Tag Archive - Friends

The Mockingbird and the Dogwood Tree

I opened the top of the Jeep last week. First time this spring. Sunlight warmed my shoulders. Warm breeze rifled my hair. And Lulu Mae brought the tunes. Earlier in the day, they had accompanied me on my run. And in the garden.

I have adopted their new album, The Mockingbird and the Dogwood Tree, as my official soundtrack for spring. 🙂

Poet storytellers with a style that is organic and clean, Lulu Mae has put together a work that is intriguingly diverse. I keep finding new reasons to love it.

Here are a few personal listening notes. Visit Lulu Mae’s site (or iTunes or Amazon) to sample a few. You want to know these folks. Trust me.

Hey Tom  A good place to start. Simple instrumentation. Clean storytelling. Of one who has gone away. Who is lost to us. And of the invitation to return.

The Fire in Your Eyes  A musical Tell Tale Heart of sorts. Of burying what we don’t want to see. And hoping it will go away. The sometimes unconventional harmonies hint that this is probably not going to work.

Corallina  A tender ballad for the unseen one. The one who does not perceive the beautiful inside her. Joel and Sarah’s sweet, gentle harmonies are positively exquisite.

Clean Up My Heart  A hard, driving confrontation of betrayal. Some wailing guitar work on this one. Abrupt tempo changes contribute to the disorientation of a world falling apart.

Give Me Some Music  A Lament. A plea. Set against an old piano with worn out strings that convey the raw weariness, the desperation of the singer. A great heart swell into the chorus with other instruments piling in. Here is where I had to sing out loud. On my run. (My apologies to the little birds and squirrels.) I just read this week about how ancient Greek philosophers believed music had the power to restore harmony to the soul. To heal. I believe it.

Why, Wyoming?

There’s a man I have seen and he is standing on a rock
And he can see the world in a way that I can not
When he comes down from the mountain,
On the way he is changed
And I wonder, will he ever be the same…

Oh, the mountains they can speak without moving their lips.
And the wind, she will tell me things that I cannot forget….

A ballade of place. Of how the grandeur of the mountains clean the mind and give dazzling perspective. Of the longing to be there when we are not. Having spent some time in the mountains of Wyoming myself, I know just what they mean.

The Man With the Golden Toy  Of vision. Of the power of a symbol, a token, vested with meaning…to empower, to strengthen, to embolden. Of little boy dreams and old man remembrance. Set to a rollicking bluegrass-like verse that breaks out into a a drum laden, beat driven chorus. One of my favorites.

When You’re Not Home  Life is full of choices. Sirens seduce us to a life that looks like freedom, but is bitter imprisonment. Occasionally someone comes along who helps us find our better selves. Who brings out the very best in us. This one’s for them. Poetic. Lovely piano licks. A melody that will linger in your ears long after. And masterful instrumentation.

The Mockingbird and the Dogwood Tree  Another ode to place. Perhaps I am a bit biased since I am a Tennessee girl, but I love this one! Nashville instrumentation right down to the pedal steel guitar. You will definitely hear this one spilling out of my Jeep this summer when I am driving with the roof open to the stars. 🙂

The Fiction of Speed  Of a lifetime kind of love. The sort that ferments and grows richer over time. The subject is deep and important, but the music is completely fun. A ukelele opening, melodica and handclaps on the interlude and chorus.

…If love is instant, then I don’t want it…

Me either.

Versatile Blogger

Here’s something fun. One of my favorite real-life poet friends, Karissa, nominated me for a Versatile Blogger award. Here’s how it works: When you are nominated for this award, you thank the person who nominated you, write 7 things about yourself, and nominate 10 more bloggers.

Karissa and I worship together as part of the faith family of St. Ignatius Orthodox Church. We also enjoy talking about all things literary. She has given me some great book recommendations, like The Saffron Kitchen and The Wild Iris.  You will definitely enjoy reading her blog, The Iris Chronicles.

Thank you, Karissa, for thinking of me.

