What I Learned When Tradition Was Broken

By: Ms. O

For as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve meant burning bayberry candles. Growing up,  it was a given that after dinner, two bayberry tapers would be lit and would burn to the socket during the night. There were some years that we would mess around, running our finger through the flame, pretend to blow it out, but to my recollection, no one ever snuffed them out. It was meant to bring good luck….I was never sure why, so I had to google it and got this:

“Bayberry candles burned to the socket, bring health to the home and wealth to the pocket.”

I knew my grandparents burned them each Christmas Eve, as did my mom. When I married and moved away, I would do the same. My husband would have a fit…probably because he was in the safety division at work and could see eminent danger in leaving candles burning all night…but it HAD to be done….because it had always been done.

This year….on Christmas Eve….I opened my drawer that I kept my secret stash of bayberry tapers, only to find it empty. Panic set in…big time.

If you don’t know it, bayberry tapers are not an easy find…especially in the south. Christmas Eve is not the time to go looking. Throughout the day, I played the war of emotions….pondering how dire my circumstances will be if I don’t burn the “good luck” candles. I had never missed a year since 1980 when I moved out….

How could I have let this happen? What will happen to me now?

Would a bayberry Scentsy suffice? Glade makes a bayberry air freshener…I think. Maybe the mall would be worth fighting in the off chance that Yankee Candle would have some semblance of a bayberry candle that I could carve into a taper…ugh.

It was in my anguish that I reflected back over my life…the changes that came…not because of the “good luck” candles….but in spite of it.

My grandparents passed away…as did my aunt. Our family has had its share of heartache. We saw the oilfield in its heyday and then the bottom fall out of it. I lost a baby….said “goodbye to friends”…went through a divorce…the list goes on….even though I burned those candles each and every year…no matter what.

Constant Flame

What I have come to know is this: God was faithful through it all. In the wonderful mountain top events…God was there…as He was in the depth of my despair.  He is the constant flame.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6

That comes from the last book in the Old Testament…Malachi 3:6…before the silent years…those 400 years between the Old and the New Testament. Malachi finishes with the promise of the Day of the Lord…of His coming…but it would be a while. The passage in Malachi 3:6 is a reminder to all…that God does not change…therefore we are not consumed.

So Christmas Eve passed this year without my burning of the bayberry tapers. I am not saying I won’t ever burn them again.  If I come across the candles before next year, I will most likely buy them so I can relive an old tradition in my family…but I know it is not a do-or-die situation. The world did not end the next day. Quite the opposite in fact.  This year….we had  something new…a granddaughter that reminds me of God’s faithfulness each and every time I gaze in her eyes.

linda and E_for blog

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow….amen.

Ode To A Slice of Life

By: Ms. O

A very sad anniversary is happening this week…one that still makes my heart cry…if hearts did indeed shed tears. This week marks the tenth anniversary of the closing of Astroworld. Sniff…sniff.

When we moved to Houston I was thrilled at the proximity of the park. We were season tickets holders each and every summer…and more than got our money’s worth out of price.

wild and crazy ride

The Texas Cyclone was the Grand’Mere of all wooden roller coasters.  I remember waiting in line, hearing the cars climb and fall ….the wooden structure bending and shaking….the screams of riders making you more nervous the longer you stood there.  I know I can still feel the trembles in my stomach as we climbed that first hill…dangling over the hump waiting for the back of the car (because of course I rode in the front so I could see what was coming) to reach the crest before it free fell.  I know it was a mix of sheer terror and the feeling of conquering this fear of coasters that kept me riding it each season.

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It was always worth the wait in line for Greased Lightning… Viper….XLR-8. I was there when they opened Batman the Escape….Mayan Mindbender….Serial Thriller… Dungeon Drop ….the last I rode only once…urp…I like to keep what I ate IN my stomach.

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Spending the day at the park was brutal during the summer months…so Tidal Wave…and Bamboo Shoot….always came in handy to cool off. I knew where every “misting machine” was located around the park…along with the rides that had shade while you waited.

