Throw Your Arms Around the World

Today I sat next to my friend as she told me how discouraged she was.  She is in school and taking care of her family and other people, and she’s doing an amazing job at all of that–I have no idea how.  She’s just that determined and amazing.

As she is so busy her time on Facebook and other social media is limited, but today she told me that when she has had a break to “hop on,” her heart has been heavy and troubled.   So much going on in the world that suits the mood of this dark time of year.  Darkness.  Death.  Violence.  Protests. Anger.  Hatred.  Murder.  Brokenness.

I could see it in her eyes that she is exhausted.  This is really where so many of us live, isn’t it?  Exhausted before we can even begin to think of what we can do to change things.  Worn out from taking it all in–never mind trying to make anything better.

I just wanted to hug her and tell her it’s all going to be okay.

But I need someone to do that for me first.

So we sat and drank our coffee and talked about other things.

Though our minds never left the troubles.

Not really.

I found a new “old” treasure a few days ago.  It’s an old globe on a stand.  Because I don’t have the floor space, I want to put it up on a cabinet, so I need it to be shortened.  I found it and decided to bring it home because I have seen some really beautiful displays of great words to think upon inscribed on old globes.  I didn’t know what words I would write on the globe or if I’d have the nerve to do it at all, but still, home it came.

Or rather, it rode around in the vehicle until I had the time and nerve to bother my Uncle and ask if he would be willing to cut off the legs.  I was over in his garden this evening, partaking of his delicious cabbage–I’m not sure what he’s putting in the soil, but suffice to say I cooked some last week and I’m back for more already!  Before I left I asked him if he would be willing to help me, and he kindly agreed.  He sent the globe home with me, and when I brought her inside I asked the Fella to examine her a little more thoroughly.  She’s a little faded.  Old but not precious old.  So I won’t feel quite so bad writing over an ocean.  Good.

Because on the way home I figured out what words I’d write on her when the time comes to do so.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid (the original 1984 version) played on the radio tonight.  Words were leaping from my ears to my mind and then to my heart.  Yes.

“We let in light and we banish shade…..”

Yes.  Light.  Banish what hovers over us creating doubt and fear and darkness.

And then–the perfect ones for my globe–

“Throw your arms around the world…..”

Yes.  You know those hugs–the ones that when the arms envelop you, they help ease a lot of pain.  And heartache.  If only for a moment.

Another song played shortly after that.  One that I don’t hear very often at all.  “Belleau Wood,” written by Garth Brooks and Joe Henry, tells the story of a truce at Christmas in World War I.  The line that touched my heart and had tears rolling silently down my face were–

“And he raised his hand and smiled at me
As if he seemed to say
Here’s hoping we both live
To see us find a better way”

The song ends with the storyteller saying just this, something I believe with my whole heart–

“But for just one fleeting moment
The answer seemed so clear
Heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s just beyond the fear

No, heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s for us to find it here…..”


I wish I’d had all of these words with me when I sat next to my friend today.

All of the brokenness?  The anger?  The fighting and choosing sides and battling against each other–on Facebook, in letters to editors, in phone calls, text messages, in person…..? The pointing fingers and claiming innocence and pain and loss?  The pictures of everything from abandoned animals to tortured human beings?

It’s all too much.

I don’t know how to fix it.

Shoot, I didn’t even know how to reach out and hug my friend when she most needed it today.

But what I do know is that we can try.

When there is darkness,

throw our arms around the world.


When we see violence and hatred,

throw our arms around the world.


When folks are angry and can’t see light for all the pain and betrayal,

we can throw our arms around this world.

And love.



And here’s the thing–


We have to move beyond the fear.

Of others.

Of those who are different.

Of ones who believe differently, talk differently, speak differently.

We have to move beyond the fear.

It’s imperative.

There are no guarantees.  When we go to love somebody, it might not fix much.  It might not fix anything.  But if we keep trying, here’s hoping we will live to find a better way.  And to see a better day.

For all of the hell that this life is filled with, it is up to us to find and share the Heaven that love and patience and kindness and listening can bring.  Right.  Here.

Tonight I give thanks for good cabbage and old globes, for old songs and for Garth Brooks’ storytelling.   I’m thankful for those whom I get to sit by, sharing stories and worries and joys and sorrows.  I am thankful for them sharing the journey and sharing light when I need it most.  For when there is light, the shade of troubles seems to dissipate a little more…..

Go throw your arms around the world and bring Heaven right here.  Banish shade.  Share light.

It can start with two people.  You.

And the person sitting next to you.

