A New Verb

Last night at Pursuit, where the crew and I go on Wednesday nights for worship and fellowship, we listened to the message given by our friend and pastor.  He talked about light in the darkness and being that for others.  But the one thing that stood out to me and that I’ve carried in my heart today was when he {perhaps accidentally} “verbed” a noun.

He was talking about holding onto memories and moments and how they can give us hope–only he started to say, “That hopes me–that brings me hope.”

I am not sure if he meant to use hope that way, but I have to tell you, I’m glad he did.

I know I’m going to give away my rapidly increasing age with this, but today as I pondered over hope as a verb, I recalled the SNL skit from my college days with Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon as Hans and Franz. (Funny I don’t remember watching SNL much, but I remember those two vividly.)  They would introduce their characters and say in unison,  “We are here to pump {clap} you up!” In each skit they’d share that this is what they were called to do.  It would seem that this was their sole focus in life.  Pumping others up.

In reflecting on the words from last night, I’ve thought about how we are called to be light in the darkness.  There has been so much blasted darkness that has crept in and wrapped itself around people whom I care about and our world in general–it has weighed heavily on my heart these past few weeks or so.  In the midst of what our friends and family and even strangers in the checkout line at the Kroblixmart are going through–most of which WE HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT–we are called to hope others up.  (You can even add the clap for nostalgia if you’d like.)  In much the same way as Hans and Franz did, we need to make it a focus of our lives–to encourage and listen and stand close with those who feel like they are drowning in the darkness.  They don’t owe us the story of all their pain and turmoil–just jump in there and care anyway.  They’ll tell us when and if they’re ready.  In the meantime, hold fast with grace and love and prayer and the power of a gentle touch in the midst of hurt, doubt, pain, sorrow and the jarring, harsh crushing of one’s dreams.

I’m so thankful for the words I heard last night, whether they were intentional or not.  As the hours of light grow fewer and the shadows grow longer,  I fervently pray that in the coming days I can hope up those I walk alongside and share their load.  Perhaps we all can do that.  Fervently, urgently, fiercely surrounding those in pain with love and grace and hope–hope that gives the strength to see folks through to tomorrow.

And if when life catches us off guard and sends us spiraling, may we all find the strength to find someone close by, grab tight to their hand, and say–even if only a whisper, “Please.  Hope me up.”

I am reminded of this truth I heard years ago–“Hurting people hurt people.”  I like this new twist to show the beauty and power of our new verb–

Hopeful people hope people.

May we all make tomorrow a day of hope.  Finding it, giving it, doing it.

Hope me up, y’all.

Love to all.

*****thanks, TH.  For your words and for the inspiration.  

hans and franz photo

We are here to hope {clap} you up!–Hans and Franz

 

Twinkly Trees and Traditions

Last night I drove down my street towards my home at the end of it, and I noticed tree lights in a window.  Happy yellow-white glowing twinkle lights.  My spirit responded with a standing ovation, claps and cheers included.

Then I broke out of my mental auto-pilot and realized they were my happy lights.

I write this to you in case you happen to wander past and see the twinkle lights shining through the front window of my house.  I write this so you don’t wonder as my neighbors and even some of the folks who abide with me do–just why is the Christmas tree still up?

I wasn’t raised this way for sure.  The same Mama who didn’t do laundry on New Year’s Day or let us wear white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day made sure our tree and Christmas decorations were down by New Year’s Eve.  I think there was some line of thinking that carrying them into the New Year was bad luck.  Also, our trees from my Granny’s woods were usually shedding and in dire need to go to the high grass at the back of our property to live out their next life as a bunny habitat.  (I refuse to entertain the idea that snakes found joy in our old trees.  Because SNAKES. No ma’am.)

Then I married into a tradition of keeping the tree up until Epiphany, January 6th.  I liked this and had no problem embracing it after the first year or two of feeling slightly uncomfortable and apologetic.  The only problem was that January 6th only fell on the weekend a couple of years out of six or seven, so it was rarely the 6th when we actually took it down.  I remember attending a “Tearing Down Christmas” party once, and I thought it was brilliant.  It was after Christmas when folks were more relaxed, but she still had her home beautifully decorated.  It was the last hoorah before she put everything away.  I have yet to host such a celebration, but it’s still something I really hope to do one year.

