Tuesday, July 9, 2019

One Man's Trash

It's so incredibly hot and steamy down here. Y'all know I don't function well in this type of weather. This is the season of the year when I feel like I'm on one of those survival shows- just trying to live to see another day. I certainly can't say that I've been productive even in the least. These oppressive conditions just aren't conducive to a very zealous work ethic. The only thing I can really point to as having achieved, this summer, is playing the part of the farmer's wife. 45 bags of peas, 20 bags of butter beans, and 11 gallons of blueberries have been put in the freezer. Davis and I are almost like the pilgrims except for the belt buckles and, well, the part about having a freezer.

One thing that I usually do in the slow summer months is go from room to room and cleanse my closets and drawers of unnecessary clutter. I have absolutely no patience for clutter and, each year, while my work is at its slowest, I try to purge and organize our house. I've not even done the greatest job at that, this summer. I started in the laundry room, three weeks ago, and then it just stalled out there. I lost interest in moving onto another room.

Well, last night, Carson was gone and Davis was busy working, so I decided I'd get in our master bathroom and clean out the closet, drawers, and cabinets in there. You know how things just accumulate over time? Well, I worked my way through the vanity for a while and then I moved to the bathroom closet, which houses all manner of things. Not just towels and such, but our toiletry surplus and over the counter meds and first aid type stuff. I filled up a whole garbage bag of expired stuff and dried up stuff and no longer needed stuff. Among other things, there were some hair product containers that were as good as empty, a few bottles of gummed-up nail polish, and some Benadryl that expired about the same time Bin Laden did. I got rid of all that and organized the closet to almost a Dewey Decimal System level. Walgreen's should be so organized. 

In the very back of the closet was even a box of enemas prescribed as part of a pre-op prep, a while back. I remember the store was out of singles and only had the multi-pack in stock, so I had to get the party-size box of enemas even though I only needed one. (Here is where I want to apologize to my mother for the repeated use of the word, enema, on the world wide web.) Anyway, I hadn't needed the remaining ones in the box up to this point and didn't see the need for them arising anytime soon, so, not knowing any charities that accepted enema donations, I chunked them all in the garbage bag with the rest of the refuse. The bag was getting quite full, at this point, and I called Davis to take the bag outside to our big trash can.    

This morning, I'd overslept and was running late for a nail appointment. I hurriedly got ready, ran out the door, hopped in the car, and started down the driveway. That's when I saw Ruby and her friend, Izzy, frolicking in the yard. Somehow, they'd gotten the corner of the trash bag, which was hanging out of our overflowing garbage can, and there Ruby was. Running and playing. The big FLEET box clinched between her teeth as if she was taunting me. She'd littered the grass with all of the enema bottles. The whole family pack. Looked like the aftermath of a wild night of binge....whatever. Oh, and to make us really look like a bunch of sick freaks, she'd strewn the discarded black latex gloves that came with my self tanning kit everywhere. Enemas and latex gloves are just what you'd want the family dog tossing and hurling around your front yard, while you're inside oversleeping.

So, as late as I was for my manicure appointment, I wasn't so late that I couldn't stop to gather up the proctological items and their packaging from the lawn and, while I was at it, the "guilty by association" latex gloves. I'm certain there's been some trash talking on the street today. I'm sure the neighborhood parents have instructed their children to stay away from our house by now. We'll likely have no more trick or treaters or girl scouts coming by to sell cookies. There's a home owner's association meeting tomorrow night. I'm sending Davis.   

The lesson of today's story is not one of a theological or moral basis, but more of a practical one. If one tries to dispose of items, which might be of some embarrassment to oneself, one should do so with extreme care. And if one has two or more unrelated items to dispose of, which might look even worse together than they already do independently, then, by all means, one should dispose of them in separate receptacles. If you take away nothing more from this post, today, at least, take that.
My friend, Jean, and I are leaving for Atlanta market on Thursday and will be back early next week.

We'll talk then!

JONI          

Monday, July 1, 2019

An Old Friend

 
Sometimes, I have to work through grief here on Motherhood and Muffin Tops. Something about writing helps me feel my way through loss and kind of sort it out in my mind. The process of shuffling and organizing my feelings so to express them in words has always worked to soothe my heart's hurts and I need that today.

She was 94 when she died on Sunday. For years, she begged me to call her Jean, but I'd explain that I just couldn't refer to someone, who was old enough to be my grandmother, by her first name. Just the thought of it made me squirm as it went against the deep grain of my southern upbringing. She deserved more respect from a whipper snapper like me. So, for the many years that we were friends, I called her Mrs. Wright. A formal greeting for someone considered a friend, but she understood my deep-seated dilemma. Born when Calvin Coolidge was president and just a few years before the Great Depression, she'd lived through so many things that I've only read about in history books.

