The Day to Say Their Names

I don’t think that All Saint’s Day truly resonated with me until two years ago.  The Sunday closest fell on my birthday, and we were invited to the church my Mama loved and joined that last year she was with us.  They were remembering all those who had died in the past year.  Mama’s Sunday School class was having a gathering time to remember as well, and we were all invited to that too.

Sacred, holy moments.  Hearing my Mama’s name spoken by people who knew and loved her and missed her just like we did–that was a precious gift.  I can’t think of a lovelier way to have spent the day.  Hugs, laughter, sharing stories, tears, gratitude, light, love, and remembering.

Much as we did today.

Our family was invited to Daybreak, the day shelter and resource center for those experiencing homelessness, to remember and honor my friend who passed on in May.  She was instrumental in recognizing the need for this place, dreaming about it, and making connections that eventually saw it come into existence.  My family and I have spent many Sunday evenings there in that place or, before it was built, just down the street at the park with our friends, serving and laughing and talking and being with people we came to love.

Much like tonight.

I had the great joy of preparing the hot chocolate for this evening.  I so miss my Sunday rituals of preparing the coolers and making the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate for our friends’ supper at the park.  It was my Sunday liturgy–giving thanks and going through the motions so that we could serve our friends and be a part of the Sunday night picnic suppers.  (And don’t forget the marshmallows!)  Tonight as the room began to fill, so did my heart.  Face after face of friends we shared those suppers with, some whom we served with and others whom we served.  My heart was full to bustin’, I’ll tell you what.  All the hugs and catching up and moments of companionable silence.  Standing side by side with these beautiful people and caring souls, all of us broken and full of light, as we listened to the names of those we have loved and said goodbye to this year.

We said their names.

We told their stories.

And ours.

How we loved, laughed, learned.

And how we will continue to honor their memory.

I shared about my friend’s love of elephants and how, like an elephant, she never forgot what was important–love, family, friends, forgiveness, holding on, letting go, and taking care of each other.  Relationships.  Another friend shared about the seeds that our friend D planted in her life.  Beautiful seeds that are continuing to grow and changing the world.  It was when I heard a pastor talk about how D didn’t finish her work here that I caught my breath.  What?  So he agreed that she was taken from us way too early?

Then he continued, sharing from the Good Book that the poor will always be with us.  So no, D didn’t finish her work, just as we won’t.  We take it up from those who came before us who cared and loved, and when we leave this world, those who come after us will, we hope, pick it up and carry on with the loving and caring and taking care of folks.

It reminded me of the stories I heard while in England about the ones who worked on building the great Cathedrals.  A father would work his whole life and then the son would join in and then his son.  Some who worked on these grand holy places never saw them to completion.  Yet they put their whole hearts into doing the best job they could.  And so it is.

As I listened, I found comfort.  My job is to do what my friend did.  Love long, hard, and every chance I get.  Be a friend, a good listener, an encourager, someone who is dependable and kind, someone who laughs and can tell great stories, and someone who serves and serves and serves again.  Someone who loves.  She was all of these things.  And much, much more.

My other job, no less important, is to raise my children to pick up the legacy of loving and to carry it on for as long as this life will let them.  And so on and so on.  May it ever be so.

The job of loving and caring for others is one that can never be finished, never be overdone, and never will be outdated.  It will always be there, waiting for people like my friend to step up and show all of us how to love passionately with a radical hospitality and all the hugs anyone could ask for.

Tonight I’m thankful for hearing the names of those whom I have loved and had to say goodbye to this year.  I carry them in my heart everyday, but today it was such a gift to be able to share their stories with others who loved them too.  Their light I hold close and give thanks for, and their love is etched on my heart.

May you find someone with whom you can share the stories of those you love and miss today.  Feel free to share them in the comments section if you’d like.  I’d love to hear them and I’ll join you in the remembering.

Love to all.

‘Tis Always the Season

Six months from now many of us will be menu planning.  Or mapping out the mother of all shopping experiences.  Or listing things we are thankful for.  Planning holiday gatherings and wondering if it’s a good time to start shopping for Christmas.

This is not one of those “y’all get ready, Christmas is so many days away” posts.

This is quite different actually.

We are six months from the start of the holiday season.