For the benefit of those of you who read my blog regularly and already know more about me than you want, I thought it might be fun to make my 7 random things excessively random. Just for fun. 🙂

1. I can only sleep on a cold pillow. If I wake up during the night, I have to turn my pillow over to the cold side before I can go back to sleep. I also have to have my feet outside the covers.

2. Though I am prone to break out in spontaneous worship at any time, in any place, I have had the opportunity to worship corporately in some pretty varied settings: tent revivals with sawdust on the ground, brush arbors (I am from Appalachia after all), Medieval European cathedrals, a school in Spanish Harlem and a schoolyard in Malawi, campgrounds, storefronts, amusement parks, tiny country churches with windows open and flies buzzing (and, in one instance, a snake)…

3. There are certain shades of purple that affect me viscerally; an ecstatic, delicious, piercing, heart thumping, breathless something that lies entirely outside the realm of words.

4. When I was a senior in high school, we had a fall that was so wet we couldn’t get a mechanical corn picker into the cornfield. My family and I spent every weekend from early October to the week before Christmas (including Thanksgiving Day) in that field harvesting the winter sustenance for our animals. By hand. My brothers and I whined and complained and made up ridiculous songs of lament. And laughed. And ate hot soup for lunch. And, in the end, harvested something far more significant and lasting than a few ears of corn.

5. I think it is inevitable that I will live in Europe for a while at some point before I die. Probably France. But maybe Italy. Or Ireland…

6. I am learning to play the mandolin. It’s harder than it looks. But fun. It seems to be more suited to my voice than the piano, if that makes sense. And considerably more portable.

7. I am an Enneagram 4 with a 5 wing. And an ENFP. If anyone is keeping score.

Here are a few folks I would love for you to know. Some of them do not post all that often (most have small people underfoot), but it is very worthwhile when they do. My nominees for Versatile Blogger:

1. Jennifer Lynn King

2. Joel J. Miller

3. William Guice

4. Jennifer Gillett

5. Meg H. Miller

6. Gail Hyatt

7. Kari Slusser

8. Jen Jarnagin

9. Anna Mccullum

10. Rhonda Kemp

empty

No one has to teach us to inhale. It’s instinct. So strong, in fact, that the very first act we perform on this earth is a great, frantic grasp for air.

However, exhaling is something most of us do badly. Or, at least, incompletely. Yoga instructors spend a great deal of time teaching students to slowly and completely empty their lungs. Creating space for air requires great purpose. Filling it does not.

Life looks very like that sometimes…

I am a threshold kind of girl. I love reflecting, evaluating, dreaming, setting goals. I always do this at the threshold of the New Year. But this year it has been difficult. As I have pondered new challenges and activities, they have felt like so much clutter.

Inspired by the OneWord365 project, I thought perhaps I would instead select a word to give shape to the coming months. But this too eluded me. I read posts from others who had selected their words–words like Choose, Begin, Discover. I loved them! I tried to steal borrow their words. But none of them fit.

On Monday night our priest came to bless our home. As we were talking afterward, he shared with us a concern that has been on his heart of late. He talked of how we constantly seek to fill ourselves, when what is required of us as followers of Christ is that we be emptied. In fact, it is impossible to pour into a container that is already full. But emptying is much more difficult, more unnatural, than filling.

Just like breathing.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this. And the longer I pondered, the more I knew that I had found my word. The word that tied together the random longings that have been swirling round in my heart. That bristled every time I tried to decide what I was going to add to my life this year.

empty

I am only beginning to imagine what this will look like for me over the next twelve months. But here are a few places where I hope the word will have its way with me…

To stand silent and empty before God. Without demand, without pretense, without excuse, without words. To be still. To be with. It is harder than it should be. For me. But I am learning. A little.

To empty myself of arrogance and self-sufficiency. To walk humbly with others. Most especially with my family. And close friends.

To empty my life of clutter. Frivolous pursuits (ie: the black hole of the internet, mostly), Items I no longer use (which could benefit another, and occupy space in my home), Things I might like to buy (or that might be a really good deal) but I don’t need, etc…

It scares me a little. This idea of seeking to be emptied. Quite frankly, I have always seen emptiness as something to be fixed. But I believe it is the next right step.

