Skype and Indoor Plumbing…..What will be the next big thing?

My cell phone sounded with a tone I don’t remember hearing before.  I pulled it out from under the pillow on the couch where we were all hanging out, watching the latest cooking competition show.

It was a notification.  A Skype message from one of my near and dear who has been in Asia.  She’s headed home.  Finally.  Whoo hoo!

I was trying to ascertain what time she’d be getting on the plane but the difference between her time/my time/Seattle time was confusing us.  Next thing I knew, my phone indicated a call was coming through.  On Skype.  Very cool.  It was she.

Giving thanks for the technology of Skype that lets me hear a voice I miss and know that she's okay

Giving thanks for the technology of Skype that lets me hear a voice I miss and know that she’s okay

“Hey,” I heard her voice.  All the way, thirteen hours ahead of us, she was talking to me from her hotel room. I could hear her zipping her suitcase and the television playing in the background.

“Can you hear me okay?” she asked.

I laughed.  “You won’t believe this,” I told her.  “I can hear you better with you a half a world away than I can when you are in your house a half hour away.”

Unbelievable.  I mean, seriously, I’ve never heard a phone call so clear.  It was like she was in the room with us.

Except of course she wasn’t.  Because if she were here, we probably wouldn’t have paused the show for her.

Just kidding.

After we hung up with promises of talking when all the travelling is over and done, I was thinking about this crazy and amazing world.  We can communicate almost instantly with people who are thousands and thousands of miles away.  Clearly.  Without saying “over” after we finish speaking.  We can text our friends in Germany and overnight packages just about anywhere in this country.  We can share our thoughts, feelings, gripes, triumphs, and goofy photos instantly–with just the touch of a button.


It reminds me of a story of Daddy driving home from somewhere, I can’t recall from where.  My brother, among others, was in the car with him.  This was probably 25 years ago.  Daddy was looking over his glasses (I’m feeling you these days, Daddy) and then back through the lenses, his head moving just so as he changed his view.  Bubba made a comment, something like, “Daddy, what are you doing, looking over your glasses like that?  It don’t seem natural.”

Daddy almost stopped the car.  “Boy, we are travelling through space in a vehicle, all of us together, at 45 miles per hour.  What part of THAT seems natural to you?”

I laughed and laughed.

I get what he was saying.  Things are advancing at such a rapid speed that as soon as you purchase or learn the latest technology, it is on its way to being obsolete.  And we take things that amazed our grandparents and great-grandparents, like riding in a vehicle on the interstate, telephones without party lines, and indoor plumbing, for granted.

Tonight I’m thankful for the technology that let me speak to someone I love and know that she’s okay.  At the same time, I’m thankful that the littles and I are learning about life in the New World, where you mended your socks and pants that had holes, you fixed what was broken, there was no grocery store to run to when you were out of cornmeal, and the evening’s pre-bedtime entertainment was storytelling while knitting by a fire.  It is a good way to remember that what we have hasn’t always been, and it reminds us to appreciate what we do have.

Wonder what the proverbial “they” will come up with next…..

“No, I don’t think so”

There are people who walk into our lives, pull up a chair, plop down with a satisfied sigh, look us in the eyes, make us laugh, and it’s like they’ve been there forever.

Isn’t it fun when one of those folks comes into your life?

Two years ago a pretty special somebody walked in.  She took my world by storm, at a time when the only storms we’d had in the past few months were bad ones.

But she was a good one.

The kind that clears the air, gives you a rush with the great breezes, and leaves everything brighter and clearer and fresher once it’s blown through.

That’s what being with her is like.  The air is charged, the conversation always lively, and best of all, she’s the kind of friend that takes you on as family.  She is a loyal one.  Once you belong to her, you always belong to her.  And when she laughs…..we all get tickled.

She is a beautiful, strong woman busy loving on folks and raising two strong young men.  And she never lets grass grow under her feet.  She inspires me with her energy, her courage, her humor, and her honesty.  She calls it like it is, and she sees with a clarity I wish I had.  She makes me wish I could be very much like her when I grow up.

This evening as we sat around the table way past mealtime (don’t some of the best conversations happen around the table?), she was listening to Aub share a story of some of the goings on in her life.  She held up a hand as if to stop her and said, “Wait.  Hold up.  What you should have said right there was,” *clap* *finger pointed*”‘No, I don’t think so.'”

Wow.  I like it.

I like what it says.  And its flexibility for different situations.  It sets up boundaries with no room for misinterpretation.  “No, I don’t think so, you’re not going to treat me that way.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’m not going to be your pawn anymore.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’ve got enough on my plate right now.” “No, I don’t think so, I’m not going to let your issues become my issues.”  “No, I don’t think so, I appreciate your offer of help–but I’ve got this.”  “No, I don’t think so, I’d rather not share this with anyone.”

These words just might be my new magic words.  Pair them with “Isn’t that nice?” and we’ve got a winning combination, I think.

Just like my friend who made the time to visit and abide with us today.  Who listened and shared her wisdom with me and my girl.  Who laughed with us, teared up with us, and who loves us.  Her laughter filled more than our home today, it filled my heart.  And bless her, she even rolls her eyes with us and for us.  We may not get together very often, but she is a true sisterfriend, and she and her family have shown up for each of the joys and the heartbreaks in our lives ever since our meeting two years ago.

When you’ve got a friend who rolls her eyes for you, don’t let her go.  And if anyone tries to mess that up, you just clap, snap, and point, and let them know, “No, I just don’t think so.”

A real treasure…..and I am thankful for her.

For those of you praying for and thinking about Aub’s friend, Miss K, she is getting stronger.  She is still in hospital and has a long way to go, but she is awake and alert and sharing her own thoughts and updates on Facebook.  Please continue to keep her and her journey in your thoughts and prayers.  But thank you for traveling this far with her and all of her sisters at Wesleyan.  They will be so happy when she is able to return.  As will we all. 

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–


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.