Inevitably hearts and minds, reflecting what they are thankful for, will turn to those who have less. Those who are in need.  Without enough food.  Without shelter.  Without a home.

Many people reach out and offer their resources and time to those agencies and people whose mission it is to feed the hungry and support the people who are homeless.

Which is absolutely wonderful.  And resources wisely invested.

Unfortunately, these missions and folks helping people in need are in desperate need of these resources all year long.  While we hate to think of folks being out in the cold of winter with no place to go, imagine not being able to escape the oppressive heat, or the torrential thunderstorms, or the incessant attack of gnats and mosquitoes.

I once met a woman who had been living by the river to escape some of the worst of the heat.  She came to the meal that we all shared on Sunday nights covered in mosquito bites.  It was heartbreaking that something like a can of bug spray would have made all the difference in the world for her.  Something that would have been cheaper than a pair of gloves and a hat in the cold of winter, but just as important for survival.

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So this is not a “Hey Christmas is coming–feel the pressure–and dread it already.”  This is a reminder to drop by your local shelter with those travel soaps and shampoos.  Take a few cans of bug spray with you.  Or call the soup kitchen and offer help with a meal.  Everyone loves the idea of serving the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but folks need feeding all year long.  Maybe check and see if a program in your community helps provide food on the weekends for children who are on the free meal program at school.  The school year is coming to a close, and these littles ones will be home…..and hungry…..more than they have been all year.

There are as many needs that need attending to as there are people in our world.  My point is not to make anyone feel guilty or to tell folks what they need to do.  We can get both of those from any number of other places–we don’t need to make each other feel bad.

My point is–the need is always there.  If you felt moved to help at Thanksgiving or Christmas, please think about helping out now.  Right now is when the giving to these helping agencies goes way down.  Your help is needed more than ever.

Let’s all make tomorrow a day to help another.  With our gifts, talents, and resources.

Giving and sharing never go out of season.

Love to all.

 

 

 

If you don’t know where to start in helping folks, here are a few places to start.  You can do a search for your own local agencies.

Love Wins Ministry  Raleigh, North Carolina

Daybreak Shelter Macon, Georgia

Backpack Buddies, Bare Bulb Coffee  Kathleen, Georgia

Macon Outreach at Mulberry UMC  Macon, Georgia

Family Promise of Greater Houston County  Warner Robins, Georgia

Macon Rescue Mission, Macon, Georgia

 

Again, this list is just a start and by no means exhaustive of all the great folks who are helping others.  If you have any to add, please do in the comments so we can all learn more about these missions.   Thanks.

 

Wanted: A Grateful Heart and a Satisfied Soul

This afternoon after our Sister Circle was over at Daybreak, I saw my friend Mr. B sitting in one of the comfortable chairs in the gathering area.  He waved me over.  I was glad to see him.  He had heart surgery before Christmas and wasn’t able to get his medicine filled until January 1.  (Oh the things we take for granted.)  He smiled his wonderful smile and asked about my Fella.  They became good friends when the Sunday night suppers were being served each week.

The last time I saw him he was staying at one of the overnight shelters.  I asked him how he was doing, and he said he was still staying there.

“I’m okay, though.  I don’t mind it at all.  You know, I was thinking about this the other day.  You know how when Jesus was here?  Walking around on this earth?”

“Yessir.”  I nodded.

“Well, think about this.  Everything around him was His, belonged to Him.  EveryONE around him belonged to Him really.  But the Son of Man had no—”

“place to lay his head.”  We finished together.

We both nodded.

Mr. B continued.  “So then, who am I to want stuff?  When God’s son Jesus didn’t even have anything to his name, why should I spend my life wanting stuff?  Why shouldn’t I be okay where I am?”

Preach.

It was more than a good sermon.  What he didn’t realize was he was calling me out.  Me, who does love her GW Boutique bargains and who spends way too much energy mooning over pretty scarves and cool handmade jewelry and things I have no real need for.  Who has a hard time letting go of “stuff” that has a story behind it.  I stood there looking him in his precious face and thinking of how I have failed and how much I want to have the heart this man has.  A heart not weighted down by stuff.

It was a surreal afternoon.  When some of my friends who live in their “camp” close by asked what the weather is expected to do the next few days, I looked it up on the Weather Channel App.  My heart sank as they groaned at the lows the next couple of nights.  As we said goodbye, we waved once more, and then headed across town.