Astroworld was a big part of my children’s growing up years. When family came to visit, it was THE place to take them. It was a banner moment when my kids were old enough to walk the park by themselves. This park was prime for taking the youth group….not too expensive….a lot of bang for the buck…and close enough that you could stay till the park closed and make it home before it was too late.

If I close my eyes I can still remember the lay out of the park. The ticket gates….the gift shops…where to get funnel cake…lemon ices. I knew where the pictures were taken at the primo rides so we could pose with horrified looks on our faces….hands held high in the air. We knew where each “cut through” was….ideal places to meet if we got separated….the best strategy to map out how to get the most of out all the rides.

Maybe part of the mystique of Astroworld is because it’s now…gone. It is a vacant lot…grass growing up….no trace of what was there. It seemed to disappear overnight…and now it is just a “remember when” place in our minds. It does not exist anymore…but for many of us…it will always be a part of…us.

Casting Crowns put out a song years back that captures that feeling for me.

I am a flower quickly fading

Here today and gone tomorrow

A wave tossed in the ocean

A vapor in the wind

Still You hear me when I’m calling

Lord, You catch me when I’m falling

And You’ve told me who I am

I am…I am Yours.

David speaks of God’s great love for us…even as “insignificant” and temporary as we are…in Psalm 8:3-4

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, when is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that  you care for him?”

In the grand scheme of creation, we are so very temporary…only here for a bit. It may seem at times that my life has stretched for eons….but in all reality…it is a blink of an eye for our Father…and yet He is ever mindful of me.  His desire is for me to live a FULL life here on Earth…spreading His gospel…His love….so that others will know Him also.  I am here to tell the “tale”…..

I think it is always important to “relive” my life with God….to be reminded of all that “we” have done together…how He set things in motion…and invited me in…to join and be a part of this…life. One day when I am in Heaven, I hope that memory stays with me…that I have the ability to look back…and be so very thankful of the adventure that I lived….because so far it has been a wild and crazy ride. There have been times in my life that I feel like I am waiting in one of those lines that zig zagged FOREVER…but in retrospect…I know it is well worth the wait…amen…and amen.

It’s all in the PLANNING…(right?)

By: Ms. O

Plans

I am a planner…as in, I like to MAKE the plans. If I am not the maker of such plans, then at least I would like to have all the details so I know what I am doing….what to expect.

I am not a good “surprise” person. It catches me off guard….I am sure that has a lot to do with why we call it “surprise”….and I am off kilter. I end up wasting time, trying to get my bearings and then I am behind. Way behind. Not something I like…at all.

Maybe that is why having the first child is hard. You have no game plan…no play book to go to…at least one that you trust…that makes sense…that covers ALL the bases.  Each day is a new experience…make that each moment that first week or two…and I never seemed to get ahead of “it”….the plan. When I had my second it was simply modifying previous strategies. (mind you…some worked…others…maybe not)

If I try a new recipe, I am not one to serve it. I want to make it first so I have confidence if I plan to bring it to staff lunch, a pot luck, or get together with friends. Even after my first attempt, I still find a way to taste test it before I present it. After a while I am good at modifying, adding, or taking away to make it my own.

I love roller coasters….after I have ridden it a time or two. I need to know the dips…the drop offs…if it goes upside down…sideways…or backwards. If I know what to expect…the fear is lessened…to a point. I can brace myself…actually be prepared…for what is ahead.

The unknown is…plain and simply put…terrifying. I need to make sure I have packed the right things…practiced what I will act out…have the right ingredients….brace myself for the rough times that are ahead.

I am all about quotes…especially ones that make me laugh. Woody Allen has one about plans…and it truly made me lol.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

But perhaps the better quote comes from scripture…..

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

When God told Solomon He would give him anything, Solomon was pretty wise….he asked for wisdom. Not knowledge of what was to come…what will happen…but more the wisdom knowing that God has this covered. Our wisdom comes from knowing God…placing our future…whether that be tomorrow…or next year…in His hands…and know with all certainty…that He will do the groundwork for us.

Does that make it easy for me?…hmmmm…NO.