Go say hello.

And then listen.

It’s a start.

Love to all.



Old Enough to Have a Back…..and then some

Today I was blessed by the bounty from the efforts of another.  I had the privilege of picking beans I didn’t have to plow, plant, weed, and care for.  All I had to do was spend a little time out there picking them and putting them in the bag to bring home.



Wow. What a gift.

As I worked my way down the row, lifting the plants gently to find the beans hidden underneath, plucking one after another, I thought of my Daddy.  I used to pick from the garden with him just like this.  First at my Granny’s where she and my Granddaddy had planted more than enough and let us pick whatever we could use.  I loved sitting on the edge of the metal bucket, picking and dreaming and being with my Daddy.  Guess which one of those was my favorite?  I think picking beans and peas with Daddy was when I learned about a companionable silence.  Oh we would chat some too.  (Okay–me.)  But a lot of those times we’d quietly work in tandem, gently taking nature’s gift to fill our table and our freezers.  Later on after we moved to Blackberry Flats we’d pick together in the garden there.  Where Daddy rotated his planting year after year, working to find the best spot for growing and so as not to overtax the land.  After tilling, he’d use two bricks with string tied between to line up his rows for hoeing.  I sometimes helped with the planting phase too.  Again, the quiet.

Much like today.

I thought of him so much as I worked my way down the row.  I was determined to get through one row completely before I stopped.  He would have liked that.  Be methodical and commit.  Don’t go in there willy-nilly, picking first from this plant on that row and then from that plant two rows over.  Start, focus, work hard, and finish.

When I was about a third of the way down the row, I almost broke the silence by laughing as a memory came flooding back.  One time when we were picking together, I was maybe nine or ten, I started slowing down my pace.  Daddy asked me what was wrong.

“My back hurts,” I said.  (and possibly whined)

“Oh, you’re too young to have a back,” he said, dismissing my woes.

And that became the thing.  When I was toting around his first grandchild, I was reminded I was young, too young to have a back.  When I was working at a packing shed and helping load boxes of peaches, too young to have a back.  When I was in graduate school, carrying my backpack to and fro, still too young to have a back.

It was almost three years ago now, when Daddy was just about completely bedridden with the lymphoma and his broken hip that was slow to mend.  We were still taking him for consultations at the Cancer Center.  I had ridden over to drive him and Mama to the appointment.  At one point, I positioned myself so Daddy could put his arms around my neck, and I could help lift him from the car and swing him around into the wheelchair so he could go into the building.  I wasn’t very good at it, not nearly as strong as I wished I could be, and it was the kindness of a stranger that got the job done, bless her.  Trying to lighten the moment, I said something to Daddy like, “Well, if I’d a had a back, maybe that would have gone better.  But I’m not old enough to have a back.”  He looked over at me, from where he was sitting waiting to be called back, raised his eyebrows just like my Granny would have and said, “Oh no, you’re old enough.  You have a back.”

Huh.  Well good to know.

I wonder when on earth THAT changed.  Can you imagine all the time I missed, when I could have been legitimately complaining about the back I finally had?


Today I smiled again as I stood, looking back at the completed row.  I enjoyed picking beans with my Daddy today.  I enjoyed my crew spending time with Aunt, whom they love dearly.  I enjoyed the generosity of my Uncle who works so hard to be a good steward of the land he has.  And I really enjoyed the twinges that had me stooped over for a full five minutes after I tried to stand up straight.  I was reminded all over again that I do indeed have a back.  And it wasn’t happy with me at all.

And yet, for some reason, all I could do was giggle.

For those of you old enough to have a back, congratulations.  You may express your discomfort all you want.  You’ve earned it.  All the rest of you, you’ll get there one day.  Until then, we don’t want to hear a peep about your nonexistent back.  You’re not old enough to have one yet.  😉

Love to all.

My Heart Overflows

This afternoon a dear friend told me I seemed happier than I had in a long time.  And that made me even happier.  I showed her pictures of where my day had taken me so far and she agreed–stuff worth being happy about.

Leroy, my big brother, invited my crew to come over to the new house and play today.  And he told me to go do “whatever.”  Whatever?  I thought through the possibilities and then picked up the phone to call my Aunt.  I asked if I could come and pick beans, as we’d been talking about this for a couple of weeks.  After questioning my thought processes that led me to decide to pick beans in my “time off,” she said well sure.  I guess it might seem an odd choice to some.  This is my first “free without plans or a doctor’s appointment” time in a very long, long time.  I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.  Picking beans without folks with me who might whine about the heat?  Bring it.

