Five-Minute Friday {reach}

Linking up with Kate Motaung and a host of word-loving, Friday-loving bloggers to share our, mostly, unedited take in 5-minutes on the word prompt Kate provides. Ready?

GO

I remember my childhood prayer, “please don’t let me be any taller”. The prayer said sometime around 6th grade when I was taller than all the boys and no one told me they’d grow over the summer and surpass my 5’4″ stature by start of Junior High. God answered that prayer.

Step stools come in handy around my house as I reach to put things on the upper shelves in our closet or to reach the seldom used items in our kitchen.

Climb became a necessary skill, not a fitness hobby.

Lately my reach has been going backward as we’ve celebrated a union and a birthday that turn our minds toward the past, remembering meaningful moments, special people, God’s gifts showered on us.

It wasn’t too many weeks ago my reach wasn’t good enough to get an item from the top shelf in the grocery store. I asked a tall man in the aisle if he could reach it for me and he kindly obliged. These days we are the ones reaching the past for mama as Alzheimer’s has taken her reach. She can’t reach back or forward. She is the best example of living in the moment. It is how she lives and reminds me how this is really the only way to live. All else is foolish pride.

cross on the hill

As often the case, a song plays over in my mind, a favorite these days and a beautiful reminder of God’s love:

There’s no space that His love can’t reach

There’s no place where we can’t’ find peace

There’s no end to amazing grace

                                         I Am, David Crowder

His is the reach that extends all boundaries and barriers and gives grace that brings peace. For you and me.


Throwback Thursday {birthdays}

She was the middle child of 11: 6 boys, 5 girls. Born to a poor family in a Oklahoma town so small she often told others she was from another small town. She told few stories about those times. Just that her mama always cooked enough to feed others and a woman they called Aunt John who helped with the kids.

She married at 16. I expect she was swept off her feet by a charming flirt, handsome in his Salvation Army uniform, himself just 20 and fresh out of seminary.

She’s turning 76 today but in her mind she is ageless. The cards she’ll get mean nothing to her but we’ll send them because she means something to us.

JuanitaJimBillPauline1942

Juanita Jim Bill Pauline (mama) 1942

Mama's high school photo

Mama’s high school photo

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DEBBY MC-009

I suspect mama and daddy celebrated their birthdays when we were growing up though I never remember one. Not for them. She saw to it that my brother and I had birthday parties. My 13th was at the skating rink.

By my 14th they were divorced but she saw to it I had a party.

my 10th birthday

my 10th birthday

my little brother's 3rd

my little brother’s 3rd

I’m surprised I even knew my parents birthday with their celebrations being absent. Maybe that’s how it was for their generation and how I carried it on in our home, mostly. The kids got the parties.

Her mama celebrating her 75th with a motorcycle ride.

Her mama celebrating her 75th with a motorcycle ride.

A rare visit over mama's birthday in 1976

A rare visit over mama’s birthday in 1976

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Her youngest grandchild bringing a smile on her 75th

Her youngest grandchild bringing a smile on her 75th

I was with mama on her birthday a few years ago. I think it was her 72nd. The dementia was apparent. We had pretty gift bags with colorful tissue. The bags were set in front of her but nothing. I picked one up and handed it to her and she held it and looked at me with a cocked head as if to say, what do you want me to do?

“It’s for you mama.” A smile.

I opened the bag, reached in and took out the nightgown to show her. Another smile, a curious one. She had no idea what was going on. That this was for her. This day was about her.

It’s worse now and I haven’t been out there in 2 years. Lisa sends pictures. They had a big celebration last year on her 75th. She liked the grandkids visit and smiled at the cake and colors not knowing they came to celebrate her.

This year, she’s sleeping a lot more. Content but tired and it’s okay because we’ll always celebrate mama. Celebrate her life, her faith, her example.

We’ll celebrate when we volunteer or listen to a stranger.

She’ll be celebrated when we drop our change in the red kettle at Christmas or when we send thank-you cards and remember our manners.

We celebrate her everyday because she lives in how we laugh loud and love quiet. She lives in our service, our worship, in our differences and our coming together.

