Keep Track

 

He knows us far better than we know ourselves…….that’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.      Romans 8:28 (MSG)

 

How we look ahead has a lot to do with how we look back…..how we keep track of where we’ve come from and the people we’ve known and who have known us along the way.

Who we are now is because of who we were then. The people who raised us and taught us and the ones who hurt us. Our parents and siblings and childhood friends. Aunts and uncles and cousins. Our teachers and preachers or strangers and lovers. All of them had and some still have a part in our lives.

And because God gave us the gift of memory we can’t get around it. That’s just how it works. So it’s important to remember well and truly……the wonderful and happy and the scary and tragic. All the good and all the bad.

A gracious thing happens when you remember well.

The good memories are treasured. They come unexpectedly and make you smile. Sometimes they bring tears but it’s the sweet, cleansing kind.

The other memories….the painful ones and scary ones…..the lonely ones…….the dark ones……all of them can become a source of thankfulness and compassion.

Thankful….because you’ve either made it through or are making it through. And compassion for those who have endured or are enduring the same pain or darkness.

Because we either make our worst memories work for us or they’re going to work against us.

All of them make our story. God takes all of it and uses it for our good.

We just have to let Him.

“It is through memory that we are able to reclaim much of our lives that we have long since written off by finding that in everything that has happened to us over the years, God was offering us possibilities of new life and healing which, though we may have missed them at the time, we can still choose and be brought to life by and healed by all these years later.”      Frederick Buechner

In response to Beloved.

Storms

It was unseasonably warm last night. The air was heavy and the sky dark because the moon and stars couldn’t shine through the thick clouds. The wind was wild and the rain came fast and hard. Then it calmed and the rain drops were big and slow.

The news and sirens told us there were tornado warnings but I could feel it in the air before they told us anything. I wasn’t scared when I went to bed last night but I woke up several times because the thunder was loud and the wind was making the trees hit against the house and the barn was creaking.

The sounds of the storm and the strange low way the thunder rolled reminded me of one night when I was a little girl…maybe ten years old.

I remember Daddy sitting in the doorway on the steps that led to the carport. The screen door was propped open and all the windows were opened too.

Daddy was watching the weather. He said he could feel it in his bones that it would be really bad weather. Probably tornadoes.

He sat there lifting his cigarette to his mouth and taking a deep draw so that the tip of it turned bright orange. The smoke came out of his mouth fast. He rested his hands on his knees then clasped them together while holding the cigarette. He lifted the cigarette to his mouth for another draw. Over and over again until there was no more tobacco to burn. He threw the cigarette down onto the concrete of the carport then stepped on it. Then he bent forward to comfort the dog. Bojo stayed at Dad’s feet even closer when there was a storm.

The rain wasn’t heavy but the big trees all around our house were moving wildly because of the wind. Then the rain and the wind stopped and it was calm. The lightning flickered across the sky and the thunder rumbled deep and long and far off.

But I wasn’t scared.

Daddy was watching the weather.

 

 

Unusual

Quitting

The sound of the doorbell startled me. When I opened the door the man asked for Wayne. Before I answered him, the man asked if I knew him. He had a familiar smile but his face was aged and different. And the voice……..the voice was familiar too. For the next few seconds my brain tried to match a name with the kind face and his recognizable voice.

Before I could make the match he told me who he was. I was glad to see him and especially happy that he came by to see Daddy.

Daddy would have been thrilled for the visit. The man was shocked and saddened to hear that Wayne, my dad, had passed away. After he gave his condolences, we caught up.

It was a strange mixture of emotions…….remembering what was, learning what is, and trying to summarize thirty years of life in thirty minutes or so.

Then he asked the most amazing question. “Did your dad ever stop drinking?”

Oh how I wish he’d have known the man that Dad had become. The gracious man that cared for Mom so tenderly while working his job from his home office. The man that overflowed with generosity…….with his time and resources. The man that forgave so easily because he knew he’d been forgiven so much.

Daddy stopped drinking in 1990 or so. Never took another drink.

He quit to save his life.

His quitting saved our lives.

And who knows what else his quitting did. Whatever it did, it was good and right.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.          

