What a week! I started to write this article first thing on Sunday morning… now it’s Thursday! I am completely at a loss for how 4 days can up and disappear. Actually I KNOW how it happens, I just don’t know what to do about it! Sometimes life gets in the way of living. I had every intention of completing this, but I got busy with whatever it is that always distracts me… breakfast, dishes, laundry, “take me here”, “I need this”, “Can you help me?”. All of the things that took me away from sitting down to write were important and necessary, but in the back of my mind I could hear my dear old Grandmomma say, “The way to hell is paved with Good Intentions”. As a child I would nod my head, and contemplate exactly what that meant, and how I could avoid good intentions. Now I know what that means, but there are days when there just isn’t “enough”… time, energy, money, patience… to get it all done. So, knowing what I do now, and knowing that I do the best I can, and knowing that if it doesn’t ALL get done that the world will not stop turning… in my minds eye I can see my Grandmomma’s sincere and earnest face as she warns me, but fortunately now that thought doesn’t fill me with dread, but it makes me chuckle.
So, Sunday morning I was propped up on my bed… I was determined not to even get out of my bed until I had written… and I started writing about what was near and dear to my heart at that moment. I had wanted to write since Friday night when I had taken my children to the high school football game. I LOVE THE FALL! Can I say it again? I LOVE THE FALL! LOVE IT.
Spring is a not too distant second with everything coming back to life… the hope of what is about to happen. Every year it is new… like I have forgotten just how beautiful tulips are… or how crocus seem to sprout up out of the brown and yellow earth over night… or the redbuds that rain down their fragile petals and leave a dusting of purple flowers on the ground below. The days are longer. The sun is warmer. Everything is bright… like a dark lens that has been covering my eyes has been removed. It’s all new. It’s all alive. I am alive.
I hate summer. Hate might be a bit too strong of a word, but perhaps not. I can, if I look hard enough, find some redeeming qualities about my least favorite season… I love the no agenda days, and everyone sleeping late, and trips to the beach and the lake… but I hate being outside, baking in the heat, feeling all of the moisture leave my skin so that I feel like I am about to crackle up like a piece of parchment paper. How is it that at the same time moisture is evaporating from my skin, wrinkling me like an old paper bag, sweat is pouring down every crevice and channel that it can find… behind my knees… down my spine. If I am unfortunate enough to be sitting outside, the result can be a damming effect, resistance to the flow… in other words, I HATE it when my shorts get soaked with sweat…It’s uncomfortable and looks suspicious too. And it is SO painful when sweat mixes with sunscreen and drips in my eyes. In my opinion, in the South, summer seems to last FOREVER.
Winter in the South has it’s moments too… it is often too cold, and sometimes the dampness gets in my bones and won’t leave until I stand under a scalding shower for a good twenty minutes. When I’m moving around, the cold isn’t a big deal, but when I get tired, I get chilled easily. At bed time it is hard to find me… all that is visible is my head (sometimes just my face) and my fingers (sometimes). I’m like an onion with layers and layers and layers… a pair or two of fuzzy socks, thermal underwear, a t- shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt, thick warmups, fleece blankets. I love to tuck myself into a big warm nest of soft cloth. I am positive that I would hibernate if I could… the darkness that comes with the short days of winter is a bit depressing… and the constant grayness of the entire world makes my typical Piglet/Tigger personality sympathize a little too much with Eeyore. But I love how clean winter air feels and smells… and how trees look with their skeletons exposed. Without the screen of leaves beautiful things tucked away the rest of the year can be seen… creeks and waterfalls and rock formations… little falling down sheds and barns and log cabins, antique tractors and cars, exclusive homes, mountain views that reach and roll on and on like waves I could ride to some unknown, beautiful place.
