A Christmas Story I’d Like to Read

The book of Luke in the Good Book starts with first one pretty miraculous story and then another.

Elizabeth and Zachariah are pretty old, and one day the angel Gabriel comes to Zachariah, a priest, in the temple and tells him that Elizabeth is going to have a baby boy.  Zachariah thinks about this, his age and everything, and pretty much says, “You’ve got to be kidding me.  Do you know how old we are?”  Gabriel isn’t playing around, and he tells Zachariah that yes, it’s true, and just for not believing him, Zachariah will not be able to speak until after the baby’s birth.

Well then.

Meanwhile, Zachariah finishes his assignment, goes home, Elizabeth becomes pregnant, and Zachariah can’t speak.  In another town, Elizabeth’s cousin Mary is also visited by Gabriel.  Apparently he’s a pretty intimidating angel, as he tells Mary not to be afraid just as he did Zachariah.  He tells her about her pregnancy, how she’s been chosen by God to give birth to the Son of God.  She is also struck by disbelief, but I guess Gabriel’s getting used to it, because he kindly answers her questions and then tells her that Elizabeth is six months pregnant. “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:38)

Mary doesn’t let grass grow under her feet.  She takes off and heads straight to Zachariah’s house.  When she arrives she is greeted by Elizabeth, whose baby in her womb leaps at the presence of Mary and her unborn child.  Elizabeth somehow knows that Mary is the mother of her Lord and expresses her joy over Mary’s presence.  Mary responds from her heart filled with joy and gratitude over being chosen by God.  And then…..

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What?  I’m sorry.  I’m flipping through the Good Book, thinking to myself, “Somebody has taken a page of ten from this book.  What happened?  Three months?  Are you serious?  Nothing?”

Nope, nothing.  Not a word.

Now this.  This is the story I want to read.  Really, really.  Two women, each expecting her own miracle, hanging out together in a home where the man of the house cannot speak. (No offense meant, guys.)  Can’t you see them? They are the original awesome cousins and sister friends.  Giddy with laughter while kneading bread on the smooth wooden surface.  Quiet moments lost in their own thoughts as they sit in companionable silence while knitting or sewing or shelling peas.  Cleaning the house together–“many hands make for light work.”  Comparing pregnancy notes.  Sympathizing over the aches and pains.  Celebrating the little flutters and kicks.  Whispering in hushed yet excited tones over how the world is about to change.  Over the news that they know.  And what they imagine it will be like. Patting Zachariah on the shoulder good-naturedly as he sighs and tries to enter the conversation with his hands, trying to get his thoughts across.  Sitting together at the table sipping the soup and savoring the moments that would pass all too soon.

Three months.  Two women. Each sharing her own form of the miracle of new life.

This.  This is the Christmas story I want someone to write.  Yes, I’m okay with a fictionalized version.  I just know it would make for a great book–one that would cover all the gamut of emotions–joy, laughter, fear, worry, happiness, exhaustion, peacefulness, exhilaration, and anticipation.  The strength of women, cousins, sisters, sharing a journey–one that would take the world and all of us to places we’ve never been. These two women who shared three months’ time together, intimately and comfortably, are about to give birth to boys who are going to change the lives of everyone forever.

That’s a tale of epic proportions, and yet, it is beautiful in its simplicity.  The sharing of tasks, thoughts, time, and prayers.  And affection.  Love for one another, love for their unborn sons, and love for the God they seek to serve.

Yeah, that book would be placed at the top of my “to be read” stack.  And I don’t think Mt. Washmore on my couch, waiting to be folded, or hungry mouths or lessons needing to be done could distract me from it.  That’s a true story for the season.

(Anybody get wind of a version that I wasn’t aware of, please send me a link.  You will make my day.  🙂  )

 

 

(Update on my daughter’s friend, Miss K, who is in critical condition in the hospital.  She is still on the ventilator but it’s not set as high I believe, which is good.  They think she has improved enough to take her off the full-time dialysis machine to the 4-hour one.  She responded to her mother asking her if she was hot or if she wanted the air on.  And she shook her head yes, that she was ready to get out of the bed.  The doctors want to continue to keep her heavily sedated so her body won’t stress over anything.  They want her body to focus on healing from the sepsis and the pneumonia.  Her mother wrote: “For her Wesleyan sisters, have fun with your families and enjoy your holidays, she should be better and ready for you guys when you return…..that’s my own little prayer…”   As it is ours, sweet Mama.  Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers for Miss K and her family.   Their Christmas will be very different this year, and it makes me cry that she thought of her daughter’s friends and wished them well.  Life is so precious and fragile, isn’t it?  Love to all.)

