Five-Minute Friday: Cheer

We came to cheer her life of service. A life fully devoted to serving Jesus as was evidenced by the testimonies of those whose lives she touched.

She sat with me.
She listened to me.
She prayed with me.
She saw that we had coats and shoes.
She cared about my family.

The stories went on and on of this woman who cheered on others with acts of service, living out the words of Jesus to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. She did this literally and figuratively. Her life was one of faith and works, beliefs in action.

cheer

palbearers cropped

Tears welled in our eyes, the realization our mother’s earthly life was complete. I held tight the hands of my brother and sister while the prayer was said at her graveside. It was harder than I thought it would be. We’d lost her long ago to Alzheimer’s. But the body’s death carries its own sting, though not one that can’t be overcome by victory in Christ Jesus.

Yes, we mourned but not as much as our hearts cheered the life she shared with countless others. We sang the old hymn, “When we all get heaven what a day of rejoicing (cheering) that will be!”

So we rejoice her life, a testimony lived for all to see, a life giving glory to God.

Linking up with the weekly #fmfparty hosted by Kate Motaung. Join us!

Learning to belong

I suppose it started when I was a kid. When moving to new places and new schools weren’t easy and only got harder as I got older.

I learned the language of the places soon enough. I picked up the cadence of the Cajun when we lived in Louisiana and learned the culture of big cities when we moved to Baltimore. In our first move to Florida I felt the stares from my less than adequate swimming ability in Phys Ed class when I didn’t measure up to those reared in backyard pools. I was watching, listening but I never belonged.

Baltimore 1972

Baltimore 1972

Shawnee, OK

Shawnee, OK

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

Arkansas

Arkansas

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

It was a hopscotch of moves from the south to the sort of northeast to Utah and back around again. Thirteen schools in all from first grade to twelfth. Seven different states with their distinct ways of talk and customs; all part of shaping my life. I like to think it makes me a better student of people, that it makes me more welcoming to others. But it’s never made me feel like I belong.

Perhaps that’s why I clung to my church. There was safety there. The language was the same from state to state and I fit in quite well, thank-you. Church should be a refuge for all but maybe for me that refuge at times was a place to hide my struggles. To keep playing the church roles that fit so well and not examine the heart that was hurting.

I found my place of most belonging when we had our children. Mama. Care-giver, schedule-maker, driver, helper, healer, volunteer, controller….um, yeah, that one was big. Mama’s have control in their families so don’t even try to deny it and when you’ve struggled with belonging, control is a pretty sweet place to land.

But God.

But God took things in another direction and I found myself losing control.

 To him. He is my hiding place.

That wasn’t the end of it, but just the beginning of finding my real belonging. After ten years in one ministry that was familiar, God turned it upside down again and our whole focus was changed in dramatic ways. Geographically and relationally. We went from serving a congregation in a traditional setting to serving men in a residential program, most of whom were fighting addiction. What? What am I doing here? I was lost. Again. Torn from that figurative place I’d put my belonging.

It took awhile for me to understand, to see or to accept where we were. Not having a traditional church with all the programs but being in the midst of men who were so different from me. And then I discovered we all belonged to the one place I’d talked about but not really practiced myself: grace. God’s grace that has no home except in the hearts of those willing to accept it.  I’d sung the words and talked about it but these men taught me about grace. They taught me in how they accepted me and how God reminds me of my need for him one day at a time.

This post first appeared on Living in Graceland in February of 2014.

home fades

When Home Fades From View

I don’t like staying at other peoples homes. I can’t rest. Not like I can when I’m at home – our home, where I know the sounds of our neighborhood and creaks of our stairs.

Going to mom’s house was the exception. It didn’t matter her last two houses were places I only visited as an adult, I could walk in and feel like I belonged. I would help myself to her kitchen and make myself at home.

The past few years this home has faded as it wasn’t the house but her, that represented home. Mama = home.

street Sign Yakima

 

house front

BirchTrees

Alzheimer’s invaded our home and took that place of safety away from us.

It’s been 10 years since we noticed the beginning of this fade. Five years since she had to leave her house for her own safety. Her body was okay, her mind slipping further and further away.

A couple of months ago I had two dreams in which she died. Both times, I woke not feeling anxious but feeling as though her death would come soon and I felt at peace with that. But when the text came from my sister that she was being taken to the hospital with a fever and rapid heart beat the anxiety rushed full force and the tears burst out in that ugly way.