But it might as well have been to another world.  So much of my life is filled with this grotesque contrast between the world of the “haves and the have nots.”  I found myself sitting in a lovely office with amazing chairs listening to someone who knows how to handle finances and all of that “stuff.”  As we visited, the word “stuff” came up.  He laughed and asked if we had heard George Carlin talk about “stuff.”  I have.  This comedian described our houses as piles of stuff with tops on them.  That we have to lock so no one will come in and get our “stuff.”  And when we run out of space for our “stuff,” we have to buy a bigger place to hold our “stuff.”  The funniest part to me is when he mentions that there is a whole industry devoted to taking care of our “stuff.”  *sigh*  Funny but sad.  Because it’s true.

Tonight I’m thankful for a friend who knows what it is like to be satisfied where he is.  He is not wanting more stuff.  I want his focus and faith and heart.  And I want to share it with my children.  Christmas is not even a month gone, and I’ve already heard a want or two.   I am ashamed to share that.  It breaks my heart.  Did they learn that from me?

I want to raise children who are thankful and satisfied–to be adults who are thankful and satisfied…..and not always wanting “the next big thing” or “more stuff.”  I could blame it on the commercial and advertising we are exposed to, but in reality, I know it’s not completely their fault. I need to set an example of a grateful heart and a satisfied soul.  Like my parents did before me.  Live simply within my means and be thankful and take care of what I do have.  That’s what I want for my children as well.

Tonight I am thankful for those around me who show me what it’s like to be satisfied, and I’m thankful for the stuff I do have…..but I really want to let go of the wants and focus on the good of where I am right now.  Wherever that might be.

 

Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Luke 9:58 NIV

The Man from Hollywood…..and the Christmas Spirit

This afternoon I made a trip up to Daybreak.  We weren’t officially having our Sister Circle today, but since the shelter is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I wanted to go up and see our friends and wish them a Merry Christmas.

As I was saying goodbye to Mac and wishing him a good Christmas, I gave him a hug and noticed that his coat was damp.  The perils of living outside.  When it rains, everything you owns gets wet.  It is hard–this balancing loving someone whose choices put his very life at risk.  He has other options, other resources.  This is his choice at this time, I have to keep reminding myself.  It still didn’t keep me from worrying about the wind that was getting colder by the minute and him in those damp clothes as he limped away to his “camp” with his friends.

I was lost in my thoughts, standing on the sidewalk outside Daybreak watching him go, when this gentleman carrying two bags stopped and said hello. I turned toward him.

“You volunteer here, don’t you?” he asked.

“Yessir, I do.”

He stuck his hand out and introduced himself.  “I’m Sanford Robertson.  I’ve been in Macon twenty-three days now.  I’m from Hollywood, Florida.”

My mouth dropped.  “Hollywood, Florida?  Really?  My Mama was born there.”

He smile grew bigger.  He asked me if it was a specific hospital.  I couldn’t be sure and told him so.  I told him how I’d misunderstood when I was little about Mama being born in Hollywood, as you might imagine.

He laughed.  “Yes.  A lot of people get them mixed up.  It’s not THAT Hollywood.”

Y’all. I felt like I had a wink from my Mama.  Especially with the next words he said.

“You know there’s a blessing coming for you, right?  You just have to hang on a little while longer.  But yes ma’am, there’s one coming for you.”

I felt like Mama was there encouraging me again.  Hang in there.  It will be okay.  Oh my heart.

Mr. R continued to share his story.  He’s in town because he trusted someone, a fiancée, a little too much, followed her here, and gave her all his money. After which she was no longer his fiancée.  And so he’s stuck here.  Until he can work something else out.

In the meantime, he walks the streets of Macon making people smile and blessing them.  And sharing the spirit of Christmas and the Spirit.

Last week he found himself at the bus station.  There was a young woman there, crying her eyes out. “She was a child really,” he said.  “Twenty-two years old.  Babies having babies.  She has two.”

He approached her and asked, “Why are you crying, child?”

She sobbed harder.  He stood there until she could gather herself and speak again.  Turns out she was in a hard place.  She and her sister live in a home together with their four little ones between them–the youngest less than two months old.  She can’t pay the bills and she’s scared.