She would've been 68 when we came on the scene of her life. Davis and I bought our first house in 1991 just before we married. We had some of the sweetest neighbors there, who doted on us as a young couple. But, little did the 24 year old me know that I was moving next door to one person, in particular, who would continue to be in my life, three moves and 27 years later. An unlikely pair, given the age difference, but crossing all sorts of generational lines to join her in friendship showed me some beautiful things that are becoming scarce in our time. It would serve all of us, younger generations, well to befriend someone, who forces us to slow our steps to keep pace with them. The world looks so different at that speed.

I will never forget the smell of her house. Her door was always open for a surprise visit. If you were in the area or had a little time to kill, there was always Blue Bell ice cream in the freezer, sugar cones in the cabinet, and cold Coca-Cola waiting in her frig. Chocolate, her addiction of choice, was a sure thing in her crystal candy dish. "Come in this house" was the standard greeting as she held the storm door open, ready to dispense a hug. Jeopardy was on TV and if we were going on an outing, we couldn't leave until it was over and the mail had come. I've spent a lot of time on her bar stools just visiting. Mrs.Wright was part of a generation, who knew the value of a good visit. The art of forgetting the time and leaving behind the rush to just sit face to face and enjoy someone you love. Somehow, we allow that beautiful practice to be largely choked out with messages on screens and distended schedules.
 
She didn't need to have any grand or elaborate plans to enjoy time together with friends. She was always up for lunch or a trip to an antique store or discount store or even to Sam's to just peruse the fruit section. She didn't require great planning or anything that cost too much money. "I just enjoy being with you," she'd always say. Her generation grew up without all of the bells and whistles and options we're accustomed to today. She knew that it didn't matter where she went as much as who was next to her.

One of the best times we ever had together was at the Mississippi Highway Patrol office trying to get her driver's license renewed. Those may have been among the most enjoyable 3 1/2 hours I've ever spent. I believe I even blogged about our shenanigans, that day. We all tend to get bogged down in the details and plans in trying to achieve the perfect experiences. We build our itineraries and raise our expectations and summarize it all in well-crafted social media documentations. Sometimes, we forget we might best enjoy the people beside us, while doing something completely ordinary or mundane.....something that doesn't take the attention off of those we love.
Joni and Mrs.Wright take on driver's license renewal like a boss
 
She always greeted her friends with "Hey there, good buddy" and every conversation ended with "Bless you and thank you". She was humble and gracious. Always wanted to return a kindness with a kindness. Even if your kindness was in response to her kindness, she just couldn't help but keep the kindness cycle going. It was just who she was. She was a beautiful and giving soul. Never forgetting a birthday or special occasion even as recently as Carson's birthday, ten days ago. Despite my protests, she pulled her little purse out from under the covers of her hospital bed and thumbed through her wallet to find a little something to put inside the card, which she'd had me buy since she was hospitalized. In her shaky handwriting, she wrote a personal note to him and licked it shut. He will treasure it forever. A note written to him by a dear lady, who likely knew she'd not be around to wish him another Happy Birthday. Nineteen was as far as she could go with him. She learned that Carson loved Rolos, a couple of years ago, and we currently have 4 big bags of them in our freezer. After discovering his fondness, he couldn't eat them as fast as she could give them.
When Blair and John Samuel married, Blair had already accumulated a large collection of Christmas tree ornaments that Mrs.Wright had given her each Christmas ever since she was a little girl. Around September of each year, she'd start mentioning the task ahead of picking out the perfect ornament for Blair. She put much consideration into her kind gestures and invested her time in customizing her thoughtfulness to each recipient. And with as many friends as she had, her thoughtfulness and kindness were never diluted. Everyone received the full strength and measure of her love. Deliberate and tailored acts of thoughtfulness. They might not be as flashy or jaw dropping and might come with a less impressive price tag, but they cost much more of our time and require a far greater effort....those things that we, younger people, find the very hardest to give.
Even as an older lady, she was never afraid to try something new. She had the latest iPhone and, while she, sometimes, required a little technical support from her friends, she wasn't intimidated by the latest technology in the least. She'd text with one finger and show me the pictures she'd taken. She'd swipe and scroll and made her best attempts at adapting to the times, which were a far cry from Calvin Coolidge's day. She had a computer, an email address, and even a Facebook account for a little while. She'd even adapted to her car that had no key and all of its modern features. It doesn't take long for any of us to start feeling like we're falling behind in staying current on the newest conveniences. Mrs. Wright refused to be left behind without a fight. She wasn't one to fade into the landscape.
I don't know many people her age, who still have as many friends as she did. Not only her contemporaries, who are a most impressive group of ladies, but she had friends of all ages. I told someone today that we were just blessed to be part of her flock. There was just something special about her that endeared her to everyone, who crossed her path. Waitresses, neighbors, nurses, salespeople. I would quietly observe the immediate draw she had on them. There was usually an instant spark of affection upon meeting her. Some people are just that way, you know? It was a gift she possessed and it brought along with it a cornucopia of dear friends.

