A Good Story About One Who Is Growing Up

And speaking of a good story…..

we were, last night.  About big stories and good stories.

Last night at Evening Prayer we discussed a program that our local coffeehouse has–Backpack Buddies.  Each weekend, children who might otherwise go hungry receive non-perishable healthy snacks to help them have enough to eat when they are away from their schools or child care centers.  We discussed sharing this program with others outside our group to increase awareness and donations so we can provide enough food for 35 children during the remainder of the summer.  (The program provides for a lot more children during the school year.)

While the adults discussed the kinds of foods that work best, it turns out the littles were listening.  As we said our goodbyes and prepared to leave, Cooter came up and tugged my shirt.  “Mama, I have some ideas about some things to put in the backpacks.”

“Really?  What’s that?”

“Well, toothbrushes and toothpaste.  They might not have them and this way, they can take care of their teeth.”

Huh.  That’s not a bad idea.  I was impressed, not only that he’d been listening and thinking, but also that he had come up with a really good idea.  I told him to go talk to our friend who is in charge of the packing of the bags right now.

And he did.

He’s growing up right before my very eyes.  Sometimes I get growing pains it is happening so fast.

Today in the car, Cooter and his sister had a long discussion about what would be good to put in the backpacks along with the food.

Princess, our swimmer, thought that swimsuits would be a good idea.  Cooter nayed it, but she defended it by saying, “Well, it’s really hot this summer, and they can at least run in the sprinklers.”

Cooter was thinking coats, hats, and gloves in the winter.

And then he floored me.  “Well what if we get them some presents to put in there during Christmas?  I mean, they might not get as much as we do, so maybe we could share with them.”

Bless him.  Bless them both.

This isn’t a big story.  We haven’t solved world hunger.  Or even hunger in our own community.  We haven’t even been to the store yet to pick up food for the backpacks this week.

But I think it’s a good story.  One that I will hold close to my heart–especially when I am tempted to forget how giving and loving and thoughtful my children can be.  Oh, like all of us, they have their moments when they most definitely are not.  But this, their minds and hearts working in sync to see a need and try to address it?

Priceless.  Good.  Joy-filled.

May we all take a moment to see how we can fill a hungry body, heart, or soul today.  It can be as simple as a smile or picking up an extra can of healthy food or a bag of apples.

Wishing you all good stories.  Love to all.

*********************************************

The closet where the Backpack Buddies magic happens.  Thanks for helping fill it up.

The closet where the Backpack Buddies magic happens. Thanks for helping fill it up.

If you are one of my local friends and you have an extra minute and dollar or two, please consider dropping a non-perishable item in the purple bucket at Bare Bulb Coffee in Kathleen.  (And get yourself a cup of coffee while you’re at it–it is literally the best coffee ever.  And seriously, I know what I’m talking about.)  Some of the things they can use are granola bars, instant mac’n’cheese, crackers, 100% fruit juice, fresh apples, fruit cups, and canned goods like Chef Boyardee or tuna.  (They try to stay away from gummy snacks and sugary drinks and chips.)  They are packing for 35 children every week right now, and your help will make a huge impact.  Thanks y’all.  

Doing What is Beautiful

There is an Arabic term that means “doing what is beautiful.”

Ihsan

This word embodies taking one’s inner faith and living it out.

Another part of this way of life is to live as though God were standing just over there and could be seen.

This is such a lovely concept.  I have spent days wrapping my brain around it and thinking about what I would say when I shared this with you all.

Sarah Thebarge, author of The Invisible Girls, shares in her video blog “what’s the difference between a big story and a good story?” what it means to be a good and faithful servant in our world today.

It’s worth watching and less than five minutes long.  I see a connection here.  I think if we live like she describes, living out the good story–as small and unimportant as it may seem to us–we are living out ihsan.  Doing beautiful things according to what we believe, as though the Creator were standing right over there within sight.

I am sure I have oversimplified what this term means, and I mean no disrespect.  But I think we need more beauty and grace and inspiration to scatter kindness in our lives.  And I embrace a word that calls us to do just that.

May today be your day to write your good story.

Love to all.

oh say can you see

oh say can you see
beyond the color
and beliefs
and ways of life

beyond the shining sea
and fruited plains
to the dream
coming true?

a place where
all are truly equal
and can live true to themselves
without hurting others

a place where
life is valued
and kindness and justice reign
and people are free to be brave

a place where
land and trees
and wildlife
are cared for
and respected

a place where
no child goes
hungry
or cries out from pain

a place where
all work together
for the good
despite their differences

oh say can you see
as the light of dawn brings hope,
the dream coming true

again?