But FALL! Have I told you yet how much I LOVE it? It’s a respite. A relief. Finally getting a BREAK… not just because kids are going back to school (although that is huge!) But the oppression, the heat, the sluggishness the heaviness is lifted. Colors, sounds, smells… the feel of the air… the chill…the slant of the suns rays. The haze of the summer evaporates. Everything seems brighter, clearer. My steps are quicker and lighter… I want to run and jump and skip and twirl and let the breeze blow over and around and through me. I want to be an autumn leaf. I want to be brilliant and beautiful and make people smile. I want to be perched with anticipation and ready for the next thing… not afraid to be blown to somewhere else, but to jump into the breeze… to be carried gracefully, enjoying the ride the whole way, trusting that I will land where and when it is the right place and time to land… and then giving back. It isn’t over when I get to where I am going… then it is just beginning again. Something new.
The reason that I didn’t finish my article on Sunday is because more needed to happen this week… there were things that need to be added that hadn’t happened yet on Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon I did something that I almost never do any more… something that when I have the time to do is my FAVORITE thing to do…I sat down for a few minutes and I read. I was reading for pleasure, but more than that, I was reading a book that my guardian angel left me in my mailbox.
My guardian angel has a name… it’s Joan. I did not know her, or even know of her until this past Spring. She is the grandmother of a boy that is the same age as my 3rd child. They have been in the same school together their entire elementary school career, have played on several sports teams together… in fact I even coached them both this winter on the same basketball team. But I didn’t know Joan until she introduced herself to me at the baseball field this past Spring. I remember the meeting well. I had just been confronted by my ex-husband. I was standing behind home plate, watching the game when “he” approached and literally got in my face. We were in the middle of the baseball complex with hundreds of people around and that is when he told me that he disagreed with my desire to move back home with the kids… and that to make sure that I was not successful, he was going to sue me for full custody and that he was going to make sure I went to jail for contempt of court because the man (who is now my husband!) had spent the night (with his children!) in our home… He told me that if I rescinded my request to the court to move back to Tennessee where I am from and where my entire family lives, that I “might be OK”… but that he had already started the ball rolling, and “it might be too late.” Then he walked away. My head was spinning, and frankly I had heard enough from him for that day, and for the rest of my life. But no such luck on that account. Anyway, I shakily made my way up to the top row of the bleachers where there is a back rest to lean against. I was determined not to cry, so I closed my eyes and just started to pray. And then there was Joan. She came up to see me. She introduced herself, and assured me that she didn’t usually come up to strangers, but that she felt like she needed to come and talk to me, she thought I seem like I needed somebody. We shared some small-talk, and she asked me for my phone number… and that was the first time I met Joan. I knew right away that it was a “God-thing”… I had just posted “A Series of Unfortunate Circumstances…” a few days before, and here she was DOING just the thing that I had stated that I wished people would do…she approached me even when I didn’t seem very approachable. Then she called me to invite me to a luncheon at her church where they were having a guest speaker. Joan was in charge of picking the speaker up from the airport, an English woman that was a famous author. I had never heard of the woman, or the books that she had written, but I agreed to go. I had in many ways “checked out” of my life here for that time, but something about Joan and her invitation compelled me to go. Joan said that she would meet me there, that she had bought my ticket and that she was saving me a seat at her table. The speaker was Sally Lloyd-Jones, the author of The Jesus Storybook Bible. She was amazing. Her desire is to use the right words in her stories so that people who read her work will be able to understand God. I could SO relate. She inspired me. It doesn’t matter to me how many people read my blog, but if somebody finds hope then I have succeeded.
Joan and I agreed to keep in touch. She said that she would let me know when the next Bible study group at her church would be getting together… I said that sounded good…that I KNEW that I needed to be in a Bible study… that it had been a long time! Then months went by… time that I thought I would be getting ready to move, and moving… but I am still here.
