Looked After

I lingered too long with my coffee yesterday morning. I planned an Independence Day run in my favorite park but didn’t start as early as intended. Orange cones already lined the street into the park to guide the throngs of firework watchers showing up to stake their claim to the best spots. I maneuvered my car through some of the cones to park in my usual space.

My run started better than expected and I felt good despite the heat. There were more people out and about at the park. Biking, walking, running, or preparing for their picnics. I ran through neighborhoods, around the school, then back to the park.

My run still felt okay but I was hot. I ran on the edge of a parking lot when I nodded to an older gentlemen driving a golf cart. He stopped the cart and motioned to me. I noticed he wore a cap with the park name on it. I wondered if he was an employee.

I walked to the cart and the man asked how long I’d been running. I answered him, then he asked how far I had to go. I told him, “three more miles to reach my goal.”

I must have looked overheated and thirsty. He handed me an ice cold water bottle from his cooler and told me to take it with me. Then he told me to take it slow. I opened the water bottle and drank fast. He looked concerned. I thanked him and turned to walk away. He said, “wait I’m not finished yet.”

He spread a small towel in his lap, filled the middle of it with handfuls of ice, and pulled the corners of the towel up around the ice. He put the “ice bag” behind his neck, on top of his head, under his chin, on his wrists and told me to do the same to cool off. I stood there with the bag behind my neck as he told me to be careful. He warned me of the heat again and I had a fleeting sense of familiarity.

He mentioned how he planned to celebrate later with his family and beamed when he talked about his grand children.

I thanked him again, reached to shake his hand, and asked his name. His eyes brightened, he shook my hand, told me his name, then asked mine.

Before he drove away, he said, “Marie, glad to know you.”

It wasn’t until this morning I discerned the familiarity.

The man on the golf cart reminded me of my father. Not his appearance, but the things he said and how he said them. His makeshift ice bag and demonstration of its most effective use. His going above and beyond in his care about such a small thing as me being too hot.

It was Dad who saw to our wounds when we were stung by yellow jackets or scraped our knees. He did the mean stuff. He dabbed our cuts with iodine or squeezed our splinters to the surface to pull them out with tweezers, and told us to stop whining about it.

As he aged, his care became more tender. More advice and prayers than tending wounds. Moving things or fixing broken ones. Letting us borrow what was his and always helping when he saw a need. Sometimes he helped before I knew I needed help.

Dad looked after us.

I finished my run. I took the man’s advice and slowed down, and it may be the reason I finished. I think it was another one of those times I needed help and didn’t know it.

 

Photo by Arleen wiese on Unsplash

 

Full House

I’ll share what’s been on my mind all day, although I’m not sure it qualifies as Monday School.

Yesterday, we celebrated Father’s Day with the grill going outside and the sound of the U.S. Open in the background on the inside. That’s the way we celebrated Father’s Day when Dad was here. I always thought Dad should get a break from the grill on Father’s Day, but he didn’t see it that way.

Now my husband mans the grill for all the other dads and when he’s finished with that, flips the channel back and forth from golf to rodeo.

We laugh and talk around the table. The uncles tease the little ones and the boys throw the football in the yard. The kids play tag and climb the rope swing and we pose for pictures in front of the prettiest tree.

Here we are, in the same house, all these years later, celebrating the important days much like we used to. Our house was full on Christmas and Mother’s Day and some other days too. It will be full again soon. Same love, new generation.

Good people, good food, good times.

And all I could think about was grace…..God’s boundless, beautiful grace.

 

Photo by Aral Tasher on Unsplash

 

 

This Time Tomorrow

As a young girl, I did this thing when I looked forward to something and especially when I dreaded something. I’m unsure why, but the time passed better when I did it.

The day before the fifth grade spelling bee I said to myself, “This time tomorrow I’ll be spelling these words.”

A week before my family’s move to Chattanooga, “This time next week we’ll live in a new house.”

A few days before an oral presentation in my senior English class, “This time next week my presentation will be over.”

I still do this. All the time.

IMG_20180311_140856434_HDRBefore a job interview. Training for a race. Preparing a speech. Looking forward to a trip. Writing my book. It’s just this thing I do.

I’m doing it now.

This time tomorrow I’ve hiked five miles, set up our camp, and I’m sitting around a fire with friends and family. This will be my first backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. It’s a three day, two night adventure. We’ve been preparing for weeks for the trip and I anticipate it will be everything I expect and then some.

