If God’s Keeping Score, I’ve Fallen Way Behind

What did you do the summer after you graduated from high school? Take a vacation? Go to summer school? Work a summer job?

I spent the summer hours away from home, serving as a Southern Baptist Convention summer missionary. I was 17 and felt called to save the world*.

Here are some things (from the perspective of 35 years later) that I no longer am:

  1. 17
  2. A recent high school graduate
  3. Southern Baptist

As a 53-year-old with a few more degrees and a certificate (somewhere) verifying I am a confirmed Episcopalian, this is what that summer looks in retrospect:

Door-to-door is an introvert’s worst nightmare

First, let me say that I think the definition of “introvert” has become a bit contorted as it has taken hold in the public mindset (although I trust most everything Jennifer Kahnweiler has written about it). For me, the most salient part is the fact that I recharge more by being alone than I do with being in room full of people (this is the case with my husband — ask me how it works out when two people in a marriage recharge in different ways!).

Despite the fact that my religious beliefs at the time and my concern for my fellow man led me to apply to be a summer missionary and to accept an assignment in Fort Pierce/Port St. Lucie, FL (hours from home), that hunger to serve did not make it any easier to knock on strangers’ doors and try to get them to accept the gospel.

I would stand there at the door, playing mental games with myself (“If they don’t answer by the time I count to 10, I can leave” … that kind of thing). 

Staying at host homes is an eye opener

Staying in host homes was probably a burden for the homes (and a joy, I know), but it was one of the most growth-inducing parts of this summer experience for me. I had a lot of growing up to do, and figuring out how to function in other people’s homes helped with that.

I’ve lost touch with most of my hosts, but am still in touch to this day with one. Her daughter was 3 then and she has her own kids now. Time moves on.

Lack of clarity about roles

Something happened during my summer as a missionary that has repeated itself in other areas of my life subsequently.

One of the churches (we moved around — I think we were at 5 churches in 10 weeks — also 5 different host homes) was sending its puppet ministry to a workshop in Orlando. I asked if we could go. I am pretty sure they hadn’t budgeted to send two summer missionaries to this workshop, but they let us go.

We weren’t *this* creative but here is an example Christian puppetry at its finest — in the form of BETHLEHEMian Rhapsody:

The reason I say this repeated itself later is … I was presenting to our board at Healthy Kids once. I was situating the screen so the presentation’s graphics could be shown and I was angling it toward the audience. Our Executive Director somewhat dramatically indicated that the screen needed to face the BOARD not the audience of hangers-on there to observe the meeting.

It’s always important to think through hierarchies in organizations and to understand your place (not that there aren’t some times it’s worthwhile to push a bit to be seen/heard (or to learn how to properly coordinate a puppet’s mouth movements with the spoken audio)). 

There’s no scoreboard for salvation

One of the biggest memories of that summer has to do with a day that we were out knocking on doors (sigh…) with a minister. I think this particular home visit consisted of the minister, another missionary and me. We talked at length with a woman, discussing her life and her spiritual needs.

She said she had a void in her life, and the minister walked her though confessing her faith in Christ and accepting Him as her savior. (The follow-up steps would ostensibly be her seeking out a local church and following through with baptism.)

When we got to the car — no lie — this minister pumped his fist and said (paraphrasing a bit — it was 35+ years ago!) “YES! IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME!” It became clear that he was keeping count and (more importantly) that as a minister he felt there was some type of quota he was expected to reach.

Now that I have more life experience behind me, I see in that woman’s “void” something maybe a little less spiritual and a little more human — she was a woman isolated in a suburb of Orlando (because yes we had driven to Orlando to expand our soul-saving activities), needing someone to talk to. We offered companionship and a promise of more warm fuzzies, not to mention eternal security.

I can’t say denominations don’t hold their clergy and evangelists to “scoreboards.” Any business, even the business of providing religious support/education/worship, runs on metrics. But something about that moment in time —- he was more excited to have another tick mark than to know that she had had a genuine change that would benefit her —- has always stuck in my head.

Keeping Score

I have peeked into some deeper evangelical things and …. I’m glad my path went a different direction

I can’t say that the things I was exposed to this summer were the first time I experienced some of the activities that are more aligned with expressions of evangelicalism like speaking in tongues, talk of demonic influence and being afraid of secular influences. I still can’t listen to “My Sweet Lord” without hearing the hour-long audio lecture I heard in a high-school Bible Study about backmasking and that “My Sweet Lord’s” insidious Hare Krishna messages.