The texts continued throughout the day, each one with news more desperate and the realization that this earthly home of hers is fading as God prepares to take her to her eternal home. So we wait. We wait knowing she has long been with Jesus and she will soon be released. This does little to ease my sorrow at the final loss of mama.

home fades

I need time away from this cyber home so I’ll be taking a bit of a sabbatical from the blog. That’s all I know for now and it’s enough. I covet your prayers for peace and a renewed vision for life. Your comments, emails, etc. are much appreciated and know that while I may not answer them, your words are reaching my heart.

All is grace,

Debby

P.S. Mama passed from this world May 12, taking her rightful place in heaven where she is now restored and complete in our Savior’s love. 

Where Was Your First School?

It looked so grown up, like shaving your legs or wearing makeup. Those things an 11 year old starts asking “when”.

When can I get contact lenses? When can I stay up until 10? When can I go to the movies with my friends (and no parents)?

This particular thing I wanted to be allowed to do was iron. Today, I can’t imagine the attraction except that it was something only the grown-up’s did. And in our house, only the grownup women. Being a smart woman, Mama let me iron daddy’s handkerchiefs. They were small squares of cotton, with little chance of messing up. I gladly took the iron and sprinkled the pop bottle filled with water on the wrinkles, pressed the hot iron on the fabric and heard the hiss as the steam rose. That was the fun part. And that may have been the last time ironing was fun.

home school

Heather xmas drawing

Home was my first school. Granny taught me how to tell time on her old clock that sat on her console television. She may have been the one to teach me how to tie my shoes too. Grandparents seem to have an extra measure of patience.

A lot of what was taught was by example. Watching mama sweep and mop our hardwood floors, washing dishes, separating laundry and hanging them on the line. Being in scouts I learned to set a proper table and fold the flat bed sheet on the corners. These small things added order to my life and provide a certain satisfaction, even today.
Meal times are where we learned our table manners and passing instead of reaching. We weren’t a yes m’am and no m’am kind of family but we learned not to sass and please and thank you were two of the most important words in our house.

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school

Where was your first school? Where did you learn life’s best lessons?

Home is where I learned about God and helping others. It’s also where I learned that being Christian doesn’t always keep marriages together.

We learn the good and hard at home. The legend of Santa and the mystery of the tooth fairy give way in time just like putting away my baby dolls. Stories of Jesus are held on to because they are history that holds truth and life for today. We’re taught to discern the difference between fairy tale and truth and appreciate the value in both.

Today I’m learning to forgive the past and give myself grace. I’m still working on accepting that God considers me worthy. It’s a day by day thing, you know.

I have to disagree with the book titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The best things, the things I need to know, I learned at home. It’s the place where I’m still learning.

“So the Word [Jesus] became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”John 1:14

Linking with Coffee for Your Heart.

Home Is Where the Heart Is, Among Other Things {guest post}

I am happy to welcome Cara Meredith to Living in Graceland today. Cara has graciously agreed to guest post with her thoughts on home. I know you will feel welcomed so grab a cup of tea and get comfy. 

I’ve been out of town for 19 of the last 35 days.

And as you might guess, I’m itching for home.

I don’t travel regularly for work, not in the least. Mostly, I take care of my babies, and I speak and write on the side. But occasionally – as happened in the past 35 days – all travel and activity fell at once. Between two out of state speaking engagements, one trip to visit family across country, one weekend visit to the mountains with friends, and another trip across country for a writing conference, I’m wiped.

Really, this isn’t anything new. Think about the common cold: when one person in a family gets sick, every person in a family gets sick.

Or, when said sickness decides to pay an individual a visit, it’s always at the most inopportune of times – when we’re in the middle of a busy season or immediately afterwards when we’ve finally taken a moment to stop and pause and catch our breath.

It’s an all-at-once mentality, and be it sickness or travel or life in general, it gets pretty exhausting after awhile.

And personally, it makes me yearn for home.

Home guest post Cara Meredith

Because home, at least as it’s intended to be, is the place we let down our guard. Home is where we’re our most real and raw and vulnerable selves. Home, of course, is where the heart is, and home is where I go when I need to put on my yoga pants and rub dry shampoo in my hair and not wear make-up for a day or two.

