A Weekend With the Gardeners

Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.  –Anthony J. D’Angelo

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One is not done growing or grown “up” when she leaves Wesleyan College as a young woman.  When she returns “home,” Wesleyan and all her sisters will continue to feed her soul and empower her to bloom and to continue becoming more–more of whom she was created to be–with love, laughter, and shared stories.  Tonight I am thankful for those gardeners who came into my life almost 29 years ago.

I love you, and I treasure you–your laughter, your hugs, your compassion, your frivolity, and your hearts.  I love that the women whom I started growing up with will snap pictures of you up to mischief one minute and then help you put things right in another.  They laugh over silly and joyful things, they tear up over injustices and hurt, they stand together and are strong.

May you each find yourself blessed with a charming gardener.  It’s planting season, y’all.  Let’s go love on some folks and grow some blooms.

Love to all.

to the next chapter

A star in the dark is thy glorious past.....

A star in the dark is thy glorious past…..

 

her past is my past

we are all like threads interwoven into the story that is hers

each bringing our own color and beauty and gifts to the tapestry

of all that has gone before

 

we are us

the ones who came young and left younger,

not quite ready for what the world might hold

but eager to take that step and fly

only just realizing that to fly one must leave the nest and

forge ahead

 

tonight the star in the dark was shining brightly

as we returned to the nest,

the stories were told once again

with laughter and tears

and the hugs hello lasted so much longer than

those goodbye hugs of so many years ago

 

as I saw her smile

and heard her voice

I realized how much I had missed her

 

and that with her

the light was brighter

and the melody more beautiful

and my heart was full

 

I had forgotten what life was like

with her

and in the remembering,

the tears flowed

for the time apart

 

but as we listened and laughed and shared

with so many things that didn’t have to be said

because this one who knew me well

smiled

and I knew

our stories would always be bound

 

and we set out to write another chapter

together

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stick and the Stalk and Their Stories

Six or seven years ago I was at the Super Savings Store with the littles.  I remember going in through the gardening section and seeing they had a lot of “plant type” things on sale.  I saw that they had Iris bulbs.  For less than a dollar.  I grabbed them up–a couple of packs.  We paid for them, brought them home, and as a part of my daughter’s school project, she planted them in little shallow holes in the ground.

So much that could have gone wrong.

Old cheap bulbs.

Amateur planting.

The fact that we had no idea what we were doing.  At.  All.

And yet, they grew.

And they have every year since then.

I love the Iris.  It started with the Fella bringing me some when we were courting.  We had one printed on our wedding napkins.  And when we had to travel to Okinawa to have a Level II ultrasound done in anticipation of our Princess’ arrival, the room we stayed in for that trip had a painting of irises on the wall.  It just seemed…..right.

This year.  This year the green stalks came up out of the ground.  They looked weak and wimpy and were easily blown over with the wind or rain.  I just knew that it wasn’t happening this year.  It had been a good run.  I mean how long can those little brown knots keep growing such beauty?  Surely not much longer.

After all, everything else has long bloomed and moved on.

And then yesterday–

The tea olive, a gift from another sweet friend, has grown up so lovely, and the irises seem to be happy rising up amidst its branches.

The tea olive, a gift from another sweet friend, has grown up so lovely, and the irises seem to be happy rising up amidst its branches.

they took my breath away.  I forgot how elegant they are.  So graceful.  And that color.

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Perfection.

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They bring me great joy and what an amazing story they have.  Each one of those lovelies can claim a little brown knot as part of  her family tree.

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That gives me hope.

So does this.

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This “stick” came to us in a box.  It was a gift from a friend who can grow anything.  And her heart is as big as her green thumb.

She told me to put it in some dirt and pray.

So I found this old pot that was Mama’s in its previous life.   I put some soil in and planted the stick with the long root.  I gave it a home on my back porch Roost, and I waited.

It has earned its nickname “Hope Plant,” because each morning I walk out there to check on it, hoping to see some sign of life.

And then two days ago–voila!  That’s exactly what I found.

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Have you ever seen such a beautiful shade of green in your entire life?

Not me.

Today that little leaf was unfurled just a little more.  I shared this picture with friends on Facebook.  It’s been quite entertaining hearing everyone’s guesses as to what it might be.  Hydrangea?  Fig?  Mimosa?  All I know is it is not a Mimosa, because my friend said it’s not.  I promised to keep everyone abreast of its growth through #HopePlant updates.  To see how intrigued this has everyone is too much fun.  I am looking forward to the big “reveal.”  I can’t wait and yet I can.

