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When You’re Missing Your Mom

Her name was Esther Arlene but everyone in her family called her Sister; even my grandparents called her Sister. Her nieces and nephews called her “Aunt Sister.”

I called her Mom, not Mommy, or Mama and certainly not Mother. She was just Mom. My mom.

She’s not here anymore but she’s everywhere; I see her, smell her, and hear her everywhere I go. Mom influenced me more than anyone or anything.

She wasn’t perfect, though.

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I just said my Mom wasn’t perfect. Shame on me. Bad girl. Go to your room, Sue.

Sigh. I got sent to my room a lot. So. Not. Fair.

I didn’t know it then but Mom had a lot of ‘not fair’ to deal with in her life.   

It’s a pivotal moment in life when you realize that your Mom isn’t perfect. When you grasp that underneath it all she is struggling with disappointment. Just like you.

I’m a lot like her. Not perfect. My problem is that I want people to think I’m perfect. And I want them to be perfect, too. It’s a perfect storm.

I miss talking to her about this kind of stuff. Miss her laugh and how she could make me laugh, even on my worst days; I’d call her up to complain about something and in a matter of minutes, we’d both be laughing hysterically. I rang up some hefty long distance telephone bills, complaining and laughing with my Mom. It was worth every penny.

And I learned hospitality from her, though we never called it that, never thought about it at all, really, it was just the way we lived. I think Mom was the one who invented the concept of having an open door.

When my brother was in high school, his friends used to come to our house for lunch, even though they didn’t share the same lunch period as my brother. Mom worked, but left the door unlocked and the fridge was always stocked with cold cuts, pickles and cheese for sandwiches. I can’t even fathom how she afforded to feed extra teenaged boys on my dad’s schoolteacher salary.

We frequently had last minute guests for dinner. I remember begging her to let my friend stay to eat supper with us. “Please Mom, pleeease?!” Of course, I asked her right in front of said friend, so she always said yes and somehow managed to stretch the food to feed one more hungry kid. My friends loved her.

It occurs to me as I write this that maybe she was hungry, too; hungry to recreate her childhood experience at the table. She was one of eight children, so dinnertime was quite a gathering, and there was always room for one more.

Mom was a good cook, but it wasn’t until I had a family of my own to feed that I realized she didn’t actually like to cook; more than that, she resented it. Being the first girl in a family of ten, (hence, the nickname “Sister”) she started cooking as soon as she could reach the stove. But what she really wanted was to be out working in the fields with her Daddy and her brothers.

She outlived all but one of her brothers and that about killed her. Really, she was never the same after they passed and it was their names she called out in her final hours.

One time when I was a young mother she told me that when you became a mother you would always be thinking about your children; even when they were grown up there would never, ever be a single moment that they weren’t in the back of your mind.

But she never told me the other part; that no matter how old you get, and how long its been since your mom passed away, there would never, ever be a moment that somewhere in the recesses of your mind, you weren’t thinking of her.

And missing her.

I miss you, Mom. 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of How You Say Goodbye

Hospitality isn’t just about the welcoming. Sometimes it’s about how you say goodbye…

There’s this routine my granddaughter and I share. Hard to believe she’s nearly sixteen now, but we still come up with these things, just like when she was little. She lives just around the corner from me and likes to come over in the evening to do her homework and watch her favorite TV show. The special thing we do happens when she heads out the door to walk home.  

It’s pretty safe here in our neighborhood and she’s old enough to walk home alone but part of the routine is that I stand on the sidewalk and watch until she turns the corner. Her part is to turn around every so often to see if I’m still watching. One last glimpse and with a wave, she’s gone. 

But wait! Don’t rush back into the house because all the sudden there she is again — looking to see if I’m still looking. And there I am waiting for that one last wave, that heart-stopping smile, the final goodbye.

As a grandmother, it’s delicious. 

But she has a little sister. She’s 7. She likes to come visit too, but she’s not allowed to stay as late as her big sister. Her curfew is before dark and she just recently has been given the ok to walk home alone. It’s a pretty big deal.

So the other night, she hugged me (20 second hug – that’s my rule) and went skipping off down the sidewalk. I waited and watched.

