The smell of hot cement and a 12 year old's thoughts

The smell of steaming concrete heated by the summer sun and splashed by chlorined water hits my nose as I swim over to the edge of the pool to rest...and all of a sudden I am not a 41 year old mom with her teens at the pool, I am my 12 year old self, body concious in a swimsuit that shows all too clearly my flat chest and stick straight figure, shorter than all of the other girls, nothing to command the attentions that every young female around the pool is dying to catch.

It was a "Christian" event, a pool party of hundreds with a Bible study slapped in and picnic lunches on the grounds where youth groups checked each other out, boys throwing footballs and loud and physical, and girls arranging their brown limbs in attractive poses nonchalantly, and lots of giggling and big hair. There is an art to casually cutting your eyes in a flirty way during prayer time, finding the one who paid you some attention to stand beside as the group hold hands in "spiritual unity."

I was pale. Small. Childish in a sea of the effects of puberty hormones that didn't hit me like the ones around me. And all that insecurity, the disappointment in my myself over what I could do nothing about, the sadness in not feeling chosen or noticed, it hits me with unexpected force these almost 30 years later.

I want to go back to that girl, so fragile, so dependent on what people thought... I want to tell her the truth about herself, and how this is not her permanent reality, this sense of standing on the outside looking in. The truth is, what I can see not looking back through the eyes of wisdom that only the tunnel of time can give you, every young person around that Olympic sized pool, swimming and splashing in it, jumping from the impossibly high diving platform, perched on loungers with bright colored beach towels, congregating around tables with snack bar drinks, spraying hair spray in the moldy bathrooms- they all felt the same way, in some form or another. I was not alone in my fears, worries, insecurities, and now, I know this. I wish she had.

I wish she had known she could hold her head up and trust that Jesus had a plan for her future that didn't depend on if her bathing suit was filled out in the way she wanted. I wish I could tell her that all the dreams and joy inside her did not depend on if she fit in with the crowd around the snack bar, that her longing to be one of the girls with inside jokes and flirty glances would never fill her heart, but Jesus knew that one day He would give her a man who would love her enough to sacrifice for her, and whose affections would not be based on beauty, that this is what would make her feel cherished and give her confidence enough to stand up straight.

I would say to her that even though I now wear a bathing suit that covers flaws her smooth, flat young body could not even imagine, I have peace from the power of knowing what this body can do and from watching it accomplish what it was designed for: growing 5 children, nourishing them, holding them close, surviving days of no sleep, loving a man through 20 years. She could not understand it, if I could explain it all; youth is free from the burdens of the future while closed to all the lessons it hasn't learned from experiencing it yet.

I feel all of the fears and hurt of that girl in a rush in a moment, and at the same time, distance from all these emotions that I have gained from listening to the voice of God for the years from age 12 to 41. I say to her, inside my mind, we have come a long way.

And I push off to swim again, through the cool water, to move on, to be grateful the years, and grace, have brought me from then to this.

As Simple as Grapefruit

This morning my little one wanted grapefruit for breakfast- actually her first choice was Cool Whip because who doesn't want Cool Whip first thing in the morning- and it is one of those food items she just can't manage on her own yet. Sitting on the counter to keep me company, she asked about every step- cutting it in half, choosing which side to start with, using the special knife to make the sections to eat, adding the little sprinkle of sugar to the top. And as I stood there I was hit by a memory of grapefruit being cut at another counter that I can't go back to anymore.

My Nanny and Papa were married for more than 50 years and she was determined in the later years to keep them both healthy. I remember my sister and I sitting in the stands of the gym at the YMCA while they walked with other couples their age, and breakfasts changing from eggs and bacon and the whole Southern lot to grapefruit and toast. One of their mundane conversations  from one of the mornings still echoes in my mind as my Papa chose a grapefruit and began to cut it in half. 

 "Well, baby," he said, "let's see if I can get this thing cut even this time." Knife slicing through the fruit, hitting the counter, the two halves falling to the side. "Nope, not this time...I guess we will try again tomorrow..." They share a little smile and he chuckles.

It wasn't a  life changing conversation. It wasn't deep thoughts, or personal secrets of how to have a lasting marriage, so why did this one moment of the daily interaction in a marriage affect me so deeply? It was a glimpse into the personal part of a relationship, a little view into the private side of two people who have built a life together, who have weathered years, and heartbreaks, and joys and still have the small moments everyday of sharing a smile over the impossibility of splitting a grapefruit into two perfectly equal parts... the everydayness of life shared again and again and again over decades and still wondering at something small. 

We don't normally think of our parents' or grandparents' relationships in this way, or at least I did not. For us, in our family, they are just a fact of life, stability, a foundation for those of us who are products of them to stand on and build on and move forward from. But for a small second, I had the thought, "They are friends and they have something between them that I know nothing about." That realization was just a flashing thought but strong enough to have lasted until now, years later, at my own counter cutting grapefruit for my child.

Right now I am in a role in my own marriage that I haven't been in before. My sweet husband fell last week and broke his ankle, requiring surgery this week for 2 screws to hold it together so he will heal. He is in a lot of pain and basically can only sit on the sofa with his leg propped up, so I am the care taker of the household until he is up on his feet again. It is tiring, but I can tell you, there is a pleasure in making sure that he has everything he needs and trying to make him as comfortable as I can. As small as it seems, I take joy in filling his cup with cold water, freshening up the sofa when he gets up for a break. It has reminded me of how quickly life can turn, how one moment you may be laughing with your family and the next your bread winner is on the ground and your thoughts are on how will be business be run and the bills be paid? Our little setback is temporary. The ankle will heal and he will be back to being as good as new- and I realize that every minute people are hit with more serious and permanent heartbreaks and diagnoses. 