Home is the place where comfort and solace and grace meet us at the door, welcoming us in, beckoning us to kick up our feet and relax.

Now my home, mind you, is not always the place of respite I yearn for it to be, especially when two young boys stake claim on their castle morning, noon and night.

Instead, more often than not, I’m greeted with a sprinkling of dust-laden Cheerios on the floor of the living room and the top of a bedroom dresser overflowing with the contents of my husband’s pockets from prior after-work emptying excursions. Backpacks lay open on the floor, and the toy room is a mess, and have I mentioned that I don’t think the refrigerator’s been cleaned out in at least two or three weeks’ time?

A prominent funk, as you might guess, has started to make my nose crinkle. And Calgon, mind you, is nowhere near taking me away.

home quote- cara meredith

But this home, even with all its quirks and mannerisms and smells and messes, is mine. It is as unique and individual to me as my preference for honey in my tea instead of sugar, as welcoming to me as an old friend who hugs me long when I haven’t seen her in months.

Maybe, it’s in the beauty of the mess that we find our true home. It’s in our everyday, ordinary lives, and our more than everyday, ordinary, messy houses that we find the One who brings us to a place of comfort.

And it’s in this home – or shall I say Home? – that we find true rest.

That, I suppose, is what I think about as I look forward to curling up under my own blankets, in my own bed, in my own somewhat messy room, in just a few hours.

And in this home Peace will find me, too.

Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from the greater San Francisco bay area. She is passionate about theology and books, her family, meals around the table, and finding Beauty in the most unlikely of places. A seven on the Enneagram, she also can’t help but try to laugh and smile at the ordinary everyday. You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

Five-Minute Friday: MISS

Did you miss it? It was right in front of you wasn’t it?

Life. It seems I blinked and went from my high school graduation to holding our granddaughter in my arms.

This life, with all the conveniences we’ve created to save time and make life easier have only made it go faster and I forget life is happening now.

On long road trips, our daughter was asleep before we left the county, but our son? No, he was looking out the window, watching the scenery change from palm trees to bayous to canyons and mountains. He didn’t want to miss a thing.

I take it in like he does. Not wanting to miss out but I’m learning it’s not the scenic view that begs to be noticed but it’s the moments in front of me. The little and big things. The holding the door open for a stranger and the person who lets you go in front of them in line because you only have one thing. The neighbor across the street who always says hello. The cat who was actually friendly 😉

can't miss this cat

Our house is filled with photos, reminders of family and cherished times I want to remember. How much our crazy tribe loves each other above our jabbing and sarcasm.

A few friends are going me as we’re doing a series on home this month on the blog because there’s something about that place that draws me that I’ve missed, and miss. A searching and longing that is being filled if I slow down and take notice. Filled with reminders of Jesus making his home with us. And I don’t want to miss what He’s doing in my life.

What is it you don’t want to miss? 

Linking up with Kate Motaung for a weekly free-writing prompt called Five-Minute Frida.y. Join the group of writers over at Kate’s. Don’t MISS out! 😉

When Home Left Me

Words spilled from their mouths but nothing was said. There was no meaning, only the everyday things families say, words to pretend a normal life, words to hide the secrets.

We were moving. But it was different this time. This time, home was leaving me..

We were on Christmas break from school. The Christmas tree was crowding our living room. Wrapped presents lay stacked under the tree and stockings were hanging from the mantle in the dining room. My brother and I were surrounded by the appearance of a typical family Christmas.

A day or two later, we packed up the car and moved to a town just south where my grandparents lived. I wouldn’t go back to my Junior High School. I wouldn’t be able to tell my friends goodbye or gather anything I’d left in my locker.

I only remember silence.

4 of us in Tulsa

broken home

art journal exercise from Brene Brown course

I didn’t know their marriage was breaking up. I didn’t know our family was breaking up. In the next month or so daddy would take my younger brother and move to Florida. I didn’t know how quiet a house could be or that I would be so lonely.

I didn’t know home could be the one leaving me.

Perhaps this is when I began to feel homeless. Or when I desperately needed a place to belong.

I spent the first 13 years of my life moving. The simple question, “Where are you from?” has always stumped me.

