Jeremiah 29:11-13

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sisters and Spies

     I grew up in a houseful of girls.  To say my Daddy was outnumbered is quite true, and a bit of an understatement.  There are four of us, the oldest being my bossy, mother hen self.  I can remember my Mama calling us in for dinner, all of our names running together... "Marybethcathykelleyjennifer! Supper!"  We were usually scattered far and wide throughout our neighborhood, Sheffield Forest, in our little home town of Norcross, Georgia.  Mostly we were just doing things kids in the early 70's did: riding bikes, building tree forts, selling lemonade, playing secret agent in the woods and just getting dirty and sweaty and working up a big ol' appetite.  Mama often said we were eating her out of house and home.
     My sisters Cathy, Kelley and Jennifer and I were a very active bunch--basketball, softball, band, dance, and track during the school year and then just being outside all summer long hanging out with the other neighborhood kids, usually being pretty good, but occasionally getting into some mischief.  Our tree fort, for example, was built entirely by a bunch of girls from the neighborhood, and one little brother of a friend.  It was multi-level and quite remarkable considering none of us knew the first thing about building anything.  We did lose quite a few of our daddy's tools from the garage, which made him more than a little upset, and the lumber with which we constructed our fort was just blatantly stolen from construction sites in our subdivision.  I can remember riding down Lancelot Drive on my little Sears bicycle with a huge 2x4 balanced across the handlebars like the wings of some kind of primitive airplane.  The hill was very steep and it is a miracle that I survived without a crash, especially since helmets were nonexistent.

     We three older sisters, little stairsteps about a year and a half apart, shamelessly spoiled our baby sister, Jen, and dragged her around with us like a favorite puppy.  I am eleven years older than she, and I was quite proud of her and loved to show her off to all my friends like a prized baby doll.  Anyone who knows her now can only imagine how much she really liked being treated like a doll, but she was very tolerant of my maternal hoverings and I don't think I warped her too much.  Once, I was swinging her around by her skinny little arms and dislocated her elbow.  We had to rush her to the ER and I was inconsolable.  She still loves me though, and I'm still quite proud of her :)

     My sister Cathy and I shared a friend, Terri Binder, who was exactly in-between us in age.  Terri lived in a house on a corner lot with a huge yard and a playhouse which was one of our favorite places to meet the other kids in the neighborhood and and the setting for kickball games, hide-and-seek, camp-outs in the playhouse and spying on the neighbors.  I remember one sleepover in the little white playhouse where we girls had smuggled in a bunch of candy from the Ben Franklin 5 & 10 store.  I was running my mouth, as usual, while eating Lemonheads by flashlight and a moth flew into my mouth.  My friend Terri wet her pants laughing at my horrified expression.  I can still feel the fluttering wings of that poor moth inside my mouth and remember seeing it fly out when I screamed, which of course, sent Terri into more spasms of laughter...

     I was an avid reader of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries.  I loved nothing more than inventing spy and secret agent games and assigning parts to my sisters and friends.  Once, after playing in the woods across from Terri's house where our tree fort was, we decided to "spy" on Betty and Harold, a rather eccentric couple who lived in the house closest to our fort.  Harold was a hard-working, cigarette-smoking man who wore wife- beater shirts and slicked his hair back with pomade.  He was always really nice and friendly to us, and reminded me a little of Clint Eastwood in his looks and bearing.  Betty was his wife and she seemed a little older than him, with a long dark braid and sun-baked skin.  We thought it would be fun to peek in their kitchen window and see what they were doing.  We were quite shocked to see Harold lounging at the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette and watching Betty cooking his dinner with nothing but an apron on. Luckily, they didn't see our big eyes peering through their kitchen door and we took off running, laughing hysterically.  Talk about getting an eyeful... our spying days were over!

     Nowadays, when my sisters and I get together for birthdays and holidays, we entertain our Mama with tales of our childhood.  There are things we've told her recently that she had no idea we were doing when we were kids, like picking cattails by the neighborhood sewage pond and watching Kelley sling rocks into its pungent green slime.  There's nothing like sharing memories with your sisters...