We went skating once — most of the summer missionaries and the children of our host family — just to have the mom come back about half an hour later to make us leave early, “convicted” that the secular music we were listening to at the rink was somehow corrupting us and leading us astray.

That summer was the first time I saw the fear of demons be manifested in an actual demon exorcism (picture a middle class living room and a chair, not anything you’ve seen in movies).

And although I think this actually tracks back to some camp I went to, and not my summer missionary experience, that time in my life definitely carried a heavy (very) set of messaging around purity. Even “fingerprints” (ahem) were to be avoided (more about how I evolved past that particular phobia here).

Faith evolves…and did I mention there’s no scoreboard?

There’s also no script.

Don’t get me wrong…I know there are “scoreboards.”

And I know there are scripts. I scored a 100 on my “Certified Witness Training” test (this was after the summer missionary period, to be clear) that demonstrated I knew exactly what to say to try to get someone to recognize their “void,” the verses to parrot to help them know Jesus is what they needed to fill the “void,” and the steps to take to notch another score on the “scoreboard.”

However, I have evolved as a human and a person of faith.

It would probably take a whole separate post to explain that evolution (although this post from 2011 details a slice of it).

In a nutshell, at this point I think the way I live my life — including trying to work my way out of messes and mistakes and the times I’ve offended others — says more than any script I’ve ever memorized. God will choose whether that added to His (or Her) scoreboard, not me.

Does faith ever call for a pause?

This is a bit of an abrupt diversion from talking about me (but YAY LET’S PLEASE MOVE ON FROM ME…..).

One of my favorite writers (and humans … and people of faith) is Sarah Thebarge, author of The Invisible Girls and Well. Sarah is more than an author. She is a medical professional, a cancer survivor and a Compassion International spokesperson.

Sarah is also, as she discussed in If Your Gospel Isn’t Good News For Everyone, It’s Not Good News For Anyone: Why I Signed #PledgetoPause, someone who has chosen to sign the #PledgetoPause.

The #CallToPause was created by Lisa Sharon Harper. Among other things it posits that, “Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination poses grave danger to the rights and protections of historically marginalized communities.” This is what Sarah writes about it:

Dozens of high-profile evangelical leaders have joined the #CalltoPause.  And hundreds of others have signed the #PledgetoPause, committing to fasting and praying for American Christians to return to what God’s called us to: kindness, mercy, compassion and love.

While I don’t plan to sign the pledge (I’m too pro-choice to be comfortable doing that), I have to admire the people who are. They may have spent a lifetime in the environment I encountered during my 17-year-old summer, telling people there was only one way to avoid a life of damnation and being scared that a note of music or pursuing any hint of personal pleasure was a failing. And yet they are willing to confront “why the right-wing culture wars began in the first place: racism.”

In my opinion, talking to each other about a middle ground and placing more emphasis on “kindness, mercy, compassion and love” is the kind of thing where it would be fine to keep score, as long as the scoreboard goes to infinity.

Keeping Score

I have linked this post with the Kat Bouska prompt “Who needs a vacation when you can spend your summer doing this…”

Keeping Score

*I suppose some would argue I still feel compelled to save the world. Hopefully my attempts these days are a little less heavy-handed.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Goodbye, 2017. You weren’t ALL bad.

Happy New Year’s Eve! It has been an eventful last week of 2017, with my sweet mom being very ill at UF Health with pneumonia, so I’m taking a small shortcut for today’s blog and featuring my Instagram “Best Nine” for 2017.

Working clockwise from the top left corner:

  1. It’s funny that this picture is a “best.” Obviously, it’s no great shakes from a photographic standpoint, but the original, and the delicious garlicky baked shrimp Wayne made, qualified as “bests”!
  2. Wayne Kevin’s graduation from Lincoln High School in May. HOORAY!
  3. Bella, Instagram star.
  4. The day Wayne Kevin won a senior achievement award at Lincoln for his role in designing and making tshirts for fellow students through the digital design program. Proud mom here!
  5. Bonnie (pictured here) has cut my hair since Tenley was an infant (i.e., more than 20 years). She has moved on to bigger, better, and more Nashvegas-y things. I miss her. My hair misses her.
  6. ADPi parents’ weekend (which was more like ‘parents’ two hours’) with Tenley. Langdale Plantation is beautiful!
  7. Celebrating our 25th anniversary at Kool Beanz.
  8. At Olivia’s gorgeous Pebble Hill wedding.
  9. (Center) At the beginning of graduation prep, when I shared Wayne’s invitation and name cards.