I was born far away from any family roots and lived six weeks in my birthplace, thanks to my father’s time spent in the U.S. Army. From Massachusetts to Texas to Arkansas all by the time I was barely two. Then it was Louisiana to Arkansas and back to Louisiana to Oklahoma and back to Arkansas before my 12th birthday. The latter moving compliments of The Salvation Army where my parents served as ordained ministers. Moving was a way of life, of family life. The four of us, going, together.

After the divorce the moving increased along with my lack of belonging and a yearning for home: one place, my place, where I could stay and allow some roots to dig in.

The place found me or we found each other because the last time daddy decided to move, mid-way through my senior year of High School, I said “No. I’m staying”. I stayed for 20 years.

I know home is more than a place. But this place knows me and I know it. I know the grid in which the city streets are laid out. I know where Peaches use to be and when we had metered parking beachside. I know where Boca Lake is and that it’s not a lake at all. I learned a few Yiddish words here and that we’re, affectionately, called the 6th borough of New York.

I know one day we will leave this home and make another.

“We were never made for heaven. Our bodies, formed of dust, were always intended for a life on earth. This world IS our home. The great promise has always been not that we would go to live with God, but that God would come to make His home with us.” – Christie Purifoy

“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” John 14:23 NLT

I understand Jesus’ words but decades later, my young girl heart yearns for this broken family to be mended. I’m holding the pieces of the past knowing they can’t be put together, yet, I can’t seem to let them go, to put them aside and focus on the home Jesus has given me.

He has made his home with me.

I have wrestled with a neat and tidy closing for this post. The positive resolution we all want. I’m not finding it today except to say, my heart will always ache for the past. And maybe because of that ache, I want to create home for others. I want to say, “Yes, I know” to those who’ve felt the sting of divorce or loneliness, rejection and abandonment. I want to extend a welcome that says, “you’re tears are okay, you’re words are safe here.” That is the kind of home Jesus has given me. Home here, on this ball of soil and ocean, here along the coast of the aqua colored sea. He has made his home with me.

Are You Home?

The first place that comes to mind when I think of home is Granny’s side of a duplex on I Street in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

It wasn’t the only place she lived in that town where daddy was born and raised but it’s the one that is embedded in my memory. It’s the place I remember sitting with her, in what we called, the front room watching Dark Shadows on her black and white t.v. I felt like I was getting away with something, her letting my 10-year old self watch a show about vampires.

I remember helping her take the laundry in from the clothesline in her backyard and her braiding my hair at night before bed to help us stay cool in her un-airconditioned home. We shared a bed as there was only one in this place. One room at the front of the house, a kitchen in the middle and her bedroom and bathroom in the back. The furniture was sparse, the floors hardwood and cracked linoleum. There was a stuffed swivel rocker where she sat every morning reading her bible. She watched Bonanza and her ‘stories’ from that chair. She crocheted purses for my Barbie’s and argued with my daddy from the only upholstered furniture in her house. We drank orange juice from former jelly jars and her cast iron skillet cooked cornbread most days of the week. She had all she needed.

home

I wonder why that place comes to my mind as home as I never lived there. Well, I lived when I was there. Lived a very simple life walking to the Safeway with Granny, listening to conversations with her and one of my uncles when he stopped by. Going to the women’s meeting at church with her. I lived beside her like a shadow cast from the early afternoon sun.

There are so many quotes about home to sift through, deciding what holds truth and what is fairy tale. There’s a lot of made up stuff about home and it being all of that ‘home, sweet home’ variety. Sometimes it is, but what a burden to carry thinking it’s always that way or that everyone except you has that kind of home..

Memories of summer take me home. With family scattered around the country most of our vacations were spent traveling to see my parents or my brother and his family. We stopped at some fantastic places along the way but we always returned home. This summer, we’re planning to visit our son and his wife in their new home in Indianapolis. They’ve been there a year but it will be our first visit to their new place.

Home is where the heart is.-2

For me, home is about connectedness, about belonging. This month, we’ll be exploring home here in Graceland with a few guest bloggers and, hopefully, you. What’s your favorite quote or saying about home? Does home hold a spiritual connection for you? Is it true, can you never go home again?

I  hope you’ll fill the spaces with your thoughts on home. Let’s explore together and build a stronger home. Ready?

Retreat? Hardly!

Retreat: to withdraw

Often, we speak about going on a retreat, meaning to withdraw away from the busy-ness of life, the noise and distractions. We retreat to refresh and refuel.