I can’t remember my first time in a garden.  I just remember always picking with my Daddy.  My Granddaddy planted quite the garden at Granny’s when I was small.  I can remember sitting on the edge of the bucket picking butterbeans, trying to be so careful not to pull up the whole plant.  Later when we moved to Blackberry Flats Daddy planted and we all picked and snapped and shelled and Mama canned.  I remember helping him plant as recently as just a few years ago.  Using the bricks with a string tied between to line up the row, and then dropping the seeds along every so often.  Oh I miss it.

So, time in a garden today?  Yes please.

My destination today

My destination today

My Uncle pulled corn, and he, my Aunt, and I sat and shucked and silked it under the shade of the trees in no time.  My heart was full.   So often I spend my time with my children trying to make a good moment that will become a precious memory.  Today was for me.  I will treasure the memory of how it felt, sitting there with them, shucking and visiting and smelling the smell of summer.  A treasure.

Summer sunshine growing on a stalk

Summer sunshine growing on a stalk

After we finished with the corn, my Aunt and I headed out to pick beans.  What a treat a pot of fresh beans and cornbread is for supper.  Throw some onion and a few new potatoes in the pot and it’s a veritable summer FEAST.  And now I have corn as a side dish.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

The beans that will be my supper tomorrow night

The beans that will be my supper tomorrow night

We picked a mess pretty quickly, sharing stories and visiting the whole while, which made it seem like it took no time at all.  After that it was time to take off my garden boots and head off for the next adventure.

I was rockin' the garden boots, right?

I was rockin’ the garden boots, right?

But first I wanted to say goodbye to this glorious place that turns water and light into food for the body and this land that was food for my soul.  There’s something about being outside that does that for me.  And being with family.  I was hot and had sweat running down my face, but oh boy, were my spirits lifted.

A beautiful day

A beautiful day

Next I picked up our Princess from Leroy’s and took her to an art class at our favorite coffeehouse.  It was a surprise for her.  She was a bit nervous because the last time she did this over a year ago, she didn’t think her picture turned out so well.  I hugged her and told her no matter how she thought it looked, I would love it.  I left her to her class, had a quick impromptu visit with friends at the coffeehouse, and then headed next door to the GW Boutique for a quick once-over.

When I returned our Princess had finished her painting, and it was FABULOUS.  She even used my favorite colors.

The puppy's name is Teresa, according to our Princess.....that's a "t" on her collar

The puppy’s name is Teresa, according to our Princess…..that’s a “t” on her collar

I loved that when we were helping clean up, she pointed out what was left where she’d been working her artistic magic.

What was left around where she created her work of art

What was left around where she created her work of art

It occurred to me that we should do that in whatever we do.  Be so enthusiastic and thorough that we overflow–with light, with love, with compassion, with grace. We shouldn’t be so cautious in any of those things that there isn’t overflow.  Makes me kind of wish I had kept that tablecloth.  Maybe my word for next year will be “overflow.”  It sure was my word for today–my heart overflowed.  So much so that my friend saw the joy in my face.

And on the way home, after the littles had their summer gymnastics class this evening (yes it was a VERY full day), when my spirits were sinking over something that happened late in the day and my heart felt very fragile, my littles pointed this out to me.

I kind of have the feeling this was my Mama's way of letting me know she's around

I kind of have the feeling this was my Mama’s way of letting me know she’s around

My Mama showed me the rainbows in the midst of the storms of life.  And tonight, when I felt like one was blowing in, this rainbow caught the eyes of my precious gifts who still get excited over rainbows and bugs and tadpoles and good stories.  When I saw it, my heart knew and I felt some peace.  I am pretty sure Mama was saying, “Don’t let anyone take the joy of this day from you.”

Tonight I am thankful for family who loves me despite all my craziness; for the generosity of my family with their time, their love, their listening, and their vegetables.  I am thankful for friends who pay attention and who know me and are happy when they see me happy.  And for the same friends who walk the path of brokenness and heartbreak with me.  I am thankful for a little girl who loves bright colors and tells everyone, “Mama couldn’t quit smiling when she saw my picture.”  I am thankful for loud cousins playing and growing up together and for their parents who make that possible.  I am thankful for the bounty of the sun and rain this summer and for my Aunt and Uncle who share it.  And I’m thankful for my Mama who hasn’t stopped talking to me just because we are separated by that thin veil.  I needed that rainbow tonight, to remember the joy of today, and not let it slip away. Joy.  Overflow.  Yes.