And that’s a wrap on 2017! Like many others, I leave this year with a bit of a “don’t let the door hit ya on your way out, 2017” feeling, BUT I don’t tend to look at things in that way in general.

If this particular president hadn’t been elected (sigh), I wouldn’t have discovered how strongly I feel about particular issues, especially equity, and may not have spoken up. If my father-in-law hadn’t lived with us, and I hadn’t had to be a part of his final months with cancer, I wouldn’t have understood that it’s as sacred a responsibility to see someone through their death as it is to bring a human being into the world.

My youngest graduated high school (yay!), I celebrated 25 years of marriage, and I spent enjoyable time with my daughter and saw her mature (and turn 21). My mom survived a terrifying medical episode where an ICU nurse told me “if it were my mom, I would come now” (yes, I went — fortunately the nurse’s prediction was not accurate).

Here’s hoping everyone’s 2018 “Best Nine” is full of love, smiles, happiness, health and peace.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

My Holiday Wish List

Since my writing this month has been decidedly on the dark and introspective side, I’m going to take a break today, based on a prompt by Kat Bouska, and share a December wish list.

If money were no object (sigh….)

I would be out of debt

I realize I made this bed myself, but it’s a bed I would happily burn to the ground in lieu of sleeping on an air mattress full of the light, buoyant air of financial freedom

I would be able to give my family a bigger Christmas, checking more items off their wish lists

Frankly, it has been so long since Wayne and I wished out loud for the “big” things that I don’t know what the biggest item is on his list. (Actually, I do know a trip around the world is on his list.) Guess if this wish comes true, Santa is going to need to throw in a cure to Wayne’s fear of flying.

I want to get my daughter this bag without batting an eyelash. Note depending on exactly *who* is reading this — if you’re Santa’s “elf,” I know this is not the right print. Don’t panic. 😉

Holiday Wish ListI don’t know the “big” items on my son’s wish list, but I imagine they are car-related. We’ll just go with a substantial gift card to the Infiniti Online Store. I’m pretty sure that would work!

Clothes!

Because I work from home, and virtually nothing I do right now is client-facing, my wardrobe is pretty depleted. I’ve also thrown out many items that I have given up on losing enough weight to fit back into.

I’ve always been pretty practical about clothes, but I love excellent quality and precise tailoring. This outfit is cute (but with flat or low-heeled shoes for me). With two conferences coming up in 2018 and who-knows-what professionally, I need Santa to help me up my wardrobe game.

Holiday Wish List

Generosity

I truly wish I could give so much more (time and money) to the causes I love. More help to the children our family loves in Central America and sponsors through Unbound, such as Stanley (here’s his most recent picture (he’s in the Santa hat!):Holiday Wish List

Better Spanish

I have totally bailed on my Spanish study after promising in this post that I would do better (I did enroll in the online Berlitz course, but have not been consistent at all). Dear Santa, send me to Antigua (Guatemala) or (better yet), Valencia (Spain) for a couple of weeks to improve my Spanish!

Broadway! NYC! Theatre!

Seventy-five percent of our family wants desperately to see something on Broadway.

I want to see Hamilton (duh) but I am going to be in Chicago in September so am hoping to see it there even though I would love to see it in NYC (I would also love to see Lin-Manuel Miranda perform in it in Puerto Rico in 2019).

Tenley wants to see Sarah Bareilles and Jason Mraz in Waitress (so do I but I was fortunate to see Waitress last December so at least that itch got scratched a bit) and  Anastasia.

Wayne (husband) wants to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway.

BUT

You didn’t think I could *just* do a wish list without a message about what really matters, did you? Admittedly, I want every single thing I listed above, but echoing in my head as I write this is a passage from Well: Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa that details a young boy’s battle with a bone infection that almost led him to have to have his leg amputated. Apparently people in Togo are at risk of these infections because they don’t have toothbrushes, so they can’t brush their teeth, so they get life- and limb-threatening infections.

Perspective in the form of a $1.00 (or less) oral hygiene implement.

Holiday Wish List

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Fourteen: Try

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Try

“You won’t know unless you try.”

How often have you said that to yourself …. or to a child …. or to a friend who is not sure they are capable of a goal they are considering setting for themselves?