Dementia may steal memories but it doesn’t have to steal our joy or the legacy she leaves.

Happy birthday, mama. Thank you for always pointing to the One greater than you because He is the One whose grace allows us to rejoice in the midst of your loss. He is our Hallelujah song.


Surrounded

It’s a celebration. Ten years of marriage. Our son-in-law has it planned, directions and instructions provided. This is what he does. The family planner of excursions, holidays, hikes and road trips. All designed to build those moments into family life that can be lost to the everyday business of life.

throwing petals

Heather Tim

cake topper

I do again

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We celebrate with them as they renew their vows in a small ceremony on a croquet lawn of an Inn in Highlands, NC. Their six-year old daughter is excited to wear her dress with a bit of sparkle as she will be their flower girl. Our son, 34, told his niece he was the ring bearer.

It will be small, just the immediate family and I’m beside myself with this loving display that was absent from my parents. Lost and found at the same time.

This week could be called sensory overload for me and I know it’s my whole being on high alert for all that’s going on around us.

We are surrounded by work (perceived expectations) and family (self-expectations). Surrounded by happy celebrations of love, new life in Christ and renewed commitments.

with camera

lake house

birdhouse on the lake

Mamas hands black and white

Surrounded by news of cancer in a young father, the third in our extended community this year. The third person in their 30’s and 40’s faced with a “Stage 4” diagnosis. From a back ache, a feeling of unrelenting exhaustion, a pain that wasn’t going away; from those everyday malady’s of life they’ve received what sounds like a life sentence.

 

Surrounded with thoughts of a mother’s continuing decline in Alzheimer’s and a granddaughter entering first grade.

In all of the dire prognosis we look for hope. As people of faith we must proclaim the “better life” that is ahead. We must because we believe it and because we need to tell this to ourselves in those moments of utter grief.

Ron was speaking on Psalm 137, a joy-less Psalm; a couple of verses a prayer to God to destroy others. These are words of despair and grief. He talked about going to a “Celebration of Life” service because the living feel so much better calling it that than “funeral”. Like I feel better being called MayMay than Granny. We do that today. We don’t like the word, the phrase, we change it to what makes us feel happier, younger, better. The facts don’t change: someone died, I’m old enough to be a grandparent.

In Ron’s message, he gave us permission to mourn. Something we seem to want to avoid. As if mourning is empty faith. Than somehow showing our sorrow at our earthly loss isn’t trusting in God.

I don’t like showing those emotions in public, or at all. I don’t want you to see my ugly, crying face, the one that looks weak and needy and sad and lonely. I don’t want you to hear the squeaky voice that trembles with words that are incoherent. But I need to mourn as much as I need the happier celebrations. The ones that speak of abiding love and a little girl holding flowers for her mama.

There’s an old song titled “Ache beautiful” and I realize there is beauty to be found in sorrow, in grief. It is in the midst of this loss where I feel the tender touch of Jesus most. When I am ready to accept his loving care, when I’m ready to admit my need.
We are surrounded by life. The richness of loving and knowing and losing, all making our faith deeper and more complete. All making our life beautiful.

Linking up with SheLoves Magazine on their monthly topic: beautiful.


Learning from others

mentoring quote

My first grade teacher was gentle and patient.

My second grade teacher’s lipstick was always a bit crooked.

6th grade our teacher read scripture in class and I could tell she was a church-going, faith-believing person beyond her reading scripture.

My junior high English teacher made me want to be a teacher. Mostly because she was young, cute and seemed to enjoy teaching.

There was the high school civics teacher everyone thought strict but I liked and learned from. The English teach in the same school who I never understood, probably because she didn’t seem to understand me.

The one time I had the chance to take art in high school was a disaster because the teacher spent all of his time with the “talented” one in class but my psychology teacher showed the benefits of active learning as we barely used a text-book yet learned so much.

Mentoring is a familiar word but hasn’t been a formalized part of my life. I push back against match-up’s preferring things to happen organically. My mentors wouldn’t know they’ve mentored me because it wasn’t a formal arrangement. It was something that grew from friendship and admiration. It has a lot to do with me wanting to do better in my life.

