Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Meet my navigator!
(And ignore the lady in the driver's seat with no make up. It's the only non-blurry photo I could find.)
You may recognize the furry guy. He's the one that eats up my hummus and just the other day snatched a $12 box of Splenda packets off the counter and sneaked it out into the rain to see if it was edible.
It turns out that he likes riding in the car almost as much as eating!
He perches his 90 pound self on the picnic table between our two front seats, sticks his nose out farther than ours so that he can feel like he is leading, and then directs the route, moving his bobblehead left to right to left again, until we get to school.
You may think I let him come along because I love the way he distributes his golden hair all over my van, the way he coats our windows with slobber and tries to drool into my coffee.
Nope. That's not it.
I started taking Tanner on our trips to middle school because I hoped it might distract my sixth grader from the joyful anticipation of the loving, supportive atmosphere preteens provide for each other whenever they gather together at school.
(That's sarcasm, in case you're wondering.)
I have time in my schedule right now, so I hoped it would help.
It does. And how!
In fact, Tanner seems to have a curious effect on strangers too.
They see him, stretching his big body over Sam to get his face out the open window, and they laugh from their cars. Mothers arguing with children stop and point and laugh. Truck drivers roll down their windows at the red light and talk to our celebrity. Women and men in suits relax their furrowed brows, smile, and breathe. Kids at the carpool line laugh and say "Look!"
And Tanner LOVES every second of it. He slings his big fat tongue out of his mouth and smiles at them all.
His joy is contagious. I'm so glad that animals do this for us.
Seeing their joy in everything, their fascination with smells and sensations, somehow distracts us from all our commotion. They take us out of our heads, and for a moment we drop the worries of the day and just feel lighter. We feel joy.
You know what Teilhard de Chardin said about joy, right?
"Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God."
Now, before you think I'm saying that this eating machine of mine is really God in a fur suit, let me clarify: That's sorta almost what I'm saying! We're all instruments of God, creatures of his kingdom, gifted to bring joy to others. Tanner the Slobber Dog and his canine sisters and brothers just have a special knack for it!
Despite his penchant for ruining Splenda boxes and stealing hummus, for chewing up jewelry boxes and destroying Christmas ornaments, I'm truly thankful for the delight he brings into our lives.
The delight reminds me of a passage from the wisdom literature of Proverbs in which wisdom is personified as a beautiful woman. After she tells us that she was there from the beginning of creation, she reminds us how wise it is to take time to enjoy God's company...
"Day after day I [Wisdom] was there, with my joyful applause, always enjoying his [God's] company, Delighted with the world of things and creatures, happily celebrating the human family."
Proverbs 8: 30-31 The Message
I need to make sure that I continue to make room in my busyness for delight, for celebrating the world of things and creatures and the human family.
What delights you in this world of God's making? What do you do in an effort to make room for Joy?
Have a wonder-full day, y'all!
Monday, September 27, 2010
It all started with this lizard.
I found him on the internet Saturday afternoon, when I should have been cleaning out my closet.
The video was titled "The Jesus Christ Lizard," so how could I pass on that?
Won't you watch it?
It's by National Geographic, so you can count it for your science lesson of the day.
(Don't worry. It's weird and funny, and it's short too.)
My sixth grader and I love to introduce each other to wacky things on the internet, so I sat Sam down and made him watch it with me.
"That's cool," Sam said, "but I don't get it. Why do they call him the Jesus lizard?"
Was he not watching?
"Because he walks on water, silly."
Sam's mouth dropped open. "WHAT? JESUS CAN WALK ON WATER?"
"Yeah," I said, "you know that story."
"COOL! I didn't know that."
"Yes you do. Remember? The disciples are out on the boat, the wind is gusting, and they're starting to panic."
Sam looked at me blankly.
"You know, and then Jesus walks out."
"No, I don't think I've heard that one."
"Yes you have!"
"No Mom, I think I'd know if I'd heard a story before."
"Yes you have heard it. I've read you that story a million times."
"Nope. Maybe to Ben or Sarah. Not to me."
"Well I know you've heard it in Sunday school then."
"No. I don't think so."
How could that be?
I finished the story, telling him how Jesus walks across the lake and the disciples think they see a ghost, and then Jesus tells them, "Calm down! I'm here. Don't be afraid." And then I say how Peter, dear Peter, who can't stand to be apart from Jesus, says, "If it's you, tell me to walk out to you," and Jesus does. I tell Sam how Peter's doing just fine until he takes his eyes of Jesus and starts to look at the wind and the waves, and he starts to sink. I tell him how Jesus reaches for his hand and asks Peter why he doubts. And then they get in the boat together and all the disciples can't get over the crazy thing that just happened.
"Cool story, Mom."
"It's not just a cool story," I stutter. "It's a great one about trusting God. About not panicking when you're in the midst of something that's overwhelming you."
"Uh huh," Sam said, looking impressed. Then he patted my head and left the room.
I sat there, stunned.