Habitats and Hope, Happy Birthdays and Hanging On

This past Friday the littles and I went to Go Fish Education Center down in Perry.  This is a beautiful facility that is run by DNR.  The exhibits are interactive, and they have different areas set up like the waters of the different parts of Georgia, from the mountain streams up north to the swamps down south.  You can even borrow a fishing pole and sit out by the pond and try your luck at fishing.  It’s mostly a catch and release program, but in certain months (like October) you can take home what you catch.

They have started holding classes for homeschool students once a month.  We decided to try it last month and we were hooked (ha, no pun intended–seriously, just caught it in editing).  So this past Friday was our second class with Miss Clare, the Center Educator.  She taught about Habitats.  To begin with each child took a card with an animal on it.  Miss Clare asked each one to stick them on the map of Georgia in the habitat they thought best suited their animal.

Cooter drew a shark in the Habitat game.  He grinned really big and gave me a thumbs up.  He knew where to put this one.

Cooter drew a shark in the Habitat game. He grinned really big and gave me a thumbs up. He knew where to put this one.

The thing that we learned was some animals are adaptable and can live in different type habitats–like foxes, raccoons, and even some snakes.

Our state with the animals in their habitats.

Our state with the animals in their habitats.

After that the children played a game which demonstrated how limited resources (food, water, shelter) can affect the population and length of life of the animals.  In the game, after the first couple of “years” the population dwindled–too many deer and not enough of what they needed to live.  The children were running back and forth finding what they needed (or not as the case may be), laughing and enjoying the cool morning.  In the midst of the fun, the sobering reality hit me head on.

They played another game of hide and seek, with each person attempting to be a rabbit camouflaged so the fox couldn’t find him or her.  They really enjoyed that one.  Then we moved inside the facility to discuss the fish and other aquatic life in their habitats.

This is a school of goldfish.  They are in the gator habitat.  Only the gators won't eat them, so trout were put in to get the goldfish population under control.  Only they travel in "schools" so they look like one big fish, thus confusing the trout and saving their lives.  What do the gators eat?  Mice.  Apparently they get their calcium (bones), fiber (hair), and protein and vitamins (meat) all in one delicacy.  Oh if only it were that easy around here!

This is a school of goldfish. They are in the gator habitat. Only the gators won’t eat them, so trout were put in to get the goldfish population under control. Only they travel in “schools” so they look like one big fish, thus confusing the trout and saving their lives. What do the gators eat? Mice. Apparently they get their calcium (bones), fiber (hair), and protein and vitamins (meat) all in one delicacy. Oh if only it were that easy around here!

I learned the most in the gator exhibit.  That whole traveling as a school saving the lives of the goldfish.  Isn’t that amazing?  They feed the gators mice, which is an all dietary needs met kind of meal for that crew.  I wish I could find something comparable to serve here.

It was a wonderful morning of learning, laughter, and play.  As we left I saw these beautiful flowers.  It struck me how with all around them drying up and withering away, they were full of life and beauty–sort of blooming where they were planted kind of thing going on there.

These flowers seemed to crop up out of nothing.  Beautiful, aren't they?

These flowers seemed to crop up out of nothing. Beautiful, aren’t they?

Today Aub was following behind me across town on our way to our Sister Circle.  While we were parking my phone rang and it was Aub.  I looked in my rearview mirror.  Yep, she was back there.  Car looked okay.

“What?” I answered.  Yeah, I’m that kind of loving Mama.

“I think….I mean, I’m pretty sure…..is that a frog on my door?”

I was grabbing my supply bag and getting ready to close my car door. “I don’t know, get out and see.”

“I can’t.  Unh uh.”

I looked back.  She was still sitting in her car.  Cooter ran over and started jumping up and down, pretty much a confirmation that an amphibian had taken up residence.  I walked over.  Yep, a frog.

Note the college girl in the driver's seat holding her phone for dear life.  I have no idea how long he'd been riding like that, but you are correct, he does look a bit pale.  Probably terrified out of his mind.  What must he have thought when he found himself hanging on for dear life ONA CAR zippadeedoodahing down the road?