We lost something beautiful on Sunday. An old friend. In every sense of the word, really. It was quite sad to wake up to a world without Jean Wright in it, today. My children don't remember life without her being a part of it. They were both brought home from the hospital to a little house, which sat next to hers. And we are all the better for it.

Mrs.Wright, "Bless you and thank you, good buddy." You were so very loved. We will remember you always.
        



Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Heat Is On

Well, I heard summer arrived, last week. When we, Southerners, hear talk about the first day of summer, well, we just shake our sweaty heads and mumble angrily to ourselves. Summer arrived, down here, before all the Easter chocolate had even been eaten. Basically, it's the same reaction we have when we hear them announce the arrival of fall with cocoa and wool sweaters on TV and we still have mosquitos buzzing around our heads and have soaked through our clothes.

Yeah, we've been having summer for quite a while now, thank you. We have to get about 7 miles down the road before the car A/C can even think about overcoming the heat in its climate control battle. And we don't think about parking in the sun unless there's no other choice available....or we have some foil wrapped potatoes in there we want to cook for supper. After turning off the car in the parking lot, we've had approximately 4.6 seconds to exit the vehicle before anguish ensues, so preparation is always the key. We know how to get our things and get out.

There's been a fly buzzing around in each of our houses since early May. They almost always hang around in the kitchen if they know company is coming. Each housefly is assigned a home to torment until it falls victim to the swatter, at which time, his replacement is sent. Mosquitos will take you apart faster than a school of piranhas if you stay out near any accumulation of water, in the shade, or just about anywhere if it's close to sundown. Wasps, horseflies, gnats, all of hell's other winged messengers, have been unleashed for months now. And we don't open the doors at night unless we want to hear beetles banging their heads on our lampshades for hours on end.

Snakes are crawling and we've been watching our steps since Valentine's Day, when we were told they were up and at 'em already. Down here, we like to share postmortem pictures of venomous snakes that we kill in our yards on social media and that's been going on for weeks now. We enjoy a good game of 'What Kind of Snake Is This?' more than anybody. Snake posts have been on the rise, this year, so we must continue to step with extreme caution.

Our glasses are fogging up when we get out of our cool cars. Everyone looks like Marcie from Peanuts and Little Orphan Annie staggering around in the parking lot for a couple of minutes. Tis the season for sunburn and razor burn and sand burn and chafing. And depending on our hair's texture, it's either frizzed up like Kaepernick or flat to our heads like Pee Wee Herman. Neither, a good look. We can leave home all fresh and clean and, an hour later, look like we're on the highway crew and are just getting off work. Sweat's rolling down our backs and our necks and our red faces and we are just not a pretty people, right now.

We can comfortably enjoy our decks and patios and porches between the hours of 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. and we find solace in knowing that. The hot, humid air is as thick as our Mamas' pie filling and as heavy as a bad biscuit. It's hard to breathe and even harder to want to. The will to live is in its most tested season.    

Upon entering any building, we've been using our proper summertime etiquette. Our first greeting to those inside is always a reference to the oppressive heat- just in case they are unaware. This is expected whether we are arriving at the bank, a store, the salon, or the funeral home. Rain chances are also a popular choice, this time of year. If you mention impending rain possibilities, it gives hope to all who hear.

We don't usually bother trying to take someone ice cream or a milkshake like I did, yesterday, unless we want to be handing them a glass of chocolate milk when we get there. We try not to be tempted by those pre-July 4 watermelons, down here. Our patience will be rewarded in another week or two. And when those flowers on our patios start looking distressed, about now, we just let them go. They want to go over the rainbow bridge or whatever it's called for flowers and we give them our blessing to go. We know we wouldn't want to have to sit out there and try to look pretty in all this.

So, everybody, go ahead and celebrate the first of summer. While y'all are marking that sweet milestone, we're down here just trying to survive our first trimester of summer. We are hot and we are irritable and we are not ok.

Try to stay cool out there, people.  