Sure enough, she turned around to see if I was watching. A wave, more skipping, and then a fast walk with that unbelievable little girl wiggle she has. A look back – yep, grandma’s still watching.

Now she’s nearly at the corner; she turns, waves and speeds up to a run for the final few steps towards home. She’s out of sight. 

I linger. Wondering. Thinking of the routine her big sister and I share.

And it happens! Her precious little head pops back around the corner, checking to see if Grandma is still watching.

Yes, sweetheart, Grandma is here.

Watching and waiting. And loving. And praying.

That’s what Grandma’s do.

Wide Open Spaces

“You have set my feet in a wide place………”

When we moved from our large home into a townhouse last fall, we were determined to bring along all the stuff we could stuff into the tiny rooms, especially the living room. If we couldn’t have ‘spacious’ then we’d darn well have cozy; it’s amazing how much you can get in a 13 x 13 room when you plot it out on graph paper. Besides the sofa, chaise and rockers, we managed to squeeze in a huge antique step back cupboard, two bookcases,  a big vintage cabinet to hold the TV, plus a wine rack and ottoman.

I went to great lengths to make everything look warm and cozy.

But cozy quickly turns into cluttered and cluttered brought out my clumsiness. The comfy ottoman and oversized basket of books looked great but became my downfall as I tripped over them not once but twice and landed hard.

I don’t know which hurt more: my knee or my frustration at not being able to move about freely.

The second time it happened the impact shook not just the house but shook loose whatever latch had been holding back all my emotions since the move. That thing sprung open and I thought I’d never stop crying.

I’d thought if I could just make this place a miniature version of our house I’d be ok. Instead it made me miss it more. My logic quite literally tripped me up.

The solution was simple: get rid of the obstacles – put the books on a shelf, shove the ottoman against the wall (I can pull it out when I want to put my feet up) and make sure the computer cord is tucked safely away from unsuspecting ankle.

Problem solved. Turns out I wasn’t really all that clumsy – my house was just cluttered.

Sometimes we get ourselves into tight places and sometimes God has us in circumstances that seem confining and close and every time we turn around we’re running into a wall or tripping over our own feet. We can pound on those barred windows till our fists bleed, ‘shake fists at the sky’ and fail to see that the door is open.

Even in our dungeons of despair and despondency, there IS ‘a spacious place, a large room’ to set our feet.

  • The tight space expands when we choose thankfulness instead of self-pity.
  • We whittle out a few more feet to move about when we choose to worship instead of whine.
  • We gain more ground when we remove the obstacles that fight for our attention and distract us from what is really important. 
  • We give Him thanks and he removes the obstacles; the things that try us and trip us up, he clears them out.

Unemcumbered…. not burdened, vexed, inconvenienced. Not hindered or thwarted or barricaded.

He gives us room to breathe (ahhh); He gives us a safe place where we can move freely.

The Good News version of the Bible says, “You have given me freedom to go where I wish.” 

What He really does is give us the freedom to wish for what He wishes.

I wish to be home, God.”

He whispers, “You are home, child.”

Yes, He sets our big, clumsy, wayward feet in a large space and we are amazed to discover it was there right under us the whole time.

 

Psalm 31:6-8   “But I trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in thy lovingkindness because Thou hast seen my afflictions; Thou hast known the troubles of my soul. And Thou hast not given me over to the hand of the enemy; Thou hast set my feet in a large place.”

 

 

When You Feel Like Throwing a Pity Party

A friend of mine, displaced from her small town life, close friends and church family, has had a hard time adjusting to life in the big city. A stay at home mom whose kids are now grown, she is restless, anxious about driving in rush hour traffic, lonely and struggling to recover that sense of ‘home’ she’d known for all her adult life. Been there, can relate.

She was trying to duplicate her old life, but it wasn’t working.

It never does. God never leads us backwards.

When the present feels lonely and scary and the future seems bleak, he tells us to look back and remind ourselves of his faithfulness.

And be grateful.

Trust.

But straining our necks as we glance over our shoulder, complaining about this rough road we’re on,  well…he’s not above taking us around the mountain a few times. Just ask the Israelites.