Note the college girl in the driver’s seat holding her phone for dear life. I have no idea how long he’d been riding like that, but you are correct, he does look a bit pale. Probably terrified out of his mind. What must he have thought when he found himself hanging on for dear life ON A CAR zippadeedoodahing down the road?

We regrouped and left him to his own devices to recover and went in for our Sister Circle.  My sweet sisters were already there and waiting.  We had great conversation and a lot of fun creating with a different way of painting, but that’s a story for another night.  One of our sisters, T, decided to use her favorite thing, the markers, to make her picture.  She drew this:

Home sweet home.  If only.

Home sweet home. If only.

When I walked over and admired her picture, I realized that this was a theme for her.  She draws houses and homes with birds or rainbows or sunshine.  My heart broke in that moment.  My dear sister friend is like the deer running out of resources.  I am not sure of her living situation, but I know it is not ideal.  She has been mistreated and abused by people she called friends and whom she trusted.  She has had moments, too many of them, feeling like those rabbits hiding from the fox.  She might have shelter but she doesn’t have sanctuary.  She might have food but her soul is starving.  She is trying to bloom in the midst of all around her.  I know she is, she has dreams and she’s shared some of them.  But like that frog today, I am afraid she is looking around, thinking where am I?  How did I get HERE?  And how on earth do I get off of this ride?  Please?!

There are many T’s in this world, in our own little community.  Living in habitats that are not fit for any living thing or person.  I have watched a dear friend stumble out from behind a dumpster sitting next to local restaurant.  Where he had been “LIVING.”  If he had been a dog, I know full well someone would have picked him up and cared for him before then.  How did we, our world, our people, our sisters and brothers, get to this point?  Adaptability in habitats is one thing, but no one should live like that.  Or like T is either.

Today is T’s birthday.  I didn’t know, but two of our sister friends did and they brought her some gifts they’d gotten especially for her.  I saw her hang her head and be overcome with shyness.  But I also saw something else.  Something that shone light through my broken heart and filled me with hope.  I saw this school of fish that protects each other from harm gather T in and hold her close.  I saw them care and I saw them love.  It wasn’t about the gifts, though that was so precious of them.  It was about them noticing her and taking her into their fold.  That right there people.  I am humbled.  And inspired.

Today is T’s birthday and my friend Baddest Mother Ever‘s birthday too.  When I was in the midst of my most vulnerable times, she gathered me into her “school” and made me feel safe and cared for.  Both of these women are important to me.  Both of them, so different, yet so much alike–they both inspire me with their stories and with their resiliency and with their unending capacity to love.

Today T gave me her picture.  On her birthday, she gave ME her picture of her “home.”

I was honored and touched by her heart.  I will keep it to remind me of our dreams and that until we all have a safe place to lay our heads, none of us can truly sleep well.

Before she left, I gave T this.  I had nothing else to give her but my love, which she already has.

20131022-222721.jpgIt’s nothing much.  I gave it to her with a hug and a whisper about dreaming and birthday wishes and walking with her to see them come true.  This is my birthday wish for T and for Baddest Mother Ever too.  I love you both, and this is what I want for you.  For your heart’s desire, for your very special wish from your heart, for that to be granted.  For there always to be a school of folks ready to gather you in and stay right by your side. For you to continue to be strong and share your stories with the world so they will know about beauty in brokenness and hope in the dark.  And for you to find strength in your weakness and find a way to hang on during those bumpy rides.  Most of all, I want you both to know how much you are loved.  And treasured.  Because you are.  ❤

Weathering the Storms

I remember when my brother first introduced me to Frederick Buechner.

He shared this quote with me, and I was hooked.  And thankful.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
― Frederick Buechner, A Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

Another version of the quote is, “Vocation is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Good stuff.  And it gave me freedom to believe that I might possibly be on the right track in my life.  That’s really good stuff.

Since then I’ve been paying more attention to Mr. Buechner and his thoughts.

Many an atheist is a believer without knowing it just as many a believer is an atheist without knowing it.  You can sincerely believe there is no God and live as though there is.  You can sincerely believe there is a God and live as though there isn’t.”

-Frederick Buechner, originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

That one calls for intentionality and focus in the choices we make every moment of every day.  Hard to do, but we have to try for the Light to shine through the darkness and for Love to win.