         

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Old School Bible School

Well, it's that time of year again when churches on every corner are promoting their Vacation Bible Schools. Your church bulletin has likely been pleading for VBS volunteers for a while now and I'd say that those who step forward to answer the call are among the most resolute and courageous of the entire church membership. I'd even take it a step further to say they'd be the Christian church's equivalent to SEAL Team 6 or Delta Force. Their bravery immeasurable. Their fortitude unflinching.

Most of the churches around here go all out for Bible school with elaborate decorations, choreographed music, themed snacks, very involved crafts, and over the top props. The kids just love it and how could they not? I can't help but think, though, how very different it is now than it was when I was in Bible School.
Back then, there were 3 kids, who were selected to hold the American Flag, the Christian Flag, and the Bible. They were the big dogs for the day. As the pianist played a "marching in" song, everyone would file in behind the chosen three. Of course, while not nearly as important as the Holy Trinity, these three had climbed to the highest rung of the VBS hierarchy. We'd march in behind them and say all of our pledges. Then, I remember sitting down on the hard, creaky pews with my legs sticking to the varnished wood. Bible school was one of the few occasions when we could wear shorts to church, so it was beyond a treat. 

Anyway, there were no palm trees made from paper mache or larger than life jungle animals cut out of plywood or two story rocket ships made of foam core board like there are today. I don't recall any twinkly lights, large boulders fashioned from crumbled Kraft paper or beach scenes on the stage complete with an umbrella, Adirondack chairs, and wave sound effects. No, as I remember, there were the preacher, the music minister, and the podium and, on a really exciting day, the slide or film projector might be brought in. If you saw one of those as you took your seat, you knew good times were ahead.

Just below the chosen three were the six kids, who were picked, each day, to take up the offering (aka the change we found in the vinyl seats of the Chrysler and in the bottom of our Mamas' purses that morning). These offering takers were the kids, who were runners-up to the flag holders in the complex Bible school pecking order. I, myself, never submitted my name to be considered for any of these spots. I was shy, back then, and wanted to stay as far away from the front of the room as possible. I'm certainly not shy anymore, but the front of the room is still a location I try to avoid.

Anyway, after we said our pledges, sang our songs, and took up the mission offering, it was off to our classroom. We headed down the hall and there was no grassy pathway cut from indoor/outdoor carpeting leading to the rooms and our names weren't perfectly penned on laminated, themed shapes hanging from the ceiling. There were no freshly cut stumps to sit on and no real tents set up in the room in which to have our lesson by lantern light. No, we walked in and the teacher was like......"You see those brown, folding chairs set up in a semi-circle facing the bulletin board? Go sit in those.....and don't run." Oh, those metal chairs were so cold on your bare legs and so you'd put your hands under them until your seat warmed up. 

We never pretended like we were all on safari riding in a jeep and we didn't sit around a faux campfire made with real logs and tissue paper flames, while we had our lesson. The teacher wasn't wearing a cowboy hat, didn't use a black light, and didn't bring in any live amphibians for us to pet. There were no stuffed monkeys hanging from the ceiling and no thoroughbred horses out in the parking lot for us to sit on. No, she just sat there in the brown folding chair with her Bible in her lap and those old Bible pictures that she'd pin to the bulletin board behind her when the time was just right. Something like these might have, very well, been your only visual for the whole day, so you had to glean the most from it.
 
After we finished our story, it was time for crafts. Not the kind of crafts they do today. No, there was no going to another decorated room, where supplies were laid out for some HGTV- worthy craft....like building a coffee table or glass blowing a vase or something. Back then, it was "Ok, now pick up your chair and take them back over to the tables, where we will have our craft. Don't slide the chairs, because we don't want to disturb the class below us!"
 
This was my favorite time in Bible school. I was all about some crafts. The same teacher would reach into the cabinet and get out a stack of construction paper, a few bottles of glue, some popsicle sticks, and a pack of those foil star stickers. On a really good craft day, we'd all be issued a baby food jar and maybe fabric scraps or a tin can and some old wallpaper sample books. Armed with a medley of ragtag supplies, we'd fashion some really attractive keepsakes, which our mothers would feel obligated to display somewhere. 

On the days that the teacher would mix up the powder tempera paints, you'd let out a big "YES" silently in your head. We'd be given a man's-old-shirt-turned-paint-smock to protect our new summer shirts bought down at Sears Roebuck. The teachers were always sure to warn you to be careful not to drip paint on your Buster Brown sandals, too. And if you finished your craft before everyone else, you were given a mimeographed coloring page of baby Moses or somebody and an old coffee can full of broken crayons as a time filler. 
 