But it truly gives me a new perspective…offers me a sort of relief…that I don’t have to have it all figured out. What I need to do is lean in towards God…to sit in His presence…and simply wait for what He knows is best.

Sure it would be nice to know what is coming. At times I have a frank conversation with God, trying to convince Him how much more effective I could be if only He would let me in on His plans….because I can offer some great imput…in which I know I can hear Him laugh…out loud. Putting my trust in Him means getting on a new roller coaster each and every day…strapping myself in…and realizing He sits beside me…hands held high…encouraging me to trust in Him and do the same. I wonder if if counts if I close my eyes on that first big drop off….hmmmmm.

Amen.

The Stories We Share

By: Ms. O

I am not sure why we do it….it seems to come so naturally. Perhaps it is to let someone else know they are not alone…that you have shared that same struggle…and survived. Maybe to let it be known you are a survivor…you have earned your stripes…part of the “club”. What I have come to realize is that as we “share”, the joy is at times lost…in the story.

The happening… sharing…. takes place when someone has a baby. The story swapping of sleepless nights, colic filled hours, potty training disasters, terrible two’s, tiresome threes….the list goes on. The tales flow from our lips….commiserating the battle we fought to raise our children…and come out with half a brain and most of our nerves intact. We speak freely of spit/vomit/poo soiled clothing….trading a fashionable purse for a functional diaper bag….clothes that never fit the same again. I can’t even go into the teenage years…

What I have come to realize is I was missing the forest because of the trees….so caught up with the hurdles that I forget to mention the fact that of how much I miss the scenery along the way. There is much joy in the journey…which makes it all worthwhile… everything we go through as parents.

I can still “smell” the scent of my babies snuggled under my chin, looking for the safety that only a parent can give. I loved those times that I had when only “mommy” would do…when I was their do all end all. I miss their little voices calling my name…seeking me out…touching base to make sure I was still “around”.  I have long ago gotten rid of the maternity clothes but I still remember the feeling of carrying my children in my body….that sweet joy of knowing you share breath and life.

There were times that I felt my heart would burst with pride as I watched my children graduate….go on to college…live on their own…find their own way. Sure, I have been part of their packing and moving but I also know that they are separate entities now…what is supposed to happen…and I got to witness it. The struggles were there…but those moments caught in time remind me that parenting changes “faces”…it is still…parenting.

This blessing we are given as parents is so utterly humbling. God trusts us to raise “His” child…His gift….and His desire is that we not just “get through it” but more so remember the moments…the joy filled moments…that linger only when we make a point of reminiscing.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

To put it plainly, I would do it all over again…and again…because it showed God’s character…in me. I am in awe of what I got to experience…those captured moments of accomplishment that served to reveal God’s faithfulness.

God has more confidence in us that we can ever imagine. He has made us to endure the tough times but even better than that…He softened our hearts to take in the joy of the moment as we “fight the good fight”. I am amazed when I look back and take in the full picture…realizing that there is a season for everything but no season is lived alone.

As God assured me that I will make it through long nights…. whether it was with an infant who would not go to sleep or waiting for my teenager to make it home safe…to take in whole picture….the joy of knowing I was part of it all. God revealed to me that He created me for the long haul….and to enjoy the struggle because I won’t pass through it again….it is a season…and it’s gone.

It is fine to share our stories…it connects us…assures others…ourselves….that God is in control. There were times I wondered if I would make it…and I look back now and laugh at my very “young” view….because He fashioned me to not only make it…but also to rejoice in it all.

One day I will sit at my Saviors feet and I will share my joy in the journey we walked together…knowing that it is the mix that makes it so wonderfully worth it. Praise be to God from Whom all blessings flow.  Amen.

What a Wonderful World

By: Ms. O

THE BEST VIEW

As I sit and hold my newborn granddaughter….see her eyes open to take in what the world has to offer….I could not help but imagine what she is seeing. There is an excitement in my soul as I think of all she will learn…because everything is new….for her….the wonder of this world. As I looked at her….I had a soundtrack playing in the background…in my mind of course… into her big eyes….