Ask me.

With Egypt behind them and the Promised Land before them – despite supernatural provisions along the way, they were still fixated on ‘back there.’ “Back in Egypt, back in my day, back in our old neighborhood, back in our old church, back when we had money, back when I was married…”

Ungrateful, really, that’s how I’ve thought about them. How could you not trust God when he had just done a miracle to save your sorry butts?! Not once but over and over.

And yet I’m guilty of the same thing. Maybe it’s just that I don’t like the idea of conquering my promised land a little bit at a time. Seems easier to go back to Egypt and make bricks. Let’s at least try and make a little Egypt right here in the desert, shall we?

What’s this have to do with hospitality?

I can’t ‘practice’ hospitality where I’m living now the way I did in my old house (across town in Egypt). There’s no room for my giant farmhouse table, no fireplace to gather ’round, though my husband did buy us a fireplace DVD complete with crackle soundtrack. The oven doesn’t heat right, the bathroom too funky…. all the excuses I talked about in the past have come back to haunt me.

Yes, of course, I know there’s more to hospitality than that, but for a while there?  The only party I wanted to throw was a pity party and I really didn’t want to invite any guests. It’s hard to love strangers when you don’t love yourself.

My little itty bitty pity party would have gone on forever if I hadn’t been confronted with the truth:

Self-pity is a sin. It’s the opposite of thankfulness, and the antithesis of trust. It’s not believing that God is good. ALL the TIME.

Here’s the thing:  it’s kind of hard to break bread with people when your loaf is hard as a rock. My bread – my portion, what I have to share at this point in my life – its hard. It’s lost its moisture. Who would want it? I don’t want it! Who would want what I find unpalatable? What I’m ungrateful for? What I feel ashamed of and resentful of?

This? God? You want me to offer this?

Yes, offer it, he says – offer it to me. Your pain, your disappointment, your fears and your tears. Thank me for taking it from you and then eat the bread I’ve given you. The Bread of Life.

I’ve offered it to Him the only way I know how – in song, in tears and trembly voice, I have made a choice to worship. I have moistened this hard bread with a sacrifice of praise and miraculously my portion becomes palatable.

Sweet and savory because it is seasoned with suffering – His suffering, His sacrifice for me.

“My body which is given for you,” Jesus said when he broke off a piece of bread and passed it around to his disciples. “Remember me.”

We can dwell on the past and choke on the bread of painful labors. Or we can remember his sacrifice and feast on the Bread of Life.

Throw a pity party or have communion.

Jesus knows the pain of leaving home; he’s with me in my present home and with my friend in hers.

He’s with you, too. “Temporary homes – just a stop on the way to where we’re going.”

One day He will usher us to our eternal home.

THE LAST COURSE:

“I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father.”    John 16:28 

Like a Good Neighbor

I’d describe it as darling, really: older, funky but fab two bedroom town house, in the ‘right’ part of town, affordable rent. Cozy (read ‘tiny’) living room, efficient (‘minuscule’) kitchen. Decorated with period furniture pieces from the 1800′s – stepback cupboard, jelly cabinet, sideboard. Warmed up with a collection of antique copper, vintage over-sized candlesticks lining the steps. What’s not to love?

It’s the perfect situation for a young married couple just starting out.

Perfect if it weren’t for the fact that my husband and I just celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary.

This is not where I expected to be four decades later. Sometimes life flat out kicks you in the butt. Luckily I have ample padding there, but I’ve still got some colorful bruises to show for it. Ouch.

So I try not to think about the house I left behind and I’m working on that ‘being content in every circumstance’ thing. One good thing about where we live – it sure is easy to clean!

But honestly – my heart has not been into hospitality much since we moved in. If the real meaning of hospitality is ‘loving strangers’ I’ve got some work to do before I invite them in for a cup of tea.

The first night we spent here, one neighbor pounded on our door and demanded we move our car because we were parked in his space. This despite the fact that there are no assigned parking spaces. No ‘hi, welcome to the neighborhood’ from this guy.

At least the lady on the other side of us was friendly. She even brought me cookies one day and left a thank you note on my door after I’d taken her some coffeecake. Then I accidentally parked in ‘her space.’ Friendly neighbor turned into neighbor from hell with flames shooting out her ears.