This year things have been different.  There’s been a different feel in the air since October. I was looking at a milestone birthday in November, so maybe that’s why I missed Mama and Daddy so much–things were just different.  The month of November and first half of December flew by–with all my people taking turns having the cold crud that went through everyone we knew, with celebrations, having Thanksgiving at home (due to aforementioned crud), and three shows in a sixteen day period.  All wonderful things, but time passed quickly.  We always go tree hunting as a family.  With our oldest in law school and folks sick on Thanksgiving weekend, it was the 16th of December before we could actually make the hunting happen.

During this time I struggled with the idea of finally getting an artificial tree.  The only other time we haven’t had a real one was when we were living in Japan for those two Christmases.  I have wonderful memories of the tree hunts of my childhood.  Like other things I loved that I’ve not been able to share with my children, it was hard to let this go. Still, I felt like it was time.  With an artificial tree, we could put it up whenever we wanted–never mind if someone was sick or not.  And it could be decorated at leisure when my law student could come home.

Because as lovely as the ornaments are and as much as I love the stories behind each and every one (and if you have a month or two, I’ll tell you each one), it’s the lights, y’all.  It’s the lights that lift my spirits and give the room a glow like no bit of sunlight can.

Those lights create magic.

Lovely twinkling magic.

So I could tell you that it’s still up because my tree only went up on the 17th.  Or I could tell you that it’s because it’s artificial and I don’t have to worry about needles falling or fire hazards.  Or I could tell you that we just haven’t had the time, what with having wonderful family from out of state here with us after Christmas.

And while those things might be true to some degree–those are not the reasons why.

During these darkest days of the year, that tree with its little non-LED lights has given me hope.  It has been the light that draws my soul towards it and that hope like a moth to the moon.  The magic that I saw so brilliantly in the wee hours of Christmas morning before I retired for a few hours’ slumber remains.  It whispers to me–“All will be well, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

There is promise. The sun, the warmth, the days will lengthen.   The light will return.

But until then, I find joy and peace in the twinkling lights that someone in a warehouse somewhere painstakingly attached to my faux tree.  Bless them and bless that peace that surrounds me every time my eyes land on that luminous evergreen.

And bless all of you.  I hope that when you find something that brings you joy and peace and puts magic into your world, making your heart sing, that you will hang on to it too.  Some years are like that.  Some years we just need to keep those trees up.

And that’s okay.

Love  and twinkly lights to all.

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Her Lovely and Gentle Ways

Today found Winter clinging to every last bit she could, refusing to let go of the grip she had on my toes.  I am so tired of being cold, weary, and of coming home in the dark.

But on this day, when Winter was hanging on for all she was worth, her genteel sister crept out from behind the veil where she was hiding and whispered.  As her breath hit the air, it warmed slightly.  It was as though she were timid and not ready to be seen in large gatherings, but still–I caught a glimpse.  It would seem she took a little walk and left in her wake her dainty little footprints in the form of the blossoms that bowed and nodded as a gentle breeze wafted through–the pink a shade of blush or bashful, I couldn’t be quite sure which.

In the air, all around serenaded her, trying their best to convince her to stay as the birds sang their songs and frog music played in the background.  Even the sun put on a show for her before he headed for bed, inviting her to stay over and continue her visit tomorrow.

Ahhh, well, as the sun parted company with the sky, and all grew dark, I knew she had left us for a bit, uncertain if the timing was right or not.  As my soul thirsts for bare feet and warm grass and the kiss of the golden sun on my face, I do hope she will feel more at home tomorrow.  Or the next day.  And maybe she will set up camp and plan to stay for a while longer than a day here or there.

I’ve missed her.

And all of her lovely and gentle ways.

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prunus persica in bloom

Little Bits of Green

This afternoon between piano recital and our time at Evening Prayer, I took Miss Sophie for her afternoon constitutional.  We went a little further than we normally do, as there were a lot of children playing near our house, and Miss Sophie is, well, easily distracted from the task at hand.

In the quiet as she sniffed all the things, I took the time to look around and appreciate the fact that I wasn’t freezing standing there.  The blue of the sky was classically beautiful, and the sun shone brightly.  But it was when I looked down that I saw something that surprised me.