Mr. R offered to pray with her.  She nodded.  They joined hands and he prayed.  He’s a preacher’s kid, so he’s heard a few in his life.  After the prayer, she thanked him and he started to walk away.

“You ever have one of those moments when the Spirit taps you on the shoulder and wants you to do something, and you look around sure that He’s got the wrong person?  That He doesn’t really mean YOU?”

Ummm, once or twice, yessir.  Sure have.

“Well, the Spirit told me I should offer her the groceries I was about to pick up from the Mission.  I shook my head, and I kept on walking.  At least I tried to.  Yeah, I tried to keep on walking away, but it’s like my feet were frozen in place.  You know what I mean?”

I do.  We’ve all got a bit of Jonah in us, don’t we?

He sighed.  “Well, I finally figured out I wasn’t going to be leaving without doing what the Spirit wanted me to do, so I turned back around, and I told her where I was heading and that whatever I had coming my way was hers.  Hers and that family of hers.”

He tugged at his jacket.  The wind was picking up a bit. He continued his story. “Then she asked me, ‘Just tell me this one thing.  Why do you want to do this?’ and I told her, ‘I don’t want to do this.  But I’m going to.'”

I laughed.  He chuckled too.

“Well, I went on down to the Mission.  I told the man there, I was straight with him, that things had changed a bit, and that I had a friend who was in a bad way.  Worse than I was.  And he loaded me down with a ham, turkey, case of peanut butter, rice……” He listed all the things he could remember receiving.  They were very generous.  He estimated it was $75-$80 worth of groceries.  But I’m telling you I went to the store just the other day.  It was worth a lot more than that.

Mr. R started thinking about how he was going to get all of these groceries across town.  “That devil was trying to get me to keep those groceries for myself, I can tell you that.  From the moment I tried to walk away from her, he was a’tryin’ to change my mind.  But I was having none of that.  I used to be full of foolishness, but God’s working on me, and I’m not going to go back on my word that easy.”

He stood outside the Mission.  He had $3 to his name, all in his pocket.  He offered it to a few folks to drive him over to the young woman’s home.  Seems they all were headed in a different direction.  Again that devil was offering him an out.  Then he saw a grocery cart close by.  Just there, belonging to nobody.  So he loaded everything in it.  And tried to figure out how he was going to push that heavy cart all the way to her home.

“Then I seen one of them homeless fellas from down here [Daybreak] walk by.  I told him I had $3 and that was all I had, but it was all his if he’d help me push this cart over to her house.”  He paused and waved his arm out.  “We pushed that thing up all them hills, but you know, he stuck with me the whole time.”

When he got there, the young woman wasn’t home.  Her sister was, and she could scarce believe her eyes.  He opened their refrigerator and there was a half jug of milk and a bottle of water.  And that was all.  Hardly anything in their pantry either.  And they weren’t going to get any more assistance before January 1.

Y’all.  I can’t even.

He unloaded, and the sister timidly asked him a question.  “Mr. R?  Do you mind if I give you a hug?”

He said he has granddaughters older than these girls, and that when that “child” hugged him, she held on tight.  “You just don’t know how you’ve saved us,” she said.  “You just don’t know.”

The young woman who hadn’t been home when he made his delivery called him at the shelter later on.  She, too, was in tears.  “I had no idea you’d bring this much.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.”

By now the clouds were gathering and turning into shades of dark gray.  My sweatshirt that had been too warm on the ride up to Macon was nowhere near enough as I stood there listening to Mr. R’s story.  I was thankful he had on a few more layers.

“So you see, like I told her then, there’s a blessing coming, child.  I don’t know from where or when, but you hang on.  It’s coming.  One day.  It will come.” He asked me my name.  I told him. “For you too, Tara.  It’s coming.”

I looked at Mr. R, and for a moment, I was really puzzled.  Could it be that this man, who was headed out this afternoon, walking to the Salvation Army in the hopes of finding a bed for the night, had not a clue that HE was her blessing?  And in many ways–mine for today?

As we parted ways, me not sure if I would ever see him again or if I would get to hear how his story turned out, I gave thanks for Mr. R and his story.  And his birth and life in Hollywood, Florida.  And for his ways, so much like my Mama’s, who also would have given the shirt off her back if someone needed it.  Or her ham and turkey and last $3.  Whatever it took.