How could he not know that story?
I've been teaching Sunday school to kids for several years now. I thought through the curriculum, searching for the story. No, I don't think we have covered that one. At least not lately. I know we can't tell all the stories, but this, this was bad. Teaching the stories was not just the church's responsibility, but it was mine as a parent. How did I miss that one?
What other stories have we not taught him?
When he was younger, I'd read to him from The Beginner's Bible every night. The stories were short and right for his age, and we both loved it. I hadn't done that in years.
I remembered the scripture about teaching our children, the one in Deuteronomy,
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Yes, I know that kids today need those sacred stories to make their way in the world.
I started thinking of all they deal with, even more than we dealt with as children ourselves.
I thought of the everyday turmoil of adolescent friendships, the things kids do to try to look cool, the dangers that television and internet and American culture bring into our house, our lives. I thought of drugs and alcohol, sexting and pornography.
There's too much out there. They need to know the scriptures, the stories of God's love for them. But it's such a big job. How can we manage it?
And then a curious voice spoke into my storm.
"Calm down! I'm here. Don't be afraid."
I'm so hard headed. This is exactly how God works with me.
Jesus spoke to me in the middle of my freak out, from the blue-green lake on p.382 of The Beginner's Bible.
I had taken my eyes off him, and focused on the storm. I was Peter, in my own little whirlpool, throwing up my arms and looking at the waves.
Last night before bed, Sam noticed that The Beginner's Bible on my desk. "You know, that walking on water story might sound a little familiar. Maybe I just forgot."
"It's okay," I said. "At least you know it now."
"Yeah. But even if I didn't, it'd be okay. It's cool that Jesus can do stuff like that, but He did tons of other important things too."
Yes, God. Thank you for teaching me.
Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all! Before you leave, I'd love to hear what you do to help grasp His hand when you start to go under. Do you return to scripture? Let a friend speak God's words to you? Meditate? What helps you connect with God in the middle of a storm?
Photo by nealoneal, creative commons
Friday, September 24, 2010
To be honest, I was dreading my trip to the nursing home.
It had been five years since I'd been to one, back when we took a group of kids from Children on Mission to sing Christmas carols. I was in charge of the first graders, who kept calling out questions like, "Why does it smell like pee here?" and "Why is his mouth hanging open like that?" By the end of the evening, an old lady had tried to convince us to help her escape, and when we said goodbye to one man, he called after us in a shaky voice, "I'll see you in heaven."
But of course I had to go.
I had swung by Miss Minnie's house a few minutes earlier on my Meals on Wheels route and imagined the scene when they took her away. She must have been so scared.
The condemned sign was still on the door and the wheelchair was in the same place that I'd seen it two weeks ago, parked on the porch, a puddle of water in the seat, left over from the rain.
She'd been in the nursing home a week now. Was she still mad?
Angry for being forcibly taken out of her house, away from her bug infested bed and her chamber pot, away from the yellowed photos of her family hanging on the walls and her TV, with "The Price Is Right" blaring? Away from everything she had in the world?
What if she figured out that I had a part in it?
Miss Minnie had thrown a big fit; the social worker had made that clear. What if in all the fussing and scratching, the social worker had used me as a scapegoat? Would Miss Minnie even want to see me?
It was the right thing to do, I told myself as I pulled into the parking lot. No matter what she says or how bad it is here, it's got to be better than where she came from.
I braced myself for the worst. It didn't look like much from the outside.
And then I walked through the doors.
It was beautiful, really.
There were murals on the walls. It smelled clean.
The men and women in scrubs looked busy, and as I walked through the corridors, searching for her wing, I noticed all the patients wheeling themselves ever so slowly to the nurse's stations, like barn cats gathering around the feed bowl when the farmer walks in. It was almost time for lunch.
Finally I reached the rehabilitation wing. "I'm looking for Miss Minnie Jackson.*"
"Look behind you," a nurse smiled.
I turned, but I didn't see her.
"You're looking right at her," the nurse laughed.
"Miss Minnie?" I said at the white haired woman, her head hanging down.
She raised her head in a puzzled look and I hardly recognized her. The scabs from the bug bites on her cheeks and forehead had healed and were gone. Her clothes were clean and she was clean, her fingernails neatly trimmed, her hair was completely different, snow white and slightly curled, like my Granny Farley's used to be. Her face reminded me of hers too, soft and smooth. Her white tuft of a beard was gone.
"Miss Minnie," I said, "It's me, Becky, from Meals on Wheels."
"Oh," she said, and her eyes glimmered a little.
"I'm so glad to see you. Are you doing okay?"
"I guess so," she said, and straightened up in her chair. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you. Is that okay?"
"Well yes," she said, as if that were a silly question. "You want to eat lunch with me?"
"I can sit with you during lunch, if you want."
"Okay, but you'll have to show me where it is I'm supposed to go. I get so turned around in this place."