Georgia or not, it’s still winter here.  We’ve had a few days that have me crocheting warmer colors on my temperature blanket, but lately we’ve been back into the “my toes are cold and want to go home” kind of weather.  There are hardly any trees other than evergreens with leaves on them, my bulbs aren’t growing yet, and the grass is brown–and dead.

But as I stood there looking and thinking while Miss Sophie did her dog thing, I noticed that the grass wasn’t all brown.

I saw bits–if ever so few and tiny–of green.

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Wow.

It really surprised me.  I stood there, chiding myself, Well, what did you think, Tara?  That the brown grass just one day, blade by blade, would turn green and spring would officially be here?

I suppose not, but I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much attention to the process.  It’s just been brown and dead and then one day, the grass is green, it’s warm, and my flip flops are back where they belong.

On my feet.

But today I realized something.  In the midst of that brown and dying grass, well below what the eye can detect, there is life.  The green is there.  Waiting.  Even when we don’t see it.  Waiting for the right situation, and the right season.

And then I heard my Mama: Ecclesiastes 3.  (her favorite)  To everything there is a season.

The new life is there.  And one day, when the time and season is right, it will choke out all of that death, and all around us there will be rebirth and life and growth.

One day…..

what has been in the works all along will be apparent and shine through the brown grass and darkness.

Wishing you all a glimpse of green grass today and everyday.

Love to all.

Be the Light

When I was in grad school and had a class called “Spirituality and Family Therapy,” my mind was blown.  So many good books, so many great thinkers and powerful conversations.  One of the ideas I was introduced to was “soul of place.”

I think I had always known about it and felt it, but this was the first time having words put to the idea.

The Soul.  Of place.

I knew this when I said goodbye to my Granny’s farm.  It was even more real the first time I returned years later, to walk around and see the shadows of the stories of the past.  The day I locked the door to my Great Aunt’s house, the one she lived in my entire life, where so much laughter and games of Go Fish echoed in the air, just before signing the papers to sell it to a new family…..I felt the soul of place in every fiber of my being.  Each and every time I set foot at Blackberry Flats, I breathe a little easier. The air is richer and it fills my soul.  The pasture where I learned to ride and the little building where I curled up on top of the hay with my cats and a book are all still there.  The tree that I sat under while still in college has spread its branches just as our family tree has.

Memories.  Light.  Love.  All the stories.

This has happened one other time for me.  It actually happened the first time I walked through the doors.

About five and a half years ago, I walked into a coffee shop that I had heard about long before it had become a reality.  It was a non-profit venture by a group of churches in the Presbytery—churches and church people who realized that not everyone feels safe or comfortable in a church building.  They were looking for a different way to “do church,” to be a community.

And they found it.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the lightbulb etched into the cement floor.

Light.

And that was the second thing I noticed.  How the room glowed.  How it was lit up with more than just the energy from the bulbs overhead.  It was bright with a beautiful spirit.  A calming spirit of peace.

And my soul sighed.  Home.

My family and I have spent countless hours in that little coffee shop in Kathleen situated alongside the GW Boutique, Stevi B’s, and the movie theater.  For coffee, for conversations, for book groups, for art classes.  It’s where I learned to knit and to pray out loud.  It’s where people see the best in others and listen with their whole hearts.  It’s the place I last sat with my dear sisterfriend before she left this world, where we shared our hearts and stories over soup and salad.  It’s where I learned to love pimento cheese and was actually captured on film sharing how good it was, “It’s toasted!” This little coffee shop saw me transition from lattes to black coffee, and my friends the baristas made the very best of both.  This coffee shop is where I sat for hours, set up to sell Beads for Life just a week after my Daddy passed.  It was a sanctuary, and it held my heart gently.  In those hours, in that light, I made my first tiny steps toward healing.  Something I’m still working on.

Grief is an odd duck, isn’t it?  It’s not like this information is new to me.  I know that, and each and every time I’m thrown back on the wheel, I realize it anew.  This whole experience, since we got the word at the end of November that our precious coffee shop was hurting and might have to close, I’ve felt the sting of a terminal diagnosis all over again.  The hope that maybe, just maybe, something or someone can change all of this, the ups and downs and ups and downs and finally, the overwhelming realization, that no, there really is nothing more that can be done…..

yeah, I’ve done this a few times already.