What a story for Christmas!  And everyday.  He reminds me of The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.  He was interruptible, and he changed lives with his gift.  I wonder if those little ones looked at the man coming through the door with all those goodies loaded in a grocery cart, and thought that Father Christmas, Santa Claus himself, had arrived at their door.

The Spirit called him, and he answered.  May it be so with all of us.  (And God, when (not if, I’m afraid) I try to walk away, please freeze my feet too!)

Love to all.  And to all a good night.  Sleep well, Mac, I pray you are somehow miraculously warm and dry.  And Mr. R, may you sleep the slumbers of a soul done good, and those little ones and the sisters with full tummies, may you dream the sweet dreams of those who have been touched by love, a love that asks for nothing in return.  The true Spirit of Christmas.  And the Spirit of every day.

Six-Year-Olds and the Sound of Music

Tonight we had the great honor and privilege of being with friends who are like family.  We celebrated Christmas with them by being together, laughing, eating, catching up, and going to the theater together.

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Theatre Macon in downtown offered their performance of “Sound of Music” tonight as a gift to Daybreak, with all ticket sales going to the shelter.  What a beautiful gift!  Before the performance started, Sister from Daybreak shared that we all need to work hard but also rest hard, and she hoped it would be a good night for all of us to do just that.  To laugh, to have a song in our hearts, and to enjoy a wonderful performance.

Check.  Check.  And check.

As the nuns began singing about a problem named Maria, I was mouthing the words to our Princess.  She laughed and whispered that I was silly.  She and Cooter, our little guy, were up way past their bedtime, and this was the longest play they’ve ever been to.   With the exception of a few wiggles, they did pretty good.  And they had moments when they were totally entranced.

As did I.

The cast was brilliant.  In the wake of all the negativity of  the Artist now known as “Someone Other Than Julie Andrews” playing Maria Von Trapp last Thursday night on live television, I guess I was a little nervous.

No worries.  The stories all over about how the musical is different from the movie version prepared me for the songs and song placement that were different.  The actors and actresses knew their lines perfectly and had beautiful voices that blended well together.  I adore Julie Andrews, but y’all, I never looked back tonight.  My Daddy used to say, “When you compare, you lose.”  And I think if I had spent the entire evening comparing this to the iconic movie version I would have lost a beautiful evening of entertainment and being with folks I love.

The talent was amazing, especially considering the first timers on the stage…..and the youngest actress–a kindergartener from our very own little town down here.  Y’all.  Precious don’t get any cuter than that.

She caught my eye immediately, as I suppose she did everyone in the theater.  But I was watching closely in the second half of the play, which I suppose was very likely past her bedtime as well, and I saw two of the older girls sit on either side of her.  I would not have noticed the “dead space” at all–it was not noticeable–if I had not seen one of the “sisters” put her hand on Gretl’s leg and the other patted her gently.  She promptly asked if Fraulein Maria was coming back.  Beautiful.

In this life we all need someone “older and wiser” to sit with us and give us a nudge or a pat or a shoulder when we need it.  We need to feel safe and secure on the stage of life, when one never knows exactly what is coming next.  We might know what we think is coming, but that is the beauty and tragedy of live theater and life itself–you never really truly know.  Someone could forget a line, miss their cue to move across stage, or just not show up at all.  Tears welled in my eyes when I watched how well those young actresses worked together.  If only we would take a lesson from that.  Don’t leave the folks around us hanging out to dry–if we can help, we should.  Remind folks what they already know.  Sometimes that is all it takes to get someone back on track.

Towards the end of the play at the Salzburg Festival, Liesl had Gretl sitting in her lap.  The stage was dim and the Captain Von Trapp was singing “Edelweiss.”  I saw Gretl look up at Liesl and whisper something.  Never stepping out of character Liesl, only fifteen herself in “real life,” gently “shhhh’ed” her little sister.  When Gretl attempted to communicate again, Liesl shifted the little one who had been rubbing her eyes only moments before in her lap and shook her head gently “no.”  Well done.  Well done.  Not everyone would be able to handle a sleepy kindergartener after 10 p.m.  I was impressed.  A few minutes later little Gretl went up and tried to hand her doll to Maria as she was having a conversation at the Abbey shortly before their escape into the mountains.  I noticed a couple of the older children reach for her just as if it were all scripted.  Which it might have been.  Mix live theater with a six-year-old and who knows what you might get.