The nurse pointed us the way, and we went into a room full of other people in wheelchairs, each pulled up to tables, all in their own little worlds. A nurse was putting huge paper bibs on each one, calling them by name and asking how they were doing today. There was a lady in one corner who kept calling out, "Sweetheart, please," every five seconds.
"She's out of her mind," Miss Minnie said, seeing me glance at her. "I wanna say, 'Please what?' but she don't know what she's saying. She never shuts up."
So we sat together, with another woman who smiled when I introduced myself, and then didn't say another word the entire lunch. Miss Minnie and I talked a little, but I mainly watched her eat. She was hungry, eating every bit of her beef Stroganoff, her roll, and her jello with strawberries. "I think you like it," I said, teasing her.
"It's not bad," she said.
"It's not bad?" I laughed. "You want me to hold the plate up so you can lick it?"
She laughed a little. "No, I can't do that. They might stick me in exercise again, say they need to teach me to eat. They call it therapy, but it's really exercise. You know I haven't exercised in sixty some years? But I have to do it here."
"Is it hard?"
"No, it's not hard. It's good for me, I guess. But I don't like it much."
"You don't like what much?" said a nurse, wrapping her arms around Miss Minnie and kissing her on the cheek. "We just love Miss Minnie," she said to me. "She's a character."
"Now what don't you like much?" the nurse asked Miss Minnie.
"Yeah, well, we got to get you chewing right. We worked on popcorn this morning, didn't we? That's probably why you can't eat all your noodles, today, right? Cause I stuffed you full of popcorn."
"Maybe. Could I have some coffee please?"
"Sure honey. How do you take it?"
"One pack of sugar. That's all."
After Miss Minnie lingered over her coffee, she asked me if I wanted to see her room. It was clean (Hallelujah!) and neat as a pin.
"You want to sit on the bed? We could watch TV."
I told her I had to go, but I'd be back in two weeks. I'd stop by after my route was done.
"Alright," she said. "I'll see you then. If I'm not already dead, that is."
I think I like nursing homes now. At least that one.
I thought you might enjoy the update. It's important to celebrate the good news happening around us. I'd love to hear yours. Do tell!
Have a great weekend, y'all.
*Miss Minnie is not her real name.
Photo by daoro, creative commons
Monday, September 20, 2010
My eighteen year old got his first pair of glasses on Saturday.
His reaction was just what I hoped it would be.
"Look! Blades of grass! I can see individual leaves on that tree! I can't believe what I've been missing!"
It got me singing this song...
And it got me thinking of the time I taught the words to my kids.
We were living in France then and the kids loved the song. I remember one morning when the sun came out from behind the clouds on our way to school. There we were, driving down Cours Sablon, the whole car singing:
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
I do love that song.
I've gotta sing a little more.
I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I've been prayin' for
It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright
I looked at the weather report this morning and sure enough, there will be nothin' but blue skies
heading our way this week, with temps in the upper eighties and low nineties.
But I know that with many of us, maybe including myself, we'll still have rain to deal with. We'll still have dark clouds overhead and obstacles that stand in our way.
We can see clearly, but they're still there.
Today I'm thankful that even when we're standing in the rainstorm with no sun in sight, even when the dark cloud seems to follow us around, God promises to stand with us.
We are not alone.
It's a hopeful thing!
Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
Eyeglass photo by Mr. T in DC, creative commons
Rainy day photo by Alyssa L. Miller, creative commons
Friday, September 17, 2010
I love my bed.
Every day I look forward to changing into my comfy pj's, climbing in between the sheets, pulling the heavy quilt folded at the end of the bed over me, and nestling my head into my favorite down filled pillow.
No, I'm not depressed. I like being awake just fine, but I'm so glad that God created sleep.
Do you ever think about how weird sleep is? It's like something out of a science fiction movie, that every sixteen hours or so, we climb into our pods, close our eyes, and let our consciousness unplug from its socket. We drift off into another way of being. We still our bodies and let our brains go wild.
Ever since I heard author, teacher, and Jungian analyst Jim Hollis speak of dreams as an "extra-conscious forms of cognition," I've tried harder to remember and examine my dreams, to see what God may be trying to say to me through them.
My daughter is great at this. Sarah keeps her cell phone next to her bed, and the moment she wakes, even in the middle of the night, she texts herself what happened in her dreams. Then she reads it the next morning and tries to make sense of it. I'm afraid this method wouldn't work for me. I have a hard enough time pushing those tiny buttons when I'm awake. By the time I managed to focus, any dreams would have dissolved! So I keep a pen and pad by my bed. Sometimes I remember to write things down. It has been an interesting exercise.
What do you think about your dreams? Does God still speak to people through them, as God did throughout the Bible? Has God spoken to you through your dreams? Or do you see your dreams as messages sent to you, not necessarily by God's presence within you, but by your own subconsciousness?
I find this fascinating.