Here goes….

Lonely…

Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures…
~Henri Nouwen

This has been a raw, cantankerous, no one will answer my emails, tired, overwhelmed, everybody needs something from me, tears in the dishwater kind of week. I am not sleeping. I have no talent for sleep anyway, so it is usually the first thing to go. That, of course, only makes matters worse. I am frenzied, withered, spent.

I have been here before. And I have come to understand that when it seems as though everyone is conspiring to make me insane, the problem is probably not with “everyone“.

And even though it never works, I begin by trying to eliminate the stresses in my life; by wishing everyone would just do what I need them to do.

It’s kind of like putting perfume on sweat. The first impression might be tolerable, but it doesn’t take long before the stink wins out.

I was awake last night. In the middle of the night. Again. This time, instead of repeatedly calculating exactly how much sleep I will get if I fall asleep right now, or fretting over everything in my life that needs to be done for the next 2 weeks years, or trying to escape by planning our next vacation… I picked up a book…one of the books I began reading at the beginning of Advent…and found the familiar, but forgotten, words above. And I began to understand…

I had made a worthy start to Advent. Finding time for stillness. For peace. Peace that I could carry with me into my days. And give to others, if need be. I’m not sure where things went wrong…

You cannot bring peace to others if you do not have it yourself.
~Fr. Alexander Elchaninov

Today, roughly half way through the season of expectation and longing, I begin again. Pursuing loneliness. For myself. For my family and friends. I will follow the One I love to the lonely place. I will sit with Him. And I will invite Him to set me aright so that I might love as He loves. So that the sweet aroma of Him might linger upon me…

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. ~Mark 1:35

11 Wonders Unseen by the Rest of the World

We all have them. Those little everyday miracles that sneak up on you. Today is a tribute to those.

A sleeping baby  This afternoon she fell asleep in my arms. I watched the rise and fall of her breath. Her face pure and peaceful. Her body curled against mine. It was so beautiful it made my heart hurt. And I knew she would sleep better in her bed. But it was everything I could do to let go of her. (By the way, the photo is of Kenzie sleeping in Kelsey’s arms. Also beautiful. :))

Tender shoots pushing up through the earth in spring

Ditches full of golden leaves

First steps, first words, discoveries

A kind word

Love notes

Pictures drawn by children

Hugs. Kisses. Freely given.

Family meals when everyone is there, and the conversation is rich and deep and good

When my kids help each other clean up toys. If you are a stay at home mom with small children, I heard that “amen”. Little unsolicited kindnesses to a sibling bring a great deal of joy to a mom’s heart, even if no one else sees.

This topic was suggested by my friend, Cassie, as was item number ten. Item number eleven is for Cassie, and for others like her, who every day give themselves away. They receive no glory for it. Most of their efforts are unseen. And they may not see the results of their investment for years. But they don’t do it for any of that. They do it for the glory of the One who made them. This song is for them…

11 Unforgettable Dining Experiences

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.
~A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

Pooh and I are very like in this. I find food terribly exciting, especially when it is exquisitely prepared and beautifully served. Yes, I eat my fair share of leftovers and occasionally even stoop to fast food on the road. But I am passing fond of meals that nourish the senses. Preferably all of them. I favor long, slow meals accompanied by deep conversation and laughter. And if this happens to occur someplace beautiful with people I love, all the better. Here are 11 of my favorites.