While the beautiful crafts dried on another table, it was on to snack time. Let me tell you......there were no Pinterest snacks there. No, sir. No themed snacks for us. No bird nests made from chow mein noodles and jelly bean eggs. No edible Noah's arks fashioned with icing, graham crackers, and animal cookies. Not even any gummy fish suspended in blue Jell-O and served in clear cups.

We were old school. "Ok, everybody go sit down and we'll pass out the butter rings and Kool-Aid."  There was nothing organic and nobody thought about food allergies or gluten. As the week would crescendo, you might get a chocolate sandwich cookie......not an Oreo, mind you, but a store brand chocolate sandwich cookie.....being responsible stewards of the church coffers and all. Finally, the snacks would peak on Friday as the teacher would pass out the twin pop popsicles. There was no color requesting, though, because there just simply weren't enough reds to go around. Someone had to get orange and it might as well be you. Then, there was that year our church bought the snow cone machine. Can you say Christmas in July?
 
Before it was time to go home, there was only one more stop. Recreation. Again, no themed games to tie into the lesson, because, well, there were no themes for our Bible schools back then except Jesus and, well, there aren't many games that can be played with a kickball that emulate Jesus. I suppose it's hard to gain any measure of spiritual growth, while attempting to hit other children in the head with a rubber, inflated ball in order to acquire points. There's nothing "Jesus" about that. So, what they did in the 70's, you see, was say, "Here's a ball.....go play and we won't try to draw any parallels between this and the lesson we just covered". This gave the teachers time to sit and visit and eat their vanilla ice cream cups with the wooden spoons, the upper echelon of snacks reserved for the teachers only.
 
After we all worked up a sweat and smelled like a herd of goats in a summer rain, it was time to come in and gather our things to go home. We'd go check to see if the glued glitter and paint on our craft had dried sufficiently to take it home. Oh, you always prayed it was so. There was nothing worse than having to leave your craft behind to dry.

I have fond memories of Bible school. I looked forward to that, every year. It wasn't as fancy and decked out as it is today. I suppose if we did it the old school way now, these iPad/Xbox/iPhone kids would likely fall out of their undecorated chairs and hit their unprotected heads on the undecorated floors, completely overwrought with boredom...so we just have to rock along with the times.   

Either way, working in Bible school is a big job and whether you did it back in the days of paste jars, felt boards, and iced oatmeal cookies or you're doing it now with cellophane waterfalls, crape paper jellyfish, and Jell-O aquarium snacks, you're doing important work. The message is still the same.
 
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."  Luke 18:16
 
 
Y'all have a great weekend!
Joni 


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Screens or Hymnals

Davis and I have always attended traditional Baptist churches. We both grew up in very similar church settings and so did our kids. We now attend First Baptist Church in our city and it's just what you'd expect in its appearance. The downtown church is red brick with large white columns and beautiful dental molding. A steeple shoots upward from the high pitched roof and is topped with an illuminated cross for all of the city to see.

The life of Jesus is depicted in the beautiful stained glass windows that wrap around the sanctuary. The sunlight beaming in makes the vibrant colors just come alive on Sunday mornings. Deep red carpet runs under the beautiful wooden pews, where the Baptist hymnals rest in their designated spots next to the offering envelopes and pencils. The pews are filled with familiar faces, but new ones, too. The resonant sound of the pipe organ and grand piano playing church classics like "A Mighty Fortress is our God", "God of our Fathers", and "Holy, Holy, Holy" fill the sanctuary, but some new is mixed in with the old to cover all of the musical preferences.

The choir sings in the loft behind the pulpit and our robes have stoles, which match the shade of red in the carpeting. The wooden offering plates are passed by the ushers during the offertory. There is always a fresh flower arrangement adorning the communion table, which is usually placed there in memory or honor of someone. The baptistry is situated above the choir loft with another stained glass picture of Jesus with outstretched arms above it. I'm not real sure, but I think the pulpit and chairs that sit on the platform may have come over on the Mayflower. They are beautiful, old relics. Each sermon is concluded with an invitation hymn- a chance to share any decisions with the pastor or the church and you know "Just As I Am" and "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" are the Baptists' hymns of choice for this segment of the service.
We have a young, new pastor, who we're just crazy about. He preaches the Word of God, shares the gospel, and encourages us to live out our faith outside the church walls; telling others about Jesus by our words and deeds. When I leave there, I have truly worshipped through the music, teaching, and fellowship; all in styles that speak the most clearly to my heart and soul.

