Running Lines

This evening as I was doing the “finishing up the day” tasks, I was running back over lines from today.  And giggling.  And that’s a good thing.  Laughter over misread words and losing track of time and general silliness–I’ll take it.

This morning the littles and I were out together.  Cooter, my little guy, was taking the few minutes we were waiting on his sister to play with a new friend of his.  As they climbed in and out and under, Cooter’s friend’s Dad called out to his son, “Hey, be careful, know where your head is.”

That. Right. There.

I think that’s good advice for all of us.  Know where your head is before you take your next step.  You really don’t want to get bonked in the head.  That hurts.  Bad.  And sometimes worse than others.

Later in the day, after taking care of business with the crew Plus Three, I completely lost track of time.  I am usually so time conscious, so that was a very strange sensation.  I decided I could stress over it or laugh over it.  Taking my friend’s lead, I decided to laugh it off.  Stress wouldn’t have turned back time, but it could take minutes off my clock.  Laughter it is.

The discount movie theater was showing “Epic” this afternoon.  Throwing our fun meter into high gear, we Plus Three decided it was just the thing to do after an afternoon of taking care of business.  We crept into the dark theater (the results of losing track of time) and found some seats.  The movie had a really interesting premise.  The fact that the daughter and her father found a way to communicate despite being in different “worlds”–well I liked that just fine.  It warmed my heart and made me smile.  If only.  One of the most beautiful and poignant lines in the movie was, “Many leaves, one tree.”  The idea that no one is ever alone.  I like that too.  I couldn’t help but think of our friends who have no roof over their head, no way of knowing for sure where their next meal will come from.  I especially thought about my friend Mac, who often panhandles with his buddies to get enough to eat.  What would happen if the next person they asked went and bought four burgers and sat and ate with them?  Just pondering on that this evening too.

Another version of the "Many leaves, one tree" line that's been running through my mind.  So true--we're all in this together, aren't we?

Another version of the “Many leaves, one tree” line that’s been running through my mind. So true–we’re all in this together, aren’t we?

Another line from the day came from Cooter Himself.  He told me this evening, as I was stirring the homemade vegetable soup (thank you summer), “Mama, you know what the only good thing about Darth Maul getting cut in half is?”  Wait. What?  “No, what Buddy?”  (It’s been nothing but Star Wars around here for days, my friends.)  “That he was a bad guy.  And that’s the only good thing.”  I breathed a sigh of relief.  There for a while I thought we were going to be in big trouble because his favorites in any story were the “bad” guys.  Now I’m seeing a turn.  Thank you Star Wars.  And our friends who loaned us Episodes 4 and 5.  Apparently you’ll get no sympathy for being cut in half from my guy if you have been up to no good.  I’m just sayin’.

Today was a good one.  A busy one.  And in true typical Tara fashion I closed out our adventures by thinking I had misplaced my keys.  Perception is everything, so I headed back into the empty theater with my cell phone lit up to search the floor for them.  (Oh people, please don’t throw that stuff on the floor–act like you are somebody!) I kept hitting the “wake up” button on my phone for light and searching under the four or five rows I figured were probably ours.  (I had already lost my bearings on where we sat.)  When it was painfully obvious that they weren’t there, I went back out to my friend whom I’d left holding my bag.  And then it hit me, the outside pockets.  About the same time my friend pointed and asked, “Outside pockets maybe?”  She’s a genius and she was right.  And she laughed with me over my forgetfulness, and for that–that grace–I am thankful.

Laughter and lines echoing in my head tonight.  I’m thinking I shall sleep quite well.

Take Out and Help Yourself…..

Today as I was cooking a big noon-time dinner, I thought about my great Granddaddy Holder.  He was my Mama’s granddaddy, and we all loved him dearly.  He lived in a house on a slight incline, so when we drove down their road we were looking up at the steps up to their screened-in front porch.  The pond he loved to fish in was just down the road a piece, also on his property.

