Because Life’s Too…..

Such a treat was in store for me today, and I had no idea.

This afternoon my oldest and I headed out to run an errand.  The littles were off with the Fella, so it was just the two of us.  We were off seeking treasure–the last five jars of No Nut Butter that Aunt had seen at the Big store.  After we finished there (got ’em), we decided to pop in at the GW Boutique across town before heading home.

And it was there that we came upon a second treasure.  Quite unexpectedly.

We had scanned shelves and flipped through some of the clothes racks.  It’s always fun to ponder what one could wear or how something would look and to search for new crock pot lids.  But that’s a story for another time.

As we traveled down an aisle, headed to the check out counter, we crossed paths with a lovely looking older lady.  She said something about how much she liked the skirt we’d picked out, and before long we were chatting and visiting like old friends do when they meet up at the library or the grocery store.

She told us a little of her story, widowed twice over because of that horrible cancer.  After her second husband died nearly twenty years ago, she started on her bucket list.  She will be 82 in the fall and still has two things left on her list.  One of which she plans on doing on her birthday.  As she told of her adventures, long waterslides, ice skating, skiing, there was a sense of peace and grace about her.  Such a beautiful person, inside and out.  We shared some of our story too.  About Aub’s upcoming sophomore year and post-graduate plans.  About how I was looking for a dress to cut off and make a fun top out of.  As we talked she looked at me intently and said, “You have the loveliest complexion.”

Oh my.  I was surprised.  I thanked her.

“Well if I do, I give my great Aunt credit for that, I guess,” I told her.  “She told me two things that I’ve carried with me all through my life.  First, don’t hold my nose every time I went underwater–it would make my nose pointy.  (too late)  And second, don’t wear makeup–she told me the sooner I started wearing it, the sooner I’d need it.  And so I just didn’t.”

This sweet lady smiled and gave a melodious chuckle.  (I told y’all she was lovely–everything about her.)  “That reminds me of my son and daughter-in-law when they got married.”

She shared the story with us.  This was many years ago, and the day of the wedding, her daughter-in-law’s bridesmaids decided to empty the bride’s suitcase of many things and pack it instead with rice or something like that.  Of the things they removed, her makeup was included.  The newly married couple traveled to Atlanta to spend the night, ready to fly out early the next morning for their honeymoon.  When the bride woke up and started to get ready for her day and the trip, she couldn’t find her makeup.  She was distraught, but her new husband looked at her and said, “You are beautiful just like you are.  You don’t need makeup to be beautiful.  You already are.”

Y’all.  Yes, we swooned.

That Mama raised a good boy, didn’t she?

And to this day, our new friend told us, all these many years later, that bride has never worn makeup again.  And from the way her mother-in-law described her today, she’s still just as lovely as she was when she was a newlywed.

Love.  This.  Story.

What an impact this short visit had on us.  Miss R (we are on a first name basis now) somehow looked my girl straight in the eyes, though she was a head shorter, and told her to get her education.  That if any fella came along, she just needed to tell him to hold on, that she was going to finish her education FIRST, so they could have a better life together after.  That no one should talk her out of that.

Then she looked at both of us, then back at Aub.  “Enjoy your life,” she said.  “Find something you love to do and do it well.  Because life’s too…..important.”

Oh how my heart sang in agreement with those beautiful words!

I had been so sure she was going to say life is too short, and while I am definitely in agreement with that, my soul rejoiced.  This. This is what I’ve been feeling.  Life IS too important.  To let the little things get us off track.  To let the big things derail us for very long. It’s too important not to just love on every one we meet. Too important to just accept things as they are with a shrug and a “I’m just passing through.”  It’s too important.  Beautiful, broken, and important.

Truth.

We left Miss R today, after reassuring her that her children and grandchildren were not wrong when they told her she could get away with outfits like the one she was wearing today.  She was adorable and elegant and graceful all rolled into one.  At one point I felt like she might be channeling my Mama in some of the things she said.  I just wanted to hug her.  So I did.  Twice.  Turns out she knows Aub’s godfather’s parents.  I love how small this world is sometimes.  And I love that there is a connection with this beautiful soul.

After our reluctant goodbyes and Aub and I were in the go-mobile headed home, we shared our thoughts on our visit.  We both were touched by this sweet lady who took time to visit with two strangers in the GW Boutique.

“That story about the makeup.  I LOVE that.  I think that should be a new tradition.  All bridesmaids should take the bride’s makeup,” my girl mused.

I agreed.  She then shared that she hadn’t worn much makeup all summer.  And she sounded happy about it.  Good on you, baby girl.  You are beautiful, and you don’t need it at all.  And one day you will find a lucky Fella who will think so too.

In the meantime, go and do exactly what Miss R told you to do today.  Live, laugh, do what you love, and enjoy life (“but not by doing things you shouldn’t” ahem).

Wishing you all an unexpected treasure or two.  Love to all.

