges and door knobs (the one who resides on the autism shallow-focus-of-clear-hourglass-1095601spectrum was especially fascinated by the doorknobs), all manner of locks, things that were vaguely familiar and some that were not.

We decided on a fire brick, it had our name stamped on it. “Martin” in a nice font. We got a broken one, it cost less.

We ventured into rooms and eventually made our way to another room. Comparatively speaking it was a bit more sparse. There tucked away in a corner as if it had been put in time-out for bad behavior was a rusted door with the faded word “Colored” on it.
I stopped in my tracks. I walked closer and touched the letters, almost as if I were trying to discern if they were real. My eyes quickly fell to the “Not for Sale” note and the words that had been placed there by the original finder of the door. The note confirmed I was not the first to stop dead in my tracks in front of it, and it asked a question I have continued to ponder.

I traced the letters again and I wondered what all they’d witnessed. How many dark and worn hands had touched them in submission, in disgust, in fear, in outrage and maybe even in hope. Hope that one day such an object would be unnecessary, unwanted, appalling and obsolete.

I called the Martins over to me and their reactions were surprising to me. I had expected outrage, I had expected anger, but that is not at all what I got. They walked up took a closer look for themselves. After I read the letter out loud to them and snapped a picture, the three of them were soon off to see other more intriguing oddities. I stood a moment and pondered the door, my children,… I pondered much.

As the evening moved on and we left with more than our share of complimentary goodies, the firebricks and a couple of metal letters. I thought about that letter on the door and the challenge it posed,

112019-36-History-Civil-War-Reconstruction“Do you keep the writing on the door showing an era in America’s history or do you erase the words to not promote such a negative time in America’s history?”

I was undecided in the beginning. As a mama of multiracial children I want nothing more than to protect them from the hate of this world, the hate of our history even. I never want them to feel they are anything less than the beautiful humans they are. My first reaction, my knee jerk reaction as they say, “Paint it. Sand it. Erase it. Get rid of it.”

For the record, my knee jerk is rarely right.

As the night went on I realized what my children must’ve realized but weren’t able to verbalize. It was a terrible part of our history but it is our today that matters most. They are a living, breathing testimony to that. That door did not represent hate to them because they are no different than their lighter skinned brother, mother and father. They are Martins just as much as we are. There is no distinction between us. We are one family.

The King restored Hope when He designed our family. What was meant for evil and done in hate, He is redeeming for good and for love’s sake, one day at a time, exchanging hate for Grace.

My answer to the question? Keep it. Keep the letters as a testament to redemption and grace. Acknowledge that hate once prevailed and moved forward with the knowledge that it doesn’t have to. Exchange the hate for love one door at a time.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throneand before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and

The Why

A look back at Coronavirus and the Easter weekend tornadoes of 2020.