Tonight mixing it with my six-year-old led to a magical ending.  Towards the end he was also a little fidgety.  And, as luck would have it, OH MY LAND, he wound up with the squeaky seat.  Let it move a millimeter up or down and it squeaked.  I just knew everyone around us was going crazy from the sound.  I finally pulled him over in my lap, this little fella who at one point had taken off his sweater vest (our nod to show respect to the theater and the folks performing) and a little later leaned over and whispered, grinning, “I took off my boots.  My feet were too hot.”  Ah yes.  That sounds about right.  Country come to town.

But he made it.  And so did our Princess who is a wiggler from the womb.  (I actually did not believe the sonographer when he said there was only one baby in there.)  Our sweet friends also made it through, saying our littles were well-behaved, despite all the wiggles and squeaks.  (Love y’all for that.)  When it was over, our two littles were bouncing up and down–“Can we go meet the characters?  Please?!”  I looked at the crowd waiting to do just that.  And I looked at folks crossing the rows and taking the more direct route out that I so longed to follow.  Cooter and Princess remembered saying hello after “White Christmas” two years ago.  So I said yes and told the rest of our group I’d meet them outside.

So.  Worth.  It.

The talented cast of Theatre Macon's "Sound of Music" takes a bow

The talented cast of Theatre Macon’s “Sound of Music” takes a bow

Cooter wanted to meet the boy who played one of the Von Trapp sons.  They have something special in common, and he was determined to meet him and ask him a question.  Princess wanted to meet Brigitta who had blonde curls like she does.  So we waited just a couple of extra minutes and wound our way around to say hello.  I called out the boy’s name, and he turned around with a big smile.  Bless him.  And then it happened.  As I was introducing Cooter, my little baby boy stuck his hand out to meet him and say hello.  Because that’s what our people do.  Only he never has before.  Ever.  I almost started bawling right there, but Princess wanted to meet Brigitta, so I had to shove it back down and keep on moving.  I got a beautiful picture of the four of them that I will treasure forever.  For what is actually in the picture but even more for what took place moments before.

My baby boy took his first step to becoming a young man.

Somebody hold me.  Now.

I’ve watched his legs pumping so hard moving him rapidly up and down our neighborhood street on his bike.  I’ve stood amazed and entranced watching those amazing little legs, the ones that wouldn’t stretch out completely for several days after he was born.  The ones he toddled around on eventually, later than the girls had, thrilling and relieving me all at the same time.  And now, less than two months after kicking the training wheels to the curb, he’s ready for the Tour de France.  I’m not kidding.  Move over, Lance, I got a real champion on my hands here.

Or maybe an actor.  After he asked the young actor how old he was, he said thanks and goodbye, and I, being a little starstruck myself perhaps, said with a lump in my throat, “You were both wonderful.  I know you will treasure the memories from doing this for a long time.” And with that cheesy, gooeyness we walked away.  Only to hear my Princess say, “I sure will.  This was the best play ever!”  That, my friends, is just how she rolls.  As we walked down Cherry to Third and to our car, Cooter piped up, still thrilled to have met his new friend, “I wanted to know how old he is, and when he said twelve, all I could think was you are just like me!  I mean, he is, he’s just like me!”  And that’s how it all starts.  His wheels are turning for sure.

Tonight I am thankful for different ways of celebrating and giving this Christmas.  For our friends who made time to be with us tonight and gave us the gift of good company, last minute as our plans were.  I am thankful for theater companies who donate entire performance’s proceeds in an era when that could have really helped them.  I am thankful for Daybreak where I spend one afternoon a week, but where my heart is all the time.  Spending time with my family and live theater all rolled into one always fills me with joy.   But most of all, I’m thankful for the exuberance of my Princess, the presence of my oldest who’s in the midst of finals week,  and that handshake I witnessed tonight.  The tears I cry over it are good tears.  Tears of love and remembering and gratitude for being there to see him take his next first step.  Those are the tender and thin moments of this life I live as Mama.  And I am thankful.

The magic and lights of downtown Macon as we were leaving--the Cherry Street fountain.  Where my relationship with Daybreak had its beginnings.