But it has been enough to make me appreciate the kind of love that I am blessed to have, the kind of friendship that I am so privileged to have my marriage founded on, the kind of bond that I am the third generation to experience in my family. 

We take care of each other. 

It might be in the big things, making sure the roof is over our heads, or it might be in the little things, like having clean underwear in the drawer after a shower. It could be in sitting beside the hospital bed when I had a hysterectomy or it could be in making sure his glass of water has just the right amount of flavoring in it.

It could be cutting the fruit into perfect halves for breakfast.

I am grateful for this reminder of the "us" that exists beyond being parents, or any other of the roles we have to play. That making this last, making this life together is yes, the deep issues, the hard decisions, the forgiveness and the mercy and the learning to be one instead of two...but sometimes it is as simple and as plain as grapefruit.

Like and Share

Today, in this world, it isn't enough to have something to say to just a few people, it is only validated if we spread it to as many people as possible. It isn't that these technological advances that have allowed us to share are a bad thing- in fact, I think they are allowing us to spread the truth of Jesus and to connect in a certain way with people like never before. I am grateful for the outlet of this blog and other media outlets to share what I am thinking and feeling and experiencing, and to get feedback from others about those things.

But there is a danger, and it is one that I seem to be reading about so often lately, as if there is an awakening to the shift that has happened to us as we have more and more media at our fingertips.

And what I see is this- the clamoring and pushing for more likes, more shares, more forwarding of the blog, more likes on facebook, more followers on twitter, more, more, more. There is a false sense of purpose in seeing those numbers go up, a pat on the back that says, "Look how important you are!" It isn't real, or true, and it won't last. What happens if the next post or blog has less likes, like hits- does your value go down?

It causes us to look past the people in our lives that can truly bring deep importance and feelings of value to us, the people whose faces we can look into and can actually wrap our arms around. We are trading a click of a computer for the connection on eyes looking into each other. For a 30 second video that makes us laugh for the belly laugh from an inside joke moment with a friend across the table from us.

I do think we can have both- using the technology to enhance the lives that we have already full of people and true connections. But it has to be a daily awareness, a checking in, a purposeful, intentional using of a tool and not letting the tool use you. And I fear for a generation who truly bases their worth on the number of followers they have and also consider the value of others as equal to their influence in some social media. I have lots of friends on facebook, but how many of them can I call at 2 am? That I can say I can actually name a few is a huge blessing, especially since there was a time in my life that I could not make that statement.

I am really thinking about how I use or am used by all of this lately as a new year begins...are you? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Love and blessings,

Church and Dark Chocolate

I love my church. I am proud of it. And I want to tell you why- but first let me clear up a few things. First, loving one thing does not automatically mean you hate something else, for instance, dark chocolate. I love it, and I mean I really love it- I have a stash hidden for emergencies...and by emergency I mean every day after lunch when I need to eat a bite of chocolate.

But just because I love dark chocolate does not mean that I hate milk chocolate or that I think you should run far from milk chocolate and never eat it again, and I can sing the praises of my little jewel wrapped Hersey kisses without it being meant to anger you that I don't feel the same about a Hersey bar or a Reese Cup, or whatever floats your chocolate boat.

So, just because I want to tell you about why I love my church does not imply a criticism of yours, or your mama's or the big one around the corner...Ok, got it?

When I think of my church, I am not thinking of the building, although I am so grateful for our facilities and having a nice place to gather. What I am thinking of is the people there... they are family to me.

I grew up as the preacher's kid, and I am now still the preacher's kid so I literally do have family here. But I also have what I call my "faith family", and they are as thick to me as blood. They have seen me at my best and at my worst and they keep on holding my hand and telling me to look to Jesus. They don't always agree with me but they always talk to me about how my best self is when I let Jesus do in me whatever it is He needs to. They know I am 40 years old and have a blanket. They know I once had to pay myself to do laundry because I hated it THAT MUCH. They wiped my babies behinds in the nursery and now they guide them in the youth group.

They are my family and it does something deep in me to worship with them every week, to see them lifting up their voices and their hands when I know what some of them are going through at that moment. I know them, so I know that their praise is a sacrifice, and it really really spurs me on to worship more intently and more deeply. I have seen some of them go through dark times and see God be faithful, so when I go through dark times it helps me to remember His faithfulness.

Some of my faith family have been there for years, and some haven't. Some I see every week and some I don't. Some of them are rednecks, and some of them are refined. There are fat and skinny and dressed up people and people in sweatpants and people with perfectly fixed hair and some with red and green hair and some with no hair. When we have greeting time and the music is playing and everyone is hugging and laughing and smiling and the music stops and everyone is all over the sanctuary and out of their seats to say hi to someone else, I feel God there. I almost cry every single week. I just can feel the love and it is like some kind of warm drink on a cold day. I need that. If we just did that and then we had to go home I would feel like I had had church that day.

So there you go- my heart on my church. I could list a bunch of other things I love, like my Pastor, and Life Group meetings, and supper on Wednesday night... but what it all boils down to is these amazing people that I get to go after the heart of God with and who have been His hands and feet to me.

I would love to hear why you love about your church! There is room in the candy bowl for lots of kinds of chocolate. :) And if you don't have a church you love, I will save a seat for you beside me on Sunday at CCF.

Love and blessings,