We are going on a retreat this weekend. Lord willing, we are already at Camp Keystone about an hour from Jacksonville up in North Florida. But this isn’t the kind of retreat where we withdraw but where we engage.

We will be taking 50+ men from the rehab center we’re in charge of and meeting with 5 other centers for an annual, mis-named retreat. Maybe we should call it the Play Hard and Pray Harder weekend because they will forget they aren’t teenagers as they take to the basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. They’ll run an obstacle course and cast a fishing line. They will aim their arrows at the targets and consider their next move in chess.

From card and board games to the ones played under the beating sun, bodies will be worn and torn and the vans on the ride home will be filled with the sounds of hard sleep and and the scent of Ben Gay.

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events  softball 954

events

ARC Retreat

softballPrayer

They will sleep in cabins (air conditioned because it’s still Florida!) and have a couple of days without the usual sleep-eat-work-meetings routine. For some, it will be their first time to experience anything like this.

While they retreat from the city and group meetings and work therapy, they will engage in celebrating victories and displaying grace in losing. They will be reminded that sportsmanship counts more than the final score. They will see us fiercely cheer for them, our men, our team. They will discover how much I know about sports and how fearless I am at heckling the ref. We’re friends or it wouldn’t be any fun at all.

In between the activities, we will come together to engage in praise and open our hearts and minds to God’s word as it will be shared through song and teaching. We will be filled to overflowing with life abundant.

For us, it’s a privilege to share this all expense paid weekend with men whose lives were so out of control they ended up at our door. They ended up at The Salvation Army, thought of as homeless. Like the father in the story of the lost, we’ve been watching for them to come home. Home to recovery, to restoration, to recovery and into the loving arms of Jesus.

 

Is It Right In Front of You?

Please don’t say branches.

I saw the photo Kim posted in the class, the one she found on Pinterest and was so taken with. The photo of this long, leggy branch sticking up from a small can on a weathered bench against a wall divided by white and textured blue . You could hear the inspiration in her voice as she said this week’s still life prompt is…branches. Ugh!

palm trees

morning palms logo
Palm trees, these trees line our neighborhood streets. They have fronds, not branches. The leafy trees in this tropical part of Florida are green year ‘round and don’t lend themselves to what I was trying to see. We don’t have dogwood trees with their delicate blossoms in spring. Or wisteria, or the Bradford Pears that look like snowballs in the spring. This was going to be a tough one.

I wasn’t seeing what was in front of me.

front room branches

kk_DarkMood

These branches are fake. They imitate pussy willows and some other white, softly ruffled blossom. The are long and leggy sticking out from their heavy glass container as they sit on the floor next to our front door. I walk past them every day. I sit in the living room with them in my line of sight, but I nearly missed the opportunity to see their possibility.

Sarah Bessey wrote an article recently in which she talked about a calling she had ignored and denied. (You can read it here.) She is a writer, has always been a writer. She is not a preacher. No, that’s not her calling in life.

She is asked to speak in many venues, including churches. She prefaces her ‘talks’ in church settings with: “Fair warning: I’m not a preacher; I’m a writer.” Until… “the pastor looked me dead in the eye and said, “You have got to stop saying that. The gift of God is clear. We all see it.”

Like the branches sitting in my living room, front and center in plain view, I nearly missed their purpose can be more than decorative.

We’re told to work in our strengths which are part of our calling. We “self-select”, as Bessey calls it. She points out the downside to this can be “a false demarcation between sacred and secular work.”

I have  dismissed teaching as part of my calling. I don’t think I’m good at it. I’m not the studious type. I don’t mine for the deep truths or find theology particularly interesting. I can’t quote much scripture and references escape me. But over and over I’ve been told how much people enjoy a class I’ve taught. They ask why I’m not teaching now and when I say, “I’m not a teacher”, they firmly disagree.

Who do I listen to? Who do you listen to when you’ve self-selected one area as your calling, or strength?

I like the possibility of communal affirmation. It calls me to step aside and give consideration to what others see. This is the challenge: to step aside, to listen to ones who, perhaps, have a better vantage point and are more objective.

What is right in front of you that you’re missing? Maybe this week you can bravely ask a few others?

This is the final post in a 4-part series on calling. To read more of our story, click these links: one, two, three.