The magic and lights of downtown Macon as we were leaving tonight–the Cherry Street fountain. Where my relationship with Daybreak had its beginnings.

what season are you in?

Yesterday in the midst of a lively conversation at our Sister Circle at Daybreak, we were on a roll.  I was at the dry erase board with marker in hand jotting down the things being shared about hitting roadblocks on our journeys and how we can help others.  I just about couldn’t write fast enough, the thoughts were pouring so quickly from my Sisters’ hearts and minds.

A question came to mind in the middle of the discussion.  When there was a break, I asked, “What season are we in?”

Miss G answered, patting her hand on the table in front of her emphatically, “This one.  Right.  Now.”

Wow.

I was looking for Christmas as an answer, but okay.

Yes.

This is just about the most perfect answer I’ve heard in a while.

Shouldn’t we all be in the season we are in now?

Let me rephrase this.

Shouldn’t I be (be present, let it be, be okay) in the season I am in now?  Without looking back and losing myself in the memories of the seasons past?  There’s a difference between remembering and dwelling.  Or without worrying over the seasons to come?  *patting the table for emphasis* Just be.  In this one.  Right. Now.

The season I am in right now is one of always having a little shadow and conversations constantly going and people following me into the bathroom, of running the dishwasher at least twice a day, and of mounds of clean laundry taking over the loveseat.  Pretty much permanently.  It is one of lessonbooks and storybooks flowing across the supper table and into chairs and stacks upon stacks on bookcases.  It is a season of goodbyes, as I’ve had to say more than a couple of those in the past three years.  It is also a season of saying hello to the new little ones who have come into our midst.  The season I am in now is one of transitions–of learning to be Mama to a near adult and finding out what it’s like to go on without the love and wisdom of those who knew me first and best.  In this season I am learning to embrace the color gray and I’m learning that the indignation of my youth has given way to a little more tolerance and a whole lot more perspective on what is really important in this world.  This is a season of celebrating on a whim and making myself more interruptible and realizing that the good guys don’t always win.  It is a season of grace–and I am thankful for the grace offered to me daily by those I love and by complete strangers on the street.  It’s a season of being “with” and realizing that sometimes the only answer is there is no answer.  And that I don’t always deserve what happens or comes at me in this life–both the good and the bad.  I think my favorite thing about this season is the people whom I do still have with me–the folks who love me in spite of my meltdowns and tears, my frustrations and quirks.  Those family and friends are what I love most about where I am right now.

One day the season will come where I will have more space than I want to myself.  I will stop finding cars and Star Wars figures on my kitchen counter or in my purse.  No one will call out asking me where something is or how to spell something.  There will be no more Lalaloopsy versus Mighty World adventures.  I won’t have extra clothes to fold or littles to pick up after.  I will be able to sit with a cup of coffee at my leisure at ten o’clock or two in the afternoon and write to my heart’s content, instead of typing until my eyes are drooping way past midnight.  I won’t have to maneuver around the teenager’s car in the driveway.  It will be a straight shot to the road when I’m headed out–not on a “taxiing someone around” mission.  I am thinking of all of these things not because I’m worrying over the season to come, but so I can put this season in perspective.  This one is not forever.  It is only fleeting, these moments of wiping noses on sleeves, correcting manners, and cuddling as we watch a show together.  Life is too short, though the heartbreak and brokenness can make it seem long. Way too long sometimes.

The best season to be in is the one I am in now.  I want to learn to embrace that.

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This is where I am.  And that’ll do for a Wednesday.

 

Tears on a Tuesday…..Loneliness, Laundry, and Living on the Streets

Whoa, Tuesday!  You sure did jump out of nowhere and grab ahold of my heart today.  Totally wasn’t expecting all of that.

There have been tears today.  Over the realizing all over again what Thursday is and that she isn’t here to make her dressing.  I’ve only not had Mama’s dressing three Thanksgivings in my life–the year we were in Japan and the two years that Daddy was so sick.  I just don’t even know.  But I know there are harder things in this life.

Later Sister called saying she was thinking about making gingerbread cookies. I laughed, as she often calls looking for a recipe.  Often the same recipe I’ve given her before.  More than once.  She knows it–she owns it.  When I asked if she needed the recipe, she began sobbing into the phone.  Oh baby girl.  I wanted to crawl through the phone line and hug her.  Turns out she didn’t need the recipe after all.  She just needed me to listen.  Whenever she makes those cookies she thinks of Mama and all the times she called and asked Mama for the recipe.  Precious memories.  And hard.  But still I know there are harder things on this journey.