I think I liked the concept of being neighborly better when I was on a half-acre lot. This whole ‘near-dweller’ thing leaves a lot to be desired. Sigh. Just being real. 

Yesterday my ever-observant good friend rather annoyingly reminded me that I hadn’t blogged in months. “Yeah,” I replied, “writing about hospitality is a little too painful right now.” Silence and then she said, “Write about the pain.”

So here I am, dumping the bucket of pain about losing my house onto the page and wondering who would ever want to read it. And then I ran across some statistics: Bank repossessions increased 11% from the the month of November and are up 5% from last year. Good ultimately for the housing market but not so great if, like us, you can’t get the bank to budge on a loan modification. We had an additional complication to the cumbersome, maddening process: identity theft on our 2010 tax returns.

Here’s the thing about that kind of identity theft – ain’t nothin’ you can do about it until the IRS clears it up and until it’s cleared up the bank won’t talk to you. As far as they’re concerned, you don’t exist. Unfortunately I started to believe it. It felt like my real identity had been stolen.

For a while there (until, oh, I don’t know…Sunday?) I forgot who I was: child of the most high God, forgiven, free, saint, redeemed, daughter of the King. God, my valiant warrior, had  somehow neglected to scoop me up when he went riding off to do battle with the forces of evil. Perhaps he didn’t see my laying there bloody and wounded. After all, my identity had been stolen. Maybe he didn’t recognize me as one of his own?

It’s hard to keep fighting when you feel like God isn’t fighting for you behind the scenes. I felt abandoned and developed a spirit of fear.

The enemy zoomed in for the kill.

It felt like someone was holding my head under water. I couldn’t breathe, kicking and flailing, I guess I started to believe that God was the one responsible.

This despite the fact that my life verse is Psalm 18: 16-19: “He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”

God is the only one I know who could look at stubborn, thrashing, doubting me and call me ‘delightful.’ What a sense of humor he has. A couple of years ago I wrote a little song with these lyrics:

“I will laugh in the face of adversity,

I will scoff at the devil’s wiles.

I will say “Ha ha ha!” to the enemy

For I am Abba’s child!”

I haven’t lived up to these lines too well, but as they say in the South, “I’m fixin’ to.”

I am His and He is mine and He is with me in this little doll house of a home and it’s going to be alright. 

Just realized my neighbor lady hasn’t been going to work lately. Wonder if she lost her job? Maybe I will take her some cookies. Like a good neighbor…..

 

 

 

 

Heaven In A Copper Pot

A solid life. That’s what it’s always been about with this house.

Permanence…real materials, reclaimed goods, lasting quality, a search for what’s real amongst the fake. So, soapstone countertops instead of formica, stepback cupboard in place of veneered cabinets. An 1800’s restaurant worktable for dining, battered hardwood floors (well, they are now) and Mom’s cast iron frying pan.

I hear my uncles A.D. and Delmer and Elbert when I cook with that heavy black pan, their voices forever crusted onto the surface, I smell the laughter, their cackles and whoops, feel the humidity of those sticky, summer noontime feasts as the steam rises over my sizzling hot stove. I’m creating/recreating a life that had meaning, or that’s how it seemed to me, though I’m sure that when the price of tobacco fell and the fish weren’t biting, they probably laid awake at night scratching their Brylcreem-oily heads, wondering how they were gong to meet their bills, just like me.

But always that laughter, the adornment and garnishing of the past, high tales of high adventure, when in reality they were scrapping out a calloused, sunburnt life. But those boys chewed the fat, literally and figuratively – fatback greasy and gravy-laden rewards for labor, salvation in a pot of oily collards. Not certain if they knew Jesus but they sure knew how to enjoy his creation. They lived their lives, sucked the marrow out of each moment.

I’ve learned that you’ve got to dig deep to get to the marrow, live a lot closer to the bone than is comfortable. My husband and I have been living bone on bone for the past two years, in limbo, trying to save our house from foreclosure. Yesterday the clerk of courts said, ‘Basta,’ no more extensions, it’s in the hands of the bank. I laid in bed last night, trying to picture that: bank hands, no head, no heart to hear my soul’s silent plea…and a voice, His voice asked, “Whose hands? Your house is in whose hands?