I can remember visiting him and Granny Inez from when I was very young.  She was his second wife, as my great-grandmother who had the beautiful red hair and taught my Mama to cook died when Mama was 14.  That was one of the worst heartbreaks of her life I think.  Granny Inez never treated us any differently though.  I can recall times when her grandchildren were there too, and we had so much fun.  I loved playing on the porch.  I think they were the only folks I knew with a screened porch at the time.

I stayed the night with them one time when I was spending a few days with my Great Aunt.  They got an early start in that house–Granddaddy and I were up and headed out to his truck to check around the farm by a little after 5.  We were back home and ready for breakfast around 6:30 or so.  I remember the ham, red-eye gravy, biscuits and well, just all the fixin’s.  I LOVED that gravy.  The way it soaked into those biscuits.  Some kind of goo-ood, I am telling you.

pic of table full of food

Granddaddy was a gentle man but he was strong too.  He had lost his hand in a mill accident many years before.  I don’t remember being frightened by his arm.  It seemed to make his hugs even better actually.  When we were all over there to eat with him and Granny Inez, that table was creaking from all the food spread out on it.  All kinds of vegetables and a ham or roast, cornbread or biscuits, and desserts.  I remember Granny Inez’s specialty was a lemon cheese cake (not cheesecake, this was layers of cake with something like lemon curd as a filling–divine!).   The best part was I don’t care how high you piled your plate or if it was your first go ’round or not, Granddaddy was known for saying, “Take out and he’p yourself, you ain’t et hardly nothin’.”

To me that was the epitome of Granddaddy’s hospitality.  If there was food on the table, he wanted to share it.  Maybe that’s where Mama got it from–feeding folks was one of the ways she said “I love you.”

It’s a sweet saying that has been heard around the table at home all my life.  It’s a way to remember Granddaddy, a generous man who was intelligent and hard-working; he served as a judge in his county as well.  But it’s also become our way of showing love, just as Granddaddy did–a way of saying, “If I got it, it’s yours.  He’p yourself.”  And I particularly like to hear it at big meals like Thanksgiving–that part about having et hardly nothin’…..yeah, in that case, I will have another go at it., thankyouverymuch.  There’s such generosity and grace in that.  Just like in my great Granddaddy.

The One Thing I Don’t Want to Be…..Especially on Sundays

pic of Sunday calendar

Another Sunday.

Today is the third Sunday since we have stopped serving meals on Sunday nights at Daybreak, the day shelter for folks in need up in Macon.  I hear that our friends are doing well at the other places that serve, and for that I am thankful.

My Sundays look very different now.  Actually they are still morphing, in transition.  No longer do I make sure my sink is totally cleared on Saturday nights so I can fill pots in the sink on Sunday.  No more inventory count no later than Friday to check my stock of coffee, tea bags, sugar, marshmallows, Swiss Miss, and so on.  No more getting up early to get things started–washing and sanitizing four coolers and then preparing ten gallons of sweet tea, over three of coffee, and then, season dependent–five gallons of hot chocolate or hot water.  It took me a while, but I finally had the process down to a near science.  It’s the little things in life, people.

I do miss our friends, but soon I will see them there at a different time and in a different capacity, so I am thankful for that.  What has surprised me is that I miss my Sunday ritual.  I do not mean to offend, but it had become a bit of a holy time, this preparation of the vessels and preparing the drinks.  I used the same pot and bowls and measuring cups and spoon each week.  And the cleanup was a special ritual as well.  This routine that took up much of my Sundays for over two and half years was familiar and it brought me comfort.  Each step I did, I knew what task was next.  There is something very comforting in that.  All the way through the day, knowing what came next.