Phylis was our children’s 5th grade teacher and one of my mentors. She can’t help but teach, if you’re watching, because it’s who she is. It’s at her core, the way she tunes into to people, asking questions that let you know you’re important to her. You have her attention when you sit with her and she listens to your life. She has taught me how important it is to engage in someones story.

Bill and LaVerne taught many of us about pushing outside the pews and how to show grace rather than judgement in the church.

Ron and Carol model integrity and excellence to me. They are all friends and all mentors. I’ve not sat at their feet for purposeful mentoring. They’ve been our pastors, friends and at some point I realized what they’ve taught and continue to teach me.

In turn, this is how I’ve mentored. Last year a young person on our mission team asked me to mentor him. After I set a course of specific goals he never called back. So much for formalized mentoring.

I’d like to try it again. Something more than catch and release. Heather Caliri has an important post in SheLoves that will challenge you, as it does me, to engage in intentional mentoring. In the meantime, I’ll settle for the unofficial mentoring. Trusting God will use who He will use and that that would include me.

Linking up with SheLoves Magazine with their week of Mentoring stories. Click here to read more.


Five-Minute Friday {change}

Linking up with Kate for Five-Minute Friday. She provides the word prompt and the blogging party begins. Today’s word is change.

GO

I can hear the chorus in my head, the song called Can’t Change Me:

She’s going to change the world, she’s going to change the world, she’s going to change the world, But she can’t change me, no she can’t change me.

I think about the men who enter our rehabilitation program. The first thing they encounter is change. Clean clothes to replace the worn ones they arrived with. Fresh cooked meals served three times a day to replace the “liquid” diet many were on. A hot shower, a dry bed in air-conditioned comfort. Change. Good change.

HOPE CHANGE logo

signs throughout the warehouse

There’s other change too. Mandatory counseling, dress codes, wake up at this time, meals served at set times, restrictions handed out for failure to meet these changes.

External changes in hopes to stir internal ones.

While I’ve watched their external ones, prayed for the internal changes, they are changing me.

They have softened my heart and deepened my understanding of the grips of addiction and the disease of alcoholism. They’ve become friends and they teach me about what grace really is. They’ve changed this judging harshness that lurks inside to a patient listener.

They show me hope.

They allow us to wait with them in expectancy of the miracle of new life.

A change life. Inside and out.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform [CHANGE] you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2


Throwback Thursday {back to school}

Florida schools started this week. I grew up when schools started after Labor Day and got out just before Memorial Day.

Girls had to wear dresses until somewhere around Junior High when pants were allowed if the temperature got below a certain number. That was in Arkansas. Then I moved to Baltimore where the male teachers had ponytails and wore jeans and Patchouli and liked hearing my “accent”. What accent?

1st grade and perhaps my worst school picture EVER

1st grade and perhaps my worst school picture EVER

It will soon be time for school pictures. Mama always gave me one of those home permanents in 1st and 2nd grades. They stunk and never lasted long. My hair was nothing like hers which caused her much frustration. She eventually gave in to my desire to let it grow under a few conditions: keep it brushed and off my face. Somewhere around 5th grade I was ready for this responsibility.

2nd grade

2nd grade

I can’t remember the names of all the school I attended, only the places.

kindergarten: New Orléans

1st & 2nd Grades: Pine Bluff, Arkansas

3rd & 4th Grades: Alexandria, Louisiana

5th Grade: Oklahoma City & Shawnee, Oklahoma

6th, 7th, part of 8th: Fayetteville, Arkansas

2nd semester 8th grade: Fort Smith, Arkansas

9th Grade: Baltimore, Maryland (two schools; 1 in the city and 2nd in the county)

10th Grade: Fort Myers, Florida & Salt Lake City, Utah

11th Grade: Fort Lauderdale, FL & Beaumont, TX

12th Grade: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Somewhere around 5th grade with glasses and hair getting longer. But it's out of my face :)

Somewhere around 5th or 6th grade with glasses and hair getting longer. But it’s out of my face :)

Junior High and contact lenses!