Maybe that's why I so enjoyed The Edge of Dreaming. Have you seen it? It's a beautifully done documentary on NPR's POV. Here's the synopsis from the website:
Scottish filmmaker Amy Hardie has built a career making science documentaries that reflect her rational temperament. When she dreamed one night that her horse was dying, only to wake the next morning and find the horse dead, she dismissed the incident as a coincidence. Then she dreamed she would die at age 48 — only one year away. When Hardie does get ill, just as the dream predicted, she visits neuroscience experts and eventually a shaman. The Edge of Dreaming is an evocative, intimate chronicle of that year and a fascinating investigation into the human subconscious.
If you have the opportunity, I hope you'll watch the film. It's really a piece of art, and it may raise all sorts of interesting questions.
I found it fascinating to watch her trying so hard to look at her experience rationally, from a scientific point of view, but finally delve into the spiritual to get her rational explanation.
As a biochemistry major and a science teacher myself, it's not hard for me to see the spiritual woven throughout the scientific--maybe that's why I so love this documentary. Plus, it's just a gorgeous film to watch.
But perhaps you've seen it already. If so, I'd love to talk with you about what her dream might mean. Tell me in your comments, or shoot me an email. I have my own theory and I'd love to hear yours!
So what do you think of dreams? And your bed and your pj's and your pillow?
I wish you deep sleep and sweet dreams!
Photo by photoA.nil, creative commons
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I HATE being weak.
So I guess that explains why I was sprawled out on the bathroom floor at the doctor's office, knees under me, head down, both arms extended in front of me, as if worshiping the toilet bowl.
As I knelt there, doing my square breathing, I was wishing I was a normal mommy, one who doesn't feel faint when her child gets five shots in a row in the thin skin of the underside of his forearm, a mommy who doesn't get queasy when this adult-boy in a man's body takes a little break before the last three shots. A mommy who doesn't run away to the bathroom, where she can faint in peace.
Did I lock the door?
What if none of this works? The kneeling and breathing and the cold paper towel on the back of my neck? What if the nurse finishes and I'm in here unconscious, my tongue hanging out and my skirt tangled up around my waist?
I'd told her that I was going to get water, which was true. I'd had a sip. But then the hall started looking a little tunnel-ish, and I walked my feet in front of me, hoping I could make it around the corner before I crumpled to the floor.
At least the bathroom floor was fairly clean.
I'd been doing so well. I was fine during the whole exam, as she gridded off a map on his back. The panel of allergens was no big deal, just tiny polka dots, cooking under the skin like the last time we did this, bubbling up a reaction, hopefully. Something to make it worth the trip. Something to explain why he couldn't breathe.
It was the third time I'd taken him to the doctor since school started, and his asthma was getting worse, not better. This athletic kid who runs eight miles in the heat and humidity of summer with barely a raise of an eyebrow, now, in the cooler weather of the oncoming fall, felt his chest closing in on him. Running against the tightness was wearing him out.
Unfortunately, the allergy panel showed nothing. "It's time for fun with needles," the doc said.
Surprise, surprise. It wasn't fun at all.
And how did Mom support him?
By hiding in the bathroom.
It wasn't the first time.
I'd camped out on floors in doctor's offices and hospitals all across the eastern United States. When Sarah had her pre-op for her wisdom teeth removal, when Todd had his knee surgery. Even during a mammogram once.
(Be warned, it's not a good idea to faint when your boob is trapped in a vice. Heed my wisdom.)
But I'd never hidden myself away, until now.
It wasn't going very well.
And then I thought of the muffin.
Months ago, I had met my friends for coffee, and as we laughed, a crumb took a wrong turn. I started to choke a little, then held up my hand, as if to say "Don't worry, I've got control of this." I coughed and coughed, a lot at first, and then just a little. But the bit o' muffin wouldn't quit bouncing around my windpipe. The coughing wouldn't stop.
This was embarrassing.
I had the urge to leave, to go outside and hack out the muffin, so I did. I ran out the door and hacked myself silly, a cat with a hairball. Not pretty.
Finally it stopped, at the exact moment Susie opened the door.
"I was about to come help you, whether you wanted it or not," she said. "You know that's what people do before they choke to death, don't you? They run off, just like an animal, burrowing away to die. They don't want everybody looking at them, so they go away and choke to death. It's a real thing, Becky. It's in studies."
How I love my friends.
I finally relaxed enough and stopped thinking about needle pricks and blood enough to get up and check on my boy. What did we learn from eight shots and a panel full of polka dots?
Nada. Rien. Nothing.
But we're trying a new inhaler and we'll see what happens.
And what did I learn, personally?
The age old lesson that when we try to hold onto our pride and a false sense of control, when we hide our weaknesses from others instead of letting them care for us, we just may end up cheek to cheek with the bathroom tile at the allergist's office.
And also that I could be related to Myotonic goats.
Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all. And tell me, is it hard for you to be open about your weaknesses?
I wish you easy breathing!
PS. If you know my son, don't ask him about it. It's a touchy subject, as you can imagine.
