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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Partying at the Pit

To tell this story, I need to share some background information.

First of all, last Monday the Fella took the day off from work to build me a fire pit.

A fire pit!

I’ve been thinking about one for quite  a while now, and I finally decided to drop that as my official hint as to what I wanted for my birthday.  (Subtle ones, you know, like sending him how-to-build-your-own-fire-pit youtube videos and website links and coming right out and telling Aub and the littles, “I want a fire pit for my birthday.” Very subtle, and yet it somehow worked.)

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He went and got the supplies from the getting place, and they even had a kit to make it a little easier.  When he got home he had all kinds of help in the form of the zoo crew.  They dug, plotted, placed, and poured.

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And we had us a fire pit.

Only we had no firewood or roasting sticks, so we decided to hold off until we got those things.

It’s been a fun week of imagining what it would be like.  Our Princess wants her big sister to bring home her guitar and for us all to sing songs around the fire.  She’s the idyllic one.

We made to another trip to the getting place to finish our list, and then–today was the big day.  The First Ever Wienie Roast at Buckingham Bottom.

I don’t know who was more excited, me or the littles.

Or their neighborfriends.

We had a yard full by 9:30 this morning and they were still playing strong when the Fella went out to start the fire an hour later.  Of course our Princess excitedly told them what we had going on.  About 11:15 she came to the porch door and called me over.  “Chloe has something to tell you.”

I walked over.  “Yes ma’am?”

This little eight year old peered in through the door and said, “Well since I haven’t had lunch yet, can we–well, I can’t speak for the rest of my friends, they might have had lunch, but could we roast hot dogs too?”

Oh me.

A simple Sunday was all I was after, y’all.  Lunch with the family, wrap up laundry necessities for the week, and then a nap.  Yep, that was all I was hoping for.

And yet–

As though lit up in lights, my “words” for the past couple of years came to mind–interruptible, intentional, open, with.  How could I turn away someone who was hungry?  Or at least fascinated by the idea of cooking hot dogs over a fire?  I once told someone who asked “what I was” that “well, I love Jesus and how he led his life”…..not trying to be cliche’, but I knew what Jesus would do.  And I was sorely ashamed.

I told Chloe I needed to wrap up what I was working on, and while I was thinking about it, what would her Mama think?

“Oh, I have a walkie-talkie, and I can just call and ask her.”

Brilliant.  Do that.

After making sure the Fella was okay with us adding to the guest list, I told our Princess to have all her friends run home and ask their parents.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to invite them or that we didn’t have enough food, I think it was that I didn’t want to be responsible for other people’s children around a fire, handling hot roasting sticks, or for feeding other folks’ children.  (Food allergies can really make you paranoid, for your child and for others.)

But once we committed to it, I felt at peace.

Which is what You were aiming for up there, huh?

I cut up apples (I cannot feed other people’s children just hot dogs, save that lack of nutritional balance for my own crew) and put everything we needed on a tray.  When I walked out they were so excited; they were all sitting by the fire on logs from our old tree, empty roasting sticks already in their hands.

Bless ’em.

They were too sweet.  No one except mine had actually roasted hot dogs much if at all.  Chloe said she didn’t even like hot dogs until today.

Well there you go.

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There’s something magical about a fire, isn’t there?  The flavor it adds to food, yes.  But the camaraderie of sitting around it and talking and cooking over the flames, watching the smoke chase the “pretty ones,” and mouths watering in anticipation–it takes us back to our roots, doesn’t it?  Cooking outdoors, over a fire.  Yep. Magical.

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And I could see it in their eyes.  Everyone wanted to keep roasting, they each ate two hot dogs, with the exception of Chloe (but she did enjoy the one!)–only the second one was with no bun.  I know that they would have kept roasting many, many more if we hadn’t made the rule “You roast it, you eat it.”  I’ve felt the same way over many years of wienie roasts.  The roasting is the best part, but you can only eat so much.  The struggle is real.

