Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Whistled Testimony

Scrolling through the newsfeed on Facebook this afternoon, I saw a video of "Why Me, Lord?" performed at the Grand Ole Opry.  It brought back a sweet memory of going to Clark's department store on Ashley St. with my daddy.  He asked the clerk behind the counter for an 8-track tape by Kris Kristofferson saying "Kris Kristahfahson."  

He took the plastic wrap and thin cardboard sleeve off and pushed the cartridge into the after market 8-track player in his red 1965 Chevy pickup with step sides and a tailgate which closed with chains.  I loved that truck and I loved my Daddy.  He whistled in perfect pitch to the heart tugging lyrics, equal parts regret and gratitude.  

I watched and listened, mesmerized as we rolled down Jerry Jones Road toward the Phillips 66 station he ran on Baytree Road.  At home, there was fighting, cussing, and carrying on, but the atmosphere of this truck cab sanctuary, filled with cigarette smoke instead of incense, was different.   

I realized the day he bought that tape and I first heard "Why Me, Lord?" it was his testimony.  We didn't go to church and I didn't know the word testimony, but my little girl spirit recognized one all the same.  

When you live in a home full of uproar, you listen and observe a lot more than you participate.  It's safer that way.  Daddy never shared a testimony in the traditional sense, all remorseful and crying in front of a bunch of people who act like they're stunned at what they're hearing, knowing they've done many of the same things, but after years of hard living--heavy drinking, smoking, swearing, bootlegging, womanizing, at times violent--a strange calm settled on him.  

It was the kind of peace only the Lord can bring to a tormented soul.  

I'd heard a penitent heart cry to the Lord in his own quiet way, humbled, going to the only Source of all he needed on this earth.  Nothing else here brought him any level of peace that I'd noticed.  I learned as much about the Lord that day after a trip to a discount store as one could have learned in 10 years of churchin', my age at the time.  

Daddy's time was drawing near and Jesus, ever merciful, received him home the year following the song's release, 1974.  Here's his testimony, another man wrote it and sang it.  Daddy whistled it and I can still hear the trills if I listen closely.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Random Memory and its Bunny Trails

The memory isn't completely random but triggered by a Facebook post of a cousin who shared a dream of going back in time and seeing a number of loved ones who'd gone on.  

I shared with her I had similar dreams and I considered them a blessing.  I recently dreamed of my mother, she was in her room, but it didn't look like the room which was hers for the last 37 years of her life on earth.  I say on earth because I have a firm belief in an afterlife which makes it truly and simply the continuation of life in Christ.  

In the room of my dream, my mother had both a living but unadorned scotch pine tree and a crystal lalique tree; the living tree seemed to grow neatly out of the floor and the crystal one was on a nearby side table of rich dark wood.  In her time on Earth, she could not enjoy a living tree indoors due to allergy issues.  She wanted and eventually got a green ceramic Christmas tree.  The living dream tree was not sculpted into a traditional Christmas tree shape but was as natural in form as it was unadorned.  The crystal tree was perhaps an extension of my imagination of her earthly desire, a thing of beauty and great worth, its elegant simplicity another reflection of my limited concept of heaven.

My mother's earthly home was full of bric-a-brac and a few items of reasonable worth mingled with.  Every dusty piece was of great sentimental value to her and she imagined it all to have great dollar value as well.  The chromolithograph below was on the wall of her living room from sometime in the early 1990s to the day she died in early 2003.  I've no idea of its current value, but the day I picked it up and paid eight bucks, or was it six, at a yard sale in my childhood neighborhood, was the day my mother pointed to the vintage framed art and told me to "leave that here" when I was taking her second-hand finds off the back floorboard of my old Buick LeSabre. 

She did it with a mischievous smile, one which couldn't be resisted, saying no to the twinkle in her dark emerald eyes not an option.  When I was a little girl, I was terrified of the consequences of disobeying her; as an adult I knew I could refuse her request/command but chose to comply.  I thought I'd bought this picture for myself, but it turns out I'd bought it for her.  

She rarely asked for anything, but took great pride in earning things for herself.  When someone gave her anything, anything at all, she treasured both the item and the connection with the person, almost in awe and always in great appreciation someone would give her something, and in close to all cases she would not let the item go.  In hindsight, I wonder if that was at least one part the Great Depression mentality as her earliest acquaintance with this world was in that era.     

It was both sad and sweet after her death when I lifted the picture off her paneled living room wall which she didn't care at all the paneling was considered dated, she liked it, and finally brought it to my home where it greets anyone who walks in the front door.  It looks like Thomas Kinkade's artistry and being it was almost certainly conceived and brought to life before he was, I am reminded there is nothing original on this earth, merely different perceptions and interpretations of the same beauty.            