Photo by rcameraw, creative commons
Monday, September 13, 2010
When he was just two months old, his mother, a prostitute, took off all his clothes, laid him in his crib, and walked through her mobile home, opening each window wide enough for the bitter wind to enter. Then she shut the door behind her, leaving her child to freeze to death.
If his aunt hadn't heard his screaming, the cold would have surely killed him.
This is only the beginning of Dwayne's story.
His grandparents took him in, but verbally and mentally abused him.
While he was still just a child, his uncle would take him on overnight fishing trips where he'd make Dwayne drink beer until he passed out. When Dwayne woke up, he'd find himself naked in the back of the truck, under a blanket.
When he was just thirteen, Dwayne met a girl who changed his life. She loved him and he loved her. They married later and had a baby, a home, a van, and each other. They had fifteen good years, but then she got sick. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died at the age of 35.
The pain was too much to bear, and Dwayne turned to prostitutes for comfort and to drugs. He lost his child, his place, his van.
He was homeless and a drug addict, living in shelters and under bridges, wrapping a towel around his head at night so that the bugs didn't crawl in his ears.
He went to rehab several times, but it never lasted, and one day he decided to end it all. To walk into oncoming traffic and put a stop to the pain.
The light turned green. He waited a moment and then lunged forward, but felt something grip his shoulder so hard that he turned around, expecting, he said, to see a football player from the nearby campus.
It was a tiny old woman. "You don't want to go that way, son," she said, and turned him in a different direction, down Rutherford Street, toward Triune Mercy Center.
That was the beginning of his new life.
"Life is good, isn't it?" he said to the hundreds of us, the homeless and the comfortable, squeezed together in the pews of Triune. "I've got so much now. I'm clean and done with drugs. I've got an apartment with central air and heat, I got a fridge and a stove, I've got food to eat, and I've got God in my life now. And I don't have to sleep with a towel around my head no more. I really hate those bugs."
Life is good, indeed.
We'd come to Triune to listen to Kyle Matthews sing, to raise money for this church to the homeless, and to show support for its ministry. I hadn't expected to worship, to hear Dwayne's amazing story of transformation, or to reconsider my notion of what church is supposed to be.
God, in the busyness of my days, help me take time to make connections with the people around me. Help us be church to each other, respecting the truth that we are all your children, vulnerable babes in an often painful world.
I hope you have a great day, y'all. Before you go, I'd love to hear what church means to you.
And be sure to give a listen to Kyle's song All of Us. The lyrics follow the video. The song tells quite a story.
Photo by cindy47452, creative commons
All of Us
She's got a toddler and a baby, but she's just a child herself
She's desperate but she's too afraid to ask for help
As she wanders through our yard sale, we want to offer food
But we don't want to embarrass her, we don't want to intrude
Thinking, "How can we
Be what she needs?"
She needs friends to be like family
In the best and worst of times
A job, some education, and enough cash to get by
Women who will listen
Men that she can trust
There's still a chance she'll make it
But she's gonna need...
All of us, she'll need all of us
She'll need all of us
He longs to be the savior of people such as these
He wants to wipe out hunger, house the homeless, cure disease
He rides in on his white horse, he's noble and unbowed
Til his money, optimism, and his patience have run out
He thinks, "I should have known
I can't do this on my own...
She stands with all the others in a sea of caps and gowns
Cheers rise from the balcony when her name is called out
She says I'd like to give you all the gift that I have found
A church to be there for you when others let you down
‘Cause the day is gonna come
When you will be the one...
Who needs friends to be like family
In the best and worst of times
To celebrate your victories
Cry with you when you cry
A sea of faithful people
So that when the trouble comes
They surround you like a wave
That gently lifts you up...
And that takes
All of us, that takes all of us
That takes all of us
By Kyle Matthews ~ Copyright © 2008 Catalytic Songs (BMI) All Rights Reserved.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Be in awe of the Blob.
I know I am.
I had heard of the wonders of the Blob from my older kids for years, but now that Todd brought back photographic evidence of its existence, I finally appreciate its amazing powers. Wanna see?
The Blob resides at Camp Rockmont, a non-denominational Christian camp for boys in the hills of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Every year, our church youth group spends Labor Day weekend there, and since Sam is now a middle schooler, he got to go this time. Todd went along to serve as a counselor and chaperone, and both came home gushing about the Blob.
There it is, that striped pillow floating in Lake Eden.
It looks a little scary in the chilly morning mist, but believe me, it's a teen's best friend. Or even a forty-something's.
Let me explain The Procedure to Successful Blobbing. I'll try not to be too technical.
Step one: Person A jumps off the board and onto the Blob, and then crawls to the other end, sits facing forward, and waits.
Step two: Person B now takes a jump onto the Blob.
Person A goes flying!
Sometimes really high!
Some kids really were great at sending people into the sky.
Super Blobbers know the technique and have the physical heft and power to give just the right bounce.