                            1 Corinthians 15:10

Names

See it Through

In the mid 90s I watched my dad learn a total new way of doing his work. The company he worked for did what most companies did at that time and upgraded the way of doing things to computers and software and transmitting data through the Internet. He’d always used his mechanical pencils, triangular ruler, other items I never knew the names of and his calculator to get the numbers. And he was good at it too. Dad was just fine with his old school ways of estimating.  img_4352

But the bulky computer came anyway. It sat on a hand-built shelf atop Dad’s drafting table. He built the shelf after he accepted the new way.

But it took a while. A long while.

This computer stuff and the email and the downloading files and working out the glitches frustrated my dad. A lot. He thought he was too old to learn the new ways. He thought about quitting. He wanted to give up.

But he didn’t. He stuck with it even when he couldn’t see how it would ever work. And he had that job until the day he died. That job enabled him to work from his home office for years while he cared for Mom. The frustrating technology and new way of doing things that Dad resisted so much at first was the exact blessing he needed later.

Dad stayed the course. He persevered. He stuck it out.

My parents were “see it through” kind of people.

My dad beat his addiction to alcohol. That doesn’t happen if you give up.

Mom stayed with Dad through a lot of painful years of marriage. Fifty-one years don’t happen unless you see it through.

Thank God I have some of that grit too.

Have you hit hard times? Don’t know how you’re going to make it through another day?

Want to give up, give in or quit the whole thing?

See it through my weary friend!  See it through!

“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”      Hebrews 10:39  NIV 

The Edge

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At the edge of my grandmother’s yard there was a rock wall that separated our yard from hers. My little sister and I jumped over those rocks a thousand times. We used the rock wall as a hurdle in the pretend race courses we created.

“Run around the pecan tree and back to the barn, from the barn to the apple tree then run and jump over the rock wall. To the gravel road back through the yard over the rock wall and down to the pines. Climb the mimosa tree and down the mimosa tree then up the gravel road to the mailbox. Whoever touches the mailbox first wins.”

I can’t remember who won most of the time. Maybe we took turns winning. I do remember that when we finished the course we felt we’d done something big. Our rock wall hurdle seemed tall way back then.

The rocks are still there……exactly as they were when I was a little girl. Now I can step over those large old rocks with ease.  img_4544

The rocks haven’t changed.

But I have.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”         Colossians 2:7

In response to the Daily Prompt Cusp.

Memory

I’ve been sorting through moments. The kind caught with a camera. And we all know what happens when you sort through photographs. You look and you remember. Memories flood your heart and mind and you keep looking through the photos and you keep remembering and you smile and laugh and want others to look at them with you.

Then there are the photos that you’ve never seen before of people you loved and that loved you. You see these moments and you wonder then you learn something about the people in the photos.

Another feeling comes when you look, really look, at these moments gone long ago. It’s a strange strong feeling. And it’s a new one to me. It has some yearning in it, mixed with a little sadness and some happiness……..restlessness too.

But it’s good to remember because as Frederick Buechner wrote, “…even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.”

My favorite photos are the ones I’ve never seen. The photos of people and places and happenings before I was born.image

Like this school picture of my dad from 1956. He was 14. His dad died when he was 14. I don’t know if this picture was taken before or after his father died.

Or this picture of my mom with two of her five sisters. She is the tallest one. Mom had two brothers also. She was the baby of her family and she was a daddy’s girl.

Or the one of Mom and Dad on a beach somewhere. That’s Mom in a green bikini! I never knew Mom wore a bikini but Dad always wore a hat.

They’d lived a lot of life before I was here. They had the same experiences common to all of us. Joy and pain. Sorrow and regret. Infatuation, rejection, hope and despair. Friendship and betrayal. Fear and love and faith.image

Then I became part of their story and they lived more life and we had more joy and pain. Regret, fear and sorrow. Faith, hope and love.

Now they are part of my story.

“Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still. The people we loved. The people who loved us. The people who, for good or ill, taught us things”.    Frederick Buechner

A Discover Challenge post:The Things We Leave Behind.

Traditional

Groundwork

imageWe have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it, we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.                          Wendell Berry

The beauty that surrounds my home today is the result of my parents’ hard work.

When I was a little girl we had a plain yard. Grass to mow. An apple tree and lots of pine trees in the back. We had a vegetable garden too. But no landscaping. No mulch or fancy stones or yard ornaments. My parents didn’t have the money or time for landscaping until all of us moved out of the house.