Late last night I was thinking through our options of things to do today.  The past two Sundays have been good, filled with being with family and life-affirming goodness.  Things I love.  Today promised to be no different.  I have done things I would not have planned before, as my day was already full.  And in a good way.  Last night as I thought over the coming day, I wondered how long it would be before it no longer felt strange to have Sunday as a day to plan whatever or not plan at all.  I remember years ago, before any of my children were born, Sundays were very relaxed.  Up and off to church, dinner out with friends or family, then home to peruse the big thick Sunday paper and all those salespapers, and then usually a nap weaseled its way in.  Really, really laid back.  I was so complacent.  Maybe I was not completely unaware of my brothers and sisters who are living such hard lives without all their basic needs met, but I certainly was not mindful of it on a daily basis.

So I figured out last night that one of my fears in all of this is that I go back to that complacency.  Just because my Sundays have changed drastically doesn’t mean that theirs have.  I worry that the time will come when I don’t miss the ritual anymore, that a Sunday will pass that I don’t think about our friends and the fact that it’s raining or cold or hot and wonder how they are doing.  I don’t want that at all.  I want always to pause at some point in my day, particularly my Sundays, and appreciate whatever I am in the midst of; but I also want to have a quiet moment to recall and give thanks for all of these Sundays in the past and the people whom I have gotten to know–and what they have meant in my life–the people and the days.  I do not ever want to be complacent again.

Especially not on my Sundays.

Full of Hope and Possibilities

Yesterday my BIL Leroy called and asked what I was up to.  “Cleaning up areas and stuff that no one will notice at all.  And it’s looking worse before it can possibly look better,” I sighed. Leroy replied, “Well as long as you notice that’s what counts, right?”

True.

Still, it’d be nice if SOMEONE would say, oh wow, the way stuff’s not pouring out from under the desk–yeah that–that’s pretty awesome.

Not meant to be though.

So as I was wrangling dust bunnies big enough to choke a horse out from under my desk, I found this little guy.

Rescued this little guy from the attack of the dust bunnies under my desk

Rescued this little guy from the attack of the dust bunnies under my desk

He really doesn’t have much left in him, poor thing.  Once you start sharpening the labelled part, well, it’s getting close to time to start scrambling for a new pencil. It reminded me a of a boy I went to school with–we’ll call him Buck.  We were in school together all twelve years.  In the early years, we had all our classes together.  I remember him writing with pencils just like this one more often than not.  How he did it, I do not know.  But he did.

I thought about the short pencil, wondering if Buck always had to use the short ones or if it was his preference.  I knew children who often seemed to be short on school supplies.  At the time I took it for granted that I never lacked the pencils and notebooks and paper and other supplies required by my teachers. If I had to borrow paper or a pencil it was because of my lack of planning, not because we didn’t have it.   Today I realize that my parents made our education a priority, and though we didn’t have a lot of extras, they did make sure we had what we needed.

The end of summer meant picking up packs of paper and pencils.  I even remember the year I got to pick out a Trapper Keeper because it was there was a big sale at the KMart.  It had a horse on the cover.  I was on Cloud Nine.  Decisions were made about whether a new lunchbox or lunchbag was needed each year.  We made trips up to my aunt’s in Griffin, so Mama and my aunt could go to the Sock Shoppe.  New underwear and socks also marked the beginning of the school year, because well, you know.  No I’m not really sure, but why not?  It was as good a time as any, I guess. I loved the shopping trips because it meant playing with my cousins at the house while the shopping was done.  (And yes, I loved my new aforementioned items too.)

We got new bookbags as needed, but the one I remember most was one Mama sewed for me–two-tone blue denim with all kinds of pockets.  Mama did not find much pleasure in sewing but she was an excellent seamstress.  That bag held up for quite a while.

Today I am thankful for my parents who made choices that assured I was never without what I needed for my education.  That was a precious gift because I know there were times that were hard, and they had to cut corners.  I am lucky that I never had to worry about how I would get the posterboard for my projects or if I had enough notebook paper to finish the school year.

The public schools here start in the next couple of weeks.   After finding the pencil yesterday and thinking back over how fortunate I was, I have been thinking about the children who won’t have it so good.  Those who will start the school year without the things they need.  They start their year already two steps behind.  That breaks my heart–the children whose families are affected by the furloughs or whose breadwinners have lost their jobs or who are moving from place to place without a real place to call home.  We have the power to change at least this need for them.

