Ask & It Shall Be Given

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“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

I’ve heard and read  this verse so many times but never pondered it as much as Will did in Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. Grandpa explains it to Will in his simple, crusty manner.

Will: “One time I prayed for a million dollars, to test Him, and didn’t get one dime.”
Grandpa: “Thet was just wishin’. Hit warn’t prayin’.”

A little different from Joel O’Steen’s health and wealth credo.

“God can cause opportunity to find you. He has unexpected blessings where you suddenly meet the right person, or suddenly your health improves, or suddenly you’re able to pay off your house. That’s God shifting things in your favor.” – Joel O’Steen

“Well’m, faith ain’t no magic wand or money-back gar’ntee, either one. Hit’s jest a way a-livin’. Hit means you don’t worry th’ew the days. Hit means you go’n be holdin’ on to God in good or bad times, and you accept whatever happens. Hit means you respect life like it is — like God made it — even when it ain’t waht you’d order from the wholesale house. …When Jesus said said ast and you’ll git it, He was givin’ a gar’ntee a-spiritual healin’, not body healin’….And I found out a long time ago, when I look on what I got to stand as a dang hardship or a burden, it seems too heavy to carry. But when I look on the same dang thing as a challenge, why, standin’ it or acceptin’ it is like you done entered a contest. Hit even gets excitin’, waitin’ to see how everthang’s go’n turn out… Jesus meant us to ast God to hep us stand the pain, not beg Him to take the pain away. We can ast for comfort and hope and patience and courage,and to be gracious when thangs ain’t goin’ our way, and we’ll git what we ast for.” – Grandpa

“I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God open up new doors.” – Joel O’Steen

“We can ast for comfort and hope and patience and courage . . . and we’ll git what we ast for. They ain’t no gar’ntee thet we ain’t go’n have no troubles and ain’t go’n die. But shore as frogs croak and cows bellow, God’ll forgive us if’n we ast Him to.” – Grandpa

“They’s a heap more to God’s will than death, disappointment, and like thet. Hit’s God’s will for us to be good and do good, love one another, be forgivin’…’. He laughed. “I reckon I ain’t very forgivin’, son. I can forgive a fool, but I ain’t inner-rested in coddlin’ hypocrites. Well anyhow, folks who think God’s will jest has to do with sufferin’ and dyin’, they done missed the whole point.” – Grandpa

I don’t think Grandpa would’ve coddled the likes of O’Steen.

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Favorites

The prompt for PAD Day 16 was to write a “favorite” poem. I wrote this using a Bop poem format…

Favorites

What’s your favorite is a hard question
Who’s your favorite is loaded
Say green instead of yellow
Anytime, and no one cares
But if it’s political or familial
Look out and step lightly

I love, I like, I’m a fan

My favorite today may change
But doesn’t just blow with the wind
It grows and evolves
I am allowed to prefer
Southern rock over classical
There’s room in my spirit for both
I can love pie best
Without giving up cake

I love, I like, I’m a fan

The better question might be
What’s your favorite today?
Don’t answer to tickle the ears
Be honest and sidestep
If you must
For who doesn’t prefer peace?

I love, I like, I’m a fan

This reminded me of a portions of the lyrics of Murder in the City by the Avett Brothers.

…I wonder which brother is better
Which one our parents love the most
I sure did get in lots of trouble
They seem to let the other go

A tear fell from my father’s eyes
I wondered what my dad would say
He said I love you and I’m proud of you both
in so many different ways…

 

mebros

“Always remember there was nothing worth sharing

like the love that let us share our name.”

 

 

Little Boy

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PAD Day 4 was to write a portrait poem. This one’s for E.