We went to spend a couple of days with Blair and John Samuel, last weekend, and had a great visit. They've lived in their city for a little over 18 months now and they spent a while visiting different churches before they landed where they are now. They started their visiting process with the churches that were similar to the traditional churches they'd both grown up in, but they kept being drawn back to this one church, because of the compelling sermons and large number of people in their age group. It was one of those contemporary churches you see now. From the outside, they could very well be mistaken for a municipal building, a spa, or a plastic surgery medical complex with their more vague names like Venture or Summit or CrossPoint.
We'd never been to their church with them, so we were sure to pack our "church" clothes, even though they assured us we could wear just about anything and it would be fine. The five of us arrived there along with hundreds of others. There were volunteers directing traffic and parking to help utilize the parking area in the most efficient way possible for the large crowd gathering. They live near the beach and so a lot of people looked as if they would likely be heading straight to some body of water as soon as church was out as they were wearing their flip flops and shorts. We walked in and the first thing we saw was a coffee shop type set-up. I'm not talking about a couple of silver coffee urns with a stack of Styrofoam cups and bowl of sweetener packets like at our church. No, this layout could've rivaled any Starbucks with all of the coffee choices and coffee embellishments.

We were welcomed by many people as we made our way through the crowd and took our seats in the gray chairs lined up within the gray walls with the gray carpeting. There were spotlights shining down into the dark room from the industrial-type exposed ceiling. There were three large screens surrounding the stage. Being a former flower person, I tried to imagine how in the world you'd decorate such a space for a wedding. The seats started to fill up to almost capacity of 1,000, each one with their coffee cup with lid and cardboard sleeve. With so many people and so many worship service times and campus options, there were very few people, who seemed to know each other, but everyone was so very friendly. There are mission opportunities and small groups that meet in homes during the week for that more personal connection. I'm so happy that Blair and John Samuel are hosting the youngest married group, each week.

The service started with the worship band taking the stage. The leader in his skinny jeans started us off in one of those contemporary choruses that repeats itself a lot and the large screens showed the lyrics with beautiful graphics in the background. There was no organ or piano, but 8 people in the band with all types of guitars, keyboards, and drums. The lyrics weren't written in the 19th century, but maybe like the 19th of last month. They weren't familiar, but were worshipful and full of truth just the same. It didn't take long to notice that what my soul gets from the pipe organ and Baptist hymnal, these people were receiving from this style of worship and it was a wonderful sight.  
It was time for the offering and the screens displayed the multiple ways you could give online or electronically, but the connection team did pass some black buckets through the crowd in case you wanted to do it the old-fashioned way. There was no invitation given at the end, but the screens displayed directions for registering decisions by way of technology with the promise that someone would be in contact to follow up with you. They announced there would be baptisms in the service, the following Sunday, which got me looking all around to find the baptistry....to no avail. Blair filled me in on the portable baptistry. 

The pastor came out from the back of the stage. He was a busy fellow. This was his third service of the day and he still had 2 to go between their two campuses. He wasn't donning a suit, but looked very hip in his V-neck tee, plaid jacket, and jeans. He opened his Bible and, while nothing else around me was, at all, familiar to the services we usually attend, his words were straight from the same word of God and he challenged all of us there to get serious about the most difficult commands of Jesus. While the service took a very different road to get there, the destination was the same as our traditional church services- to worship and save and encourage and grow.  

We're all very different. Goodness knows, we are. So, whether you prefer sanctuaries or worship centers. Suits or skinny jeans. Church bells or drum sets. Screens or hymnals. Pews or theater seating. Chandeliers or track lighting. A music minister or a worship leader. Deacons, ushers, elders, or a connection team. Only one thing matters. Whatever Bible-based worship style you prefer, just
"Don't stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10:25

Worship is our number one reason to go to church, but we also need encouragement from each other. Our need to feel like we're not alone on this increasingly crazed planet is growing. The world is ramping up its efforts to make us feel like there is something bad wrong with our thinking as Christians. It wants to make us feel isolated, unwelcomed, and intimidated. So, whether you prefer "How Great Thou Art" in pumps or "How Great is Our God" in Chacos, it doesn't matter. Not one little bit. Just set aside time, each week, to surround yourself and your family with other Christians to worship God. He certainly deserves it and we certainly need it.

And just a final note for those, who don't have a church, and are planning on visiting. As a visitor, you might be asked to raise your hand or remain seated while members stand to greet you or fill out a connection card and drop it in the offering plate or visit the "New Here" tab on the church's website or text a number to register your visit or meet someone from the staff in the welcome area, after the service, to claim your complimentary coffee gift card. We, Christians, agree on most things, but how to greet our visitors is not one of them. So, just go with whatever. We have good intentions. Bless our hearts.

We'll talk soon!
  