Many stores have dropboxes for supplies that will be distributed to children in need.  Local programs that work with homeless families or spouse abuse shelters, Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Rescue Missions–all of these have children in their midst who could use a hand up as school starts.  If you were lucky enough to have what you needed or if you remember what it was like not to have those things readily available, and you are able to pick up a few extra things in the next couple of weeks, will you join me in helping change their future?  Let them know someone cares, and send them off on their big day with all the things they need.

Nothing opens up possibilities like a fresh box of crayons–so much one can create and do–so full of hope.  (And remember the boxes with the sharpener built in?  Fabulous!) Let’s show them they’re loved.  I know it’s a cliché, but these young people whom we have a chance to help today are our future. Let’s make it a bright and hopeful one.  We can do it.  One pack of paper or box of pencils at a time.

Full of hope and potential, just like the children who need our help.

Full of hope and potential, just like the children who need our help.

It’s Okay to Fail…..or Make a D…..or Whatever…..Just TRY

This morning my little guy Cooter was working on his letters.  He was working on perfecting his lower case “f”s.  He was doing okay, but he knows I will call him out if he just throws something on the paper…..like he did yesterday.  He’s allowed to make mistakes.  He’s not allowed to just give up and not make an effort.

pic of handwritten f's

After about three “f”s were on the paper, he lamented, “Oh, I can’t do it.  I fail.”

Ahem.  He sounded like his big sister.  She’s said that a time or two…..or twenty in the past few years.

And so, I realize, as painful as it might be, it’s time for me to share this story.  (If you see me tomorrow and I’m hanging my head, you will know it’s because I am still carrying this one around in my heart.)

It was second semester of my first year in college.  I was very lucky because school seemed to come easy to me over the years, and I will say I didn’t take that for granted.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall and to be found out for the “fraud” I was.  Oh, just wait, sweetie, it was coming.  I took Calculus I first semester just because I had loved math in high school with Miss Eleanor Bell–the legend–and awesome teacher who taught my Daddy, my aunts, and my uncles.  Calc I seemed to be pretty much a review of what Miss Bell taught us the last six weeks of College Algebra.  I was not nor did I have any intentions of being a math major.  But I was on a roll or so I figured, so I signed up for Calculus II as an elective second semester.  I was cranking along the first few weeks okay.  Then STUNT season hit in full force…..it’s a busy time at my alma mater, Wesleyan College.  Each class writes, directs, and acts in their own thirty minute musical.  The time from mid January until March is chaotic.  Script rewrites, casting, all night paint sessions, rehearsals, and then the grand night itself.  So much fun.  I did something I’d never done before.  I let the homework problems slide a bit.  I did some each night but not all of them.  Our teacher told us as long as we kept up with the homework and understood the problems we’d do well in her class.  Well she was absolutely right because I didn’t and I didn’t and I didn’t.  (keep up, understand, do well)  At one point in the semester, *whispering and a big confessional gulp* I was pretty close to failing.  This was the end of the world in my book.  I could not grasp how this had actually happened.  Well yeah, I knew, but the problem was I really didn’t understand the material.  I hadn’t put the time and effort into the class that I should have or needed to.  It might as well have been Greek for all I could understand it.  Such a difference from first semester.  *sigh* I missed Miss Bell.

I called and talked to Daddy about it.  I didn’t want to have the conversation but I knew I could tell him anything.  I wanted to drop the class, just let it fly away into oblivion as if this failure had never even happened in my life.  Obviously it was my choice, but Daddy discouraged it.  “You can do this, Tara,” he said.  “Just put your mind to it.  It’s like getting back on a bicycle when you fall.  Get back on and keep pedaling. Apply yourself.”  I can still hear those words like he’s sitting beside me saying them now.