“Your hands, Lord; my house is in your hands.”

My daughter hurt for me, sensed my need for closure and then this morning I woke up to these words in an email from a friend:

“Clarity?…Closure?…Foreclosure? eeek! What is the Lord up to?”

Then she caught my heart when she empathized with “Me, I hate limbo more than decision.”

Yeah, you gotta’ be pretty flexible to bend low enough to go under the limbo stick. “Limbo lower now, how low can you go?”

I see it all differently this morning…my homey house, my vintage stuff, my dusty dreams. I know its all fleeting, temporary, but it helps ground me, a reminder of who/what is the only timeless, ageless thing we have in this world. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” heaven in a copper pot, eternity in a pewter plate. You can count on it being there, doing its job, function and beauty, now there’s a marketing philosophy.

So, I guess you could say I’m a nostalgia addict, homesick for a home I’ve never lived in but had glimpses of. Home is a person, not a place and he’s everyplace I go, winking at me through the wisteria wrapped round the pergola, nudging me with the romance of the short-lived scent of gardenias…(I’m over here – inhale me), seducing me with a 150 year-old baker’s cabinet, drawers redolent with cinnamon and vanilla memories of old-timey goodness corn bread and preacher cake, baking for Jesus.

This longing for home only gets stronger, is an ache and a craving and a waiting. Life is the entrée, sometimes meager, often bitter, occasionally succulent but always there waits the sweet dreams of dessert, the last bite, the one morsel that satisfies the years of yearning, o feed me that course, Lord, indulgent bliss of forever with you.

Learning to Bake Bread

God’s been talking to me about bread lately.

Helpful, given that the tag line of The Shared Table is ‘Breaking Bread – Building Relationships.’ For the past month, most of my bread-breaking/relationship building has taken place on the floor, not in the kitchen, or the dining room table. My dining companion? The one who became broken bread for us…

JESUS

Why am I eating my meals on the floor with Jesus? I’m not, at least not in the literal sense. You see, the floor is about the only place where I can find a position that gives me relief from the sciatic pain coursing down my right leg. Amazing how easy it is to talk to God when you’re flat on your back staring at the ceiling.

Floor Time Discoveries:

  • Heat rises…brrrr!
  • Dust settles
  • Restlessness rules

Apparently God’s not too concerned about the room temperature or my housekeeping skills, but He seems quite determined to deal with my restlessness. It’s as if He’s saying, “Why, exactly,  are you thrashing around? Relax; you’re not missing anything. Come, dine with me.”

My back muscles gradually start to release and then He hands me my daily portion. Two days ago my ‘portion’ consisted of these words: LEARN TO BAKE BREAD.

Huh? I know how to break bread, I just choose not to: it takes too much time, requires so much patience and attention and (lightbulb moment) …..I’m TOO RESTLESS.

Even though I was pretty sure He wasn’t talking to me about physically baking bread, I headed into the kitchen and baked a beautiful loaf of Irish Soda Bread, with molasses, golden raisins and caraway seeds.

(Notice I chose a quick bread!)

I heard the phrase, Learn to Bake Bread while I was thinking about how I tend to be disappointed because my high expectations of Christian community (friends, neighbors and strangers, gathered together to eat, pray, worship, search the Scriptures, serve, laugh and cry and not just because they were randomly assigned to a home group) don’t happen that often.

Then I heard, “Your expectations are valid, but the only way they will happen is if people are really hungry and up until now, my people haven’t been hungry. But get ready – LEARN TO BAKE BREAD.”

Me, dense as a loaf of 100% whole wheat: “What are you talking about, Lord?”

The answer came in the form of a friend’s Facebook post: “It is vain for you to rise early, to retire late, to eat the BREAD OF SORROW, for he gives to his beloved in his sleep.”

Ohhh… sorrow bread - the kind that the more you chew the more it seems to expand in your mouth and becomes impossible to swallow? If our diets are based on sorrow bread, we’ll never be able to point others to Jesus, to offer them the real bread of life, to experience community.