We’ve gathered our gear, practiced the tent set up, and some of us hiked on Sunday to get the feel of carrying our loaded backpacks. The closer it gets the more excited I get.IMG_6312

The weather says we’ll be hiking and camping in snow. What beauty awaits us!

This time tomorrow……..

 

Birthday

January 3rd is when Mom celebrated her birthday. According to her birth certificate that’s the day she was born, but she actually came into the world February 3rd. I’m sure she was proud of the error on her birth certificate when she was a teenager. She turned 16 before she really was 16.

IMG_6128Mom never made much of birthdays, especially hers. Whatever it was….the winding down after the holidays or the fact that she never mentioned it, many times her birthday passed right by until one of us remembered to wish her a happy one. She always said, “Well thank you.”

As we grew up and out of the house, she usually sent a card or called on our birthdays. One of the most special gifts I got from Mom on my birthday was a card that recounted the details of the day of my birth. I’d turned 20 something when she gave it to me and that was better than any other thing I could’ve received.

Her last birthday was a great party. IMG_0837My niece gave her a “birthday girl” pin to wear and cooked a wonderful meal. We had cake, balloons, and lots of us gathered to celebrate her. I bet it was one of her best birthdays ever.

I wrote a post two years ago called Mama. The post is about Mom and the song that makes me remember a specific time I was with her and my younger sister. I wrote it just because I was thinking about her.

I heard the song this morning on my way to work, thought about Mom and remembered it was her birthday – her birth certificate birthday. The one she always said was her date of birth and the one we celebrated with her three years ago.

I miss her.

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The 2017 Roundup

Changes bring…….well, changes. No matter what kind it is, loss is difficult. While my family and I dealt with loss because of a necessary but painful ending, 2017 was a grand year. I wrote Broken about a month before the ending. I see now that I was writing anticipating the difficulty of what would come with it, reminding myself of God’s goodness and faithfulness. I wrote Against the Odds too. Although my parents’ story prompted the post, writing it out strengthened my resolve to do what we knew we had to do. There were hard things in 2017 but through them we’ve experienced abundant blessings, and more clarity and peace than we imagined.

2017 was another year of firsts, lots of growth, and wonderful beginnings. I made new friends and reconnected with long time ones. Some friendships deepened while others faded.

I started the year training with some of the same ladies I trained with in 2016 to run our second Spartan race. A co-worker joined us and she and I formed an even closer friendship. Something special happens when you train together on a regular basis. She helped me through a tough time, let me cry at her desk more than a few times, and listened without judgment. IMG_5273Our group conquered the Spartan Sprint in April and I wrote about it in my post Together Again.

I moved at soul-speed more this year than in recent years and got into a healthy rhythm of life. The kind of unforced rhythms we’re meant to live. I was more attentive to my family, took better care of myself, wrote more, and was able to notice the people and what was happening around me so I could live like it matters.

I volunteered as the Content Director at a non-profit start-up for the first five months of the year, rejoined my local Toastmasters club in June to hone my speaking skills, and am a founding member of a writers group called The Thinklings. This group of writers has been a significant source of encouragement, knowledge, and inspiration. I also took on more responsibility in my job and am enjoying the opportunities and challenges that come with it.

I’ve observed Lent in previous years but this year offered a unique occasion to partner with a friend while reading a Lent devotional called Bread and Wine and writing weekly about our journeys. And So I Began was the beginning of my Lent journey. My heart was especially tender and open during this time. A few of my most raw Lent posts are Take Heart, I’m Like Them, and Done. I feel it when I read them even now.

Another friend presented me with an opportunity to write a story for a magazine. I turned him down, but that was fear talking. Fortunately, I realized it in time to say yes and had my first ever article published in an online magazine. I wrote about how it almost didn’t happen in Face Your Fear. This led to another article being published in the same magazine, only this story was personal. Very personal. I wrote about my journey to that article in Out of The Dark. Both posts have links to the magazine stories if you want to read them.

