FAITH: Cookin’ Up Some Strength

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My encounter with Sallie helped fortify my faith.

I’ve only had two friends in my life named Sallie – with an i-e.

One was a dear high school friend whom shared my joy for journalism and she worked with me on our award-winning high school newspaper. The other – a more recent friend – is one I see occasionally at my local grocery store. Her job – to prepare recipes and serve them – as shoppers sail in after work looking for something to make for dinner. Her mission – to help care for others.

Recently my sister’s health has taken an unexpected dive. As I dashed into the store the other day, I saw Sallie’s smiling face and remembered her telling me years ago how she had survived cancer when her daughter was only one-year-old. Interesting, I thought. A sturdy woman. Good for her. Today that daughter is in his late 30s.

Since we had a moment, I stopped by to sample the spinach and pasta, salad and strawberry shortcake she had prepared. While we chatted, I asked her to tell me once again about her survivorship. Breast cancer – now 35+ years. A successful struggle with stomach cancer, more recently. I found strength in her resilience.

“God put us here to take care of each other,” she said in a matter of fact manner.

Since I hail from a generation that used the word “ladylike” as a compliment you will understand why I’m not disclosing Sallie’s age even though she spoke of it during our time together. I was amazed again – thinking to myself that I’d like to have her spunk and certainty through life’s tsunamis.

It’s people like Sallie who remind me about the faith I say I have in God. Who believe – not just mentally or intellectually – in His existence, love for us and care despite our current circumstances.

In between standing to the side for a few moments so she could serve others, we continued talking.

“Girl,” Sallie said looking me directly in the eyes, “and you know I don’t mean anything by callin’ you a girl…I raised seven children, my husband left me and I have owned three houses in my lifetime. You don’t tell ME what God CAN’T do.”

Shame on me for my limited thoughts about God and His abilities – not only for myself, my sister and family and everyday people like us. In our 10 minutes together, Sallie did so much for me as well as some spiritual optometry to help me get a better picture of God.

Her message: zoom out, baby, and keep going.

Talk about food and thought.

Just wondering: How have others helped to strengthen you in times in trouble?

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FUN: Being square and loving it!

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My square will be part of a massive grid of others!

 

When I was growing up being square wasn’t a good thing. It meant odd. Not mainstream. Weird. 

 Today I’m here to say that age 48, I am officially square – Imagination Squared, that is. 

 Let me explain. 

 A mere five years ago, I had the worst year of my life. I won’t bore you about why but I want you to know that during that time, God gave me a friend, the art teacher at the school where I was working. Many days as I cried during my 20-minute-long lunches she listened, cared and encouraged – just like Jesus.  

Since that time, our paths have changed but that important intersection -us meeting and becoming friends – became the  bridge to a flourishing friendship not bound by requirements of proximity. We share our current projects – she’s pitching a beautiful travel book she’s written and illustrated – and I’m completing a children’s picture book text, thinking about my middle school creative writing classes for the next school year and adjusting to being the mom of a high school graduate. 

Recently, my friend emailed about an art project in which she had participated. It intrigued me, so I clicked on the link she provided to see a visual smorgaborg of beauty – hundreds of impressively decorated and painted 5″ squares arranged on a grid. I followed her directions as to which row and column and I found  her fabulous fortune cookie square. 

Hmmm, I thought. This square thing might not be too hard and I needed a new one-time endeavor. So, before I came to my senses, I had contacted her, told her of my desire to try painting a square and the next thing I know I’m sitting in her beautiful art studio with large glass walls overlooking a backyard pond. 

“Make yours have something to do with your writing,” she suggested. She didn’t realize how fatigued I was from bad dreams about the project the previous night. In those dreams, I never actually finished because I could never decide how to begin. It’s like saying describe your life in 25 words or less but on a block of wood and with paint. 

Fortunately, reality reigns and between our brainstorming efforts and a little googling online, my task was cast. I carefully marked my square with one-quarter inch deep horizontal lines. The lines – which I’d erase later – would hold  my handwriting in black ink, an actual cursive copy of a recent blog post I had written here. 

Afterward, I superimposed a beautifully intertwined Alpha and Omega and painted it black. I was nervous but determined. Soon the project was complete, the pencil lines were gone and my disbelieving eyes were amazed. 

Not a Picasso, I thought, but a Lemine and the only one of its kind. Symbolically, the handwriting repesents my life and passion for words designed to inspire, encourage and cause periodic out-loud laughs. The Alpha-Omega represent God and how I want others to see Him in my life. The icon dried transparently and that pleased me because it made me hope others can see me through God. 

And then – I sprayed my square with clear sealer and autographed it like a real artist. Not too bad for a novice, I thought. 

In fact, being square was actually very fun! 

Eventually, my square will be added to the ongoing grid of others currently displayed online. If you’d like more information about this Creative Response Experiment, go to: www.imginationsquared.com. There are hopes for it to have a permanent home for the public to view. 