So a couple of weeks ago, Joan called me. The Bible Study was beginning, and she would like for me to go. She left the book that we would be studying in my mailbox, and that is what I was reading on Sunday afternoon. I didn’t know the author, had never heard of him or the book, but when I started reading it, I knew it was another “God thing”. The book is called, Surprised by Grace, God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels by Tullian Tchividjian. I still didn’t know who the author was, but the dedication in the book says… “To my maternal grandfather, ‘Daddy Bill’ At 91 years old, God’s amazing graze still amazes you – and that amazes me!” That was a sign because my dad is known to all of his grandchildren, as “Daddy Bill”. The author happens to be the grandson of a man that I think is one of God’s truest modern day ( and maybe of all time) servants, Billy Graham.
The very first words of Mr. Tchividjian’s books are, “This book started out….during the most difficult season of my life. As I reflect on that season now, I can honestly say that I am genuinely thankful for all the pain that I experienced. For it was during this trying time that God helped me to recognize the practical relevance of the gospel.” Wow. I could so relate…And just that very morning I was going to write a post about seasons. Hhhhmm. God?
I started writing again June a year ago as a way to deal with my hurt, my pain my fear, and my anger… and when I started reading my own words back to myself, I realized that I wasn’t alone… like the story of the footprints on the sand… “One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord… He noticed that many times along the path of life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life…’I don’t know why when I needed You most You would leave me.’ The man said. The Lord replied, “My son, My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”…..so relate.
After helping to see my youngest son to baseball practice and to cub scouts, I joined with a special group of friends to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our initial book club meeting. We met at the same home, our friend and founder Catherine, and all but 3 of the original members were in attendance. The first time that we met was on September 11, 2001. Yes, THE 9-11. On that historic night, we sat together while the world watch and in shock… we questioned it, but we went ahead and met. There was greater significance to that day then the horrible and horrific scenes that played out as we watched our Nation’s despair. Friendships were forged for us on that night that would sustain us in our own moments of hardship and grief. In the ten years that we have been together, there have been times when we have had to cancel our monthly meetings because everyone was too busy to meet… some of us have gone for months, even years without coming to a meeting… but then come back when our lives outside of the sanctity of our group was back in order. There have been babies born, legal nightmares, health frights including cancer, family deaths, several divorces, problems with children, alcoholism… what can a human being experience? We have been through every season together.
I told this special group of 16 or 17 women the other night that even though I didn’t want to be “here”…. I didn’t want to be in my house, in this town, in this state…. even though I didn’t want to be “here”, on Tuesday night “here” with them was exactly where I wanted to be… the very best place to be at that very moment. It takes dedication to stay together as a group for 10 years… with all of the busyness… through all of the seasons and changes of life… but what a blessing to have friends that I can count on or call on anytime. What a blessing to have a guardian angel… and sisters.
It takes dedication to submit your life to God like Billy Graham did. To serve. To be intentional about all of your word and all of your actions for your entire life because even if it isn’t the whole world, someone is watching… someone that might need to see a light, or hear a kind word. And there are some people who watch, actually wanting to see a misstep or failure. Lord, please don’t let me be a person looking to catch someone in their weakness. There was only One who was without sin. And it isn’t me, and although I might not know you, it probably isn’t you either, so let’s all find some compassion. Mr. Tchividjian says, ” Do you know what would happen if every human being concluded that God’s way was the best way and God’s call the right call? Every human problem would come to an end. The root of every human problem is our desire to be our own god and to carry out justice in the way we ourselves are sure is best.” I for one have to let some things go, and trust that everything’s gonna be alright. Also, he says,”We learn about the danger we experience when we run from God’s will, the deliverance we experience when we submit to God’s will, and the deliverance others experience when we fulfill God’s will.”
What would it mean to make a difference in just one life? In just one soul?
I will end with a last thought from my new Bible study. “God is a great Savior, and while our sin reaches far, His grace reaches farther… God is in the business of relentlessly pursuing rebels like us and He comes after us not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery…” Ask yourself, what are you a slave to?
Dedicate yourself to something bigger than yourself. If there is something that has you bound… fear? anger? hurt? envy? ask God to help you find relief and release… and peace. Amen.