In July, I went to my first writers conference and wrote about all I learned there in The Take Away. In August, my daughters and I enjoyed viewing the eclipse together, and while I wondered at the moon covering the sun, I was in awe of my daughter’s heart. I wrote about it in Eclipse.

bridal party cute af 1.jpgAs summer neared its end, the wedding planning was in full swing. My oldest daughter was showered with lots of love and gifts from family and friends. I was asked to pray for her at one of the showers and wrote about it in Keeping the Promises. Her October wedding was beautiful. She moved in to her husband’s house and her brother moved back in to ours. Our son is home, for now, from Colorado and working toward his next goal.IMG_6095.jpg

My youngest daughter inspired my most viewed post of 2017 and ever. It’s called Look What You Made Me Do. I connected Taylor Swift’s song with my daughter’s experience at a new high school and lots of people related.

I began a new feature on my blog called Monday School in the fall. It was a challenge at times but I didn’t miss a Monday and I’m going to continue my Monday School posts into 2018.

The fall also brought the most challenging race I’ve run to date. With six other ladies, I ran a Spartan Super near Atlanta, Georgia. It was 9.4 miles of hard. Then in December, six of us joined the Spartan Trifecta club by completing the 13.5 mile Beast in Tampa, Florida. I wrote about the anticipation of accomplishing the Trifecta in Making It Happen. Though the Beast was longer and colder, the Super had the hills that killed.

What a way to end the year! IMG_5897-COLLAGE

2018 is full of possibilities. I will do my best work at my job. We will continue meeting in homes for church in 2018 and I want to teach a ladies Bible study this year. I’ll attend another writers conference and hope to collaborate on a few projects with other writers and artists. I will continue to run and now I can see the possibility of a half marathon. Several friends are interested in doing a Spartan race and I may lead them to a 2018 Spartan Trifecta. It’s a good way to keep me training.

But of all the possibilities in 2018…….none is better than love. So with God’s help, I will love my family and friends better and better. I will notice and be present with the people around me. And I won’t waste an opportunity to live like it matters.

“So let us love, dear love, like as we ought, 
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.”            

Edmund Spenser – from Amoretti LXVIII: Most Glorious Lord of Life

featured photo by Joanna Schley from her Doors of Decatur series

Finally

Strawberries in the Sand

Every year at the beach we search for strawberries in the sand. One of us will return from a long walk on the beach and announce, “I found six strawberries!”  The others of us will admire the find and tell the lucky finder how pretty the strawberries are. Each day more of us will search and find our strawberries and we’ll talk about whose is the pinkest or which has its wings intact.

Strawberries in the sand are actually calico scallop shells and the “wings” are technically called ears. I’m not sure how the shells came to be known to us as strawberries but I can guess it’s because of the red, maroon, or rose colors found on most of them. However the “strawberry” name happened, it stuck. We even call the black scallops, “black strawberries”.

We throw the barnacle-encrusted strawberries back into the waves and continue our hunt. Our favorite strawberries are deep purples or vibrant pinks with no holes and both wings. If the colors are especially beautiful or unique enough, then holes and wings make no difference.

We’ve been calling them by the name for so long we forget that others don’t know about it. A newcomer to our beach gathering gives strange looks when we talk about searching for strawberries on the beach.

It’s just one of our things. Like chocolate gravy on Christmas Eve and stargazing in the back of a pickup on hot August nights, gathering stalks of cotton from the fields in October, or The Sound of Music the day after Thanksgiving.

Every family has those things.

What are some of yours?

Textures

Fun Is Good

I have a long list of “must dos”. A longer list of things I need to do. And a short list of fun things I really want to do. We all have these lists, whether on paper or in our heads.

The long lists take up most of my time. They include the everyday things I do at home or work. It means at work I figure contracts, reconcile GL accounts, take care of accounts payable, and analyze financial statements. At home I do laundry, have good conversations with my family, clean the refrigerator, cook dinner, or wash dishes.

The other items on the long lists are those that can wait but still need doing. Like clearing out the sun room and painting the walls. Getting quotes from contractors on more work we want done to the house. Cleaning out the attic and the barn. Trimming trees and more landscaping.

But what about that short list? Yours will be different than mine because what is fun to me may not be to you. But we all need our own list of fun things we want to do.

I want to fly somewhere with each of my kids and backpack on the Appalachian Trail this year. My husband and I want to see the Northern Lights and picnic in a vineyard. I want to paddle board and learn Spanish, do some freelance writing, and complete the Spartan Trifecta. These things don’t need to be done, and as author Mark Buchanan put it, the world isn’t changed by my doing them or not.

But I need to play. You need to play. Because we need a break from the ever growing “to do” list.