“I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom for me and you…and I think to myself

What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night….and I think to myself….what a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, or also on the faces of people going by, I see friends shaking hands, saying “How do you do?” They’re really saying, “I love you”

I hear babies crying, I watch them them grow, they’ll learn much more and I’ll never know….and I think to myself….what a wonderful world”

No one will ever sing that song better than Louis Armstrong……period….end of statement.  If ever a time God sang through someone…it was this song….through Mr. Armstrong. And if ever a time that we need a reminder….it is now…right now.

Our lives are consumed…taken over….with all that is bad in the world…taking our eyes off the focus….the simplistic things in life…that we tend to take for granted.

Our different a day would be….if we paused….between here….and there….and took it in. We take for granted that the sun comes up in the morning….the air we breathe is a perfect mix of what is needed to sustain life….grass grows….flowers bloom….the day progresses without any effort on our behalf. At times it can be overwhelming….as John Mayer crones…”stop this train, I want to get off and go home again”…..but the day does not stop….it goes on with or without us.

It seems we have lost the wonder of it all. Our lives are so fast paced…getting from point A to point B….with no time to stop….and take in….the wonder. That does not mean we can ignore the atrocities of life…because that is what propels us to do justice….but that can’t be our entire focal point…otherwise all that God created…with you and me in mind…is wasted.

I am making it part of my day to notice at least three things that point to God…that reveal the very nature of God…Creator….Sustainer…Life Giver….and celebrate….Him.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Hebrews 12:28

I am not such a rose-colored, glass-half-full, kind of a girl that I don’t see what is wrong with the world. But I do see what CANNOT be shaken…and that is the kingdom He created….in Heaven….and when we take notice of it…here on Earth.

I know when my kids were little and we would go on vacation….it was all about pointing things out for them to see….so they would not miss “it”…..just as God tugs on my “running out the door with my tail on fire” demeanor saying, ‘Look…don’t miss this….I created it….with you in mind. Don’t miss the wonder….it is all around you….open up your eyes….and ears….and take notice.”

I think to myself…..what a wonderful world….amen.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

By: Ms. O

worry

There is much to be said of being sure of things. It truly takes the worry about of living…life……in uncertain times.

I know that no matter what time of the day I turn on the television, I can catch an episode or two…or five…of Law & Order. The original….Criminal Intent…SVU…I really don’t care which one. I most likely have seen it before but that does not stop me from watching it…again.

It would take a major plague….as in eliminating every other team in the league… to change the fact that… the Phillies will not make the play offs. I have been a fan for way too long to think differently…it is something I know..for sure.

I am certain of the fact that having children was one of the hardest, most rewarding, “things” I have ever done…or will do…in my life. At times I wondered if I would make it…but I did…which makes that fact of being on this side of it…so much sweeter.

I also know that seeing my granddaughter is sure to bring a smile to my face. It is with no shame that I will break down into “baby talk”…make silly faces…try my best to get her attention…and tell myself that although everyone says it is gas…she IS smiling…at me.

The biggest certainty I have in my life…what I count on more than anything…is that God loves me. I may mess up…okay…no “may” about it…I mess up…too often to think about…but He loves me. I miss the mark…ignore what He calls me out to do…but He continues to love me.

I wonder at times why I get so eat up with what I have no clue about. Why do I allow myself to get worked up over things that “may or may not” happen. We live in such volatile times…oil prices fluctuating….stock market read outs looking like a wicked roller coaster that I want no part of…news reports that make me question if there is anything good to be said…and whether Blue Bell is really back for good….ugh.

I have come to realize that God does not want me occupied with uncertain things but instead to attach myself to what I know is true.

I mean really…..I need my eyes to be glued to the red letters…the spoke Word of Christ….

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”….Matthew 6:27

My heart, mind, soul and strength needs a little…more like huge…reminder…that my biggest concern is taken care of…I KNOW Who has my heart in the palm of His mighty hand…and leads me daily through whatever “uncertainty” goes on around me.

“And so we know and RELY on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”….1 John 4:16

If that does not give you a easier sleep tonight…or a reason to get up in the morning…I don’t know what will. As I hear God whisper to the depths of my soul….”never question my love for you….for I created you…so move forward with confidence…and certainty of Whose you are.”