Never one to want to let my Daddy down, (though it had happened before and would happen again) I set my mind and heart to finish the path I’d started along.  The mess I was in was of my own creation.  I was the one who had chosen poorly.  I needed to make it right and pull my head out of the clouds and realize that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  College was a different ball game.

I took that final with my stomach fluttering and my brain full of numbers and formulas and whatever else I’d studied to prepare.  But as I sat there in that classroom in Taylor Hall, working away at the problems on the exam, I imagined myself pedaling that bicycle.  One pump at a time.  And in the end, I pulled out a D in the course.  And I was doggone grateful to get it, I don’t mind telling you.  I messed up, but thanks to Daddy, I made the effort and pulled myself out of it (well somewhat).  By the time I graduated, the D from my first year was just a blip on the screen of a really good college run.  And maybe it was due in part to learning early on what a poor choice could lead to…..doubt I’ll ever know for sure.

So tonight I am writing this for my children.  My oldest compares her high school career to mine, her grades to mine, her gifts to mine.  This drives me nuts.  Yes, I did okay.  (And I point out to her–do my children mind me any better because of my high school honors?  Oh baby, those trophies are long gone–too much to dust around.  Enter the real world.)  But she has different gifts.  Each one of you, my precious children who make me crazier than most, has different gifts.  You are going to try things that interest you or that seem like a piece of cake or that you are curious about.  Sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you won’t.  But here’s a couple of things you need to know.

First of all, there’s no story you can’t bring home, nothing you can’t tell me.  Shoot straight, then we will deal with it together.  I. Mean. This.    Nothing.

And secondly, it’s okay to fail.  Yes, I’m serious.  (You ever hear that song lyric, “Win some or learn some” by Jason Mraz?)  Don’t ever let fear of failure keep you from trying.  Sometimes that is the only way to learn–what will work, what won’t, and so forth.  You can create some really beautiful things by trying.  But please don’t ever let me hear about you being lazy or not trying.  That’s what happened to me.  I got slack.  I didn’t keep my priorities straight and I paid for it.  I’m okay with failure if you’re trying, but if you’re just not even applying yourself, you’re wasting what precious time you have.  Ain’t nobody got patience–or time–for that.  What a waste of your awesome talents and gifts.

So Aub, Princess, Cooter–as Mama and Daddy quoted one of the local tv personalities quite often–“Keep on keeping on.”  Don’t bully yourself and beat yourself up when you try and it’s not perfect.  Just know if you are trying your best, that’s all I ever want.  More than anything, don’t give yourself an F and call yourself a failure for a poorly written “f.”  There’s a whole broken world out there ready to point fingers and condemn and blame.  Don’t do it to yourself.  Just keep on trying and one day you will get it just right, or maybe, if you keep trying, just maybe you’ll discover a whole new way of writing them–one that will change the world.

Okay, I didn’t get a nap today and my metaphors are way off, but I hope you hear me when I say this–I learned more about myself from that one D than I did from most all of my other classes.  I learned that I had the potential to get off track.  I am not infallible.  I learned what could happen when I didn’t keep my priorities straight.  I learned my parents loved me no matter what.  And I learned that I could turn things around, even my mistakes, when I set my mind and heart to it and got back on that bicycle and pedaled, one pump at a time, until I reached the goal.  Not easy but so worth it in the end.

Mama Read Books and Daddy Listened

My brother is working on a special project, and he mentioned something that has me thinking about Mama and her books.  Mama loved books.  She read a lot of different kinds, but mysteries were among her favorites.  She also liked novels like “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” and “Salvation at the Dairy Queen”–novels about people and their “real life” struggles and how they worked through them.

But Mama’s very favorite books?

The ones written for children.

Mama loved reading aloud to us as we were growing up.  And for the past almost eighteen years, she loved reading to her grandchildren.  For my oldest’s first birthday, she got a tire swing in the yard from Daddy and a book and little stuffed kitten from Mama.  It’s always been about the books.  Mama loved picking out books for different children of the family.  It was like a treasure hunt to find just the perfect book for each child.  She and Daddy always kept copies of “Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm” in the trunk of their car.  We loved it growing up, and they loved sharing it with children they came across on their day to day journeys.