Not being able to run for the past year has been a *big* lesson in the fact that sometimes success isn’t an effort of trying harder. My body is not willing to be a part of the running world right now, and I have (kind of) made peace with that.

But for the things we can do but that our confidence challenges are keeping us from, maybe it’s time to reframe (yes, I am talking to myself here — anyone else who benefits — that’s a plus!).

I have a part-time job in the mornings that I truly love. I lay in bed Thursday night, thinking how grateful I am to be excited about waking up and working the next morning. I don’t think I ever felt that kind of excitement in 20 years at the job I left in 2014 (not that I wasn’t excited about the cause of children’s health insurance — I just never find a sweet spot of confidence + competence + cultural fit).

I made a mistake yesterday at that part-time job. This is a problem because the place prides itself on “pristine editing.” I *know* that at least two more editors after me see the work and have the opportunity to correct it, so the final is almost always perfect, but it’s easy to beat myself up for making the error in the first place.

[Note — my five minutes ended after the above paragraph and I had already written the ending (a lesson I’ve learned in five-minute writing world!). But I didn’t finish my thought so I’ll add that below under “the sixth minute and beyond.”]

Trying doesn’t always bring the reward we hope, but it builds something more intrinsically rewarding in the process.

***

The sixth minute and beyond:

I am reminded that even if my work wasn’t perfect, that’s one of the errors that will help me be better at this job in the future. I someone had just *said* “don’t ever make that error,” I may or may not have remembered as I went about my work.

But MAKING it, and owning up to it, means it will be a prominent consideration in my head every time I touch the work from Monday on. I learned by trying.

And by doing so, I became better at something I really enjoy doing (and am further motivated to find a way to keep doing it as part of my work/life jigsaw puzzle whose pieces seem to be shifting all the time.)

Writing Challenge

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Five: Trust

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)

Editor’s Note: I am doing something different today. I am going to remain true to the five minute free-write concept, but I am going to write my first draft by hand.

I am writing my first draft by hand because I have become increasingly disconnected from my handwriting and the process. I was especially motivated to do at least one day manually when I read an article this morning that extolled the benefits of handwriting for attorneys. 

The benefits were many: more productivity, better retention, a tiny microscopic moment of downtime for the brain to process more deeply. 

For me, it boils down to the fact that my handwriting has gotten horrible and my brain (my soul too, I guess) have become too reliant on my keyboard and my screen.

I’ll add a bit of the handwritten version here as an image, and I’ll transcribe whatever I ended up writing it in the usual “five minute” spot.

I just really feel the need to put pen (green of course!) to paper. ~ pk

Today’s prompt: TRUST

“Trust and obey.” I have had this hymn in my head since late last night, when I fell asleep thinking about this prompt.

I must have sung this song a thousand times during my Southern Baptist childhood and young adulthood. The song continues: “…there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

My biggest challenge right now is trusting myself and my choices. I know some parts of my approach to life and my skill set that I am 100% confident in … but then there are the ones that are more “iffy” or that I downright don’t think stand a chance.

Time to trust in something larger than myself.

Writing Challenge

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Fantasies Fulfilled: A $500 Disney Giveaway!

I have been to Disney more in the past two months than the last ten years.

Tenley invited me to attend the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT in November as part of my birthday gift, then she was there at Christmas (which I realize is not the same as ME being there, but when your child is at Disney at Christmas without you, isn’t that the same as a part of your heart being there?). Lastly, I was at Disney January 17-19 as Tenley moved in to start her Disney College Program. First time at Animal Kingdom? Check! First time at Pop Century? Check! Coming to the realization that staying on property (which I had never done until the November visit) is the bomb diggity? Check! Check! Check!

So many ways to fantasize about what I would do if the gift card fairy plopped a $500 gift card into my hand!

Well, it takes a little more than a fairy – you DO have to do some clicking and following, but this Rafflecopter giveaway could magically land a $500 gift card in your hands. I call that a fantasy come true!

Disney Giveaway

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: $500 Disney Gift Card (can be used at any Disney park or store)

Co-hosts: Coupons and Freebies Mom // Sunny Sweet Days // Lipgloss & Crayons // Jenns Blah Blah Blog // Yes We Disney // Style On The Side // Peyton’s Momma // The Bewitchin’ Kitchen // Juggling Act Mama // Casey At // Peanut Butter and Whine // City Of Creative Dreams

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 2/29 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disney Giveaway

A memory from my last visit.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Toastmasters: An Open House Invitation

toastmasters

Frequently, when I mention my involvement in Toastmasters, people express an interest in participating themselves.