20140617-011047-4247973.jpg

the discernible path

of all the things
I want to be remembered for
as the stories of who I was
and how I lived
and what I cooked
and how I raised my people
are told long after I am gone

the one thing I don’t want to be
remembered as
is a silent witness

I come from
people who lived
and loved
and cooked
and farmed
and built
and wrote
and painted
and created
and noticed
and told stories
and played
and worked
and laughed
and comforted
and left footsteps worthy of following

but not a one of them
was a silent witness
of what they saw and heard

they stood up for what was right
and refused to be a part of what was not

and now as I whirl and spin
sometimes lost
seeking the way I should go

though it has been years
and the wind has come
and storms have ravaged
and the sun has beat down unmercifully
upon their dusty path

the imprint they left
is still discernible

and so I go forth
trying to live as they did
not silent
never silent

speaking
out
standing
strong
bending
but not breaking
as I continue
along the way

Michael Dibb [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Michael Dibb [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

fighting fire with fire

My hero and friend, Hugh Hollowell, shared this on his Facebook page yesterday. It troubles, motivates, moves me. And scares the mess out of me, to be perfectly honest. I’m still wrapping my brain and heart around it. But it’s not going anywhere. It sits patiently, staring, unblinking waiting on me to get it. And to STAND UP.

“Few are guilty. All are responsible.” – Abraham Herschel

People are burning down churches. Black churches. Houses of God. For a moment I wondered if the person or people responsible really think they are accomplishing what they are setting out to do. I also have struggled with my responsibility in this. I didn’t burn those churches. But on some level, I am responsible. What do I do with that? How do I go about rebuilding those churches?

I’m not sure. But I want to talk about it. About the reparations. Of buildings, spirits, and hearts. And relationships. Now is not the time to be pointing fingers and drawing lines in the sand. Now is not the time to divide and attack each other. History says “divide and conquer” works. We shall not be conquered and bow down before hatred. No. Never.

And so this image has been going through my mind today. The one that I learned about when I was young–of how forest fires are often fought. They light a backfire to burn all of the brush. One that they can control. So that when the raging fire gets there, there is nothing there for it to consume, and it will die out. And it was that image that brought these words to mind.

fighting fire with fire

the gas was poured and the match lit
seeking to burn down the building
and the spirits of those who gathered there

it was done in hatred and loathing
and brokenness and pain
a lashing out at others
in an attempt to trample the spirits
of those who are different
than the one who sought to burn

but the backfire was already lit
long, long ago
in the passion and love of those who once gathered
in that holy hall
and sang to the rafters their praises
these flames of love had already been burning
long before hate came to destroy

and those flames will keep burning
high and mighty
licking the sky
quelling the fire of hate
as it approaches
the sound of voices raised in love
and grace
and forgiveness
will drown out the roar
of the flames of prejudice

love will rebuild
and restore
and regroup

love will put the flames
of hurt and destruction out
and every time that match is lit
the eternal flame of love
will burn it out

each and every time

love will recreate
love will use what was meant for evil
and shine through the ashes of all
that was lost

like the rays of the morning sun
gently stirring the souls awake
love will awaken the flames of
all that is good
in each person, one by one,

until in the end,
love wins

By 4028mdk09 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By 4028mdk09 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Bad Storms and Birds’ Nests

This morning as I took Miss Sophie out for her morning constitutional, we came across a bird’s nest laying on the grass.  It was a solid one too.  I turned it over, curious if there were any residents who hadn’t made it out safely, and there were none.  I was thankful for that.

IMG_8945

I could just imagine the little bird family who once lived there being interviewed by channel CHRP newsbirds.

“Yes, well, we’d just gotten our children all loaded up and off to their new homes on their own, so we decided to take a small trip together–just the two of us.  It’s been a while, you know.  So when we got back, bam.  Our house was destroyed.  Blown away by the Big Storm.  We didn’t know what to think.  We were just glad no one was home.”

IMG_8947

Because interviews like that really have happened around here.  A Georgia storm can come up from out of nowhere and pass just as quickly.

We had a pretty powerful storm pass through here yesterday.  Georgia. Where you can wait out a thunderstorm for five minutes and then the sun pops out and the only way you know for sure that it rained is the steam rising from the driveway.  I guess this one lasted longer than five minutes though, because it was pretty severe there for a little bit.  Especially when it knocked that nest out of its tree.

I don’t think I knew enough to be afraid of storms until the big tornado came through here in the early 70’s.  I remember hearing about it less than an hour after it happened, when Daddy took me through the drive-thru at Nu-Way.  And of course, the sun was shining again.  What really stayed with me (and this is the truth my very young self remembers) is something about the tornado going by my great grandparents’ house and being thankful they weren’t home.

Wow.

The tornado almost got people I love.

That’s when I started fearing them.  It probably coincided with me starting school and having tornado drills.  Those were enough to put the fear in me for sure.

