Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Broken (Not Yet Unbroken) Circle…

We recently did a family outing to hear a (very good) Johnny Cash tribute band (okay, so maybe I am just a bit redneck). They took requests, and for some reason, my kids know “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”

The band played, but as good as they were, I didn’t like their version. It was the old version that started with “Daddy sang bass, Mama sang tenor.”

I kept going back to what I thought was the Alan Jackson version, but really it was the Randy Travis version. I encourage you to visit it on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SagXdu70yF4.

Funny, but I always substitute “Gramma” for Mother. Then I get quiet. I remember all the good times I shared with my maternal grandmother. Then I get sentimental thinking of all the times we’ve missed with her and thinking of all the coffee we should be having discussing religion and politics and work and family.

Then I remember my father, my paternal grandmother, my husband’s grandmother, the great-aunt my mother was named for…

And I feel as broken as my family circle.

I still have life and breath, so way down deep in a round arc hope is hiding. I have to have hope that if I follow the still, small Voice, I will see them again. I have to have hope that their wit and wisdom, their advice, their humor isn’t lost forever; it is buried somewhere deep inside my heart, ready for retrieval when necessary.

Hope fuels me to create good times for my kids, the kind of good times that these people have given me, so that when their circle is badly broken, they will have a future full of hopes and dreams of the unbroken circle.

That kind of hope will never disappoint.

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Why we dance: To dance is to pray, to pray is to heal, to heal is to give, to give is to live, to live is to dance. — MariJo Moore

I’ve always had a love for Native Americans. I think it was somehow passed down from both sides of my family. I loved the costumes and the stories and the traditions (as much as any glow-in-the-dark woman could). But most of all, I loved to watch them dance.

Some dances were group dances. The steps were simple. Young and old participated together.

Other dances featured single dancers. The steps were complicated and the costumes complex.

The dances sang to me of life and surviving long odds and persevering in a world gone crazy where you just don’t fit because you’re too simple.

And I think that’s one of the factors affecting my recent change in denominational pews. It’s tiny and not the largest. However, I still must admit that I have an intense jealousy of those who dance in worship of their still, small Voice.

The reckless abandon they have, the ability to shut out the rest of the world for their Audience of One, the life and light that pours out of every move responding to physical music as well as a spiritual music only they can hear.

I learned to pray. I have been healed by my still, small Voice. I am learning to live and give. And soon… I will dance.

We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them. — Charles C. West

This isn’t a quote I grew up with. I learned it in college. I never quite remember it in it’s entirety.

I will always remember the young woman who taught it to me. Sapphire [name changed to protect the innocent] was a free-spirit, a 30-something year too-late flower child. Her skirts were long and flowing, crinkled, with wild patterns. I don’t think I ever saw her in jeans or slacks. Her blouses were enchanting. I loved her jewelry…shiny and jingly and downright different from the current trends. She even kicked me out of a party that she said was too wild for me (and I could tell a story about what I thought was a wonderful bubble pipe at that party, but I digress…and I did leave immediately.)

She was relaxed and carefree, so unusual. So when she shared this quote with a group of our friends, I was shocked. I didn’t see anything that would indicate she had any reason to hang onto a phrase like that.

Older now, I get it. She chose joy. She chose peace. There were little signs of some of the problems she faced with friends from a different life, but if you didn’t know to look for them, you didn’t know the burdens were there. She chose not to hide them but to only reveal them if it gave her an opening for service. Even when everything she knew was shifting rapidly, she had the faith to trust that God was in control and everything that happened was because He needed you to refocus on Him or He needed to refine your soul so you were stronger.

When the earthquakes happen, we shouldn’t run away. We should stay put, praise God, let God come to us, and serve Him in the rubble. (Acts 16:16-34)

The Black Sheep Syndrome

I’ve seen it time and again, both in families and in friendship circles.

It’s that one friend… the wild one, the one making bad decisions, the one in and out of trouble, the one stirring up controversy (sometimes for attention and sometimes just for excitement). The one friend that everyone gives up on because the lessons never seem to be learned, the consequences seem to get bigger, the stakes seem to get higher…

After a time, the friend fades off into obscurity, known as the “black sheep.” The idiom is common in every language from the United Kingdom in Western Europe all the way east to Bulgaria and Romania.

In nature, black sheep are recessive. Nature is neither right or wrong; it just is.

The problem was what humans did with sheep wool. The wool from black sheep was not as profitable because you couldn’t dye black wool. As the 18th and 19th centuries approached, it was looked at as a mark of evil, as sign of rebellion and a refusal to follow proper paths.

Sorry for the journey into the historical source of the phrase… back to our wayward friend. Sometimes, wayward friends somehow find the right pasture and start to act like wise souls and be respectable.

The real question is what do we do with a returned black sheep. Do we love them enough to give them space and time to let the good choices flow?

Sadly, sometimes, the answer is no. We tend to remember the past history and use it to aggressively tell stories that remind the person of who he or she used to be, almost like we need to remind them of their past so we look and feel better about ourselves because we’ve never made that choice or taken that path.

While black sheep are building new futures and thus bleaching their coats, we’re choosing to paint them black as if black is all they can be. We add to their bleaching efforts because we’re not ready to let go, we’re not ready to forgive, we’re not ready to move on.

The disgusting thing about black sheep syndrome is that everyone but the former black sheep has it. It sucks the life out of the former black sheep and everyone around him or her, and it wastes energy better spent encouraging the sheep to find the right environment for further bleaching the wool.