I was with my Sister Circle this afternoon at Daybreak. We had a small group as some of our friends were out of town.  As we talked about forgiveness and what that looks like and what it’s like to apologize, our conversation eventually turned to the holiday season.  We eventually got around to whether or not the holidays were hard for each of us.  One of our sisterfriends said no, that it was about being with family and she was so happy for Thursday and the opportunity to do just that–be with her family all together.  I looked over at Miss N, our sisterfriend who is the artist, and asked her.  She shrugged.  She won’t be going to be with her family this year.  “It’s hard,” she says.  “It’s only one day.  It’s just one day.”  And I could hear her unsaid words echoing in my head and heart.

“Why’s it gotta be just one day?”

I know.  I get it.  She’s lonely every other day of the year.  Why go and do this for just one day when she’ll have to go back as it was the very next day?  And every day after that.

Broke my heart.

I also saw my friend Mac today.  I guess I “conjured him up.”  I hadn’t heard from him in about two weeks, and last week some folks shared how concerned they were about him.  I called his Mama this afternoon to see if she’d heard how he was, and so yes, of course, he was right there in front of me after I hung up with her.  I was glad to see him.

He hung around for us to visit after Sister Circle was over.  It’s been cold, and today it rained all day long.  He looked like he was doing all right though.  But he’s tired.  He teared up as he talked about it.  He’s done with living on the streets.  Again.  He wants to go back to the transitional program he was a part of out of town.  Again.  He had lost the number to the contact there, a man who really cares about Mac.  I have it, so I handed Mac my phone with the number ready to dial. Was I calling his bluff, wondering if he was just telling me what I wanted to hear?  Maybe.  But he took the phone.  He made the call himself.  And he called back.  And he did this for himself.

Turns out he can’t return there.  Long story, but I understand.  And I agree.  But the person there cares so much, he called me back with two places to contact and see if they have an opening for Mac.  I am thankful for him and his caring heart.  Funny thing is, I didn’t see it in the beginning.  This tough love thing is hard to discern sometimes.  And judging someone at first contact almost always gets me in trouble.  He’s a good guy.  I appreciate him.

As I sat visiting with Mac, a volunteer called out a name, and a young couple went over to the half-door at the laundry room where several washers and dryers were working hard to keep up with all the needs for the day.  The volunteer who is there without fail every Tuesday afternoon handed over a basket of clean clothes.  What caught my eye was the look of sheer joy on their faces.  The young woman (honestly she didn’t look much older than my Aub) closed her eyes and breathed in the clean smell.  They both pulled their still warm clothes close to their chests and sighed contentedly.  The woman squealed with delight and her companion laughed loudly at her joy.

Y’all.

I had to look away and wipe my eyes.

I’m a spoiled you know what.
I have my own washer and dryer.  I have a precious family whose clothes I get to wash.  Whenever I want.  We have a place to store our clothes rather than shoving them back in a backpack…..and having to carry all of our clothes on our back or risk having them taken away.   Oh, how I have taken it all for granted.  How many times have I whined or moaned over the laundry, the washing the folding the putting away?

Watching that beautiful couple and their sheer joy over something that is so basic for me and mine…..

it made me thankful.  And ashamed.  And it put things into perspective.

At least for today.

So in the morning, in the midst of the traditional baking and remembering who is not with us this year, and trying to figure out if I even want to attempt Mama’s dressing, I will be making calls for Mac and waiting for him to call me and keeping my fingers crossed that something will work out…..and that this time he can hold his own in his battle with that demon alcohol.  And I will be playing catch-up with the laundry.  I am sure at some point I will find myself breathing in the clean clothes and holding the warmth close to my heart.  And remembering the joy I got to see.
Yes, I know there are far harder things in life.  The realization that the loneliness will return after one day of being with others keeping you from even trying, the horror of fighting a demon that puts your life in danger each and every day–and cold, wet night, and the life of carrying all the clothes you own around in a backpack…..I’ve seen them all today.  All I’m left with is the tears.

Oh Tuesday…..