As I look at it now, I'm not certain what drew this into my mother's vast and eclectic collections.  She wasn't so fond of all things flowery and frilly as I am.  Maybe it was the frame, unusual shape and old, old was always good in her book, but it, too, is embossed with flowers.  Was it the suggestion of an ethereal destination beyond the stone walk way and marble steps?  There is a place to go, but no one can be seen going there, they must be imagined.  Did it make her think of the loved ones she often spoke of and missed terribly? 

Mom would give people a piece of her mind when she was pushed, when the territory of her business was trespassed upon, but she wouldn't often divulge the depths of her heart.  Along with many other thoughts and confidences, she took the reason for wanting this with her to heaven.

In the photograph of the picture I took this morning, I see a faint image of myself bottom center and a reflection of a McCoy bowl on top of a bookcase across from this yard sale turned heirloom item.  (The bookcase's original life was part of an entertainment center handcrafted by my brother-in-law.  I was delighted when it came to live in my home, its new incarnation one part display case and two parts library.)  A bit of my mother was left on this earth in my form and the bowl was hers as well, an item I've wondered if my first daughter-in-love would like to have for the shade of it, in the aqua family, repeats in her decor.  

I don't know if this picture will be treasured by another family member one day in the future or if another young mother will pick it up at a yard sale for six or eight bucks and her older mother will claim it.  And it really doesn't matter all that much.  One day I won't care, but today I do and this is the story of the picture on my front entrance wall.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Lizard, Lizard, show me...

a red tongue, red tongue, red tongue.

Grannie told me to go on the narrow front porch of my parents' little brick house, this was the late 1960s, watch for a lizard, then chant this to it.  She emphasized the word tongue on the up beat.

I was dubious but curious and mostly obedient.  This was the era when minding one's elders was demanded and arguing and backtalking was quickly squelched, with physical force if necessary.

I'll be dog.  Soon enough a lizard scurried by, slowed for a few moments and did exactly what Grannie said it would do!

Starting this morning on my roomier front porch in the 21st century, I spied a lizard on a table where a fern from my baby boy's wedding now resides.  It looked up at what surely seemed like Mt. Everest, a big black flower pot, surveyed left, then right, and quick as a flash hopped a cascading frond, valuable real estate with the best view on the porch.

My baby boy's observation of a lizard came to mind.  He noticed they did push-ups.  I've noticed they love the eco-system created just for them by the many potted plants which adorn my front porch for eight or nine months of the year.  They hide behind the shutters, skitter along the porch rail, sometimes evading the cat who sees them as toys, drink water droplets from the leaves on the plants, snap an insect for breakfast and make adorable teeny baby lizards.  

I've often said of myself it doesn't take much to entertain me.  

These little chameleon-like creatures are even mentioned in the Bible, "a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings' palaces."  

I don't catch them with my hand, as a matter of fact, when one migrated indoors for the winter, hitching a ride on its plant home, my now daughter-in-love, then girlfriend of my baby boy caught it for me and released it to find a winter home outside.  

Back at my childhood home, a neighbor boy picked up a lizard, was looking at it closely and it latched onto the columella of his nose and hung on for dear life.  I went inside and told my mother there was a lizard hanging from Mike's nose and she told me, "Go on and leave me alone."  

I forgive her now for that, she had four children and worked full time.  I did what she said and went back onto the carport and the husky kid with a crew cut and freckles on his round face was shaking his head, the lizard flinging left and right, he was crying, so I went back inside and apprised my mother of the situation once more.

This time she must have believed me for she got a dish towel, calmly held the boy's head with one hand, grasped the lizard with the dish towel and it unclamped its jaws for freedom.  Little lizard got the ride of its life and the little boy wasn't traumatized, we weren't allowed to be that way either back in the day, and resumed playing.

There's my lizard story, small but significant.  Country living lends itself to little observations like this and my training for this life began at my Grannie's command.

Can't see the lizard and I believe that's the plan.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Copied from Cindy Trimm

Praise, like gold and diamonds,
owes its value only to its scarcity.
- Samuel Johnson

One of the most devastating sources of emotional pain that a person can experience is rejection. Although it is rarely perceived as a blessing, I believe it is often a divine announcement that you were never supposed to prosper within a particular relationship or realm in the first place.

Some of us were born into homes, communities, and even nations that reject us. Conversely, some of us place ourselves in relationships or communities that will never help us prosper. Instead of finding our strength and identity in God’s unchanging love for us, we turn to individuals or institutions for affirmation or stay too long in a dysfunctional relationship.

Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve been so afraid of the unknown that you’ve stuck with familiar roles or relationships no matter how repressive they are.

I want to encourage you to try a different approach. When you are confronted with rejection, think of it as a divine course corrector. I love how the actor Sylvester Stallone describes how he handles rejection:

I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear 
to wake me up and get going.