Of course, if you want to go skyward, it's also partly up to you. You can't be clinging to the Blob, holding on to its Blobby safety. You have to get ready to fly.
Of course, being the over-analyzer/ corny person that I am, the metaphor in all of this is raising its hand and jumping up and down in its seat like Arnold Horshak.
I have to say that all this jumping and bouncing and sending kids flying makes me think about what friends do for each other. What you sweet people do for me.
I read your comments here, or I go visit you at your blog home, or I see you on facebook, talk to you via email or on the phone, and you hop off your board and bounce me in the sky.
Just by living your lives the way you do, by keeping on chugging, by being positive and funny, honest and sincere and faithful, you provide such a great example for me and everyone else. You bounce me and I keep chugging too.
Thanks for the Blob, people. I love you to pieces!
It also reminds me that we really don't have an idea of the power of our words. What our encouragement can do for each other. I'm so thankful for each of you.
Have a fabulous Friday!
I wish you much happy blobbing this weekend!
PS. Before you scatter, enjoy my friend Bootie's bounce and flip.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Big news, y'all. I couldn't wait until Friday to share.
Do you remember Miss Minnie? The lady on my Meals on Wheels route that I wrote about here and here and here, the tough old bird who was nearly blind, who couldn't see the grime she lived in or the bugs infesting her house and her clothes, her bed, even her stack of bills?
When I pulled up to her house today, I noticed her front door was closed. Miss Minnie always keeps her door open with the screen door locked, so as to have one less door to fiddle with while leaning on her walker. Her wheelchair was on the porch and a sign was taped to the door.
What in the world?
I got her meal and gathered my courage like I always do at her house, hoping she didn't need me to write her bills today. My stomach just wasn't up to it. I knocked and tried to read the sign through the darkness of my sunglasses.
The house had been condemned!
"She ain't there no more," called a neighbor from across the street. "Two cop cars and an ambulance came this morning and carried her off. She was fighting mad."
I could only imagine.
"You shoulda seen those four guys after the ambulance left. They stood out here for at least ten minutes, trying to shake the bugs off themself. It's like they were dancing."
Yep, I've done that dance myself.
I called the social worker and got the word that yes, they'd finally done it. Months and months after we started complaining, making pests of ourselves, the state had finally seen fit to take her out of her home.
"She'll probably spend a week at the hospital," the social worker told me, "getting cleaned up and examined from head to toe, and then we'll get her placed somewhere else. You can go see her then. Right now, believe me, she's in no state for a visit."
I bet not.
She's probably terrified and angry, lost and confused. It's tragic and heartbreaking, but she'll finally be cared for and safe.
Still, would you ask God to comfort her? That the people interacting with her will see through her anger and give her what she needs? She could certainly use the prayers.
Photo by takomabibelot, Some rights reserved
"Just what am I going to eat for breakfast, Mom?" Sam fussed, rifling through the cabinets. "There's no food in the house!"
"Have you even looked?" I yelled from in front of the computer.
This seemed to be a Y-linked chromosomal trait, this inability to see the food --or the favorite shirt or the baseball cap--right in front of their faces.
"Yes I've looked," he sighed. "Come see for yourself."
"Okay, I will!" I declared, ready to point out the wide array of breakfast choices and gloat in motherly triumph.
Sam was right. There were cornflakes and Cheerios, but not a drop of milk. No bread, no juice. Someone ate the last peach the night before. No tortillas for a cheese quesadilla. Just one lonely egg in the carton. No yogurt, except two Cotton Candy Gogurts that Sam says taste like medicine and make him want to puke.
This was bad.
Here stood my hungry eleven year old, but even worse, there was an eighteen year old son studying upstairs. In a mere twenty minutes or so, his hunger would trip the alarm in his stomach and he'd come barreling down the stairs like a grizzly bear, ready to pick up somebody's Honda and shake any food out of it.
Obviously, the Breakfast Man (aka Todd Ramsey) had been gone for the week.
Todd grew up eating breakfasts of eggs and bacon and sausage (yes, two pig products offered each morning,) rice or grits, juice and milk, while I grew up eating cereal with milk or a Danish Go Round or maybe cinnamon toast.
Not a criticism, Mom! I so miss a Danish Go Round. (Do y'all remember those?) And I hate washing breakfast pans. (Todd is an enthusiastic breakfast cook, but not so enthusiastic on the cleaning up part.)
I looked at the clock and searched the freezer. Surely there was something in there.
Frozen biscuits! Yes!
I popped them in the oven, sat back down in front of the computer, and promptly immersed myself in your blogs. And promptly forgot all about the biscuits.
The blog posts I read were so very good.
I forgot about my boys and I forgot about the oven.
Some twenty minutes later, a fragrance tickled my nose.
Ooh, that's nice.
What was it? It smells like a country kitchen. Like butter. Like bread baking.
Lucky for us, they were perfect, lightly browned, puffy in the middle, golden on the bottom.