Asia de Cuba, Anniversary March 2010
My sweet husband surprised me with a trip to New York for our 23rd anniversary. He chose the restaurant. He is brilliant. 🙂 Asia de Cuba is a trendy Asian/Cuban fusion restaurant. Philippe Starck designed the unique interior. White curtains and a holographic waterfall help create the unique atmosphere. Our waiter sat down at our table and spent a very long time talking with us to discover what we liked before making recommendations. Everything we ate was beautiful and delicious, but there were two distinct standouts. The calamari salad is one of their signature dishes. Crisp calamari with chayote, hearts of palm, bananas, cashews, chickory and raddichio, and sesame orange dressing. Amazing! And dessert. Oh. My!! The Bay of Pigs was gastrorgasmic. (My friend Maurilio sent this word to me after I tweeted the above picture. He was right!) Bananas covered in an impossibly delicate shell of caramelized sugar, ice cream (coffee I think) fudge and caramel sauces, warm chocolate chip cookies, macadamia nuts, fondant, and whipped cream. It should be illegal.

Gelateria Bellocco, Summer 2010
Our family has eaten our fair share of gelato. We are pretty finicky about what constitutes proper gelato. Last summer, Kelsey and I returned to our favorite gelateria in Florence. We ate there 3 times in 24 hours. But just two days later we were renouncing our favorite for Sergio’s marvelous creations. In particular, he makes a pistachio that uses salted pistachios. I was skeptical, but I was wrong. Salty, creamy, intense, addictive. If I lived in Italy I would have to go to a 12 step program. That’s all there is to it.

Mangia Nashville, Anniversary March 2011
An Italian feast! Five leisurely courses, each featuring two or three selections, served family style. Superb food prepared by Nick Pellegrino, who also sings, dances and quotes lines from the Godfather. It is a wonderful community experience, and a meal you will never forget. (By the way, the desserts at the top of the post are theirs.)

Country Breakfast at my Mama’s
Just ask my kids. If we are going to visit the first question is likely to be, “Do you think Mamaw will make breakfast?” My mother’s biscuits and gravy, and chocolate gravy (I kid you not), sausage, eggs, homemade jelly, fried apples, etc… is legendary. Better than Cracker Barrel. Even better than the Loveless. Yep. I said it.

Picnics in the Japanese Garden at Cheekwood
When the kids were little I would buy an annual pass. We would go every couple of weeks. We would look at the artwork in the museum, then stroll though the gardens and see what was blooming, or putting up shoots, or making seeds. But we would always end up in the Japanese Garden. It was our favorite. And this is where we would pull out our lunch. And just for a while, we were far away in Japan. And this was our garden. And nothing could be more natural than bringing our lunch out onto the lanai and breathing slowly and contemplating the waves of stone, and the colors and textures, the order, the calm.

Cafe Tomaselli, Salzburg
Mozart ate here. It’s true. I think I know why. The pastries are elegant and delicious, and surprisingly affordable. The cappuccino is warm, and frothy, and rich. And everything is served on proper plates and in proper cups, on proper trays, with lovely little sugar cubes and tiny glasses of water, and a spoon laid over the top. And one can imagine, just for a moment, that all of life is just this grand and elegant.

French Boulangeries
It took us exactly one morning to become Parisian, dashing into the local Boulangerie for our morning pastries. Our favorites were the Viennese rolls, soft warm bread with chocolate chips. We would walk down the street, nibbling, till we reached the courtyard behind Notre Dame. There we would finish our breakfast properly, perhaps sharing a bit with the birds.

Boudro’s on the Riverwalk, San Antonio
To sit along the riverwalk at night is nourishment in itself. Then add to that the most amazing guacamole I have ever eaten. It is their recipe we use to this day. Mesquite grilled Texas Quail in a molasses glaze, served over pepper jack grits. Gulf coast blue crab cakes with roasted corn sauce, jicama slaw, and tomatilla cream. Yum. Yum!

Johnnie Foxe’s, Dublin Ireland
Their mussels are legendary, and not without reason. Beautifully seasoned, tender and fresh. Best seafood chowder I ever ate. And our introduction to Banoffee pie. I have been playing with recipes ever since trying to get it just right. Everything is served up in a convivial atmosphere with all kinds of quirky kitsch all over the walls. Makes for interesting conversations. 🙂

Boma Cafe, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney World
Boma is beautiful, as is the whole of the lodge. And they serve up a whole buffet of African fare. Lentils, curries, soups, vegetables, meats, salads, all with exotic seasonings. A wonderful opportunity to sample a wide variety of unfamiliar foods.