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When we moved on to the marshmallows, I was faced with giving them a number, their limit of the max they could roast and eat.  We came up with four, and I honestly have no idea why.  It just seemed like a nice round, even number.  I didn’t want anyone to get too hyped up or go home sick from all that sugar.  So four was it.

And again Chloe was brave and tried one.  One.  She doesn’t like marshmallows, but she found out she does love roasted marshmallows.  Awesome.

Listening to them as they sat on the logs they’ve rolled around the yard for months now, realizing that I almost missed out on this fun and fellowship, I knew some church was going on around that fire–and not a word of sermon preached.

Of course there was some smack talk going on about who could cook the best hot dog ever, and I might have been the one to start it.  I finished it too.  After all had their fill, I sat down by the fire that was, by this time, dying out.  I found a sweet spot over white ashes and sat and sat and waited and waited.  Yeah, the roasting is definitely my favorite part.

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And after a long time of sitting and waiting, I had the perfect hot dog.  Maybe that’s what folks who love to fish feel.  All that sitting and waiting coming to fruition…..

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By this time the children were all running around the yard playing “Mother, May I?” and “Hide and Seek” with occasional breaks to build their “earth” in the sand/water box.  I called them over to see my perfect hot dog.  One wrinkled up her nose in distaste and said, “That’s burnt,” but her brother looked at me incredulously, “We could cook them that much?”  I nodded.  “Okay then, next time, I’m going to cook mine that long and I’m going to win.”

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In the end we decided by a show of hands that everyone had fun and everyone loved the food, so we all were wieners–I mean, winners.

Yeah, I like that.

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This afternoon I saw this quoted by Advent Conspiracy.  And my heart breathed a sigh and said, “Yes.”  And I knew what this is saying, because I lived it today.  I got to reclaim my own real life today. And oh, was it a glorious one!

Tonight I give thanks for a family tradition started by my Granny years ago and continued on by my Aunt and all of our family still.  There truly is nothing else like it.  I am grateful for my family and their gift of time and energy in making my dream a reality.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a little girl’s question that turned my day on its end, and for an unplanned journey that wound up being the best one after all.

Who can you be interruptible for and be with? What can you be open to and intentional about?  It just might make your day. Go reclaim your own real life.

Love to all.

All I Want for Christmas is a Beautiful Mess

One of our Rising Bloggers, Deanna at The Long Run, is hosting our group this week, and she asked “What would be the best gift someone could give you this year?” 

Last week at our Sister Circle we talked about the season we are in, the season of Christmas.

The season I have newly dubbed the “Season of With.”  The celebration of the time that God decided to be “with” us in every sense of the word and sent a baby to be with and grow and live as we do.  With.

It’s also the season of being with each other.  That kind of gets lost in the hustle and rush of shopping and struggling to find just the right gift for each person on our list–a list that seems to get longer and longer–and to stay out of debt.  It seems to get harder and harder each year, doesn’t it?  Add to that the stress of events and parties and entertainment that is at this time only or you “miss out,” and it’s almost too much to bear.

But y’all, what if we’ve got it all wrong?  What if it’s not about Christmas presents, but instead about Christmas presence?  Being present, really being with someone, much in the way that God was and has been ever since.  Walking alongside some, ahead of others leading the way, and clearing the path for those to come.  Christmas presence.  The kind of being present that we should aim for all year long.

The other day the question came up: “What would be the best gift someone could give you this year?”

Ahem.  Really? Well, since you asked.

I thought about the closet upstairs I’d love to have converted into a small library.  Fleeting visions of my back porch becoming my haven, my own little spot, came and went.  Books?  Always.  Just sign me up for a book of the week club from any bookstore you choose (but I choose the book!).  Boots?  You can never have too many, can you? A new bag from ABAN?  Candles from Prosperity Candles?  Anything at all from Lisa Leonard–oh my YES!

But…..

all of these fall flat when I sit and think about them.  What I really want and crave this year, the time of year filled with darkness, very different this year yet again–what I want most is with.