Thank goodness for the scent, leading me out of my morning fog, reminding me of the deliciousness waiting for me and the boys: the bread that would satisfy our hunger and tame my savage beasts!
If the buttery perfume hadn't reminded me, I might have carbonized our breakfast!
This got me thinking about other reminders. Ordinary things that we see or hear or smell that pique our memories, that jump start our brains out of the fog of the day, that call to mind more than biscuits. That make us remember a Power bigger than we are, a Lover more capable that we are to hand out grace and gifts of all sorts.
So I'm wondering what sort of things jolt you out of your day and turn your thoughts to the Creator?
The feel of a cool breeze after a summer of torturous heat?
A random act of kindness between bickering brothers?
The scent of grapes ripening on the vine?
I hope you'll share!
*Photo by smohundro, creative commons
Monday, September 6, 2010
The piano refused to budge.
It squatted on the floor of Triune Mercy Center's chapel, anchored by its 1200 pounds.
This was a problem.
In just five days, people would stream into the sanctuary, ready to hear award winning singer/songwriter Kyle Matthews sing, ready to add their love offering as the plates are passed, giving what they can to benefit this church to the homeless, to the alcoholics and the drug addicted, to the mentally ill and the destitute. And to others like the rest of us, who worship here from time to time, who wear our brokenness on the inside, where it's less easy for others to see.
What was Pastor Deb going to do? It's not as if tiny Deb and the office ladies could move it.
The piano had to be lifted onto the worship platform, three, maybe four feet high.
If only a team of angels would materialize in the night, as all the homeless congregants scatter to the shelters and back under the bridges, and the rest of us tuck ourselves into our comfy beds and close our eyes.
I could just imagine it: angels singing a heavenly heave ho, then lifting the piano into the air with just their pinky fingers, setting it gently down, and vanishing into the dark.
God of all power could easily send a flock of helpers, but I didn't actually see that happening.
It was a puzzle.
Oh, but that's right. Puzzles are God's specialty.
He had certainly solved one for me.
I'd spent a great part of the summer puzzling out a question with my fourth grade Sunday School class. What exactly is the Kingdom of God that Jesus was always talking about? Is it on the inside or outside of us? Do we find it on earth or after we die?
We'd read parables where Jesus compares it to a mustard seed or to yeast. He said it belonged to the children and the poor, and the rich have an awfully hard time getting in.
What in the world was Jesus talking about?
I think I know now. You may not believe it, but yesterday, I saw the Kingdom of God for myself!
The Kingdom of God is just like Triune Mercy Center, where we line up all together, the sick and the well, and kneel at the altar for communion.
Where we hold out our cupped hands and wait for bread,
where we drink down every drop of juice, and remember Jesus together.
Where we pray for forgiveness and thank God for a love that surpasses human understanding. Where both the stomach-hungry and the soul-hungry sing songs of praise to God.
Where the broken pass the plate, each gives what she can, and Pastor Deb raises it high above the altar, thanking God, the Source of All Goodness, for each gift.
Oh, and guess what else I saw.
I saw a flock of angels!
I really did. I watched them rush to the front of the sanctuary after worship was over. Twenty or thirty men, some unshaven, in tattered clothes, clogging the aisles, trying to get to that piano.
One man gave the signal, and in three seconds, they had lifted it together high, then moved it through the air onto the platform, setting it down as gently as a cloud.
It was a better show than the pinky finger version in my head!
Thank you God, for letting us occasionally catch sight of your kingdom here on earth. Help us bring the kingdom to each other as we lift each others burdens together.
Have you seen the kingdom lately? I'd love to hear about it! (Or anything else you'd like to say!)
Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
If you can make it to Greenville on Friday, Sept. 10, be sure not to miss Kyle's concert at 7pm and the art show beforehand. It's going to be great!
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
*Photo by Nesster, creative commons
PS. In case you missed this last time I posted it, here's some more info on Triune, as told by my friend Rev. Deb Richardson- Moore.
Friday, September 3, 2010
I heard the most beautiful story in my car this morning. Do you ever listen to StoryCorps on Fridays? It's my favorite Friday feature on NPR's Morning Edition, and this one made me reach for the Kleenex. You can read the complete transcript here, or treat yourself with a click on Listen to the Story over at the transcript site, and hear Angelo and Eddie tell the story themselves in their fabulous New York accents.
If you're in a hurry, I'll share the gist. Angelo and Eddie were garbage men in Manhattan, partners in work for years and years. Angelo has retired, and they got together to talk about their work and Angelo's retirement.
Here's a couple of bits from their story:
"Everybody would just come out just to talk to you," Nieves, 55, said to Bruno when they visited a StoryCorps booth recently.
People along their route in Manhattan's West Village neighborhood would greet the two and offer them coffee or breakfast, Bruno said. And nuns on their route would kiss them.
"The younger guys would ask me, 'How did you get that?' It's just a little good morning, have a nice weekend. Hey, you look great today," Bruno said. "I could do 14 tons of garbage — I can't lift a baby carriage off a step and carry it down? Or hold someone's baby when they went to get their car?"