African Supper, Malawi
We gathered under a great spreading acacia tree. There were a thousand stars overhead. Our freshly scrubbed bodies were chilly in the night air. A fire blazed, and there were lanterns on the tables. We filled our plates with nsima (rather like grits, but softer), greens with tomatoes and onions, beans, stewed meats, and bread toasted over the fire. We drank pineapple and mango sodas. And we relived the moments of the day. Our stomachs were filled, and we would sleep the sleep of the weary. Weary, but glad.

Tell me about the significant dining experiences in your life. What is it that makes them so?

Buon Appetit!

*Special thanks to Giorgio who supplies the topic for today’s post.

11 Thoughts on the Fatherless

A special eleven post today on Orphan Sunday. For your consideration….

Our beautiful nieces, Keeli & Ellie, with big sister Alex & big brother David

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…
~James 1:27

At last night’s Show Hope fundraiser, Steven told a story about Stevie Joy. Stevie Joy is a talented gymnast. But one day she told her parents she wasn’t sure she wanted to go back. She was afraid of her new coach. This coach was pushing Stevie Joy and was more assertive than she was used to. She didn’t know what to do with this. So Steven offered to go talk with the coach. He explained Stevie’s fears to her. The coach was wonderful and very understanding.

Next day, when Stevie very reluctantly returned to gymnastics, the coach pulled Stevie aside and talked with her. By the time Steven came to pick her up she was all smiles. She told him she and the coach were now best friends. Then she said, “That’s why little girls have daddies. So they don’t have to be afraid.”

Yes, Stevie Joy. Yes

Our friends, the Green family, Kaleb, Gatlin, Bennett, Cooper, Brian, Kali, & Wendi

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ~John 14:18

When Danielle Ballantyne was 5 years old, her parents took her to the market. They told her they were going to get some candy and that she should wait for them right there. They never came back. She wandered the streets for some time before being taken by a police officer to an orphanage. She would spend the next 8 years of her life here. She would listen to the jeers and taunts of school mates. She would steal to feed her hungry belly. And she would lock her heart up so that she would never be hurt again.

Then one day Dani came home from school to find a package waiting for her. A large package. Full of candy. And with pictures of a family. A family that was coming to get her. She blushed as she talked of diving into the candy. She had never seen abundance like this. She spoke candidly of the fear she felt in meeting this family. She had forgotten how to trust. She had been hurt so badly. But her parents were patient and kind, and she is learning to open herself more and more to people around her.

Today, 4 years after becoming part of a forever family, Dani is vivacious and strong. She believes God had His hand on her and that He has a purpose for her life. She talked about how she would help care for babies who were sick. Babies the orphanage staff had no time for. Do you know what this young woman wants to do with her life? She wants to go back to China and take care of other children like her. To tell her story. To give them hope. I am in awe of her. She is so brave.

Our godson, Jonah Miller

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! ~I John 3:1

Mike and I have not been called to adopt. But we have had the privilege of helping others financially, either directly or through Show Hope. And we have had the joy of being able to be part of their support team at home with encouragement, meals, etc… Not all of us are called to adopt. But all of us are called to love the fatherless. We ourselves have been chosen. We have not been left fatherless. We must share this with others.

Jovie, Jaydn and Jaxon Gaddis (chilren of our friends Nathan & Bethany) with Kenzie

If you are not sure where to start, may I commend to you the remarkable work of Show Hope. Steven and Mary Beth Chapman began this organization to assist families who had a heart for adoption but lacked the resources. This ministry is run with the utmost integrity and efficiency. And it is literally saving the world. One child at a time.

A final thought. From Andrew Peterson. On what matters. On what lasts.

11 Things That Make Me Laugh

A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.

Proverbs 17:22 (Message)

With that in mind, I offer you eleven things that always, always make me laugh. Feel free to borrow one or two if you like. And be sure to leave a couple of your own.