 

Finding Strength in Moments of Weakness

As I sat on the hospital bed, the sun had begun to set.  The room, filled with light just a half hour before, began to darken.  How many sunsets had I sat through in this very hospital waiting for the darkness–with Daddy, with Mama, and with Miss B?  Too many.  Far too many.

Last night I went to the hospital to visit a friend I had never met.  We had a friend in common, my Writer Friend, who had led us to meet.  Lettie and I had been trying to plan a get together over the past couple of weeks. Work schedules and sick children kept delaying our plans.  She called me last Tuesday to tell me that she had today, Monday, off.  So we planned to meet.  Then I got the call on Saturday night–Lettie was in the hospital, had been since Thursday.  I told her I’d come see her on Sunday.  And so it was that we met for the first time in Room 431.  Just four doors down from where Mama was in August of last year.  For a ten days HospitalStay.

It was surreal being there, meeting this dear woman and her daughter and son-in-law from out of state.  It was an honor hearing her stories and sharing unspoken concerns through glances with her daughter as Lettie talked about her condition.  There was a lot of uncertainty, a little fear, and a whole lot of faith.  We talked about the beauty of sisterhood–the challenges and the rewards.  About how Lettie’s sister who is younger by 11 months took care of her when she had a hard time as a young girl, and how she sees it as her job to take care of her sister now.  (I completely understand that feeling.) We talked about how not even physical distance can separate sisters.  She made me laugh as she gave her honest opinion about hospital food–“You know it’s bad when even the staff says it’s not good.”  She was thankful her daughter and son-in-law had brought her some food from the house.  They left to go back home and eat.

My sweet friend took my hand and my heart and wrapped them both in warmth.

My sweet friend took my hand and my heart and wrapped them both in warmth.

I  continued to sit with Lettie as she took my hand and talked about what it’s like to have someone you love pass from this world to the next right there in front of your eyes.  With a squeeze I let her know that I understood.  It’s the most precious and holy moment in this life–being there as life comes into the world and as it goes out.

The quiet of the moment filled the room and our spirits.  She needed to get up, but she wasn’t supposed to do it without help.  The nurse came down.  One of Mama’s nurses, but of course she wouldn’t remember.  Too many people to care for between then and now.  She helped Lettie to the bathroom and took care of everything.  After we got Lettie settled back in her bed, I gave her a hug and told her I’d see her soon.  She took my hand again.  “I love you.  Thank you for coming.”

I love you too.

Oh my aching heart.

It was my honor to be there.  To hear her laughter.  Share her stories.  Have her share her worries and hopes with me.  Those very thin moments of one soul joining another along the journey.

Knowing you will never be quite the same again.

Tonight I am thankful for a new friendship that fell into place like it had always been there or was always meant to be.  My heart breaks for the uncertainty and tenuousness of her physical health.  And at the same time, it leaps with joy at the way she is facing what might come–with a smile and with faith.

She told me I could share anything about her story I wanted to.  She has an amazing story filled with pain and love and laughter and sadness, much as we all do.  But what I want most to share of her story is what I learned from her.  It’s okay to ask for help.  She has had to let her children and friends help her, and she is learning to accept that.  The other thing I learned was it’s okay to admit you are scared.  You can have faith and still be scared.  It reminds me of the line of a song by Rascal Flats, “I’m Moving On,” written by Phillip White and David Vincent Williams:

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“I’ve found you find strength in your moments of weakness.”

As I sat in that hospital that holds strong memories of my Daddy’s diagnosis of lymphoma four years ago–going to find him in a little room in the ER that first morning and again when he fell and broke his hip in spring of 2011, memories of Mama’s fear and faith working its way through her heart and mind and our lives over a year ago, and memories of Miss B telling me she wanted to have the surgery on her hip because she didn’t want to stay in a bed for the rest of her life.  I remember standing at Daddy’s window in the room upstairs and watching the sun go down over the town as the lights above the storefronts began twinkling.  Last year I sat in the chair next to Mama’s bed texting with my Writer Friend whose Mama was in the hospital at the same time; it breaks my heart that we’ve both since said goodbye to our sweet Mamas.  I could look out of Mama’s hospital room window and see my babies climb out of the Fella’s car as he pulled up to bring me something from home.  And last night I sat with a precious woman who gets that fear and faith can share the path and who squeezed my hand and said life is hard and smiled and filled the room with love.  It might sound crazy, but as I travelled down the elevator and to the parking lot, a trip I’ve made many, many times, I had peace in my heart.  Peace that came from a hand and from a heart and from a smile.  And a shared journey.  A peace that passes all understanding, and for that I give thanks.

The Poetry of Redemption

Today I surprised myself and my littles with a trip to a farm with friends.  The farm was just over two hours away, traveling on beautiful backroads in a vehicle filled to the brim with friends, anticipation, laughter, and sharing of stories.

I was traveling with our book group who meets weekly.  I love these precious women.  I love their smiles, their wisdom, their love, and the grace they give so freely.  Today we loaded up with the children and went to a farm for a trip to reflect on the book Scouting the Divine: My Search For God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey by Margaret Feinberg, the book our group just finished studying.