Junior High and contact lenses!

The day before preschool pictures, our son’s teacher met me at the door. Never a good sign. He and a friend had gotten hold of scissors and taken a cut on each others bangs. That always makes for good photo’s.

Jonathan age 3

4th grade

4th grade

Looking at our kids school pictures bring back a flood of emotions. That wistful feeling of realizing how fast the years have gone and asking if we cherished the moments enough.

With my school years being marked by moving it was with intention we wanted more stability for our children. Henry worked hard to provide the kind of schooling we wanted for them and to make a way for me to meet them after school. His work provided the opportunity to be the shuttle mom to their games and late practices and field trips. It wasn’t just a gift to our kids but to our family. One we never took for granted and one we shared with friends. A gift for which we still give thanks.

Our daughter, 1st grade

Our daughter, 1st grade

And her daughter....oh, my!

And her daughter….oh, my!

Now we start with the granddaughter and my heart yearns to be the one in the car line for her, ready to hear the stories of the day. Distance requires we settle for delayed stories and rely on technology to share photo’s. It requires more intention to close the space of miles.

Facebook has been flooded with back to school photo’s and ice bucket videos this week. I’m seeing photo’s of the kids of those who rode in our minivan to after school games and I’m trying to choose to feel grateful rather than old. The grateful part is easy but that old feeling gets heavier. But I still flip through the photo’s because  of the gratitude. Because of the blessings then and now. So let’s see those school pics, friends. Would love to see some of your favorite.

 


In the big yellow house by the lake

It was a week set aside for good things. Good weather, good friends, good words, new experiences that would mark our lives and leave us marked by the good we’d experienced.

Instead, it started with change and sadness. Then it rained chasing our outdoor plans inside. Schedules started bumping into each other and expectations were realized when they weren’t met. Feelings were hurt and sleep was lost and anxiety crept in for performances to be made. Because even on the mountain, in the midst of creations splendor surrounded by your most loved family, life happens. We show up. All of our battered, messy and imperfect selves show up.

And then grace.

lake house

around the lake

around the lake

Marian says put your truth on the table. So we did. Mostly calm and quiet words from this woman who is rarely calm or quiet. And grace was given and hugs shared and tender places soothed because our love is deeper than feelings.

kk uncle J iphone

 

silly family photo

men folk

 

friends

Somewhere in the midst of the coming and going, the earlier-than-I’d-like mornings and later, noisier nights grace was surrounding us all. It came out in loud laughter and a few tears and old stories and new revelations and friendships healed and renewed. Grace does what it does: it smooths the rough edges of self and touches the others pain. It reaches out to accept the hug and it says “I choose you”. Just because.

In this big yellow house by the lake, our annual rental with ever-changing family members and friends, the week spent at a bible conference (of all places!), life follows us. We’re reminded of the challenges of coming together and we remember the ebbs and flows of others and we beg grace from each other. We learn the truth in the words of Jesus when he said His grace is sufficient because it is. It’s enough.

Adding my voice to Meredith Bernard‘s #Woman2Woman link-up. 


Five-Minute Friday {tell}

Remember that expression from childhood, tattle-tell? There was always someone who couldn’t wait to go tell a wrong they’d seen done or had done to them. We didn’t like them much, did we? Probably still don’t.

We’ve learned new ways of telling those wrong things. We’ve learned about owning them and changing them and that was last night.

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IMG_1480

 

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We are at a conference this week. We’ve brought men from our Adult Rehabilitation Centers from the southeast and we’ve gathered at this place of beauty in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. We’ve come to hear stories about Jesus and God and hope and change and new life. We’ve come to create new habits. We’ve come to learn. To share. To accept.

Last night was our night. The night in the week dedicated to these men telling their stories of redemption and grace. To sing songs God has given them about putting away the slick talk for a new walk.

ARC night

DSC_0229

Their songs are our songs and their stories our stories and I never want to forget that I, too, am a sinner saved by grace. We’ve had different stones along our paths, them and me. But stones none the less so my heart pounds when they tell their Amazing Grace stories because it’s our story too. Me and you. An offer to be saved by God’s amazing grace.

