Not so minor characters

“The minor characters in your life will step into the foreground and shine.” – Sheryl Sandberg

There have been some women who have stepped into the foreground for me. They are not minor characters, but they have been in the background of my life for a while.

Like Lee, my sorority Big Sister in college, who I had not seen for over 40 years. She stepped right back into my life by coming to Chuck’s funeral, all the way from Georgia. We’ve met for lunch and spent the day together catching up on all the years gone by.

Lee and me – Fernandina, 2020

Like Jeannie, who I also met over 40 years ago when Chuck and I were dating. She has been so very kind to me, meeting for lunch and giving me books and gifts to show her love and sympathy.

Jeannie and me – 1980

Like Judy, who calls and writes and lets me know I am always in her prayers. Our friendship doesn’t go back so far, but she is a Christian sister who cares. She doesn’t just post “praying” on social media, but when she says she’s praying I know she really is.

Judy – at Melt in Bham

Like Crystal, another newer friend, who writes nice chatty letters to let me know all the big and little things going on with her family. She shares her life with me and shows her concern for me.

Christmas at Crystal’s – 2019

Like Peggy, who lives in Auburndale but stays connected and checks on me. She sometimes brings along her husband, Tom, who is also a dear friend. They were great friends to Chuck and I and I’m so thankful for them still.

Peggy, St. Augustine, 2013

Like Debbie, who was in my Brownie troop when we were in 2nd/3rd grades. We went to church together through our teens and were in each others weddings. Then, time and miles kept us apart. But, we have reconnected, from Ohio to Florida, and had supper after 20 years and fell right into our friendship again.

Debbie, second from left

Like Darla, who I bonded with when we taught school together. She has made it a point to keep in touch. Her life is full to the brim with grandchildren, but she has made time for me.

Darla at Wild Adventures

That’s the thing – time. It’s not always easy or convenient, but it’s important to make time for the ones we love. For the ones who need our love.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” – Romans 1:8

Thanksgivings past and present

November 27,2014
Danny, Sarah, Chuck, Angie

The above pictures were taken as we were preparing to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal in 2014. Just as we were about to sit down to eat, we got the call. Chuck and Danny’s dad was failing fast. They wolfed down some food, packed up and headed for Jacksonville, arriving just 15 minutes after their dad died. My father-in-law.

Now, six years later, I’ve lost three more. My mother-in-law (2017), my mom (2018), my husband (2020). Precious people who sat together for many Thanksgivings. Family who ate, told stories, laughed, loved each other.

Holidays can be hard. We miss the hugs at the front door, the smiles across the table, the hand holding, the traditions. But, we have to press on. No matter how hard a hand we’ve been dealt, there are still blessings.

Yesterday I had Thanksgiving in New Orleans with my daughters, Kat and Leah, and some of their friends. We gathered at Kat’s, and she is always the most gracious hostess.It was different, but it was good. Let me tell you about our little group.

November 26,2020 – NOLA

Tim: a professional chef, Leah’s former roommate, who made the most delicious turkey I think I’ve ever had on Thanksgiving, plus some fabulous sides.

Candace: I hadn’t seen her since July. Having lost her mother to cancer, she was a big help to us when we were struggling with Chuck’s illness.

Justin and Leslie: Kat’s neighbors, California transplants, who made the best assortment of deviled eggs and laughed with us all day.

PJ: a friend of Justin and Leslie, who came in later in the afternoon with his precious Springer spaniel, Buddy.

Ruby and Poka: ever present underfoot, waiting for head pats and crumbs to fall.

We made sure to have some of our traditional family dishes: potato casserole- the recipe came from my brother’s mother-in-law years ago; a pepper cheese ball – Aunt Brenda’s recipe, miraculously made by Leah, the non-cook; Wassail; pickle tray; traditional and puppy chow Chex mixes.

For all those family we could not be with, I say in the words of Paul:

 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Philippians 1:3

Thanksgivings

I’m sitting in the backyard testing out my fire pit and reflecting on the blessings God has sent me in the past 3-4 months. This list is not comprehensive, but a start at saying “Thank-You” to God and to those He has used to bless and uplift me.

To my daughters, Katherine and Leah, who were my anchor in the storm. Their love was expressed over and over in their actions, from making phone calls and making decisions to giving insulin shots and massaging feet. And finding this little house that is slowly becoming a home.

To my sons who called and visited and lifted my burdens in numerous ways. They provided expertise and they provided conversation and they gave love.

To my daughter-in-law, my third daughter, who gave so much advice and held Chuck’s hand on her last visit, with tears in her eyes and love in her heart.

To friends, known and unknown, who prayed when I couldn’t. I felt the prayers holding up my feeble arms.

To my little brother Norman who gave of his time to get me moved – twice – and provided his home to me and his heart. And his cooking- top notch stuff.

To my big brother David, who talked to me in the night as I walked Ruby, who knows firsthand the pain of losing a spouse.

“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” I Peter 3:8

To Al, who drove across town to take my car to get new tires. And visited Chuck. And Darlene who made cake.

To Holly and Ken, who visited and prayed and fed us with deliciousness and gave advice and showed the spirit of Christ in actions.