I get it, God…really I do…I just need a reminder when life gets hazy…and you are so good at helping clear my vision…calm my nerves….and then push me on to the life that You have made for me. I am certain with my fiber of my being…that I am Your child, God….and am thankful that I can count on that…now and always.

Amen

What Happens When 2 Grandmothers Chose Not To Compete

By: Ms. O

Grandmothers

I live my life trying to be thought of as the “generous” type. It is so much easier for me to give than to receive. As a matter of fact, being on the receiving end makes me somewhat uncomfortable. I don’t know why….I am sure some psychiatrist could spend some time analyzing me.

My daughter has fussed at me plenty at my inability to accept compliments. What is it about receiving a compliment that I immediately fall back into making excuses? Why can’t I simply say “thanks” and not have to qualify it?

If someone gives me a gift, my mind races to think of how I can return the favor. What can I do to measure up to a kindness extended? Most times it involves baking something…surely that says,

“I see your kindness….. and raise you a chocolate cake”.

Recently though, an act of kindness was extended to me that I don’t know how in the world I will ever be able to reciprocate….

I have found over the years that as a mom of a son, you learn to dance lightly. I don’t want to make waves…don’t want to intrude…overstep my “boundaries”.  When my son was growing up, I learned how to “hug” in public…show signs of affection without embarrassing him. I watched a young man grow into a man. I figured out how to move him into his college apartment, muster up the courage to say goodbye without breaking down in a mound of tears.

I was insistent when he got married that he would walk me down the aisle. I knew that would be the last time he would walk with me as a single man…this son of mine that I raised. After that he would do what he promised to do…what I prayed about for so many years…he would leave my side and take up the role as husband to a pretty amazing woman.

When I found out that I would soon be a grandmother, my heart went pitter patter. I could not contain my excitement as I dreamed of the day I would see my first grandchild. I also knew the dance would begin….again….of treading lightly.  It is quite normal (and expected) that my daughter-in-law would want her mother with her. This bond of motherhood is something you have to experience to understand.

I waited to know where I fit into the mix….and I fully expected to stand back and allow them to joyfully welcome another generation of life. That wasn’t a sad thing for me…in fact, I knew it should be that way, so I was fully prepared to…stand aside and wait.

What I did not expect was the gift of grace…..one that I cannot describe in words. The family….from both sides…were lead into the hospital room by my son (a very proud new dad)…and we all gathered around the bed to view the newest arrival who was snuggled in the arms of my daughter in law. Time stood still as we took in this sight…this miracle bundle named…Evelyn.

I had always known my son’s mother-in-law was kind. She is a gracious, loving woman. But that day, grace took on a deeper meaning. I expected her, as the mother of the “new mom” to have the honor of holding this precious baby girl first. I settled in to wait my turn…knowing I would cherish the moment when it came.

But then, grace was extended to me beyond my expectations.

When my daughter-in-law asked who wanted to hold Evelyn first, her mother paused….looked at our new granddaughter…turned to me…and said, “You need to hold her first.”

Baby Evey

My heart climbed into my throat….so full of love and gratitude…in response to such unselfish kindness. I was humbled….so caught up in this moment of…God…that I still tear up just remembering the feeling of that moment.

Later as I went to sleep that night…I savored the moment, and thought of Paul (my go-to guy) and his words to the church in Ephesus.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is THE gift of God – not by works that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:6-9

I have had times in my life that I have experienced that grace…the pure outpouring of love from God. I have also had several times in my life that I have experienced His grace through the actions of others. The moment I held Evelyn for the first time….grace was so palpable…I could smell it…taste it…feel it..in every pore of my soul.

How can I ever “repay” this gift? I don’t think there is a cake, cookie, or dessert that I could make…that would ever compare. Instead, I will strive to extend the same love that was given to me.

I thought I was ready for that moment…but God has a way of catching me off guard…again and again. You are good, God…so much better than I ever imagined. I pray I never lose that awe. With gratitude I say….amen.