This scripture verse from Jeremiah 15:16 describes the kind of bread we’re to eat and then share with the hungry:

“Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.”

PRAYER

Lord, forgive me for feeding on sorrow bread, when your Word is the bread of life. The world (including me) continues to ‘spend money on what is not bread’ instead of delighting in your abundance, feeding on your faithfulness, dwelling in your presence. That hunger for security and fulfillment can only be found in you.

Please remind me, whenever I’m anxious, or acting out of self-pity and self-interest, every time I reach out for the wrong bread, to “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” and then offer a portion to others.

In Jesus name, amen.

Slow Holidays

Are you already in HOLIDAY OVERDRIVE?

I just read a blog post about the importance of holiday traditions; the headline was, Creating Memorable Moments. My immediate thought was, "Can we actually 'create' memorable moments?"

Being the creator of memorable holiday moments is a pretty daunting responsibility, don't you think? Producing, or making the holidays 'happen' generally falls on the woman. Yes, we love it and yes it makes us crazier than the proverbial fruitcake.

We can ponder and plan and purchase, trim the tree-bake-decorate-wrap-craft our little hearts out but who knows whether there will be any memorable moments? I just want to sit by the fire with a cup of hot tea, enjoy my family and let the memorable moments happen all by themselves. I know for sure they don't happen when I'm running around like a mad woman. 

This year my goal is simply to create some space in our crazy schedules for a memorable moment to occur.

There's a Slow Food Movement, why can't there be a Slow Holiday movement? The by laws could include a sustainable activity schedule, (and sustainable budget) locally handcrafted gifts, valuing community and traditions, reaching out to the poor and making time to celebrate the birth of Jesus with family and friends. That's a movement I could support!

MOM'S FRUITCAKE COOKIES

I didn't appreciate these colorful gems much as a kid, but now they're a taste of home. Feel free to change up the fruit to your liking: raisins, currants, dried apricots, add coconut or a dash of bourbon or rum – yum!

  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup candied cherries, cut in 1/4's
  • 2 cup dates (cut up)
  • 1 cup mixed candied fruit

Sift flour, measure, sift again with soda and salt. Cream butter then add sugar and eggs. Beat until light and fluffy. Add buttermilk and flour, then add remaining ingredients. 

Chill for several hours. Drop by heaping teaspoon about 2" apart on greased cookie sheet. Top with cherry.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown

Makes 8 dozen

Tradition or Treason?

How will you celebrate the holidays?

Words fascinate me. Hauling out my five pound Webster's 1828 Dictionary and logging on to www.etymonline is a regular part of my writing ritual. In his book "Grace Notes," author Phillip Yancey says, 

“As a writer, I play with words all day long.  I toy with them, listen for their overtones, crack them open, and try to stuff my thoughts inside.”

Crack them open …. I love that! That's really what etymology is all about: studying the origins of words and how they evolved. For example: the word etymology is derived from the Greek eutmos which means real or true. Ology refers to the study of science of something. 

I'm writing an eBook about the holidays so I looked up the origins of the word tradition: its from the late 14th century and has roots from a word that meant to "deliver, surrender or hand over." That made total sense. What I read next about made me fall off my chair:

Tradition is a 'doublet' of the word treason which also means "a handing over, delivery or surrender." 

Whaaat? I'm writing about holiday traditions – such a warm, comfy-cozy, feel good topic and now I find out it has something in common with treason. 

Follow me here as I take a side trip down Santa Claus lane:

Could our unrelenting insistence on observing traditions, both old and new, cause us to somehow commit treason? Yes, if you define treason as 'violation by a subject of his allegiance to his sovereign.' 

If Jesus is our ultimate sovereign then I believe it is possible to commit treason when our traditions get in the way of celebrating his birth. I'm not saying to do away with the Christmas tree, nor am I against traditions. But if we spend the next 5 weeks in holiday overdrive without a thought to our savior and sovereign Lord, we have essentially "handed over" or "surrendered" our allegiance.

I don't know about you, but this sort of puts my 'Bake more, Buy more, Be more' mentality into perspective. This season I plan on making a focused effort to surrender my plans for His. That's a tradition that's worth handing down, don't you think?