Scott Martin: “Why are you awake?”
Me: “I had to use the bathroom.”

~~~~~

Me: “Why are you awake?”
Scott Martin: “I haven’t been asleep yet.”
Me: “Why?”
Scott Martin: “I’m worried about tomorrow’s severe weather threats.”
Me: “You’re worried about tomorrow so you didn’t sleep tonight?”
Scott Martin: Nods head.
Me: “Come to bed now so you won’t be a grump later.”
Scott Martin then climbed in the bed beside me and promptly fell asleep.

And that’s when I knew. Suspicions confirmed. My take on the weather event might warrant sharing at a later date, but this is what I suspect was The Why.

imagesI ain’t even gonna lie. I hadn’t looked at the first model, I hadn’t watched or listened to the weather man (the one living in my house and the one not.) I had’t been stressed over it at all. Normally my stress regarding the weather is limited to: 1. If I’m scheduled to work because when the weather is bad and you’re a fragile kid, your dad’s a meteorologist working in a closet, it’s good to have your mom at home. And 2. When your patriarch is a meteorologist and you still go to church on Sunday morning the aforementioned patriarch will not likely be present. (His coverage area is not limited to Where We Live, Alabama, so it might be simply delightful here and all crunk up in the Pickens, Lamar, and the Hale counties, among others, so he must work to share the information with those people.)

I suspect that the Enemy of This World had tried desperately to flip the King and His people on their sides, a forever abdication of sorts. Tried to make life miserable and tiresome for all of us. I suspect the enemy did one of those happy dance, boo-ya things when the world as we know it had to be interrupted. I suspect when the worship services across this nation halted, he did cartwheels, I also suspect he thought he’d won this one as he watched store shelves empty, panic and fear spread like a brush fire in the desert. I suspect that he did a “YES!” elbow in movement as people began to hide in their homes and put life on hold. And I suspect and in a classic egomaniacal way he celebrated. He happy danced himself through the empty streets of places that have not been empty before this moment in time and he reveled, wallowed in his good work disruption. And I suspect that he could not contain himself when he looked upon the suffering of the people wracked with sickness… I suspect he thought he had the upper hand.

woman-in-black-leather-jacket-wearing-white-mask-3983416That was until humanity and the Good that lives in us proved him wrong. That was until people began to come out of their homes and love on their neighbors, spreading good news and smiles with unused sidewalk chalk. That was until unlikely seamstresses were born overnight to carry the burden of making masks and items for those in need of them. That was until we started to look up and see the helpers, the heroes, and the humble. That was until families forced to stay at home have eaten meals together and talked and laughed, and cried and healed. That was until the creativity that we all have has been channeled into resourcefulness. I’ll bet he rubbed his grubby little hands together with delight at his work until he saw others selflessly run to the aid of the sufferers.

Pastors and preachers, Bible studies and such have come together virtually. Encouragement and laughter can be found on the Facebooks and the Instas and on the YouTubes in the form of Hamilton via Zooms. Sure it’s not easy and there is still much to do and much to work toward, but overall, despite the horrible hand it was dealt, humanity didn’t fold to the pressure and pain he tried desperately to inflict. He was right – the world has changed, but not for the worse, some would say for the better.

The Enemy’s plan wasn’t working out so well so he had to up the ante…

cross-671379_1280Easter week is the single most special Sunday to the King’s People. It’s the day when we remember intentionally what happened that first Resurrection Sunday, when our King overcame sin and death. There is likely not a single historical event that riles the enemy more than that one. He tried really hard to stop the Celebration and he failed, so now he was using against Alabamians what we all know and many of us fear… time and weather. What a perfect diabolical mix to push us over the edge.

Suspicions Confirmed. The enemy wanted to steal the thunder of the King and he had plans to use a destabilized atmosphere, a panicky public, a significant anniversary, social distancing (which eliminates some folks’ place of safety) to throw one massive ugly punch. I am a full believer in being prepared and having a plan, the Lord protects us but he’s also given us a brain to use, so part 2 will lay out just how to do that, a timeline of what and when, but part 1 is what I suspect is the why.

Of note, this predicted weather event was the Easter Sunday tornado outbreak of 2020. There were a total of 24 tornadoes that day that were confirmed by the National Weather Service and zero fatalities in Alabama.

 

Fake Grace

My boy wiener dog loves my Mama’s dog. Her name is Grace, the dog not my Mama. Grace is a rather portly elder chiweenie. She is a good-for-a-retired-person dog. She likes naps and waking up early. She enjoys walks in the neighborhood and rides to the coffee shop. She has a tendency toward being lazy, but when she’s around her younger cohorts she gets a burst of energy and hops around like a bunny. We always laugh when she gets so excited when she visits my house. Her favorite playmate is my boy wiener.

He isn’t the smartest dog. We’ve decided as a family he is either the smartest or the dumbest dog ever. He makes us laugh with his antics. He is solid black except for a heart shaped white patch in his chest. He is playful and as I said, he adores Grace. He absolutely adores her and when she does that bunny-hop thing he gets exceptionally excited. They’ve visited and played together regularly. However, when this quarantine started, those play dates and visits were halted. To his dismay Grace has not been to visit in quite some time.