It’s all about the journey too, isn’t it?

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy and hope that new life brings us.  I love the message that nature shares if we only pay attention.  Beauty can come from the plainest of things.  Good things come from dirt.  And from friends with giving hearts.  And what looks like a stick or a wimpy green stalk might just be filled with a wonderful story.

Just like us.  And our stories.

There is more than meets the eye.

May you find a message of hope in something that crosses your path today.

And everyday.

Love to all.

The Sanctity of Life and the Miracle of Grace

In September 2011 I heard a name I’d not heard before.  I heard it on the radio, saw it on Facebook.

Troy Davis.

This young man only three weeks older than I am was convicted for the August 19, 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, a police officer in Savannah, Georgia.  His execution was scheduled for September 21.  That day my heart was very heavy.  He had been denied clemency, but his execution did not happen at 7 p.m. as scheduled.  The Supreme Court was reviewing his case.

I sat on the edge of the bed in my dimly lit room.  My children were all asleep, the youngest piled in next to me.  The Fella was out of town for work and had been for quite some time.  I was alone, fervently praying for someone to save this man’s life, all the while fearing the worst.

In that moment, I realized that I did not, if I ever had before, have the stomach for capital punishment.

See, life and how very precious it is had just been impressed upon me greater than ever before.

My Daddy, my very much-loved Daddy, had just been admitted to Hospice only a few days earlier.

Life was precious.  And dwindling.

And in the quiet of the night, I begged God to step in, for someone to save a life that did not have to be ended.  Not like my Daddy’s.  His body had already given him a death sentence and clemency had been denied.

But for Troy Davis?  It could have been very different.

Only it was not to be.

The Supreme Court came back and denied a stay of execution.  And at 10:53 p.m. on September 21, 2011, Troy Davis was given a lethal injection.  Fifteen minutes later he was pronounced dead.

I can hardly type it without feeling sick.

I don’t want to argue the validity of capital punishment.  I don’t want to argue guilt or innocence.  I won’t even argue that if the function of prisons is to rehabilitate and change lives, why aren’t we rewarding those who do work towards that goal?

I am here to simply say, all lives matter.

If one says he or she is pro-life, doesn’t that mean pro-all life?

Earlier this past week, my sister-in-love shared the story of Kelly Gissendaner, who was scheduled to be executed on this past Wednesday night at 7 p.m. here in Georgia.  Kelly was convicted of plotting the murder of her husband.  The man who actually killed him is serving 25 years and will be up for parole in a few years.  I felt sick when I read the story my SIL shared for two reasons–the fact that I live here and this was the first I had heard of the story, and the fact that it was, once again, the willing ending of a life that didn’t have to be.

All that day my heart was heavy.  When the word came that the execution had been rescheduled for Monday, March 2, at 7 p.m. because of the inclement weather, I gave thanks.  I’ve never been so happy about snow in my life.

I’ve been piecing together Kelly’s story.  It is a heartbreaking and inspiring one, one of second chances and redemption.

I’m not going to talk about the certificate she earned while incarcerated.  You can read about that here.

I’m not going to talk about the women whose lives she touched and changed because of who she has become.  Her sisterfriends (and they call themselves that–oh my heart) do that so beautifully here.

I’m not going to share her words with you right now.  I hope you’ll watch this video and hear them for yourselves.

I’m not even going to talk about how unfair I think it is that the man who actually murdered Kelly’s husband, Doug, will be out of prison in 8 years because he took the plea deal first and testified against Kelly.  You can read about that here and find a link to copies of her request for clemency.

What I am going to say is that life is precious.  I know this.  For. A. Fact.  Like so many of us, I’ve had the lives of those I love taken away by disease and I. Am. Still. Heartbroken.   Because of that, I cannot be okay with inviting death in and ending a life like this.

I just can’t.

I was conversing with my wise writer friend, Lisa at My So Called Glamorous Life, about Kelly. Lisa lives out of state, and she shared this with me today:

“I had not heard of this case before I heard a radio dj mocking the prisoner because of her last meal order. I think that’s indicative of how people dismiss the value of a life.”

So tonight, as I stay up very late to finish this because time is of the essence, I’m not asking for anyone to do anything except–

PLEASE DO NOT DISMISS THE VALUE OF A LIFE.

All lives.  Yours.  Mine.  Kelly’s.  Everyone’s.

If you read her case, and think she deserves to die, then okay.  If you can be okay with it, then I have to respect that.  I hope you can respect that I cannot.