The pasture reminded me of the one I played in and followed my Daddy around in as he took care of his and Papa's cows

The pasture reminded me of the one I played in and followed my Daddy around in as he took care of his and Papa’s cows

It was a beautiful day.  It was overcast so it wasn’t too hot, and the rain held off until the end of our time together.  I watched the eyes of my children as they rode in the buggy that Buck, their new four-legged friend, pulled along paths through the woods.  Later Buck followed them around in the sheep pasture.  I believe our Princess has caught the horse bug.  My Buddy was the sheep magnet.  A couple seemed to like him and came right up.  It was a gift to see my two youngest whooping it up with their friends, peeking at eggs in a nest, smelling lavender growing in a bed, and resisting the urge to follow the turkey and roosters around the yard.

At lunch we gathered together under a shelter at a picnic table while the children ate at a sweet table covered in burlap.  On every table sat a vase with fresh-cut flowers or herbs.  The breeze blew gently as we picnicked from the sack lunches we’d brought.  We visited with our new friends–the shepherdess/beekeeper/farmer extraordinaire who was hosting us, and her friend who had trained Buck to pull the buggy and was working with him on pulling a harrow.  We laughed and talked about lessons learned in nature around us, raising children, and the Oxford comma.  I soaked it all in, thankful for the invitation, for friends to travel with, and for being able to get my act together and go.  (Some days that’s a greater accomplishment than others.)

As we walked around the farm, I saw things that reminded me of England–the gates and the orchard wall especially.  But mostly I missed my roots.  Home.  At Blackberry Flats.  And at my Granny’s farm.  I grew up sidestepping cow patties and crawling under electric fences.  I was bottlefeeding a calf when I was 8 years old.  We had a horse when we moved to Blackberry Flats a year later.  We were never without cats and dogs scattering underfoot when we walked out the back door.  I miss the animals.  I miss the land.  Oh I miss it all.

So it was with gratitude and sentimentality that I turned to our hostess as we were leaving and said, “You are a good steward of our world.  Thank you for sharing it with us.”

She looked up and said quietly, “I appreciate your saying that.  I like to be about redemption.  Since I know I’m certainly a part of the other.”

Oh my.

The poetry in those words.

I like to be about redemption.

My soul cried out in resonance–YES!  Me too!

I want to be about redemption.

I knew what it meant but so often the word is tied to religious meaning, which can get a bit confusing.  So when I came home, I looked for the exact meaning and this is what I found in the dictionary.

Redemption…..the act of recovering or atoning for a fault or mistake.  Redemption…..rescue or deliverance.

I’ve made mistakes.  I have faults.  Lots of them actually.  The need for redemption is brought about by taking, by harming, by hurting.  I have taken away from our planet and hurt my fellow people.  Not always intentionally, but it has happened more often than I can bear to think about.  I want to be about REDEMPTION.  I want to be a part of rescuing what we’ve been given, all that surrounds us in our beautiful world, to be a part of the healing of hurting people who surround us, to make a difference in the brokenness.  I too have been a part of that other, and I can tell you, it doesn’t feel good.

I look around at what and whom I’ve been given–loaned if you will–and I am humbled.  I am not worthy.  And yet when I open my eyes again, it’s all still there.  I can rush out and just ride the ride, not worrying about who or what is being affected.  Or I can walk carefully and cautiously, paying attention to the ripples I’m creating as I do.  Today the shepherdess shared with the children–and all of us–that it was best to walk through the pasture respecting the sheep and taking in all around us, thinking about how we were making them feel and being aware of that, sharing respectfully.  I think that is what redemption is about–paying attention and taking care.  Correcting wrongs made in the past.  Rescuing.  Recovering.

Today I am thankful for the grace and patience of friends who allowed me to be a part of today and for the generosity of my friend who shared her family’s farm with us and set up the visit.  I give thanks for reconnecting with my roots and for the stirrings within; I have to work harder to return to them.  I am thankful for a day of getting lost in the beauty of the world around us, the sights, the sounds, the smells–and the beauty of precious simplicity.  I crave authenticity, and today was all about that.  I love the joy that today gave me and my littles, and I love the people who were a part of that.  And I’m thankful for the poetry of the words I heard today.  I am going to work on being about redemption a little more.  A lot more.   I think that may be one of the greatest gifts I can give my children and my world.  And you know who else?  Myself.

Oh…..and the next best part of the day? When I got home, we still had these.

The dessert I packed for today--still intact!

The brownies I packed for today–still intact!

For the first time in what seems like forever, my littles didn’t ask for dessert when they finished their meal.  Today I actually had one planned, it being a picnic and all.  But on this day that my Princess said was her “best day ever in her whole life,” they ate their lunches and then wandered off to watch the turkey gobble around or to look at the sheep in the pasture or to smell the flowers blooming.  Today, they feasted on a real treat–that of the beauty and nature around them.  And that’s the sweetest dessert of all.