I remember asking Daddy about the wisdom of getting in a ditch if I found myself on the road and a tornado came along.

“But Daddy, what if there’s a snake in the ditch?  What do I do then?”

“Well, Tara,” he said, in his slow, distinct way, “I reckon you just figure it’s your time.”

That’s pretty much the same thing he told the assessment nurse who came out to see if their living situation was okay for Daddy to manage after he broke his hip and wasn’t very mobile.  When she asked what they would do if the house were to catch on fire or a tornado were coming or something like that where they needed to evacuate, he told her the same thing.

“I reckon I’ll know it’s my time.”

I guess over the years, I’ve grown to respect storms and not fear them so much.  They are amazing to watch, and then–in a moment–they can be over.  Leaving little to no debris or wrecking entire homes–of birds and people.  Tonight I’m thankful that I was in a safe place with friends with a good cup of coffee when that storm hit yesterday.  I’m also glad that no birds were injured from that little nest, and that they’d all already flown the coop.  Most of all, I’m thankful I can still hear my Daddy’s voice and smile at the memories we have together.  From the worst of storms to the sunniest of days.  As long as I was with him, all was well.

Wishing you all sunny skies and cool breezes.

Love to all.

Mock Pecan Pie and Making Do

It was covered dish night at Evening Prayer.  Because of the food allergies in our family, I try to prepare (okay, or purchase) food so my people can eat and be satisfied.  I was taking a crockpot of macaroni and cheese, so after I got that started I began thinking about what dessert to take.

Desserts are pretty important, because I don’t ever want my girl to feel slighted or left out.  And let’s face it, when you can’t have dessert, that can make you pretty sad.

I pulled out one of my Mama’s cookbooks–the last one she got,  I’m pretty sure.  I flipped through.  I thought about a cake and then about cookies.  I love to bake, but nothing was suiting me.  Then I flipped through and came to pies.

Pies.

I haven’t made one in quite a while.  I like to make pies, and if I wasn’t mistaken, I had two pie crusts in the freezer.

WIN.

Then one recipe caught my eye–“Mock Pecan Pie.”

Wow.  What?

Since the advent of food allergies, we haven’t had one of those.  IN YEARS.

I read through and was pretty sure I had all of the ingredients.  The story behind it was what reeled me in and sealed the deal though.

It usually is.

I found a story that told how during the Civil War folks were short on pecans.  Since their families loved pecans and pecan pie, the women did something that I grew up watching my Mama do.

They made do.

And improvised.

Beautiful.

I love stories of people who make incredible things happen even when maybe they don’t–at first glance–have all they need to have to bring it to fruition.  Those are the best stories.

As I began to mix the ingredients, I realized I didn’t have white Karo syrup.  Actually, in all honesty, maybe I shouldn’t say I didn’t have it–the truth would be that I couldn’t find it in my pantry.

Rather than give up the plan, inspired by the ingenuity of my foremothers and my own Mama, I looked up alternatives and used the right proportions of water and sugar and voila!  We had a pie mixed up and in the oven.

I usually don’t do that–take something I’ve never made before to a public gathering.  The fact that I did is a testament to the spirit of the people I sit with on Sunday nights.  They are adventurous and gracious and loving.  And I hope truthful.

Because they said it was wonderful.

The best part was the look on my girl’s face when I put a slice on her plate.  Dessert?  Yes, please.

I will make the extra effort every single time, just for that look on her face.

Tonight I’m thankful for the women and men on this journey who might be slowed down by the situation or by what they don’t have, but who are rarely stopped.  And never for very long. They make do and create beautiful things despite their hardships or lack of the traditional set of “tools” in their kit bag.  Most of all I’m thankful for a recipe found at just the right time and for the smile that pie put on my girl’s face.

May we all have a “make do/can do” spirit that makes this world a better, happier place for all of us.

“Pecan” pie from oatmeal?  Who’d a thunk it?  And, as my dear friend pointed out, add a few banana slices–it can make a pretty wholesome breakfast too. (Bread, oatmeal, eggs, fruit…..right?) Delicious and versatile.  It doesn’t get better than that.

And because I love y’all, here’s the recipe for you to give a try.

Oatmeal Pie (Mock Pecan)

2 eggs, beaten
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. melted margarine (1 1/4 sticks) *I used butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2/3 c. white Karo syrup
2/3 c. oatmeal (not instant)
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake about an hour at 350 degrees.

Doris Jackson, Gracewood Baptist, Memphis, TN, from “Simply Southern” for the The Vashti Center in Thomasville, Georgia

(I doubled this and made two because #whynot. This is a case of more is better. Also I saw a recipe on-line that suggested adding coconut.  Oh my stars.  That’s next on the agenda–because I found two more pie crusts!  Life is good.)

Love to all.

FullSizeRender-2