It seems so selfish.  More so than the library upstairs or the back porch nook.  It is so hard to admit this is what I want because we live in a world where we are encouraged to be “strong” on our own, not to need anyone.  Vulnerability is a mess, isn’t it?

But yes, I want with.  I want to sit over a cup of coffee or hot cider or ice water and visit and laugh and be in that moment.  I want to listen to someone else’s stories and have them listen to mine.  I want to share my dreams and be encouraged and encourage another’s dreams.  I want to laugh until my sides hurt and cry until I think I have no more tears.  I want to talk about the pain and the brokenness and grief and the joy and the happiness and the crazy mixed-up life of living betwixt and between the two.  Or sometimes both at the same time.  I want to ignore all of the clocks and demands of everyday life and act as if we have all the time in the world to just be.

I garnered the courage to be honest with myself when I sat with my sisters yesterday at our Sister Circle.  We were talking about living this life with others.  How we cope, how we get past our disappointments, how we love and get through the holiday season, how we celebrate it and find joy in our days.  P shared that it’s hard for her, because her grown children automatically expect things of her.  That she will be the one to cook.  That she will buy them all a gift.  That she will always be around.  She said that what she would treasure most this Christmas or any time of the year would be for her daughter or son or grandchildren to say, “Hey, let’s meet for lunch tomorrow.”  She quickly said that she didn’t even want them to pay for the meal.  Just show her she mattered by inviting her, by wanting to spend time with her.  WITH.

I get it.  Bless her heart.

I asked Miss N how she copes with all of the seasonal events and pressures and expectations.  She shrugged and in her wise, quiet way that I’ve grown accustomed to, she said, “I just keep on working on being the person I say that I am.”

Wow.  That is a beautiful goal.  For every single person. Every single day.

And so it was that the words of these precious women I love reinforced in my heart that the best gift we can give someone else is to be with them.  Invite someone to join us for something–anything–it doesn’t have to cost money.  Ask a friend to join me for a walk.  Or lunch.  Or whatever.  The important thing is the WITH and letting them know they matter.  That we choose to be with them.  That is the greatest gift we can give anyone.

And the thing is, there are a lot of anyones, someones who need to hear they matter and that we choose to be with them.  My friend Mac who is camping out in the rain and cold in the woods each night.  Miss N who has family she could visit but chooses not to–haven’t gotten to that part of the story yet.  T who came back the other day and shared that she is trying to get custody of her son again.  The manager at the local restaurant, who works long hours and rarely gets told she’s appreciated.  P who just wants her children to want to be with her. The student preparing for finals next week.  The young woman who drives by the hospital after work to see her Mama and then drives home to her babies with worry on her mind.  The man trying to make ends meet with each paycheck he brings home.  There are too many to list.  Because it’s all of us.  All of us want to be chosen, to know we matter, to feel that someone WANTS to be with us.

So the greatest gift someone could give me this year is the gift of with.  And at the risk of giving something that I’d like to get for Christmas, I daresay it’s the greatest gift I can give as well.  I know that it brings my heart a great big burst of joy when my sisterfriends choose to come to Sister Circle and be with each other.  It makes me sad that they might not have this outside of our group.

As we go through our days during this season and the one coming up next, may we make the extra effort and take the extra time to be with the people in our lives and those on the fringes.  May we go out of our way to let people know they matter and that they are loved.  And may we step outside our comfort zones and be with folks we might not otherwise have known.  I am convinced that the “with” of this season and of all of our days is the greatest legacy we can leave behind.

I think Rev. Becca Stevens of Thistle Farms, whose products should be added to my list of favorite things, put it best this morning with these words:

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May we all get messy as all get out today, and this whole holiday season, and everyday–loving on folks.  I can’t think of a better mess to be in.  And what better way to share Christmas everyday?  Merry Mess-Making! Go be with.

Love to all.

Thank you, Deanna, for a great question.  To read more stories about what others want the most this year, hop over to her blog and check out the links.