Linking up with Kate Motaung for Five-Minute Friday. Join the blogging party by adding your story. Click here.


When Hope Floats

Whoever thought hope could float on the foaming fizz of root beer? A styrofoam cup filled with vanilla ice cream and a can of Dr. Brown’s Root Beer. It was so simple, said Corbin. Here we were scooping up servings of hope that tasted like more.

Aaron waited till the end to get a second portion. Just the ice cream for him. This isn’t his first taste of hope. He’s been here a few times and had his share of portions only to run out and I’m not sure exactly how one runs out of hope but it happens. It must or why would they come back empty?

chalkboard sign

He was sitting in the outer room waiting for his paperwork to be processed. He didn’t see me come from behind but he felt my arms wrap around his shoulders and his head dropped. Some have said this is the hard part. The bottom. He left full of hope and promise, ready, feeling healthy and healed but…here he sat, again, at least 40 pounds less of him, his jeans staying up by some kind of magic of the will.

ice cream

Root Beer Floats cropped

Maybe he didn’t run out of hope. Maybe we were his last hope. We are good at trying to do it all ourselves as long as we can. Fix it. Mend it. Numb it. Deny it. When all of our do-it-yourself plans haven’t worked we give up. Maybe giving up is where hope begins.

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
 and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
 out of the mud and the mire (out of addiction, self-pity, depression, pride, loneliness). 
He set my feet on solid ground
 (gave me another chance) and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing (and a root beer float),
 a hymn of praise to our God.
 Many will see what he has done and be amazed (at the change in me).
  They will put their trust (and hope) in the Lord.” Psalm 40, with paraphrase


Up on the mountain {today}

Up on the mountain Where Your love captured me

Where finally I am free, This I know

Up on the mountain, Where You taught my soul to sing

Amazing grace, The sweetest thing, This I know

And then the storm rushing in And here I am again

This I know

David Crowder,This I Know

around the lake  lake

countryside

around the lake

We go up to these Smoky Mountains, every August. Our tenth consecutive year that we’ve packed our schedules, our uniforms for required times hanging next to our T-shirts and shorts for most days. We’ve gathered up all variety of power cords and loaded up the SwaggerWagon with a good play list and promise.

Growing up in the church you hear things like “mountain-top” experience so when you go to the mountains you go expectantly. My expectations start like this: the days will be too rushed, too much to take in, not enough time to sit with friends over homemade pie and pleeeease, God, let the technology work during the program.

Some time later, not until we’re on the road, do my expectations turn, just a little, to thoughts of refreshing.

I play it safe by keeping personal expectations in check. I play this tape in my head: it’s going to get loud, you’re going to feel like a mama hen being pecked by people you love, just remember YOU LOVE THEM. And remember, when you need to escape to your room a little early, it’s okay.

family christmas  family christmas

with Tim

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Clyde's

Orchard

lunch time at the falls

I’m this extrovert who turns a little introvert to survive the week. I want nothing more than to have this mountain-top experience with our family, to stay up laughing at the same old stories and creating new ones.

I want to have a morning with Marty in a quiet corner where we can speak a little of our hearts. But we’ll be pressed in from all sides. “This isn’t vacation”, my mind continues to remind me.

It is beautiful. It is peaceful. It is reviving and tiring all at once. It’s the kind of tiring that comes from pushing aside the comfort zone and keeping open house. The kind of tired when you fall into bed at the end of day and think, this was good.

Presumed expectations of others want to climb this mountain with me and I struggle to hear the truth of the mountain. The truth that sings this song, “Amazing grace, the Sweetest Thing, this I know”.

Up on this mountain there will be family and friends, new faces and old to hug and hold. There will be meals to fix and orchards to order homemade pies. There’s Clyde’s diner waiting for our Sunday breakfast order where we catch our breath before the others arrive.

Up on this mountain there will be grace. Grace to sing of His amazing love for the anxious ones like me.


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