But if you read her case, and your heart cries out for things to be different, here are a couple of places you can go.  There is a Facebook page I just found that has a list of suggestions for helping here.  If you are a member of the clergy or know someone who is, you can sign this petition here.  (Out of state clergy are also encouraged to sign.)  At this point, it is my understanding that Governor Deal is the one who can step in and stop the execution.  I have emailed him twice, only to get no response, and I tried calling the number listed “in case of time sensitive matters,” and not only did I not get an answer but there also was no option to leave a message.  Simply no answer at all.  Here is the place to send him messages or call.  The video above also gives more contact information and ways to tag the Governor and the Parole Board if you are active on Social Media.

Thank you for reading this.  I am ashamed I was hesitant to write this at first.  I respect folks’ rights to their own opinions.  I don’t like to get into political rants, which is why I haven’t taken this to Facebook.  But my heart has been heavy about this–this is about life, the life of a woman who is my age.  Whose childhood and past led her to make some really bad choices and do some really, really bad things.  This evening I saw this on Love Wins Ministries‘ Facebook page, and I knew I had to write this.  Now.

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Because if I believe in redemption and grace, I have to believe in it for everyone.  And that’s why I’m writing tonight.  Because I do believe in grace.  And love.  And the sanctity of life.  Oh bless it, I know how precious it is.  That is why my thoughts and heavy heart have led me to write what I have the past two nights.

And I decided that I could not go to bed Monday night, whether the execution happens or not, if I didn’t speak up and ask for help.  Help in sending out the message that dismissing the value of a life, any life, is NOT OKAY.

Kelly Gissendaner after finishing her Theology degree through courses offered at the prison

Kelly Gissendaner in 2011 after graduating from the Theology program offered at the prison

May we all find ourselves filled with the peace that Kelly has found, and may a miracle come and give this story of redemption what it really deserves–grace.

Love to all.

 

My Daughter is Also My Sister

Yesterday was one of the biggest days of the year.

Right up there with Christmas and Easter and birthdays in our family.

Huge.

It was STUNT weekend at Wesleyan College, my alma mater.

My second home.  The place of many joyful and wonderful memories.  The place where I figured out what I believed and tried it on for size for the first time.

Where I became a Psychology major and experienced great internships at places like the Methodist Children’s Home and Macon Outreach at Mulberry UMC.

Where I made friends for life and promised to be loyal and true to this place that built me.

And where I had the great privilege and honor and pure-tee fun of being a part of this great tradition, STUNT.

This is the 119th year of this event, which was begun to raise scholarship money for a sister who couldn’t afford to return to campus by a group of students all those years ago.  They would not let that happen, so they started this competition between the classes where each class writes and produces their own comedy musical.  The winner gets the coveted STUNT Cup.

That’s what the sisterhood at Wesleyan is all about.  It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve last seen each other or talked, if one of us needs something, we are there.  I’ve had my sisters sit with me in darkness–be there when I was grieving, show up at my Mama’s funeral, send me messages of encouragement, and challenge me to step outside my comfort zone.  I’ve had my sisters remind me to give myself grace, and show up to cheer on my daughter and her class.  They’ve even been known to wear a class color other than their own, just to encourage another.

And that’s huge, y’all.  Once you enter as a Purple Knight, Golden Heart, Green Knight, or Red Pirate, you spend the next four years and the rest of your life pretty much embracing that color.

It’s all about the sisterhood.

And so was yesterday.  I took our Princess up for the day, as this is her favorite day of the whole year–when alumnae bring prospective students to campus for fun and friendship–some are their own daughters, some are not.  But all enjoy and have the time of their lives, which might explain why our Princess had her bag packed to go since she got back from last year’s STUNT.

It was a day spent with people I have known and loved for a long time.  Familiar faces etched onto my heart, almost as though they are a part of me.  My PirateFriend and her OnlyFriend, who shared the story of their friendship that began the first day of their freshman year, with the comment, “Hey, I like your pants.”  Y’all this is the friendship of a lifetime–I’m going to start telling people I like their pants.  If that’s the kind of lifelong sisterhood and love that comes of it, we should ALL be telling someone we like their pants.  They played a trivia game with the young girls visiting, and we laughed and had such fun.  We even sang and danced to the original number written by the group, “Rosie had a little puppy, and it’s okay to love puppies.” (sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”–a future hit, I’m telling you)

I loved hearing the years the daughters of my friends will be there.  I look at my baby girl and know she will be there on campus with some of these other legacies, and I smile.  We will be attending STUNT for many, many years, and I like the sound of that.