Our family favorite growing up--Mama and Daddy loved sharing it with children they met

Our family favorite growing up–Mama and Daddy loved sharing it with children they met

One of my happiest “Mama reading” memories is her reading “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” aloud.  Her voice was so animated.  The best sound was the hippo chewing gum “Grum, grum, grum.”  Mama would work her jaw and you just knew that was exactly how it sounded.  I also loved hearing her read aloud, “Listen Buddy.”  She brought Buddy to life in such a way that you just couldn’t forget the story.  And there were so many more.

Mama brought just such books to life for her children and grandchildren and hundreds of elementary schoolchildren over the years.  She loved reading aloud at Byron Elementary to many children in grades kindergarten through third.  I recently found her storytime plans, complete with booklists and the fun experiments from  “Apples, Bubbles, and Crystals: Your Science ABC’s” that she shared each week with the children.  It was something she and Daddy enjoyed planning together.

Daddy supported Mama and her love of reading to children.  (It’s funny to think that he and I heard her reading out loud to children the same number of years.)  He helped her plan her storytimes for the children at the schools by going shopping with her for just the right treats, science experiment materials, and helping her come up with themes and ideas.  He even asked me to embroider “Lady Reads-a-lot” on a shirt for her.   There was one time when Mama was reading aloud that I really realized the abundance of love Daddy felt for Mama.  Daddy wasn’t always vocal about his emotions, but his actions more than let you know how he felt.

One of Maemae's more recent favorites--"Counting Crocodiles"

One of Maemae’s more recent favorites–“Counting Crocodiles”

One afternoon in October of 2011 I was sitting in the living room with Daddy, who was resting in his hospital bed set up in there.  My brother and his family were visiting, so my littles and his were in the “big room” with Mama.  She was reading aloud to them.  We could hear her voice but not necessarily the words as she read.  Daddy was talking and then he grew quiet.  He closed his eyes and smiled so big.  He opened them and looked at me with so much love on his face it took my breath away.  “You hear her?  There she goes.”  He chuckled softly.  He turned his head towards the window and listened.  And Mama was off, reading another story with her animated voice.  I think it was “Little Red Cowboy Hat,” another family favorite and one that Daddy also loved to read.

I remember that look on his face, and I am thankful for it.   Daddy loved Mama with all his heart, and in that moment it shone through every fiber of his being.  He was an encourager and pushed Mama to chase her dreams.  He knew she was talented and believed in her even when she couldn’t believe in herself.  We all should have at least one person like that in our lives, someone whose love for us shines through and who runs alongside us, cheering for us as we go, believing that we can…..and helping us see it through.   That’s the best stuff there is–having a cheerleader when you are going for it, a party-thrower when you make it, and a shoulder to cry on and arms to hug you when you don’t.

If you have someone like that, go now and tell ’em you love ’em or give them a big hug or write them a note.  Whatever.  Just appreciate them and love them right back.  Know you are one of the lucky ones.  Because you really are.

Beauty from Trash and Healing Hearts

In 2011 I was introduced to a book by Reverend Becca Stevens titled Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart. Readings from this book were used for devotions before the suppers at Daybreak in Macon on Sunday nights. They were really, really good. So I got the book myself and started reading it. At the end of the book, it talked about the mission of Thistle Farms. I was fascinated. So I started learning about them and their mission to help women in this country who have been living on the streets. They are doing beautiful things. And that’s a story for another time.

On September 14, 2011 they shared in a Facebook post that they would have jewelry from ABAN (A Ban Against Neglect) of Ghana in their Evening Survival kits. I clicked on the link…..and I fell in love.