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Curveballs

I have a friend, who's packing up to move. Circumstances beyond her control have her preparing to leave the home, where she thought she'd likely live out the rest of her days. She'd picked out all of its beautiful finishes and made it into the lovely place her family called home. Her kids are grown and now she's sifting through years of the stuff that we all accumulate. With every single item she picks up, there's a decision to be made about its importance. Some things can go with her through this change, but, with some, she'll have to part ways.

A couple of weeks ago, I called to check on an elderly friend, who'd been sick. We didn't have to talk long before it became obvious that she needed help. Davis and I got her where she needed to be, but, when we left her home, that day, none of us knew that she'd likely never return to her life exactly as it had been. After so many years of independence, there would be some changes put in place.

There's been a lot of stuff going on with people we know. You're probably feeling the same way from where you stand. A lot of things just haven't gone off as planned. An empty chair at a graduation. A grandmother missing at a wedding. Treatment for illness that happens far away from home for months at a time. An unexpected job change in a new city of unfamiliar faces. A divorce that requires redefining and readjusting.      

Y'all know I'm a football fan and not really a lover of baseball, but I do get interested in the post-season if Mississippi State makes it that far. Well, they have and so, for the last couple of weekends, I've watched a lot of pitches being thrown at batters. Inside, too high, sliders, wild pitches, curveballs. With my limited baseball knowledge, I understand a curveball comes at the batter and, while he thinks he knows what he's getting, at the last minute, the ball takes a dip and veers from the course that the batter was expecting it to take.

Such is life, too. We all have plans. A mental picture album full of images. Images of what we think our future will look like. Mine has pages of traveling with Davis after Carson graduates from college. A home renovation. Enjoying my mother in good health at 100+ like her grandmother. I can see grandchildren with chocolate brown eyes and dark hair, who'll come for sleepovers. A mother of the groom dress and a new daughter-in-law to add to my Christmas shopping list. Hopefully, some blue-eyed, blonde grandchildren added to my collection, one day.

We all have a checklist of the things we expect to see in the days to come. Sometimes, life sails right down the middle, just like we expected it would. But, sometimes it veers off course and we get something we didn't anticipate. It's lower than the lofty dreams we'd dreamed or it's outside the perimeters of what we wanted.           

I guess with the flurry of changes going on with those I know and love, I just wanted to remind myself  that I can't just look at a person and know the heaviness they carry around in their hearts. I don't know the pain that they feel in the quietest part of themselves. It's impossible to detect the curveballs that someone else has been thrown when I'm not the one in the batter's box. Those things can't be recognized when just speaking on the street or scrolling through social media. I don't know the things they've had to relinquish in their lives or the detours they've been forced to take. We're all gifted performers when it comes to our feelings, anyway.

I suppose the only way I can avoid withholding my spark from someone whose light is burning low is to treat everyone as if they need to feel God's warmth from me. To assume everyone could use some encouragement on this difficult journey we're all traveling. Likely, most could. There's a whole world full of people, who find themselves living in a place, where they never imagined they'd be. We pass them, each day, holding in our possession just what they could use- love, kindness, time, and the hope of Jesus Christ.We can maintain our hurried pace and hold those things tightly to our chests or we can open our eyes to discern the places, where the love of God flowing through us can make a difference.

Life is hard. Really, really hard, sometimes. We all go through rough patches and come face to face with the unexpected. God never promised it would be any different for His children either. He did promise that we'd share in the victory He won over sin and death. Because of that, we can take the pitches as they come with hope. And cheer on the next gal, who's coming up behind us.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39

And my very, very favorite verse says, "...Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." Isaiah 43:1-3

Maybe you or someone you know needs to be reminded of those promises.

Hope y'all have a great weekend and Hail State!

      

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Stream of Conciousness

I know I've been scarce, but there's been an awful lot going on around me, lately. It's just been an unusual couple of weeks with some people in my life needing a little extra from me. That happens to all of us, sometimes, and we just have to stop and do what needs doing. That's just a woman's way.   

So, with a kind of a random trail of thoughts, this might best be described as a stream of consciousness post.