And while it’s a place—yes, just a few square feet that we are losing, not a person—I still grieve.  I grieve for the soul of Bare Bulb Coffee.  I grieve because my littles have begged to sell lemonade or cupcakes or pictures they make to save the coffee shop they love.  I grieve because my oldest has found peace and comfort within the shop walls on more than one occasion when her world was falling apart.  Her love of playing music has been reignited sitting there on Sunday afternoons, or out on the patio in nice weather, just strumming and talking and doing life.  I grieve for all of the experiences my children will not have because the doors are closing.  It was our safe place, a place where we all felt “home,” and that’s not something that is easily found just anywhere.

Next Monday night the door will be locked for the last time, the last cup of coffee poured, the last smile shared as change is given, the last story told over the tables, the last hand held sitting on the couch in the corner.  The last backpack to fight hunger will have been packed, and the last book purchased for the literacy program that is a part of the mission of Bare Bulb Coffee.  These things might continue elsewhere, but it will not be the same.

I’m not sure if I will be there when the door is locked for the last time.  I’ve thought about it.  I have a week to decide.  I’m not sure if I can handle being present for one more passing.  It is precious and hard and beautiful and brutal and all of these things, and I treasure those moments in my heart.  But I know that the hardest moment will be when the Open sign is unplugged, and the lights are turned out.

That is when our work will truly begin.  For those of us who have loved her, who have found solace in her soul and light, we will have to become the light.  To welcome all as she did.  To offer a cup of water to the thirsty, just as she did.  To sit with those who cry, to celebrate with those who are joyful.  It will be up to us to light up the darkness and to show others the hope in the brokenness.  It is important for us to continue to do all of these things…..together…..or she will have been here in vain.

Tonight I’m thankful for the dreamers, for the ones who took a spark and created a bright light for our community, for the world.  It was so much more than a coffeeshop, so much more than its tagline—“hot coffee, cool mission.”  It’s where I grew up, where I asked hard questions and wrestled with them with folks who thought differently and who challenged me to do so as well.  It’s where I said so many hellos and a few heartbreaking goodbyes, this place where strangers became friends, and friends became family.  I am thankful for all of them, and my life is richer for this place, for her soul, and for the community she leaves behind.

Thank you, Bare Bulb Coffee, and all of your beautiful people.  Thank you for the ones we knew and loved and for the ones who taught us what being different was like.  Thank you for the books and the stories and the hugs and the tangled knots and the hands that helped each other with knitting and painting and life.  Thank you for being open to all of us, no matter what we looked like or what stories we carried in our hearts.

Thank you, Bare Bulb Coffee, for the Light.

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My last painting at Bare Bulb Coffee, and her task for all of us she leaves behind. (The class was taught by Terri Siegel, a talented artist friend–one of many gifts the Bulb has given me.)

the fire within

that glint you see in her eye
is only a spark
compared to the fire that burns within

she is our future,
the place where our paths all converge
and her story
is the one that we’ve all been waiting for
to right the wrongs
we’ve protested and fought against
for far too long

her flame can take out
the strongest of them,
the ones whose hearts are soiled
with a taste for power,
and it can burn those who
aren’t ready
to join her on the journey,
the ones who try to veer her off her path

she is intent and focused
and what she dreams of one day
will be
because that flame from within
is blazing the way
for her to speak and be heard
write and be read
lead and be followed
listen and understand
dream and create
act and inspire

such fiery heat can scorch
but for the one willing
to walk alongside
and encourage
and feed her soul
and make her laugh

that one will never feel the cold

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don’t let them

don’t let them
tell you the stars aren’t really
diamonds
twinkling just for you
waiting to adorn your dreams
while you slumber
where you live out all your heart’s desires

don’t let them
tell you it’s silly to
guard your heart so carefully
or to love him so completely

don’t let them
convince you life isn’t hard
and that the world
isn’t broken

it is

but you in your diamonds
bringing life to your big dreams
holding the hand of the one
your heart calls home
giving from the beauty and kindness
that flows through your soul

you
will
change
it
all

 

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“Big Dipper Ursa Major over Old Faithful geyser Yellowstone National Park Wyoming Astrophotography” by Astroval1 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg#/media/File:Big_Dipper_Ursa_Major_over_Old_Faithful_geyser_Yellowstone_National_Park_Wyoming_Astrophotography.jpg