As the day went on, we were joined by more friends–sweet faces that haven’t changed one bit since graduation.  We took pictures and hugged and laughed that we had become those “old” alumnae who show up for things.  And we loved every moment of it.  One of the most precious moments was when my oldest, a sophomore at Wesleyan–more importantly, a Red Pirate–came up and met members of my class.  They embraced her as one of their own.  My favorite photo is one I’m not in–it’s my girl with my Purple Knight sisters.  Who stepped out of their knighthood for the night and cheered on the Pirates.  Auburn was the chair of her class’ STUNT committee for the second year in a row.  She and a committee of three other women from her class wrote the 30 minute comedy musical–they wrote the script, the songs, cast and directed it.  They have only been rehearsing for the past two weeks.

It’s tradition.

As the classes marched in one by one, each class sang their cheers.  “Night of the Screaming Women” is a well deserved moniker.  We’re loud and we’re proud.

Yes. We.  All of us alumnae were cheering along too.

And when the lights went down, my last glance back behind me showed me faces I have known for almost thirty years.

I was glad the room was dark.  I may or may not have teared up.  Ahem.

There were Purple Knights, Green Knights, Golden Hearts, and Red Pirates there, all with anticipation and beauty and joy etched into their faces.

And my girl’s 84-year-old grandmother was in the audience too.  There because of love.

But then, weren’t we all?

Yes.

The night was a good one.  The STUNTS were all good, and the Pirates won.

Well, in my book they did, but the judges saw it differently.  The Golden Hearts won the STUNT Cup and the Spirit Cup.  As seniors that was especially poignant.  They were thrilled and the night ended with lots of laughter and hugs and encouragement. With goodbyes and promises to see each other soon.

Before the Cups were announced though, there was a passing of the hats.  The Co-Chairs of the different committees will be Chairs next year.  It was time for them to name their Co-Chairs who will be the Chairs in 2017.

Since shortly after Aub set foot on campus, my girl has hoped to be tapped for this.  She’s spent years poring over my yearbooks and looking at the pictures.  She knew I loved STUNT and that I served as Executive STUNT chair my senior year.  “Mama, I want to do that too.  Wouldn’t that be cool?”

Well, only if you really want to.  I wanted her to do what she wanted to do at Wesleyan and not relive my years.

Long story short.  (or maybe a little shorter)

Last night her dream came true.  Auburn was named Co-Chair for 2015-2016.  Her junior year.  In the words of my daughter:

I.  Can’t.  Even.

As the announcement was being made, my classmate who is now an amazing member of the faculty at Wesleyan came up behind me and wrapped her arms around me.  She held on tight, and–

I.  Can’t.  Even.

See, she’s not one of my daughter’s professors.  It’s likely my girl won’t ever take a class from her.  But my friend has found her and loved her and–

Well.   She didn’t have to.

But that’s what the sisterhood is about.  And it lasts beyond the four years.  It lasts through generations.  And beyond.

It’s forever.

My friend whispered in my ear, “I’m so proud of our girl.” And she hugged me again.

Through my tears, I said, “Thank you for loving her.”

She waved her hand, “Don’t thank me for doing something that easy.”

Oh, my heart.

Today there have been so many pictures and posts on social media from my friends sharing their joy and happiness over being together yesterday.  One GreenKnight friend has said on more than one occasion, “It’s like going home.”

Amen.  And yesterday I sat upstairs in our “house,” and watched my girl and her sisterfriends SHINE like the stars they are.  I stood on stage with my sisterfriends and sang a song that another professor wrote, “Wesleyan is my school, Wesleyan is your school…..”  And my own daughter said she bawled.

She once told me that her friend who was STUNT chair last year was my special sister because we had a lineage between us of women who were tapped by the one before her, and it eventually was traced back to me.  And the one who tapped me and so on.

Well, huh.  I never thought of it that way.

And so now my oldest and much loved girl is a part of that lineage.  And I couldn’t be more tickled–because she’s happy.

My girl and me as the evening came to a close.

My girl and me as the evening came to a close.

So yeah, my daughter is also my sister.

It’s a Wesleyan thing, y’all.

And I’m a Wesleyanne for life.

I’m thankful for that and for all the treasures which that has brought and continues to bring me.

Love to all.

 

To Me, Age 22

A tearful and joy-filled day of remembering someone who loved life.  Loved cooking.  Loved people.  Loved his family.

And loved my sisterfriend.