Then that’s where they spent most of their time and a lot of their money. A new yard project was underway constantly. Dad was the do-it-yourself master at anything and the yard was no exception. They planted flowers and trees and mulched and sprayed and laid sod and added stepping stones and edgers. They were proud of their yard but mostly enjoyed sharing it with others.

imageA Fourth of July barbecue, an Easter egg hunt, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and Labor Day too. Anytime was a good time to get together and sit in the yard.

My daughter told me last week, “I love how Grandpa planted so many flowers.”

Me too.

We get to experience the bounty of their hard work in the dirt. Their groundwork makes the beauty possible.

Not only in the yard around the house. But in my heart and my memories. In my personality and my character. In who I am.

They did the hard work of teaching us, correcting us and showing us and loving us. They laid the foundation. And it wasn’t easy. And they didn’t do it well sometimes.

They were fighting some tough battles while trying to raise a family. Some we know about. Others we never will. Hardships and addictions and anger and fighting and lying and job losses and lots of bad things happened.

But good things did too. Really good things. Like working together in the yard. Christmases. Playing cards at the dining room table. Sitting on the porch watching thunderstorms.

And apologies and forgiveness and perseverance and love. And all the other good things that come with those.

All of it is groundwork. The good they did, the mistakes they made, the life they lived in front of us.

And we get to experience the bounty of their hard work in the dirt. Their groundwork makes the beauty possible.

 
Story

Our House 

There’s something special about getting to renovate the house I grew up in.

In the process of removing the existing floors I’ve discovered the floors I walked on when I was a little girl. The brown and gold flecked linoleum in the kitchen and the solid hardwood in the bedrooms.

In our attempt to remove the wallpaper in the back bedroom I found the green and yellow flower patterned paper that decorated my older sisters’ room when they were teenagers.
And I found pink walls underneath the wallpaper in my dad’s office which used to be the room I shared with my younger sister when we were in elementary school.

I’d forgotten the floors and the yellow and green wallpaper and the pink walls. These discoveries have unlocked a flood of memories.

Like the time I was sitting in my sisters’ yellow and green bedroom listening to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer on the radio one Saturday morning.

And now I remember sharing our bedroom with my grandmother for a while. She slept in a hospital bed beside our bed and I was scared.

And when Mom cooked oyster stew and I only put the milky part in my bowl to eat with oyster crackers because I don’t like oysters. Or when Dad showed me the way to eat cereal so that the little Krispies wouldn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. I sill eat my cereal that way.

I know other memories will come. Sweet, sad, and joyful ones. Maybe some scary ones, too. I am who I am because of the life that happened in that house and the people that loved me there. Those that taught me there and cared for me there.

Mom and Dad struggled there and forgave each other there. Dad took care of Mom there. We all learned there.

Learned to live and care and forgive there.

We all learned to love there in our house.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good. 

Psalm 52:8-9 

Heritage

Piles

Four weekends ago my sisters and I sorted through, looked at, and wondered at the amount of stuff in my parent’s home.

The kitchen cabinets held more than we could have imagined. And so did the hutch in the dining room. Mom collected pretty tea cups, candle holders, various colors of taper candles, vases, figurines and other unique glass items. My dad’s office held the pencils, pens and highlighters that sat on his drafting table. An assortment of matchbooks, business cards, rubber bands, old stamps, pocket knives, his ledgers, old to-do lists and all kinds of items filled the drawers of his desks.

The closets were full, too. Mom’s clothes were sorted by color. Dad’s for convenience. Her favorite blouse hung in hers, his old work shirt in his. Dad’s old puffy Alabama jacket that Mom hated hung in the foyer closet. The card tables and chairs we used on holidays leaned against the wall and the bucket of toys that all the grandkids played with were there.

There were stacks and stacks of books, old records, and photographs. Collections of CDs, and piles of tables cloths, blankets, and bed sheets. Dishes, cups, pots & pans. Silverware and cast iron skillets.IMG_2777

Old metal Folgers coffee cans filled with nuts and bolts and screws. Some with hinges, or wire, or batteries.

Piles and piles and stacks and boxes of stuff filled the house.

Our hearts are full of cherished memories, some painful ones too. But more than anything our hearts are piled high with love. Lots of love.

Because our parents loved us and did a good job. They weren’t perfect and didn’t parent perfectly……who does?  But they prayed for us and we always knew they were there for us. Always.

Now everything is boxed up……the house is almost empty.IMG_2846

But our hearts are forever full.

 

In response to the Daily Post’s Taper.