Because of the chores and responsibilities and deadlines, the short list tends to get shoved under the others. Disregarded as less important. Forgotten about.

If we’re not careful, adulthood can turn into one big obligation and we forget we need to have fun. We forget how to play.

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If you’ve neglected play for so long and don’t know what to do, start small. Play Go Fish with your kid. Dance in the living room. Fly a kite, jump on the trampoline or ENO in the park. Visit a theme park and ride all the roller coasters. Sign up for that cooking or dance class you’ve always wanted to take or join a book club.

I’m not going to tell you how you’ll benefit from playing. I want you to find out for yourself. Because the world may not be changed by your playing, but you probably will be.

Excuse me while I go jump rain puddles.

Dancing

She Was Seventeen

I was at the funeral home last night, gathered with extended family I don’t see often. A lot of us together in one place. There were moms and dads, and brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and cousins…..lots and lots of cousins. We’re happy to see each other, even under the circumstances, and we say so.

We smile and hug each other, ask about our families and can’t believe he’s driving already or she’s graduated college. We wonder at the children growing up and getting married and having children of their own. We ask “where did the time go” or say “how time flies.” Funeral homes make us more aware of time. More thankful for it, too.

After we catch up with each other, we remember. We think of the ones who aren’t with us. We think of the good times, maybe the hard ones too. We laugh and share stories. My cousin shared long ago stories about his brothers and sister, of growing up with lots of cousins and playing on Sharrott Hill. Then he recalled something about Mom and told me the story.

IMG_5522He was in 2nd grade and she was 17. She took him and a bunch of her other nephews to see a movie called The Blob. He remembers having nightmares that night. He told me Aunt Jan was always so much fun.

My cousin told me a story about Mom I’d never heard.

I’m glad I was there to hear it.

The 2016 Rundown

I look forward to 2017 with even greater anticipation than I did 2016. And 2016 didn’t disappoint. It was a wonderful year of growth and I did a lot of new things. In one of my January posts, titled Rising, I reflected on the amazing things I saw because I made a change and decided to do something new.

Some of the “first evers” for me in 2016:

  • Ate the Paleo Diet for 12 weeks
  • Ran an 8K in May
  • Ran the Spartan Race in Nashville in August
  • Ran a 10K in October

I chose to take on these physical challenges and have learned from all of them. Mostly I learned the importance of training and doing it with others. There’s something special about being part of a group working together toward a tough common goal. I wrote about it in my post Together.

There were more new things for my family in 2016. In February we moved from our home of 13 years into my newly renovated childhood home. Our home is beautiful but there were some adjustments for us. We are no longer in a rural area and it interfered with my morning runs. I lost my running groove…..or so I thought. I just had to embrace the new and wrote about it in Embrace the New.

Throughout the year I continued issuing my Live Like it Matters Challenges but I wrote more than ever about my childhood and the legacy my parents left. Living in my childhood home has brought a flood of memories and it’s been a wonderful gift of healing, new perspective and renewed gratefulness. Some of those posts are Memory, Groundwork, Quitting, and Mama.

We went on our annual trip to the beach with many of our favorite people. It’s a special place and does our hearts good to be there. I highlighted it in my post This Place.

My son moving to Texas last year for a job, then moving to Colorado this year provided a lot of inspiration. His courage to take bold steps into the unknown is fascinating. We visited him in October and it was one of the best trips ever. I wrote several posts as a result of the trip: Possibility and Shine are two of them.

I was finally able to put into words some of the difficulties of 2013, 2014 and part of 2015. I’d start the posts, then stop. Try to start again, but no words. They just wouldn’t come. More times than not, something is worked out within me when I write and I knew I needed to write about these things. At last something broke inside of me and the words came for the first post called Linger. It took months for the other healing posts to happen but I found the words. I’ve received more comments on those posts than others because everyone has experienced loss, grief and heaviness. Those posts are called Gone and The Dark .

We had a great holiday season. We gathered with family and friends several times. On Thanksgiving I ran my 2nd Turkey Trot and significantly improved my time. Our son came home the first week of December so we celebrated Christmas with the extended family early. Christmas gets more and more special with each passing year.

God is good and 2016 has been full of blessings. But what God did within my own heart in 2016 is the most momentous. He has given me a clearer view of what’s important. I want to love extravagantly because that’s the way He loves me.

Now I will let Him teach me how to do it.

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