Limitless

In the movie, Limitless, Bradley Cooper plays the character of  Eddie Morra, an unsuccessful, totally blocked writer who after ingesting a top-secret 'smart pill' suddenly finds his productivity explodes, depicted onscreen by hundreds of letters of the alphabet which fill the room as he types. In just four days, Eddie manages to write a book, which prior to taking the drug, existed only in his head. 

When I saw that scene, my heart literally leaped in my chest, because I experienced something similar about six years ago during a focused time of prayer. I saw myself  sitting at my desk, pen in hand, while letters of the alphabet floated around the room. Suddenly the letters swirled into a cyclone shape and wrapped themselves around my pen. Pretty strong confirmation that I was to pursue my writing, which I did, although not quite at the same speed as Eddie. I became a freelance writer and in my spare time I wrote about my passion for hospitality and the Shared Table. 

Well, that floating alphabet all but floated away about a year ago – that's how it seemed anyhow, at least when it came to writing. Looking back I realize I was too angry and too perplexed to write. 

There were still plenty of letters running around in my head, but the only thing swirling around my pen (keyboard) was dust. The ABC's in my mind spelled out words like: disappointment, anxiety, loneliness, confusion, and pain.

"Are you blogging?" my husband would ask me.

"I got nuthin'," I responded.

Nothing, as in nothing to say that was encouraging, motivational, inspirational or positive. "Gloom, despair and agony on me- deep, dark depression, excessive misery," became my new theme song. 

Yessiree, I was pure joy to be around. Normally when I'm in that kind of funk I can at least journal and there were times, in a rush of emotion when I did, but never to the level where I could work through my emotions. I did write down my tormented dreams/nightmares, and tried to make sense of them. But WRITE? BLOG?! 

All I can say is there are times in life that are so gut wrenching they're hard to put into words, times that render you speechless. 

Interesting word, 'render'.  It's from an old French word meaning to give back, hand over, give up, or surrender. After a pig is slaughtered, the farmer rends (extracts, melts) the fat. Have you ever seen one of those old cast iron cauldrons at an antique store or flea market? One of their many uses was to render the pig fat to make lard – the process required a really hot fire. I could relate to that poor pig cause I was right there with him. My fat was being rendered and I felt pretty thin. 

 

 

During that time I prayed Psalm 18 a lot: "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters."

I pictured Jesus literally coming to my rescue; "He rescued me because He delighted in me," even though my actions and attitude weren't the least bit delightful. One day I picked up my husband's guitar and strummed the four chords I knew as hard as I could and sang songs to God as loud as I could. Anything to drown out the incessant voices in my head. 

Guess what? Once I stopped fighting the rendering process, and began to praise God in the midst of it, He melted my heart: the anger was gone, the fear began to dissipate and He started to pour new songs into my heart; simple songs of hope and songs of praise, declarations of God's love for me:

"I am a child of the most High God

I am not forsaken, I am not forgotten

I am forgiven and free."

Once I got that back into my head and my heart, I was able to forgive.

Little by little I am learning to live once again in the simple truths of who I am in Christ. And the words are beginning to come back.

My situation hasn't changed all that much, but God is changing me, so there is hope. We talk a LOT, God and I, and even though I tend to monopolize the conversation, He manages to get in a word or two edgewise. HIS WORD, written and spoken, has encouraged me, chastised and strengthened me all these months. I'm excited about my future! It's not me or my words that are Limitless, it's God. 

So here I am writing once more, not nearly as in depth as I'd like, just sticking my toes in the water. I'm still processing everything I've learned, wondering how much of my story I should share. I know some of you, many of you, are in that boiling cauldron of troubles right now, too and I pray you will be able to endure. You have to – for the rest of us! We need to see what you'll look like when the fat is rendered and the new, thinner but stronger you emerges from the flames! Sing while the water's boiling in your pot! Float.

In my original post I invited you to "pull up a chair" and become part of the conversation; your journey is important to me. I really don't want to travel these roads alone, do you?  Let me hear from you and let's continue the conversation. And I'll work on being more real.