Then today there was this.

pic of buechner quote

Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and the storm within.” –Frederick Buechner

This moved me to tears.  We are all more alike than different.   It’s true, isn’t it?  We all face storms, and we need to give each other grace in that.  Underneath it all, we are the same.

Tonight I am thankful for Mr. Buechner and his thought-provoking messages. When I am facing storms it seems like people–family, friends, sister friends, even people I happen to meet for a moment–just come out of the woodwork to help me through it.  With laughter, with love, with presence.  If I will let them.  And that’s it.  Some people aren’t lucky like that–to have people who care enough to walk alongside, holding an umbrella.  And some people hold it all inside and don’t let others know about the storms.  And so they face it alone.

And that’s what breaks my heart.  For all of us.  For the ones weathering the storms alone and for those of us who don’t know…..I guess Mr. Buechner really explained it best when he said, “Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

This morning my friend Baddest Mother Ever reminded me of the song we sang at our eighth grade graduation: “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

Amen.

Celebrating Things Big and Really Quite Small

Celebration.  Jubilee.  Partying with the big fish.  (sorry, that one’s from way back)

This has been a week of things such as that.

And we have celebrated in all kinds of ways.

Cupcakes--perfect for any celebration!

Cupcakes–perfect for any celebration!

Some folks celebrate with food.   We usually do.

Balloons add a festive touch.

Balloons add a festive touch.

Balloons are especially fun for birthdays, weddings, housewarmings, new babies, and so much more.

These beautiful ladies now grace my kitchen.  My new favorite painting by Barbara Wilkinson--"Substantial Ladies Dancing."  Don't you just want to join them?

These beautiful ladies now grace my kitchen. My new favorite painting by Barbara Wilkinson–“Substantial Ladies Dancing.” Don’t you just want to join them?

Some people show their excitement and joy by dancing.

I finally learned to make the granny square triangles for my banner--Pinterest WIN!

I finally learned to make the granny square triangles for my banner–Pinterest WIN!

Some people create and decorate to show their enthusiasm.

This has been a week of new life and love and just all kinds of wonderful things.  All of which we have celebrated in one way or another.  A new baby with hugs and tears and gratitude.  A good week at school for our college girl with thankful hearts and storytelling and dancing with joy.  Progress in learning with composing a new song to sing around the house.  And finally, we have one more bit of news to celebrate as this week draws to a close–

remember when I told y’all Imma need me a puppy?

Here's our newest little one--isn't she adorable?

Here’s our newest little one–isn’t she adorable?

Well, here she is.  And isn’t she worth the wait?

Since coming home to her celebratory banner and cuddly corner, she has spent the afternoon snoozing for the most part.  She likes to run for a couple of minutes outside and then she’s stretched out snoozing–outside or in, it doesn’t seem to matter to her.  She’s also quite smart–she took on our college girl in a match of wits and won.

Tonight I doubt if there are three happier children anywhere else on the planet than right here with the Zoo Crew.  I’m pretty pleased as punch myself.  I’m reminded of Sister’s words, whispered to me in the wee hours of Friday morning after quite the eventful night.  “You know,” she said, with heavy lids, “a puppy doesn’t need feeding in the middle of the night.”  I smiled. “Yes. I know.”

But even if she’s wrong and this little girl needs something during the night that I need to wake up for, I am thankful for this season in my life.  As Mama said so often, “To everything there is a season.”  And this is my season to watch my littles grow a little less small as they care for and play and laugh with this long-waited for puppy.  Everyone needs their own Spot.  And now we have ours.

pic of ME puppy shirt

Yeah, She Makes Me Crazy But Don’t Anybody Else Mess With Her

I grew up as the oldest of two sisters and a baby brother.   My sisters born 3 and 5 years after me are 17 months apart.  For a long time we were referred to as “Tara and the girls.”  I liked it, them probably not as much.

pic of sister love

Growing up my sisters, either as a team or individually, could make me crazy.  They could make choices that would confuse me to no end or they would do things that were seemingly done for the sole purpose of aggravating me.  Yes, l could and did complain about them on any number of occasions.  (And I even tattled once or twice. Ahem.)

But don’t let me hear anybody else say anything bad about either one of them.  That’s how it was growing up.  I could fuss about either one until the cows came home and then some, but the first word out of someone else’s mouth and I would come undone.  I guess I was (and maybe still am) the kind of sister who came out, bat swinging, saying “Where are they?”