In Ghana there is an ecological epidemic. Because of unclean drinking water, water is sold in these little sandwich-sized bags and then mostly discarded on the streets. So the city of Accra is littered with over 40 tons of these little bags…..every day. There is also a heartbreaking problem in that there are over 30,000 homeless youth sleeping on the streets at night, with over 10,000 of them young mothers and their babies. I’ll stop while you re-read that. Yes, 10,000 young mothers and babies. Sleeping on the streets. Every night. Awful.

Two young women went over to Accra as foreign exchange students in 2008. They were blown away at the pollution. And then they realized the greater crisis of lost children in the city. It was in creating a mock non-profit for class using recycled products that it occurred to Callie Brauel and Rebecca Brandt that they could make this happen, and work to change two crises at one time. ABAN was born.

Talented ABAN seamstresses creating beautiful works of art out of water sachets that once littered the street.

Talented ABAN seamstresses creating beautiful works of art out of water sachets that once littered the street.

If you look at their products, you’ll see that these young women are truly talented–making their own batik, sewing pouches, all kinds of bags, aprons, and picnic blankets from these recycled water pouches that were previously litter. Just amazing. They attach tags with ABAN’s story and a picture of one of their young women. I left the tag on my bag to remember. I hope always to remember. It’s so easy to take simple things like a clean pillow and a shower and food in the refrigerator for granted, isn’t it? Gas in a car, places to go, family and friends who seem happy to see me. These young women had none of these things…..but thanks to ABAN they are on their way to having a life that is redemptive and healing. What a gift.

I was fortunate to get to know both Callie and Rebecca via phone conversations and then in person back in 2011. We were arranging for Rebecca to come and share the story of ABAN and their beautiful craft at Bare Bulb Coffee in early December that year. In the midst of the planning e-mails back and forth, my Daddy was declining and it was apparent that it wouldn’t be much longer. I let Callie and Rebecca know, as I would be out of pocket for planning for a few days. Both sent the sweetest of messages.

From Rebecca–

Tara,

Each morning we begin the day with prayer, announcements and a short message – we call it “Sister Circles”. These girls know and recognize loss as well, and have a unique sense of compassion toward it, so tomorrow, prayers for your father, for you and for your family will be on our hearts and our lips.

And from Callie, after I shared with them our loss–

Oh Tara!

It amazes me how much joy and celebration I read in this message. In Ghana, a funeral is an all-day celebration that usually lasts into the night. There is singing and dancing and praising and it is absolutely beautiful. Isn’t that what death should be about? Remembering and celebrating the beautiful moments that individual created and how his/her memories will live on inside of others? And it definitely sounds like the world was a much better place because of your father’s presence. I think this ABAN party should be his honor.

I love these young women. They are all about redemption and light in the brokenness. And about kindness and healing. They are saving lives and bringing joy to our world which so needs it.

The night after Daddy died, my sister, my Mama, and I couldn’t sleep. It brought us all comfort to know that these young women across the world were gathered, possibly at that very moment, in their Sister Circles and lifting us up in prayer. Comforting–like warm, gentle waves washing upon weary souls–and oh so humbling. We were connected–our lives and theirs over distance and time. Forever.

Graduates from ABAN last year--this year's celebration will be July 27th.

Graduates from ABAN last year with Callie and Rebecca–this year’s celebration will be July 27th.

There is a group of young women graduating from the ABAN program on July 27th. I am so excited for them. They have worked hard and learned so much, and now they will move on in their journey, taking the next step. On that day I will celebrate here in Georgia, thinking of them, and telling God how much they mean to me. I will cheer for them on this, their special day, for all they have left behind and all they are moving towards–these young women who are my sisters. For that’s what family does–multiply our joys and divide our sorrows. Mama always said.

If you have a few minutes to learn about what they are doing, I think you’ll fall in love as well. Those beautiful smiles, their indomitable spirits, and their beautiful wares. And if you have time on July 27th, grab a glass of sweet tea and a slice of pound cake with me, and celebrate these young women Southern style. And give thanks for Callie and Rebecca, for dreaming big of redemption coming out of brokenness, and for all the people who work with ABAN to make that dream come true.