PS: Don’t bother exhibiting black sheep syndrome anywhere near me. Once a former black sheep has washed in the Blood of the Lamb, you’re seen as pure scarlet that covers over the blackest of unwise choices, and His Righteousness makes you so dazzling white that even white sheep look like anthracite coal.

Rules for Dating My Daughter

Okay, so… I have to admit my kids are all getting to that age. That age, the one where they get all goo-goo eyed and go ga-ga over males. And where guys in their right minds might just notice them (not that I’ve seen many of those guys around here, but I digress).

When the thought doesn’t send me into a panic attack the size of Tokyo, I try to think about the rules I’d want gentlemen callers to know before they enter the uncharted waters of dating one of my princesses.

  1. If you don’t listen to the still, small Voice, don’t bother trying. They may not yet understand the importance of being with someone who listens to that Voice, but I do. I will find a way to run you off or turn their hearts toward someone else.
  2. Curfew is curfew. You miss curfew and cause her to miss curfew, and you will be toast. I don’t care if the car breaks down or aliens abduct you, if you don’t have her back on time, you’re not coming back.
  3. No means no. Whether it’s milkshakes before dinner, westerns for the movie, or rounding first to second, when she says no, you’d better stop… cold… dead in your tracks.
  4. If the law frowns on your relationship, I will too. If she is not 18 and you are over, you’d better wait for her. Likewise, if she’s over 18 and you’re not, she’d better wait for you.
  5. Family time is sacred. When invited and there is no conflict, you will appear for holiday dinners, summer barbecues, and other functions. I want to know you well. If I don’t like you or you can’t seem to attend, then you might not be precious enough for my princess.
  6. I am the ultimate human authority in my daughter’s life until the still, small Voice says otherwise. I didn’t like this rule when my parents had it, and breaking it caused me great heartache for a longer period of time than breaking it took me. She won’t like this rule, but I now understand its reason, and I believe I’ve invested enough in her life that she will listen. Be reasonable and logical and self-disciplined, and this rule won’t be an issue for you. Heck, if you have all the fruit of the still, small Voice (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control), that’s even better!
  7. Finally, if a situation is not covered by one of these rules, refer to rule 6. As a matter of fact, I’d memorize this rule and rule 6 if I were you.

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Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
— King Solomon

 

One Ring to Remind Her…

My maternal grandmother died last year. My mother gave me a ring that had belonged to her. The ring wasn’t much to look at at the time–blackened with just the hint of turquoise sticking out. But it started to bring back memories of lessons learned in my grandmother’s jewelry chest.

 

Lesson 1: Wear things that make you feel and look good; don’t worry about what everyone else thinks.

My grandmother was a beautiful lady with a classic kind of beauty. Her wardrobe was split into two sections: every day and Sunday go-to-meeting. Each section was interwoven with two different kinds of clothes, too.

There were your everyday classics that never go out of style: turtlenecks for layering, the little black dress for every special occasion, the classically cut business suit perfect for meetings and funerals.

Then there were the unusual pieces: the multi-colored broomstick skirt, the long sweater jacket, the red shoes with bows at the toe and heel.

Her wardrobe reflected her life: well balanced and classy. Her jewelry chest was no exception. She had the simple gem solitaires combined with the unusual big rings sitting beside the simple tennis bracelet hanging just above the big clip-on earrings.

Everything in that chest was picked by her or by someone she loved dearly to reflect her, her personality, and her character. I would not have looked right in all of the pieces, nor would my mother. But all those pieces were a perfect fit for my grandmother.

 

Lesson 2: Choose to be in the right place to stay in good shape.

My grandmother used to keep chalk in with her sterling silver jewelry. She told me that somehow it prevented the tarnishing, that black and grey covering on the jewelry that made it hard to see its worth. She couldn’t tell me how.

She also used that chalk as an analogy for the still, small Voice. She told me that if I wanted to stay in good shape to hear the still, small Voice and reflect His glory, I had to look at all my relationships and habits. I had to balance my choices; I needed to spend as much time with the followers of the still, small Voice as I did with people who weren’t far enough along to care about what the still, small Voice wanted.

If I let it get too out of balance with too much time with the group that wasn’t ready to listen to the still, small Voice, I would be tarnished like the silver without the chalk. Conversely, if I spent too much time with the people who listened to the still, small Voice, there would be no point in being shiny and clean because no one would notice and be interested in the still, small Voice.

 

Lesson 3: When tarnish happens, it can be fixed.

My grandmother had a ring that was made from the handle of spoon that had belonged to her mother. I had played with it a few times because it was unusual. I remembered it had been made from a spoon handle. But one time, I was shocked because it wasn’t much to look at.

It was badly tarnished because I *gulp* had moved it one time when I was playing in her jewelry chest. It was broken because I put it back in the wrong place, away from the magical chalk.

I took a few deep breaths, and then I took the ring to my grandmother. With trembling hands and quivering voice, I started to tell the whole story of the mess I’d made of her ring.

She took my hands, laughed, and hugged me. She then did something so unusual. She handed me the ring and told me to go brush the ring like I’d brush my teeth. I must have stared in shock because she chuckled and told me to do it.

So, I put toothpaste on an old toothbrush and began scrubbing and working on the ring. I rinsed it, and I was shocked at the silver flashing out from the black and grey.

I ran excitedly shrieking, and she laughed. She told me that the ring and tarnish was like most mistakes–it can be reversed with the right instructions and a lot of work.

 

At the end of memory lane, I used all those lessons to ensure my ring that had been hers had been cleaned to a point where it had the right balance of tarnish and shine. I loved wearing it whenever I felt I needed to remember all my grandmother’s lessons.

And yes, I don’t remember where it is right now…