To Candace who was supportive in a time of need, who knows loss, and who gave me a bird feeder that brings me birds and joy every day.

To Darla, Jeannie, Robin, Peggy, Erica and Lee, who reached out and loved on me.

To Aunt Amy who was always a supporter of our family, and is no stranger to loss. She has empathized with tears and I love her.

To the nephews and nieces who have given the strength of their youth and reached out to me across the generational divide.

To Judy and Sheryl and Crystal and Maureen and Sarita who text and call and write letters from Birmingham. A sweet combination of southern hospitality and Christian fellowship.

To cousins, those childhood friends who are forever linked to my heart, no matter how many years go by. Thank you for all the prayers and conversations.

To my sisters in widowhood who have grieved with me and have suffered their own loss: Mary, Beth, Libby, Pam, and Tommie.

To Mark and Eric who prayed with me over the phone and Steve who texted scripture and encouraging words and prayers.

To Dorothy who prayed and wrote a poem, because those are her gifts.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27

Adventures in Subbing #3

 

ove (1)

On the other hand he tried to point out her that she shouldn’t give money to the beggars in the street, as they’d only buy schnapps with it. But she kept doing it.

“They can do what they like with the money,” she said.

When Ove protested she just smiled and took his big hands in hers and kissed them, explaining that when a person gives to another person it’s not just the receiver who’s blessed. It’s the giver. – from A Man Called Ove  

Earlier this year I gave a writing prompt to some fourth graders. They had been focused that day on the character trait of “caring”, so I told them to pretend I’d given them $100. But, the catch was they had to give it to someone in need or a charity. Some of the students shared what they had written, and one young boy reminded me of Ove, and of myself in days past. He told of giving to the homeless, but also went on to say some of them would not use the money for food like they should. I remember grappling with this same issue years ago. I now believe that if I give money, it’s between them and the Lord what they do with it. I am not to be the judge.

A few other responses touched my heart from those students. Like the girl who said she would give it to her mother so they could move out of her grandma’s house and get their own home.

The past few years I have learned to give anonymously. Though I long to see the joy on a child’s face on Christmas, I am happy knowing I made it possible for someone. And when I don’t know someone well enough to seek them out for a hug in times of grief or crisis, I can ask God to bless the little I can give, and to send comfort along with it.

(edited/reposted)

 

All is Well

2 roads

Nota Bene is a Latin phrase meaning “note well”. I first learned this when I was teaching sixth graders using a wonderful vocabulary program. Later, when reading a lovely book by Sharon Creech titled Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, I came across the expression “Tutto va bene” which means “all is well”.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all that is well. I know I’ve read several articles lately about how all we were taught in school about the first Thanksgiving and pilgrims and Columbus and a lot of other things were skewed. That may well be. And there is a lot, a whole lot, wrong in our world today. But, that should have no bearing on our being thankful. Please know that I am talking to myself here as much as to anyone else. I am thankful that God has not abandoned me to my self-centered moanings.

 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 95:2

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Philippians 4:6

Throwback Thursday- Better than Abbey Road

Image

No, these aren’t the Beatles, but the Bells. This was taken only about two-and-a-half years ago, but it seems like it’s been a long time. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving Day celebrated in Tampa, Florida. The weather was perfect for eating outside and my daughter-in-law set a lovely table. What I remember most is not the food, though it was delicious as always, but the peacefulness I felt. It just seemed like the world slowed down that day and I enjoyed every minute, from taking pictures with my new camera and watching Ben and Everett play with bubbles to walking to the park.

I want to capture that again. Here, in my new home in Birmingham. I want to sit on my porch and listen to the train go by just over my back fence. I want to breathe in all the new scents and watch the birds and drink a large sweet tea with lemon in my wicker chair. I hope some of you can join me.

Thoughts on the words of C.S.Lewis –

Image

Art by Master isolated images

C.S. Lewis was a novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. He is probably best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, but he wrote numerous other works, including “The Problem of Pain” from where the quotes in this series were taken.

Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We “have all we want” is a terrible saying when “all” does not include God.

Thanksgiving has turned into a strange celebration for many. For some it’s the beginning of a buying frenzy. For others, it’s a time when their hearts turn to being thankful but they have no idea who they are thankful to.  Just watch TV and you’ll see what I mean. Or don’t, because it isn’t worth watching much.

For example, last night on the The Voice they were showing tweets from “thankful” people. Then they sing “May the Circle Be Unbroken”. Now, this is a song, although not really theologically deep or anything, basically about seeing your loved ones again in heaven. They changed the word Lord to “oh” in the chorus. They took the Lord’s name out of the song. So, how, I wonder, will this circle be unbroken? They have no clue what they are singing about.

But, it’s all over the place – TV, Facebook, Twitter; people giving thanks to essentially an unknown god.

Back to those people crashing the doors on Black Friday, well, actually, even on Thanksgiving Day. They are the ones rushing out for the latest gadget, to get for someone for Christmas, when they have no idea who Christ is. Christmas has truly become, for the majority, a day to buy and GET.  It is just all so sad to me sometimes.

Lord, help me to turn my thoughts toward You.