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

Anticipation

Part of the enjoyment of something is the anticipation of it. Like a birthday or Christmas or a vacation.

I’ve noticed that younger ones burst with anticipation over the simplest things and aren’t shy about expressing it. An expected package can cause excited watching for days and days with my kids. And the excitement over Christmas or our annual family vacation starts months in advance.

With this anticipation comes joy and laughter and a readiness for the thing that is being eagerly awaited.

And then the day before the day comes……..Christmas Eve…….or the day before we leave on vacation……and the kids are so excited that it’s almost as good as the day.

And finally the day has come and the hearts of the ones who have joyfully anticipated it are enlarged and ready to take it all in. Then they delight in every moment and treasure it forever.

That’s how the good kind of memories are made.

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

Summer

imageThis is the first Summer living in my childhood home since I moved out 24 years ago. It’s special to get to be here. So many memories to be remembered that would stay forgotten if I weren’t here.

When I was a girl summer weekends meant hard work. The yard would be mowed, the garden tended, and the house cleaned. Then the best part came in the evening.

A good meal and enjoying our rest after the day’s work. If a late afternoon thunderstorm rolled in and cooled the air, Dad would prop the screen door open. If not, the small air conditioning unit in the window would keep us cool.

imageI walked around the house today enjoying the unearned beauty all around me. The ivy growing in the cedar tree. The day lilies in whites and yellows and oranges. The fruit trees and blackberries and muscadine vines. The Rose of Sharon and gardenia and the magnolia.

All the work of those before me.

 

Summer will always be lightning bugs blinking, cicadas humming, mosquitoes biting.

Tomato sandwiches, homemade ice cream, vegetable dinners.

Afternoon thunderstorms, long days, hot nights.image

 

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.   Ecclesiastes 3:11 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph

We’ve been here a month now. The entire house has been renovated except for one room. The room holds sentimental treasures….Dad’s pipes and briefcase and shoe shine kit, Mom’s rocking chair and her favorite trinkets. Some old furniture. Old letters and cards and photographs. Hundreds of photos in boxes and bins and old photo albums.FullSizeRender (1)

I started moving things around in the room. Trying to make space for when my sisters come and we go through it all. I accidentally started looking at some of the photos. Remembering moments I’d forgotten.

There are lots of old memories here. Good and bad ones. The good ones we treasure.

But mixed up with all those treasured memories are painful ones. Sad ones too. And some that made their mark on us forever. But God redeems those. He uses them all for our good.

And then we can help others who are going through trials and painful circumstances.

Because whenever He changes us or heals us it’s never just for us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.         2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

Remember

This month begins a birthday “season” in my family.  All of my sisters and I, my youngest daughter, and 2 nieces celebrate birthdays within a span of 25 days.

Birthdays make us remember. One year for my birthday, Mom typed out her memory of the day I was born. She did that for all my sisters, too. That was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

Holidays, anniversaries, and other special days also take us back. We should practice it more often, though………..reminiscing. We should remember more than those treasured events like prom, wedding days, holding our newborn in our arms for the first time, or the day we graduated from college. Those are special, but other memories are worth remembering and sharing.

Playing house with your sister and climbing trees with your brother. The family vacations to the beach, the cramped ride down there, and getting so sunburned you could barely move.

Remember the smell of your grandmother’s cinnamon rolls baking in the oven or the hydrangeas she brought in from her yard to put in the center of the kitchen table?

More recent memories….like when my husband and I went to Philadelphia or the last time Dad was home or July 4th, 2014, when Mom sat with us outside and ate watermelon.  Or last week, when we gathered with friends we don’t get to see very often then sat together and watched fireworks.

We need to remember the things that happened.

But what about the things that didn’t happen?

My ex-husband and I didn’t stay divorced. Instead, we decided to reconcile and here we are……..15 years later.

The day I didn’t die because I made it to the emergency room in time. Or the afternoon my daughter didn’t drown in the Little Pigeon River. I shouldn’t forget the day my son and his friend were out in the back yard shooting his rifle. It went off accidentally. Thank God, no one was hurt.

When we remember, our heart softens and swells with gratefulness.  Perhaps we are filled with longing for “those days”. Or maybe the memories cause us to reflect and something in us shifts and we are filled with compassion or wonder. Whatever remembering does, it is mostly good.

There are cruel memories, of course. People have hurt us, or we’ve harmed someone. We’ve made some bad choices, maybe living with regrets or painful consequences.

Those memories just make the good ones even better.

And there are good ones. Keep remembering and you’ll find some.

“But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago”.     Psalm 77:11

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Memory on the Menu.”

Prom

Mom and Dad - Prom (1960)
Mom and Dad – Prom (1960)

This is a moment captured long ago…..of youth…….. filled with hope and anticipation.

I wish I’d been there when Mom was getting ready for her prom that night in 1960. I’m sure she spent hours getting her hair just right, taking extra time on her make up, and getting dressed in her beautiful gown and fancy gloves. She’s lovely.

I wonder if her sisters helped her get ready. What did Grandpa and Grandma Sharrott think of their youngest daughter going to prom with that boy?

I wish I could have watched as Dad walked up to the door, knocked and nervously waited until someone opened it. Look at him! His excitement is evident by the big grin on his face. His hair looks newly trimmed and I’m sure he took his time getting his tie straight.

Did his older brothers give him advice? Who helped him pick out Mom’s corsage? Was he brave enough to pin it on her gown or did someone else?

Did they go out to eat before prom? If so, where? How did he ask her to prom?

I know Mom loved to dance. Did Dad dance with her all night? What was her favorite song of the night? What was the name of the perfume she wore? Did he forget to put on cologne? What was her curfew? His curfew?

I had a thousand chances to ask those questions.

Now I have to wonder.

In response to the Daily Post’s Primp.