Bill Cosby Himself  Cosby has a remarkable ability to transform the most ordinary things like parenthood or a trip to the dentist into comedic brilliance. Almost thirty years after its release, this is still relevant; still fresh and funny. And it gets even funnier when my usually calm, collected husband is rolling on the floor, gasping for breath because he is hysterical. 🙂

Taylor Mali, Poet  Mali’s work is intelligent and incisive. And his personal delivery is brilliant. Just be careful. Somewhere in the midst of laughing your face off, you will discover that he is making you think. I encourage you to let him deliver his words to you with his own inflection and emphasis. If you’re not sure where to start, I commend a couple of my favorites: The The Impotence of Proofreading and Totally Like Whatever, You Know? Another favorite, less humorous but profoundly good, is What Teachers Make

Winnie the Pooh  A.A Milne infused his stories with a subtle, elegant wit. I read his stories over and over to my children–the original ones, not the language impoverished Disney reductions–and sometimes had to stop and snicker. This is not knee-slapping hysteria, but a soft gladdening of the heart. A couple of examples:

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best — ” and then he had to stop and think.  Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

“Did you make that song up?”
“Well, I sort of made it up, ” said Pooh, “It isn’t Brain…but it comes to me sometimes.”
“Ah,” said Rabbit, who never let things come to him, but always went & fetched them.

The music of Andy Gullahorn  Like Taylor Mali, Gullahorn wraps a whole lot of truth up in his humor. This is an art. And not all his songs are funny. But they are all good. He is one of our family’s road trip favorites. We sing along, and sometimes laugh out loud. Especially to Green Hills Mall.

The poetry of Shel Silverstein  Whimsical. Clever. Unexpected. Fun. And his childlike drawings are perfectly delightful. Where the Sidewalk Ends is my favorite collection, but all are good.

Candide  You probably know Voltaire was a philosopher whose influence on the French Revolution cannot be overstated. But do you know that he was a most clever satirist? This is a fanciful tale of travel and misadventure. Voltaire puts his own words in the mouth of a naive young man who we come to believe may be more intelligent than most of those around him. I do not hold to Voltaire’s view of the world, but I admire the artistry and good humor with which he articulates it.

Homer Price  You might know Robert McCloskey better for his Caldecott award winning picture books Make Way For Ducklings or Blueberries for Sal, which we also love. But it’s this collection of short stories that kept my boys and me in stitches. Both of them would list it among their favorite books ever. Innocent small town fun involving pet skunks, a doughnut machine run amok, and an award winning ball of string, and much more.

Christmas Vacation  We watch it every Christmas….and sometimes when it’s not Christmas. We know everything that’s going to happen before it happens. And sometimes the laughter precipitates the action. Good, clean, dysfunctional family fun. 🙂

Patsy Clairmont  She has the soul of a poet. She writes words of exquisite beauty, and has a keen ability to see beyond. But, put her on a stage in front of a few thousand women, and she will have you in stitches before you know what hit you. Sample her humorous side with Crafty or Emotions for starters.

Nine Months  I do have an inordinate fondness for Hugh Grant. The good-natured, but bumbling character he plays so well is great fun to watch. But this is an ensemble piece. Robin Williams as the Russian veterinarian/obstetrician and Tom Arnold as the enthusiastic (aka obnoxious) father with the video camera are two other stand-outs. Yes, I do usually end up crying at the end. But only after laughing til my sides hurt.

Rat Race  Frantic. Messy. One misadventure after another. The kind of silly humor I don’t usually go for, but I gladly make an exception here.

*Fifth in a series of eleven posts of elevens; one for each of the first eleven days of the eleventh month of 2011.

**Yes, that absolutely gorgeous baby in the photo is in fact my granddaughter. 😉

 

11 People Who Have Made Me Me

Our utter dependence on others is so obvious and so complete that it is as invisible as oxygen and just as necessary…. Know whom you owe. Know that you owe. You’re fooling yourself if you think you made it or will ever make it on your own. ~Hugh Hewitt

My Mom I know this is a little like giving the answer “God” for any question at church. However, this is so very true that I am willing to risk allegations of sentimentality. It was my mom who sat at the piano day after day and birthed in me the dream of one day making music myself. My mom read me stories, despite my maddening tendency to ask for the same story over and over and over…  She filled my world with flowers and nourished my love for beauty before any of us even knew it was there. So very much of what is best in my life I knew first because of her.