I believe we haven't really talked since my birthday/Mother's Day week. My 51st birthday week was one of the best I've had so far. It even spilled over into the next week and those are always the best kinds of birthdays. I've already learned that there are some things you just can't do over 50, though. Like get up off the floor quietly, tell yourself, "I don't need to write that down", and leave home without checking your chin. We packed so much into my birthday weekend that I went to church without the usual 10x mirror inspection. To my horror, I discovered, the following Monday, that I'd attended Mother's Day worship looking like Fred Sanford. I also was reminded, that week, that it's best to mentally establish that you're certain of both parties' names before you set off into an introduction. Over 50s can run into trouble halfway through the process.  
I was scrolling through Facebook, last week, and saw my younger brother had posted this picture of his feet after running a 35 mile race in his running sandals.
And this was a couple of weeks after seeing the next picture of him after biking in a race in the Pisgah National Forest with its climbing terrain and, obviously, wet conditions. Meanwhile, my older brother drove to New Mexico for the weekend to hunt turkeys. Never mind that we have turkeys a-plenty here and I came within a couple of feet of hitting one in mid-flight with my car right here in Mississippi on that very same weekend. That's typical of their weekends, though. Traveling long distances to hunt or fish for something or to pedal a bike up a mountain, all at the expense of sleep. Continuously, reports of their pursuits accumulate; making a girl, who enjoys lunch dates, historical biographies, and afternoon naps to begin to question her parentage or, at the very least, marvel at the wonders of genetics.
I attended orientation with Carson at Mississippi State, last week. He's a transfer from our community college and we went to get all of his affairs taken care of on the day, which was designated just for transfers. At check-in, the parents were given maroon Mississippi State tote bags full of information and the students were given black bags for all of their paperwork for the day. The people with black bags walked around drooling with stars in their eyes; thirsty to drink from this cup called freedom. Meanwhile, the people with maroon bags looked hollow-eyed and appeared to be doing a lot of math silently in their heads. Basically, the black bags met all day about the services and amenities the university offered them and the maroon bags met all day about methods of payment for the services and amenities to be rendered to those with the black bags. And, perhaps, most ironic, how the financers with the maroon bags would need to acquire permission from the non-paying black baggers to access their academic information. You can't make this stuff up.
We've been through the car buying process since we last talked. I got a new vehicle, a few weeks ago. Enjoying the ever so fleeting new car smell and still learning all the buttons. I'm still in that stage of car ownership when you park it far away from the crowd. This is always a short-lived period, which should pass as soon as it receives its first ding. Technology has come so far since our last car purchase that I'm not even real sure I could ram my car into yours even if I wanted to. I'm sure that is a good feature in most situations, but you never know when it might become a hindrance. Perhaps, though, in my case, the most life-altering feature is the keyless start. Up to this point, I have spent a considerable percentage of my life digging in the bottom of my purse for my keys. Now, I am looking for a new hobby to fill all this extra time, which I find spilling from my hands.

This being our first summer with Ruby, we are just learning that she has a low tolerance for heat. Perhaps even as low as her mother's. A fan has been purchased for her sleeping quarters as I certainly understand her plight. It's gotten hot fast, down here.
Now that my kids are grown, though, I'm feeling like a young mother again with her around. Ruby and I have had the all familiar talk parents have about how we're not going to lay around in the house all summer, but that we're going to go outside and play. So, she's in and out, all day. In and out. I let her out and she's back at the door in 5 minutes with her friends, Izzy and Olive. They're wanting a slurp out of the water bowl or to get a snack aka Milk Bone. There they are. The high dollar corgi and boxer, and then our Ruby, from the Out of the Pound Program, looking up at me; reminding me of the days of my red-faced kids and their friends begging to come in for Kool-Aid Jammers and Goldfish crackers. Davis and I even put in a pool aka bought a plastic kiddie pool, so that Ruby can host parties, this summer. May start looking like an episode of Girls Gone Wild, over here. You know, some parents will do anything to assure their kids will be popular.
My attempt at capturing a group picture.
 
We've lost a long fought battle with Ruby, though. Our sweet neighbors' son works at Chick-Fil-A and he keeps his pair of required black work shoes in their garage. Ruby, fascinated with the chicken- flavored slip-ons, has made it her daily objective to go and get the shoes, one by one, and bring them over to our house, where she stores them in a hiding place reserved for her most treasured possessions. We have found everything from dead birds and other dogs' water bowls, to extraordinarily fine stick specimens amongst the most revered pile o' things. Many-a-day, the neighbors have called or texted to see if the work shoes were over here and we'd go hauling them back across the street so that the young man could report for God's work down at the Chick-Fil-A. Sadly, though, despite our disciplinary efforts, we'd have to repeat the process again and again, because, well, you know.....Out of the Pound Program and all.

Well, I drove up in the driveway, yesterday, to find she'd gotten the chicken scratch 'n' sniff shoes and was in the front yard literally consuming them. They looked as if they'd been for a ride through the chipper. We gave the neighbors our apologies and money for the shoes, but you really can't blame Ruby. No one can resist shoes infused with the smell of a Number 1, no pickle, with a sweet tea. A dog's will to refrain can only take her so far.        
Well, I just had to catch you up on a whole lot of nothing, I suppose. I hope y'all are having a great start to your summer!

Talk soon!