Just wondering: Tell me about a time you squared off with yourself to do something totally new.

FAITH: Ouch!

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Ever felt like this? Fortunately, God is consistent in His presence and protection - whether or not we FEEL like he is.

 

When last we met, I posted a picture of a plaque that featured a saying that God is holding you in the palm of his hand. 

Well, so much for ME encouraging YOU. I think God had me post that photo (see previous entry) because he knew the next day I would need reminding  –  about my location. 

Actually, I felt as though I had unexpectedly rolled over and fallen out of God’s palm, hit the pavement and I must say, it did NOT feel good.  

It hurt when I received a call telling me a younger sister had been unexpectedly hospitalized –  two days before our extended family was to leave on a bi-annual trip. 

It shredded my emotions to know that her recent months of relative health were back in the “unpredictable zone.” 

And I was surprised when I found myself turning to my friend in church, burying my head in her shoulders and boo-hooing through the praise and worship time. 

All I really have to say after this week is that I did NOT fall out of God’s hand. He did NOT turn it upside down as a cruel joke to see if I had SpiderMan like skills to stay put. 

No. I was safe  – in the middle of his hand as was my sister and our 13 other family members. 

How do I know? 

I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t survived because while I couldn’t physically see God,  he sent people my way to hug me, listen, etc. I even had one woman – a Chick Fil A employee – remind me how powerful God is and that I CAN be strong for my sister.  

That’s more than existing – at least in my book.  

Just wondering: Do times when you can’t physically SEE God make YOU feel as though you fell out of his hand?  

 

Faith it Out

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This plaque says it all.

 

I want to share this picture with you. It is a good reminder about life and I hope it encourages you while I take a “screen break” and work on several other writing projects. 

I look forward to meeting regularly with you again the week of June 18. 

In the meantime, don’t forget me!

FAMILY, FAITH and FUN: Groovy Graduation

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Marking milestones with others is strengthening.

 

Why is that when pregnancy occurs that “someday” sneaks up on you? Suddenly, you’re standing before a child who is taller (in my case) than I am and complaining about how dorky the graduation gear looks. 

Would he ever believe that I felt the same way (about the graduation garb) almost 30 years ago? Would he realize that the 50+ people ranging in age from 2 to 80 yesterday came because they have some sort of involement or investment in his life and they want to share the celebration as well? 

God knows that we can’t always (or don’t need to) see life’s path since He’s with us on it. 

 After the chocolate fountain had been cleaned, the leftover cake covered and the guests were gone, I landed on the couch with aching ankles and would have done it all over again. As a matter of fact, I will next year anyway for my next son. The point is that it’s not the cards and money (nice) that are important. It’s not the food or clandestinely prepared slide show. It’s the fact that people matter. Your life is part of theirs and your success and achievements are in a small way blessings of encouragement from you to them. For listening. For being there. Maybe even for just being related. 

 No matter how disdainful the cap and gown, how many times one hears music to mark a milestone, God blesses us not only with the child, his growth, his graduation, but the ability and pleasure of realizing that intertwined lives are stronger lives and that supporting one person is doing likewise for the whole. 

And, in the words of my generation, I think that’s pretty groovy.

FAMILY: Of Geese and Dental Visits

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The geese made me think about my life and roles.

I’m in the middle of a 3-month-long treatment to correct my shifting teeth. How dare they after I endured braces from 4th through 9th grades and oral surgery to remove 11 teeth!

So here I am at 7:30 a.m. one morning in the dental chair before I get to school to wrap up my first year teaching Expository Writing to middle school students.

I love visiting my dentist – seriously.

There’s a picture window at the foot of each chair over looking a pond in the office complex. Last month, I got to see three baby geese napping in the grass outside the window and near the pond. It was like playing “I Spy” looking for their well camouflaged furriness among the outdoor scenery.

This month, I saw the same babies taking their morning trek across the pond – momma in front and papa at the rear. They swam almost nose to tail and employed a goofy bobbing type of motion as their made forward progress.

After the appointment, I stood up, snuck another peek out the window and saw another family, mama in front, papa in back and older babies – probably teens – making the same trip. This time, though, I noticed that the older babies enjoyed personal space and glided more smoothly across the water.

It made me think how much I have in common with geese and depending on your point of view that could be a good thing! Anyway, let me explain.

Almost nineteen years ago I became a mama – and almost two years later, again! I kept my little ones close at hand like the mother goose. Now those babies are wrapping up their teen years, having much more personal space, and experiencing increased personal responsibility. During the course of 24 hours, they usually manage to swim by – I mean text or call – so I know where they are but not always.

What happens when these babies are on their own?

I don’t know but I’m about to find out soon enough.

Stay tuned. If no one moves my personal pond I think I’ll be OK.

Just wondering: What is your story about undergoing, surviving and thriving during life changes?