"When I first came on the job, there was one old timer ... I remember Gordy Flow his name was. One day, he stopped the truck. He tells me, 'Angelo, you look down this block first. See all the sidewalks are all crowded up with garbage?' So I think nothing of it. My father always told me to respect my elders. I get to the end of the block, and he stops me again. 'Get out of the truck, look back. Nice and clean right? People could walk on the sidewalk. Guys can make deliveries. Be proud of yourself,' " Bruno explained.The story ends with Angelo's retelling of his last day of work, how the people in the neighborhoods cried, how he cried, and how all that crying made Eddie cry. Eddie says that after years of taking the same vacations and days off, and working side by side, they dearly miss each other.
Angelo answers, "I feel the same way, Eddie. I'll be honest with you — I miss it terribly. I'm like the little kid looking out the window now when I hear the truck. I think I could have done another 31 years."
Wouldn't you love to always feel this way about the work you spend your days doing? As if it's holy, a God given opportunity to make your corner of the world a better place. I guess that's exactly what work is, no matter whether we're cleaning up baby spit-up at home, crafting or writing or teaching or lawyering. Or collecting garbage on the streets of Manhattan.
I need to remember that.
That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.
Have a wonder-full weekend, y'all!
And thanks again, thank you, thank you, for your kind birthday wishes! You all are so special to me! I'm sending you hugs and kisses!
*Photo by StoryCorps
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
It's my birthday! Care to join me in throwing the day's work to the wind?
We could sit out in the sun by the grapevines and eat muscadines 'til we're sick. They're ripe now, filling our backyard with their musky, peppery scent.
When my grape farmer gets back in town (he's off again, earning points for another suitcase,) it'll be time for the harvest. Time to wash the feet and start stomping. Got a kerchief for your hair and your best Italian accent? It's I Love Lucy all over again. Or, if you don't feel like wrestling, we could just hang out and watch the fruit flies. They're busy planning their annual convention in my kitchen once the brewing starts.
I can hardly believe it's been six years since the mailman brought us three tubes of sticks from Ty Ty, Georgia.
I couldn't figure it out. Why in the world did my husband buy mail order twigs?
"They're not twigs," he said, unwrapping them with such care you'd have thought they were artifacts from Mesopotamia. "They're grapes. Remember? I'm going to plant a few vines in the backyard.
A few vines. Right.
He's a Ramsey. When it comes to the garden, there are never a few of anything.
See what I mean?
If you love muscadines and live nearby, come on over! We've got plenty to share.
At first I didn't get his enthusiasm for the grape, but now I do.
Muscadine grapes are more than just a grape with a mucous-y texture, a fruit that rolls around in your mouth like a skin covered eyeball.
Grapes are all about hope.
(And no, I haven't had a little too much of the pressed grape already. Stick with me and I'll get to my point.)
Last Christmas, the kids made him a sign.
The Hopeful Dog Vineyard. It's the title Todd prints on the labels for his homemade muscadine wine, named after a hopeful dog we know and love.
This dog is hopeful, if nothing else.
Hopeful that we'll drop a crumb. Hopeful that he can trick three people into feeding him dinner, one after the other. Hopeful that some kid will leave the bread on the counter, so he can sneak it out the dog door, eat up every morsel, and leave the plastic bag to crop up in a photograph.
(See it there on the left?)
I'm still not sure that the image a hopeful dog is appetizing enough to belong on the label, but the concept of hope definitely needs to be on there somewhere.
Grapes are all about hope.
If hope really means holding to a wish for something, expecting that it will come true, grapes are the poster fruit for hope.
Need an explanation?
Allow me to let you peek into a conversation my husband and I had the hot, sweaty day he constructed the trellis and planted the grapes.
Being my helpful self, I stayed in the air conditioning. When he was done I brought him some tea.
"Not to tell you what to do," I said, "But wouldn't it have been easier to put them where it's flat instead of going up the hill?"
Todd breathed deeply, as if restraining himself from clobbering me, and wiped the sweat off his face.
"You might think that," he said, "But that's what's so great about grapes. They thrive on adversity, on the water rolling down the hill in a hard storm, on the wind whipping through. Think of the vineyards back in France. Can you think of a single one that's on flat land?"
"There was that one in Perignat."
"Exception to the rule!" he countered. "If that farmer had had a hill, he would have planted it there. Didn't you look at the millions of vineyards we drove past? Don't you remember how the grapes were planted in the worst places possible--steep hills, the worst soil, under piles of rocks? Grapes are amazing! If they have to struggle, they bear more fruit. They just keep on doing what they do, through everything. But make them comfortable and all you get is leaves!"
Okay. So now I'm ready for Barbara Walters.
If she ever asks me the question: If you were a fruit, which one would you be? I know what I'd answer.
Have a grape! And a wonder-full day.