This week, there’s a perfect opportunity to find out what it’s all about — our club (Podemos Hablar) is holding an open house!

Here are the details:

Date: Monday, April 13, 2015

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Where: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Note: one reason I was attracted to this particular club is that it is a Bilingual Toastmasters Club (Spanish/English). It is especially helpful for people trying to improve their Spanish (or for Spanish speakers trying to improve their English). But don’t let that stop you from joining our open house — there are speakers of all levels.)

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know!

toastmasters banner

En Español*:

Frecuentemente, cuando hablo de mi participación en Toastmasters, todos expresan su interés en participar ellos tambien.

Esta semana, hay una oportunidad perfecta para descubrir de qué se trata – de nuestro club (Podemos Hablar) está ofreciendo exhibición publica!

Aquí están los detalles:

Fecha: Lunes, 13 de abril 2015

Hora: 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)

Dónde: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Nota:.. Una de las razones que me atraido a este club en particular es que este club es bilingüe (Español / Inglés). Es especialmente útil para las personas que tratan de mejorar su español (o para los hispanohablantes que tratan de mejorar su Inglés. Pero no dejes que eso te detenga de asistir la exhibición publica – hay hablantes de todos los niveles).

Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, haz favor de comunicármelo.

toastmasters juan

Juan, Past President.

 

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club Vice President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

(Los límites de mi lenguaje son los límites de mi mundo.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Thank you to our club past president Juan for helping me with the translation. I take full responsibility for any errors that remain. // Gracias a nuestro presidente pasado del club Juan por ayudarme con la traducción. Yo soy responsable de los errores que quedan.)

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Time for Peace

I have a blog post in my head that hasn’t made it to the “page” yet. This is partially because as much as I would like to process via the blog some of my parenting concerns, my blog is a public place and both of my kids are on social media so it simply doesn’t seem fair to them to post the one in my head.

The blog in my head would be about the challenges of coming to terms with your child not being who you envisioned them to be, but rather who they are meant to be.

Even as I write this, I am feeling hypocritical because I am the first to post or share those pieces of content on social media that encourage acceptance, appreciating people for who they are, and embracing all different kinds of abilities.

In all honesty, as my son comes closer to turning 16, I am still not sure what to do with the part of myself that wanted to be a “baseball” mom (and it didn’t have to be baseball … name any sport or activity that involves endless practices, uniform purchases, trips to matches, etc.). Baseball came and went. Football came and went. Gymnastics came and went. Soccer came and went (fleetingly). Speedskating came and went (but is still sort of on the radar screen). Running and triathlons came and went (but hope springs eternal in this running mom’s heart that he will find joy in running again someday).

Time for Peace

Breakfast on the Track 2010

I have also struggled with my son’s lack of deference (not that being deferential has been the way to go for me, in retrospect) to elders. With my father in law living with us for the past ten months, it has been a hard time in many ways. My son has shouldered his own share of the burden in ways I perhaps have not sufficiently thanked him for, but I still cringe when he is short with my FIL or tells me “not to engage” when my FIL is combative (for the record, he is right but still…).

Time for Peace

For one moment today, that all went a little bit out the window.  After Fr. Jim gave a homily about “things you can’t unsee” (which this visual learner appreciated since it had graphics to accompany the message!), it was time for the “passing of the peace.”

As we were greeting the other attendees, I was shaking hands/hugging the fellow attendees but there was an elderly gentleman seated directly in front of me who clearly had mobility issues. He had stayed seated during the Passing of the Peace. It was easy to miss him … to not make the effort to get his attention, make eye contact, shake his hand.

BUT that is exactly what I watched my son do out of the corner of my eye. Wait for the gentleman to see that Wayne was waiting on him, then shake hands and exchange a wish for peace.

On an Easter when our responsibilities for my FIL kept my husband home instead of attending worship with us, when my daughter was at her church home with her best friend and her family, it was a day to put aside “normal” hopes and expectations. In the interaction between Wayne and the gentleman, there WAS a moment when all of the expectations and hopes I have clutched so tightly to my really didn’t matter.

Because the gentleman in the row ahead of us needed something that only my son was prepared to give.

ALLELUIA.

Time for Peace

Easter at St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Tallahassee, FL

 

 

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Look Up!