 

 

Little Boy

I know you like smoked cheddar,

but not that weird cheese, Ricotta

you know every Star Wars character

and superhero

but you didn’t know your great-grandpas

your cow-lick is untamable,

your curiosity insatiable

you are lanky and heavy footed

you love videos that are silly

and reading in bed

you have a wonderful laugh,

but it stays buried inside too often

when you sleep you sleep hard,

then you are up with the sun

you are the little boy

I will always love

 

 

The Irish Frame of Mind

 

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“When something happens to you in Germany, when you miss a train, break a leg, go bankrupt, we say: It couldn’t have been any worse; whatever happens is always the worst. With the Irish it is almost the opposite: it you break a leg, miss a train, go bankrupt, they say:It could be worse: instead of a leg you might have broken your neck, instead of a train you might have missed Heaven, and instead of going bankrupt you might have lost your peace of mind, and going bankrupt is no reason at all for that.” – Irish Journal by Heinrich Boll

 

I have not learned fully, but am drawing nearer to the Irish frame of mind and to the words of Paul, though I will forever relapse on occasion. To look at the bad side, to see the worst, to be discontent, it is all for nothing. I am instructed, Paul says, to be content. Therefore, I strive towards this.

 

… I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

 

Such a simple yet profound message.

Thoughts Inspired by This is Us #2: Moments

jimvalvano1

 

S2/E11    –   “The Fifth Wheel”

While Kevin and his mom are talking he backpedals a bit, saying  “I didn’t have an unhappy childhood.”

“It wasn’t as good as I thought,” Rebecca says sadly. “But I know we had moments,” (and we see them sleeping together on the floor during a thunderstorm) “you and me, Kevin. I know we did. I feel it in my bones.”

Thinking about moments with each of my children. The scene of Rebecca and Kevin sleeping on the floor reminded me of the months of my last pregnancy. The two older kids were in school, so me and #3 had a lot of time to spend together. He was my sidekick, my shadow, my nap buddy. After lunch and before his siblings got home, we would snuggle up together on the couch, often to the drowsiness inducing sound of the dishwasher running in the kitchen. These were sweet moments.

There was the terrifying moment I had with #4, holding hands with this eleven year old girl as we rode in the ambulance together after our car wrecked, this child who was thrown out of the back window. Those seconds when I could not see her were the longest I’ve ever had. God’s grace was on us that night, cushioning the landing of my youngest in the tall grasses on the side of the road.

Then there was the moment when I landed in Shannon, Ireland. My older daughter, who took a different flight, had arrived an hour earlier. She had made a CD of the Duhks for me to listen to on my flight over the Atlantic. I was so excited and relieved at the same time when I saw her there waiting for me, and the next week was an adventure I’ll always cherish.

A moment I remember with my eldest was in 2003 when I went to visit him in DC. We were riding around, seeing a few sights, and he was concerned because I was so quiet. I didn’t realize then how sad I felt – I couldn’t put a name on it, I couldn’t call it depression. But, he reached over and held my hand. Now, 15 years later he is a nurse, often working with patients who are suffering depression. He stills shows that empathy. He knows.

 

Thoughts Inspired by This is Us #1

I started binge watching This is Us in early February, and midway through season one, I got a call from my brother. Mom was gone. No forewarning, no long illness. This was Mom who, at 81, wasn’t on any meds except the recent prescription she’d finished taking for her knee. This was Mom, who told me she’d only had one headache in her life, who didn’t remember any symptoms of menopause except,  “Well, I guess I did get a little hot.” This was Mom who packed a pistol for her trips to Georgia, who drove her friends to the store and hairdresser, who ran the Bridge Club. Now, I will eventually go back to watching This is Us, but I’ll be thinking of all the This Was Us episodes of my life, Mom’s life, our life. Below is what I’d written before I got the call.

S1/E8                                                                                                                          Pilgrim Rick

Yes, it’s February and I’m watching Pilgrim Rick, the Thanksgiving episode from season one of This Is Us. Better late than never. I was able to watch the first two episodes online – enough to know I HAD to watch them all. The three day wait for my DVD to arrive from Amazon was a long stretch.

The tears began to roll when the Pearson family ended up at the Pinewood Lodge. My flashback was to Christmas of 1995. We were about to have an early Christmas dinner and celebration with my husband’s father who had traveled three hours to our house, when I got the call. My dad was sinking fast; I should come home. So, we packed it all up; some food; the kids unopened presents, including hockey sticks; clothes for a few days; presents for extended family; and then we piled into the car. Our younger son rode with Grandpa Bell, the rest of us were like sardines in a can, cushioned with jackets and backpacks and suitcases into our Chevy Lumina. On the road to Jacksonville we sang along to Stevie Wonder cassettes and I tried to prepare for what was ahead.