As I sat there watching the slide show of pictures of him throughout his life, including the wedding pictures–the wedding I had the joy of being a part of, in the same building where I sat today with the tears flowing–

I found myself face to face with my 22-year-old self.

I saw her and my sisterfriend, sitting side by side in the little office with the cinderblock and wood top desk.  I saw them working together to get the job done, but also they laughed.  And they listened to music.

And they talked.

And in those moments between payroll and accounts payable and making signs and calculating timecards,

a friendship was born.

As I looked at my much younger self, I wanted to whisper–

That one sitting right there?  The one you just met and are getting to know?  The one who is funny and vivacious and kind and smart and is putting up with you right now at this very minute?

She is your sisterfriend.  She is going to continue putting up with you.

One day, you will be able to say, “I’ve known her for over half my life.”

One day, you will hug each other and hold on tight and whether the tears are yours or hers, whether it’s her sadness or yours, it won’t matter.

Because you will share the journey.

You will be there to laugh over the crazy things people do, the choices they make.

You will be there to stand up for each other, to say, “hey, this girl right here–you’d better treat her right.  Or else.”

You will be there to stand off to the side and bring comfort merely because you are there.

There will be periods of time, years maybe even, when you won’t hear from each other,

but when it all boils down to it,

when things get hard or wonderful or life finds you in need,

that one, she will be there for you.  Just as you better be for her.

Life doesn’t always deal you a friend like that one.

The one with the bat.

The one with the smile and laugh.  The one with the stories.

The one who will carry your stories with her to the grave.

The one who will let you into her family, who will share love with you just as she does.

Hey!  You!  The 22-year-old me who thinks she’s got it all together, who thinks life is rolling along pretty well–engaged, new job, college degree…..

Yeah, you do have it pretty good

but not because of any of those things.

It’s because of that girl right there.

Your sisterfriend.

And all of the women like her.

Who stand strong and love their friends fiercely.

Yes, girl, you have it good.  Now reach over and hug that girl next to you.  Both so young, both have so much wonderful adventures and heartache in front of you.  And it will be okay.  Not because it won’t hurt, not because you will get over it, but because you have a friend to share the journey with.

And to sit in the dark with you when the lights go out.

Because, my sweet self, they will go out.

No, don’t worry about a flashlight.  That’s only temporary.

Grab your sisterfriends.  That’s what light eternal is made of.

Friends.

 

Wishing you all a friend who will spend the next twenty-four plus years putting up with you.  (And a small warning, once you offer to use your bat “as necessary,” there are some folks who are hard to get rid of after that.)

 

Love to all.  Especially my sisterfriends.

 

sisters, light, and hope

she leans in close and lights the candle

as the world grows dim

but she is there

to shed light

and hold my hand

her words and her silence,

they both comfort me,

as she knows which is needed when

because

she knows

me

 

she claps her hands and

then grabs mine

she dances a jig,

leading me in a happy dance,

in celebration of the news

she is happy for me

because

she knows

me

 

she looks me in the eyes

and tells me not the words

that I so long to hear

but instead

the words

I need to hear

the ones that challenge me

to head out in the direction

I’m meant to–

not to stay here and rest

on my laurels and the couch

You can do it, she tells me,

because

she knows

me

 

she weeps alongside me

my pain is hers

she shares in my heartbreak,

my brokenness,

my loss

her tears mingle with mine

as she wraps her arms around me

and I lean in close,

comforted,

because

she knows

me

 

our days of riding bicycles

and writing plays,

playing softball

and making up games to play for hours

on end

are gone with the ticking of the clock,

the flipping of the calendar page

no more do we dream as we once did

our hearts know the true endings

and they aren’t always happy ones

and she wishes she could change

it all

because

she knows

me

 

 

and still

though we know the sadness sometimes wins,

that darkness has triumphed and can again

still

we light the candle

with the Hope that somewhere in the world

a sister will see it and find the strength to light

hers too

and then another and another

until the light shines through us all

and the darkness in our hearts is no more

 

she wants that for me, for her, for us

all of us

she loves and she is a treasure

far beyond

gold and rubies

and chocolate chip cookies

because

she knows

me

 

and being known

and loved

through everything

is the

greatest gift of all

 

Last night we lit the first candle on our Advent wreath–a precious tradition.  This week the candle represents Hope.  It is my hope that when one of us is hurting, another sister will turn to her and share her light until the one who is hurting is able to light her own.  And no one will have to struggle in the darkness alone again.  

Love and light to all.  

 

 

Our Advent wreaths.....waiting for us to share the light.

Our Advent wreaths…..waiting to share the light.