However, our behind neighbors happen to have a chiweenie as well. She is blonde and a tad younger and slimmer than Grace. There is a fair amount of space that separates my boy pup and the neighbor pup, he can’t see her very clearly but her bark sounds just like Grace. We have named her “Fake Grace.” Fake Grace will bark and my boy pup goes bonkers, he runs the fence and barks back. When Fake Grace is not outside my boy pup will stare longingly out the window in the direction of Fake Grace’s yard. When she finally emerges into the yard my Boy Pup can hardly contain himself. He barks himself silly, In rapid fire succession I imagine if I could understand dog it would sound a little something like this,

“Grace! Grace! GRACE! Come here, come over here and play! What are you doing back there Grace?”

Fake Grace does not respond. My Boy Pup persists.

“Grace!! Why did your Mama put you back there? You’re supposed to be over here!”

Fake Grace remains silent, she carries on with her business, hardly acknowledging the pest behind her home.

“Grace! I’m going to come over to that yard and get you!”

Fake Grace continues to saunter around her yard.

dachshund-2683905_1280The Boy Pup, desperate for fake Grace’s attention, wiggles himself free of the confines of my backyard and sets out to visit Fake Grace. Usually he gets turned around, stuck, gets himself into any number of awkward situations trying to make his way to Fake Grace. He has had to be rescued countless times as he makes an attempt to reach the counterfeit. As I rescue my Boy Pup, I scold him. He has gotten himself into a mess trying to make it to Fake Grace.

It was just such an experience when I realized I am much like my Boy Pup. I spend wasted hours striving for a Fake Grace when the real Grace is where I should be investing my time and energy. Oftentimes the things of life have the appearance of godliness but when I get right down to it those things become my sole focus. I strive to impress the Fake Grace decoy all the while neglecting Christ, the very One on whom I should be focused. It has even been so bad that there have been occasions when in my attempts to get the attention of the Fake Grace, I get myself into such predicaments that I am incapable of freeing myself from. Thankfully God is a long-suffering, patient God. He rescues me from my entrapment, loves on me, and reminds me that Christ alone should be my focus.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

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The Librarian’s Gift

“Seeing you makes me miss homeschooling my kids a little.”

The librarian had made her way to the table we had been occupying. The Martins were dispersed among the premises. One was looking for the Odyssey, or maybe it was the Iliad… one of those Homer books. The middle was checking the status of some things on the borrowed library computer. The youngest had fallen asleep on a table positioned in the sunshine.

They are the Modern Day Bethany 3, and Martha was quiet and still for a change. As we walked into the door of the public library two-thirds of the group announced they didn’t have the necessary book to do their assigned work. I laughed out loud. I informed them it was their lucky day because libraries specialize in… wait for it… BOOKS! And they most certainly have what they need. I grabbed the required literary companions from the stack. My long ago library aid years returned to me instinctively; I did not require help or a card catalog to locate the volumes needed to complete the assignment.

simplicity pngAs we sat at the table the older two got so tickled with themselves that they even got me tickled. The very word legume had me turning red and laughing so heartily I was sure the aforementioned librarian would ask me to vacate. Those same two, have gained their Mama’s ability to laugh uncontrollably in a place designated for quietness – a sense of humor that is both inappropriate and annoying and the ability to procrastinate and avoid socializing if possible.

I don’t want them to struggle with the same things I do, so I make them do things, step out of the comfort zone, in hopes that one day they’ll be less hesitant to do so. I reminded the Lazarus of the bunch I was making him build character as I handed him the required funds, and the dialog he was to have to get a copy made. Mary, per her usual, was sitting quietly and drawing until Lazarus dragged her into his comical circus. They were laughing and enjoying being goofy teenagers.

After our trip to the library we made our way to a local fast food place and had lunch. We ate and made our way home. The next day was our Bible Study day, and unbeknownst to us, this would be the last time we would be able to do any of the activities we had been doing so many days before. The following Tuesday the Quarantine would begin. By the next week the libraries and dining rooms of restaurants would be closed. Life would completely change for us in routine and in what we could expect from the coming days.

Within a week everyone would be homeschooling their kids, corporate worship would cease, and it wouldn’t be weird for folks to wear a mask made out of a bandana into a store. Conversations and priorities would change and it would seem as if life would never return to the normal we once knew.

As days have turned into weeks since that now seemingly long ago conversation I had with the librarian, I have thought much about what life looks like in her house, how she had missed being with her kids daily, and now she has the opportunity to do that. I have thought much of the negatives of the quarantine life. The negatives of staying at home, unable to resume “normal life.” Although admittedly I am a little more sluggish to focus on the positives, like the unexpected gift of homeschooling to the librarian, family meal times, and unplanned and unexpected togetherness. I, like most of the world I know, want life to resume, for the normal to return. But I would be lying if I said that I have not appreciated the slower pace of life and the unexpected gifts it has yielded.

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