Mrs. Lois Freels was my third grade teacher. She talked to my parents about the possibility of moving me ahead one grade in school. They elected not to, which I regretted at the time, but am glad of now. But something about her confidence in me helped me to see myself differently. As someone special. Someone smart. For a little girl…already way too tall…awkward…floundering for identity…this was an unspeakable gift!

Darryl Burgess created quite a ruckus in my little back woods Baptist church with his long hair, but he built into the lives of our little band of teenagers. He gave me my first opportunity to play in a real band. He taught us how to be part of an ensemble…what it means to compliment one another. To trade off lead and rhythm. How to be better together. Baby steps. But critical ones for the path that lay ahead of me.

Harry Fritts is a character. A most memorable personage. One of only a few teachers my parents and I had in common across generations. While Darryl was teaching me to play in a band, Mr. Fritts opened to me a different musical world. One of precision and restraint. Of elegant and exquisite harmonies. Of polish and control. This too prepared me for a future I did not even know was coming at the time.

My Husband I know, another sentimental choice. But it’s not always true. In my case, it is. Mike loves me all the time no matter what. And sometimes I have made that very hard for him. He has created a safe place for me to become. He has provided for our family so that I could raise our children, and read wonderful books, and pursue topics and endeavors that have made me richer. I could not be me if there had not been him.

Dr. Nancy Boone I loved…and feared. She was my most influential college professor, and eventually my friend. She frequently put me in situations I didn’t think I could handle. Because she believed in me. Because she saw more in me than I saw in myself. I grew exponentially under her tutelage because she stretched and pushed me. I am forever in her debt.

My Children Being a mom has taught me more about love than anything else I have ever experienced. Here I learn what it looks like to do the hard thing, the unpopular thing, when it is best. Here I come to understand what it means to be willing to give your life away for another. And here, also, is joy. Joy unspeakable. Joy over discoveries, and achievements, and triumphs. Joy when hard things have been survived and lessons learned, and grace poured out. Joy in watching God mix the same gene pool with such extravagantly diverse result. Joy in those moments and experiences that bind us together. Always.

Rhonda Kemp has been conduit to many of the very best things in my life. She was my homeschooling mentor. She opened to me a world of beautiful books, unit studies, and field trips. Ever the great matchmaker, she has introduced me to countless people who have made my life richer and more interesting. Perhaps most notably, she provided my entroit to the remarkable Tuesday Bible study that has, in many ways, saved my life. And now, we walk life as friends. Ever weaving in and out of one another’s stories.

My Bandmates at The Peoples Church Yeah, I know bundling is cheating. But hey, it’s my list. These men and women were a pivotal part of my life for a season. They provoked me, both musically and spiritually. We grieved with and interceded for one another when things were hard. And we celebrated riotously when good things happened. We shared crack of dawn rehearsals and Christmas Eve services that ran into the night. We made some amazing music. We worshiped with our hands and our voices and our hearts. And it was good.

You know who you are. Thank you. You are ever in my heart.

Kari, Jen and Jen  These three young women and I have lived life very closely for the past 5 years. We have something of a mutual mentoring society. We read books together. But mostly we live life together. And when one of us is weak, the others are strong for her and stand in the gap, and pray, and remind her who she is. And when one of us wants to take the easy way out and do something cowardly and destructive, the others bar the door and refuse to let her quit. I am ashamed to say how often that someone has been me. But the giving and the receiving are all grace, all gift. And who we are together is far better than who we are alone.