When it’s time for you to move on, embrace rejection as the push you need to get going. Or when you deviate from a course you have been divinely guided to pursue, understand that rejection might be what keeps you pointed in the right direction. Someone once asked me, “How do you deal with rejection?” My answer? “With grateful acceptance.”

When you are confronted with rejection, 
think of it as a divine course corrector. 

Learn how to use rejection as a tool for growth. It requires great discernment to know when to ignore rejection—when to keep doing what you’re doing regardless of what others say—or when to use rejection to provide valuable feedback regarding what you should be doing, how you should be doing it, or with whom. 

The key to gaining wisdom through rejection 
is rooted in your identity—knowing who you are in Christ and who God called you to be.

Life, in general, is risky—and the more risks you are willing to take, the more you will risk being rejected. The next time you face rejection, keep the following three truths in mind:
  1. The problem may not be with you. People usually reject what they don’t understand, do not have the capacity for, or cannot control. 
  2. It’s a matter of perspective. Talk the situation through with people who know you, your gifts, and your calling. Ask them for perspective and feedback to make sense of the situation. 
  3. Mediocrity resists greatness. Albert Einstein observed, “Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.
Remember, your worth is not found in what others think of you! Use rejection to build and strengthen your resolve.

Praying you will use rejection as an opportunity to prevail,

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Better Show This Morning

After disturbing my husband's sleep by rummaging in the dark for a beach towel to dry off the dew dampened lounger, I settled in the God-breathed planetarium to watch the Perseids meteor shower.  Two mornings ago I got a sneak peak; this morning, I watched the full show.

I could not follow instructions, nothing new for me, to place my toes toward the northeast as that is where the light pollution came from, toward Valdosta. Southeast it was and in addition to here a streak, there a streak, I saw two marvelous collisions of comet debris with the earth's atmosphere creating the appearance of shooting stars.

Offering prayer and praise the Lord, I told Him I believe it is His Word, His decree, His breath that is the elusive mystery beneath the substance of our DNA and I affirmed my belief His thought could form something from nothing!  Hebrews 11:3 explains it clearly:  "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible."  I concur with those who pooh-pooh the miraculous and believe only what can be seen under a microscope or through a telescope--there surely was an awe-inspiring bang at its inception.

Prayers were said for my "children," one on a business trip to Chicago and the other sleeping under these same stars out west in Colorado.  I reflected on a time when our little family of four watched the annual Perseids meteor shower and I marvel now we are a family of six with the seventh member's debut slated for early fall.  

A satellite meandered across the eastern skies and a jet streaked through the west.  Shielded by forest on three sides, I gave thanks no one could see me wrapped in a cream-colored bed sheet and misconstrue my star-gazing for a one-woman klan rally.  The mosquitoes were horrid, and as the first stage of dawn ascended from the east, I went inside to start coffee.

Watching the ever-changing sky is a spiritual experience for me, one of awe, and I wonder if I will be among those who view with the naked eye the second coming of Christ from the east.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I Saw Three

From my vantage point, south of Valdosta, north of Dasher, the pre-peak-Perseid meteor shower is just a sprinkle.  There is a tad of light pollution with security lights, but overall good viewing with the moon waning.  The yellowy crescent rose shortly after I did, a little after 4 A.M.  There is significant cloud cover to the north, so the viewing may not have been clear in town.

The cat and dog seemed mystified by my nocturnal wandering, placing a lounger in the yard when I'm ordinarily sleeping.  The dog sneezed so hard from the overspray of mosquito repellant I applied, her snout hit the porch floor several times, poor thing!  

The cloud cover from town is creeping southward blotting out what little of the moon which showed. It appears the show is over, so I'll sit here with my thoughts and prayers, listening to the crickets' relaxing serenade and the traffic in the distance, people already headed to work or home as the case may be.  

I hope your day is most pleasant and you experience a heightened awareness of the abundant blessings from above.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Simple, Often Repetitive, Always Funny

In my perpetual overthinking, hazard of one with abundant time on her hands, I hesitated to post my morning laughter on Facebook.  It begs to be told whether or not there is a listener, so the world must know how feeding the birds can be fraught with danger...and funny.

I've been watchful for snakes which sometimes view my bird feeders as their hunting grounds, slithery mooches.  This morning, I heard a soft buzzing near the base of a crepe myrtle, one of two where I place seed for my avian visitors. 

I try later to describe the sound to my husband, telling him I was at first looking for a baby rattlesnake, then theorizing it might have been an insect of the night winding down as the sun rose.  

"It talks to you, too?"

Great laughter, the sort which would wake a neighbor if we had one in earshot.  Yes, I suppose the crepe myrtle has begun talking to me now.  

His sweet zaniness never grows old, even as we do.