In the past two days, I’ve been reminded of us as the team we were growing up.  Mess Cat, Sister, and I worked together and made some big stuff happen.  Because we love each other, and because no matter what foolishness we were talking two, six, twenty-four, or 144 months ago, that’s what our family does.  Steps up and takes care of their own.

I can remember when Daddy would drive us all to school together in his truck.  Mess Cat’s hair wasn’t done one morning because we were all running late, and it was our own faults.  I reached over and fixed it as best I could while we were in the truck.  I felt so bad for her and wanted to make it right.  Years later when my previous life fell apart, she was the one who came to me and walked me through the journey of moving–walked nothing, she made it happen.

I remember going and getting Sister from her first grade classroom after school and watching her hug her new friends goodbye.  I took her hand and we walked together to where Mama had parked to pick us up.  The night before my college graduation and the day we had to be moved out of the dorms, Sister came back to campus and took my hand–she helped me pack and eventually told me to go to sleep and she’d finish up.

That’s how we roll.  Together we can be a force to be reckoned with.  Ask our brother, I’m sure he’s felt the Force a time or two.

So I reflect on the experience of the past two days–Mess Cat taking the littles so I could be with Sister as she brought new life into the world, Sister being so much stronger than I could ever imagine, and the tears I held back in the face of memories and fear and exhaustion.  We were a team, and it just felt right.

This new life that has been thrust upon us–of being the grownups now that Mama and Daddy are beyond–is hard.  And I think the hardest part is not being able to fix everything simply by holding a hand or by brushing bangs this way or that.  Life is so much more complicated and painful than that.  So.  Much.  More.

Because no matter how aggravated I get with either of them (and it doesn’t happen much at all anymore–this new life of grownuphood is teaching tolerance and respect and that life’s too short for all that junk), I still want to throttle anyone who is hurting them.  I want to fix whatever situation is frustrating them.  And I want to tuck them in at night and wish them sweet dreams or stay up late and giggle once again, all of us together, sharing whispered secrets under the cover of darkness and quiet and innocence.

But it can’t be.  So we visit when we can.  We listen to each other’s concerns and support whatever choices each is making the best way we can.  In the midst of the chaos of spouses and children and washing clothes and dishes and working and taking care of pets and houses and vehicles and (every now and then) ourselves, we somehow try to communicate that if one ever needs another, we’re all here.

And yesterday we proved that.

If you have a sister, call her.  No matter what junk has come between you, if there’s any joy in the memories you have of her at any time in your lives, tell her.  Hug her if she’s close by.  Because life is too short to let all that get in the way of love and sisterhood.  And there’s just way too much that sisters can’t fix when we get older.  That’s what is breaking my heart the most.

And if you don’t have a sister, call your friend.  You know, the one who makes you laugh because she tells the greatest stories about life and real stuff and can laugh with you through all your stories too.  That friend who tells you to take care of yourself and threatens to hound you until you do.  That friend that takes the time to check on you and see how you’re doing on a regular basis.  Give thanks and give a shout out to her.

And if fixing things for her is not an option, and way too often it’s not, give a hug, lend an ear, and just love her no matter what.  They are gifts, sisters and sister friends, and those are the kind of gifts to be treasured.  Life begins and ends and what comes in between is what we make of it, with the ones with whom we surround ourselves.

So what I’m saying is, go love on a sister.  Love may not be able to fix everything, but it can hold your hand when things are a mess, give you a high-five when “you done good,” and wipe your tears when your heart breaks.

May your days be filled with more joy than sadness, more peace than turmoil, and lots more laughter than tears–and for the days that seem broken and lost, may you find a sister or sister friend there to hear you and to walk alongside you through the pain. I love you all, my sisters and sister friends.

A New Voice of Hope

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In this place I have witnessed life and death, and tonight, new life. The moment of hearing the voice of a new one in our world who might one day cure the cancer that took her loved ones away too soon or find a way to help the ones who walk the streets in her new hometown…..such beauty and dreams surround her. And yet the echoes of the beeping of machines haunted us today just as they did before. And the fear that seems to lurk in corners of places like this was waiting to grab hold of people in uncertain places like we have been today.

But in the end, love and redemption won out and there is a new little squeaky voice of hope among us.

Welcome little one. Dream big. May you always know how much you are loved by those here and those watching over you from beyond the thin veil, and may you share that love with those who come along to journey beside you. Peace and joy and laughter to you today and everyday, our precious little one.