Gail Hyatt  A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. ~Sirach 6:14 A friend who has the grace to forgive much, the courage to speak difficult truths, the vision to see in us what we cannot see in ourselves, such a friend is indeed a treasure. Such is Gail  to me. She has given me courage when mine was lacking. She has called forth from me that which I did not believe was in me. She is remarkably wise. She has been God’s provision for me in ways I am incapable of speaking. For such a time as this, to be sure. Hopefully until we are both of us old and toothless. 🙂

 

Your turn. Who has helped knit the fabric of who you are together? Tell us here. Better yet, tell them. Our lives really do matter more than we know. It is good to be reminded of that, sometimes.

 

*Second in a series of eleven posts of elevens; one for each of the first eleven days of the eleventh month of 2011.

**Special thanks to Chelsea and Bryan who inspired this post (with slight adaptation).

***Finally, my list, as you might have perceived, is in strictly chronological order based on our first meeting.

To the Field of Stars

…if you have no interest in adventures of the spirit, or if you have no desire to ramble on foot across a fair piece of this earth’s lovely skin, then the story I am about to tell you will not matter to you. If, on the other hand, the very thought of seeing stars dance piques your curiosity at some deep level of your soul, then pay attention to what follows….

Thin places, they have been called. Geographic points on the earth where the space between God and man lessens, and the Presence is a breathable, touchable reality. Often these bear some connection to a holy person or persons who lived there once, or whose bones lie there still.

And so, the pilgrimage. One walks across one’s threshold and keeps walking…for weeks, even months…until he comes to the sacred place. Here he prays. But not here only. For every step along the way becomes prayer. And the journey is a shaping of the soul. A readying for the Presence. And perhaps, if there were no journey, the Presence would be indiscernible. It is the journey, the trouble and pain, the giving of oneself to others along the way, that prepares the soul to pray. To receive. Without demand. With only gladness. And humility. And joy.

In July 2003, Father Kevin Codd begins his own pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. He tells the story of this journey artfully and vulnerably in To the Field of Stars. I am captivated from the first page. And I sob my way through the last couple of chapters, feeling almost as though I, myself, am entering Compostela with these dear friends who have loved well and shared so much of themselves along the way.

I leave you to discover the story of Compostela, the third most traversed pilgrimage in all Christendom (after only Jerusalem and Rome). Herein I propose, instead, to give you a taste of this marvelous story and why you want to read it. My choices are strictly subjective.

Of the commencement of a pilgrimage: The author confesses the motivation only reveals itself clearly along the way. However, most begin as a longing for something other. Something transcendent and bigger. Something that matters.

We want to see there one little sign that there is more to us than just us…We want to see there an extravagant God who does not count or measure but just pours and pours and pours, grace upon grace, stars upon stars, into our sky, into us.

Of walking as prayer and the earth as sanctuary: Father Codd begins the day with morning prayers. The rhythm of the prayer becomes the rhythm of his feet and he finds that walking becomes prayer. And the slowness, the earthiness of feet against soil makes him a citizen of earth, keenly aware of its mysteries. And God is there.

Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit. Bidden or unbidden, God is present…

The heat of the morning makes the pitch in those pine trees give off a strong scent; this is the stuff of which incense is made. I inhale its aroma and remember as I did the day before that out here, too, I am in church.

Of his journey with the Church: Not the least of Father Codd’s wrestlings along the way have to do with the Church. He answers the questions of intelligent young people who feel the Church has lost touch with them. He winces at liturgies perfunctorily performed in some of the tiny towns through which they pass. He also sits in the sweet coolness of a Romanesque chapel and contemplates the Savior. He meets hospitality poured out in Jesus’ name. He watches an old priest drop his briefcase to dance with young people around the zero kilometer marker in Compostela. He sees the Bride of Christ as she is…

…grace made flesh, but flesh it still is: soft and hard, young and old, new and worn, all at the same time. It is so close to God, yet so far from God, yet so close to God.

To the Field of Stars is a pilgrim story, told honestly, with humble grace and great good humor, and a fair measure of poetry. It is laughter. And silence. It is community. And solitude. It is invocation. Contemplation. And invitation….to a life that is…more.

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