 

chrysler building

I am keeping tonight’s post short. I have a limited amount of time in NYC and will save a proper thank you for everyone’s generous support of my United NYC Half Marathon effort on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for a future post. I also have a lot to say about the joy of meeting Gareth (the young man I run for through I Run for Michael) and will hold that too.

For now, a reminder to look up. When I lived in NYC, I walked everywhere I could. I would peek in the store windows, people-watch, and marvel at the variety of languages and personalities surrounding me. However, days would go by that I would forget all of the “stuff” above. The beautiful, large-scaled, make-your-mouth-fall-open with awe stuff.

We can use a reminder to “look up” figuratively as well as literally. To be precise, I can. I have been struggling with more tunnel vision than I have disclosed to many people. I am not sure what the way out is or how soon it will come, but I know one of the keys lies in “looking up.”

Thank you for the reminder, NYC.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Goodbye, Mary Nell

Mary Nell's Casket Spray

Mary Nell’s Casket Spray

Today, I attended the funeral of Mary Nell.

One of the many floral arrangements was this one:

10299930_1045665625450848_1068515199394359934_n

When I first saw this arrangement, I was surprised to see seed packets and trowels. They implied there was still work to be done at a time when the focus was on one individual’s perpetual rest.

Upon further reflection, this was the perfect arrangement to marry a celebration of a life beautifully lived and the admonition that those of us who loved her must continue her legacy. One phrase Rev. Peterson used to describe that legacy was “she always remained exactly who she was no matter what was going on around her.”

My memories of being in her home when I was in high school coalesce into a blur of happy/family/poolside/laughter/plentiful food/togetherness all in one. Christmas, as Rev. Art Peterson said today, deserved its own category. There was truly nothing like the ramp up to Christmas at the Archer home, with mountains of wrapping paper, gift boxes galore, and music playing in the background, all tied up in curling ribbon and festivity. I loved being a part of it all. It felt like a second home to me, and being there fed my spirit in a way no other place did.

Now that I am a parent myself, I know the particular sting a parent feels when their child seeks out a “second home” somewhere else despite that parent’s best efforts to express their love. That may be why, despite her overwhelmingly gracious, fun loving, warm, open-armed welcome every single time in my high school years that I showed up, there was also a wisdom behind her eyes that went unspoken.

I don’t know how in all those years I didn’t realize how much she loved butterflies, but now that I do, I imagine her sailing weightlessly on the breeze, showing off her beautiful colors, free of the physical pain that came with the cancer she fought over the last two years and the emotional pain of leaving behind the family she loved so completely.

For her service, I wore this pin given to me by another wonderful woman, my mother-in-law Barb. For several years leading up to her sudden death from anphoto (3) aortic dissection, she gave away her treasures (such as this one). We would find them in our Christmas stockings. A particular piece would be given for a graduation. One by one she was divesting herself of items she loved, on the premise that a) she wanted to choose who some of these items went to and b) it would prevent us from having more work to do after she was gone (in truth, there might have been a hint of her needing to control the process (said lovingly of course!)). I’m honestly not sure if it’s a dragonfly or a butterfly (and I am sure someone will clue me in) but for today we’ll go “butterfly.”

I believe that Mary Nell, too, gave away treasures long before she left the earth. For me it was different than tangible items like this pin. It was the treasure of a home full of laughter, togetherness, generosity, sharing of meals, faith, and a spirit of looking adversity in the eye and saying “I will handle this.” It was a place to savor happiness and work through sadness. She planted seeds of love that took root and flourished far outside the walls of that house.

I am grateful to have been so welcomed in Mary Nell’s home, to have had the love and friendship of her mother-in-law, Lottie Lee, as well as Doyle, Jimmy, Duane, Rhonda, and the extended family. I am a better person, filled with perennial memories, for having been welcomed into this family.

I was telling my coach, Kristie, about Mary Nell last night and I happened to write, “if you see any butterflies they may be Mary Nell’s spirit.” She immediately wrote back: “Funny you should mention. We had a bunch in the front yard today. One landed on Ty’s [her son] nose. Would have given anything for a camera.”

I told Kristie that some moments in our lives (despite the ubiquitousness of cameras, selfies, and our tendency to share) are better spent not fumbling for a camera and being 110% present.

I don’t need pictures to remember the feeling I had being in Mary Nell’s home. I have the memories. Those memories are more than enough.

monarch

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.