We were fortunate to stay in the Homewood Suites sans Pilgrim Rick, where we had our family Christmas, the six of us snuggled together. We opened presents and laughed and hugged, making bittersweet memories. That night our younger son saw Star Wars for the first time and now, 22 years later, he is still a fan.

The next day we spent time with my brothers and their families, trying to be cheerful but not sure how to act without Mom and Dad there. Dad rallied for a few weeks, and I was able to stay with him and Mom for part of that time. He died on January 6, 1996, Mom holding his hand and me holding Mom.

_______________________________________
S1/E11
“Do the Right Thing”

Watching Rebecca and her mother discuss the prospects of life with three babies brings me back to when I told my parents I was expecting for the first time. I was so excited, but my joy bubble burst when all I heard in their voices was doubt and worry. It took them a while to adjust to the idea, but they hit the road as soon as we called to tell them it was time. They made the four hour drive to Clearwater, arriving just minutes after the birth of our firstborn. They didn’t persuade us to return to Jacksonville, but when we decided, they had a home ready to rent to us. Four years later we purchased it and two more children later we sold it. With those two children there was still hesitation on their part, the slow acceptance that this was our life and our family. But, they were there for us over and over – loaning us money and babysitting and being there at the birth of not only those next two, but the last, also. They drove to Georgia to be there the day our youngest was born. Mom was with me up until the last few minutes.

Mom is still with me and I’m grateful for the support and model she has been. Not perfect, but neither am I. Not by a long shot. The picture is of Mom and me, both pregnant with our firstborn.

me n mom prego

_________________________________________

It wasn’t long after I’d typed those words “Mom is still with me” that I found out she wasn’t. I pray that all she taught and modeled for me will live on in me.

Comfort Clothes

A few years ago, my cousin Debbie wrote a lovely piece about her trusty brown sweater. She says,

“This is my someone’s at the door, throw over your gown, warm, feel good, soft, sleep in, coffee stained (you can’t see them, thankful brown) enduring, lasting, missing one button, never fail me sweater. I keep it because it is the one thing I can trust to give me that peace of mind and comfort I need.”

This brought to mind Old Red. Old Red was an old red wool coat that belonged to my mom. Long past its prime, it hung in the closet for years. On Saturday afternoons when Dad would kick back in his recliner in the den, with a golf game on TV, he would say, “Go bring me Old Red.” I, or whichever of my brothers was closest, would go it from the closet. Dad would proceed to cover up and fall asleep. But we wouldn’t dare try to change the channel. He would stir up and bellow, “I’m watching that.” I wonder whatever became of that coat; it would have come in handy here in Alabama.

Then there were my overalls.
overalls

When I was in college at Georgia Southern, there was this great old fashioned hardware store in town where you could buy painters pants and overalls. In the mid-70s these were the fashion around campus. I wore my overalls a lot. A whole lot.  I have a picture of me in them a few years later at Clearwater Beach holding my firstborn son. I also remember that I had them on the day I rushed out of the house to take my neighbor and her son to the ER. I didn’t have time to change, just scooped up the baby and the diaper bag and flew out the door. Barefoot. I’m sure people were shaking their heads at me at the hospital, especially when I had to go into the restroom to unhook them in order to nurse my baby. Then, when I was pregnant with our second, I wore them through about my fifth month. I think I finally gave them up when they got too many holes in them.

My husband had a pair of comfort shorts. When he finally replaced them, we had a burial ceremony in the side yard. He put them in a  shoebox and dug a hole, and then we and the four kids all trooped out, very somber of course, while he said a few parting words over them. They had lived a good life and died with dignity.

I appreciate Debbie and her trusty brown sweater. Comforts clothes are akin to comfort foods. And to friends.  We need to keep them around.

I love how she ends her thoughts. Thank you, Debbie.

“People are constantly telling us we need to let go of the past and move forward. No, we don’t have to forget the past; it is a part of who we are, where we have been and where we are now. Holding on is what we call “memories” and what’s wrong with having those to fall back to?… It is the thread of life that connects us to each other and if I find it woven in a piece of clothing, I’ll hang on to it and I’ll continue to hang this sweater over me until it or I am no more.”

 

(originally published 11/15)