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Days

"Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow."

     When I was in the seventh grade, I memorized this poem by Robert Frost, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."  I can still recite the entire poem from start to finish, but amazingly that same year I memorized hundreds of other lines of poetry by Mr. Frost, my favorite poet.  For some reason, this is the one I can remember best.  Every single time it snows, I think of that year of school and my determination to memorize as many poems as I could, but most of all I love the way the words come unbidden to my mind.

     I'm going on day three now of a snow-bound existence in my little house on the top of Coventry Drive.  I do not do well with isolation or having my freedom curtailed in any way.  Yesterday I managed to lollygag around, as we say here in the South, doing a little cooking, a little laundry, a little blogging....I even watched Dr. Phil and The Bachelor.  Today I was ready for a project and spent about 8 hours cleaning out my closet, only managing to get about half-way finished.  During the purging and tidying, I found myself getting extremely sentimental, sometimes to the point of tears as I discovered purses and wallets full of photographs of my baby girl and boy, clothes I wore when I was a young mom and small pieces of luggage still filled with mementos of trips I took with my kids to Chattanooga, Atlanta and Seagrove.  My closet was sort of like a giant time capsule, full of souvenirs of motherhood and marriage.  Where did that young wife and mother go? She seems a bit like a stranger to me now, although I love the pure heart and earnest dreams of that girl...

     When I was in middle school, I read all The Little House books and loved to imagine I was Laura Ingalls riding in a covered wagon, living in a log cabin and playing on the banks of Plum Creek.  I was a bit obsessed with her and just knew that I would have made an outstanding prairie girl.  One of the books in particular, The Long Winter, appealed to my romantic 12 year old self and I would daydream about being snow-bound with my loving family, isolated from the world in a silent shroud of white.  Of course, snowy days were few and far between to us little Georgia girls and it just seemed to be the most cozy, idyllic concept fathomable.  Now, I just wonder if our power is going to stay on and how far off spring break really is?

    On the first morning of snow in 2011, I looked out at a pristine, glistening landscape and marveled at God's handiwork as I do with most of His seasons and I was grateful for a little confinement and a little stillness.  Now, I am eager to return to my daily routine of lunching with my girlfriends, teaching my precious little students and taking my dog Harley out for a little stroll without fear of busting my butt on the driveway.  I am so thankful to be a Southern girl whose experience with ice and snow is limited and I am in awe and just a little bewildered at those Northern friends of mine who choose this as a way of life in the winter.  

    Thanks to my friend, Shay, who braved the hills of Woodfin and got me out tonight for sushi.  She was as stir-crazy as I was and it was nice to escape my icy fortress with her for a little while... 

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Joyce Meyer's View on "Strife"

And the servant of the Lord must not strive....
—2 Timothy 2:24 KJV 

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Joyce Meyer about strife.  I have been trying to deal with it in its many forms for several months now as I've noticed it in my personal world, especially among my friends.  This puts it in perspective as to why it is happening! These are Joyce Meyer's words, not mine.  :)
"Strife is a thief and a robber which we must learn to recognize and deal with quickly. We must control strife before it controls us. 

Strife is defined as "the act or state of fighting or quarreling, especially bitterly....discord." It is bickering, arguing, being involved in a heated disagreement, or shows up as an angry undercurrent. Strife is dangerous. It is a demonic force sent by Satan for the purpose of destruction. 

The Bible says to resist the devil at his onset. (1 Peter 5:8,9.) Almost any time someone hurts us, or offends us, anger rises up within us. It is not sin to feel anger. But we must not act out the angry feelings in an ungodly way. We must not hold a grudge or get into bitterness, resentment, or unforgiveness. Ephesians 4:26 says don't let your wrath, your anger, last until the sun goes down. 

A judgmental attitude is an open door for strife. We must remember that mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13 NIV). Judgment usually leads to gossip. Gossip begins to spread the strife from person to person. It gets us out of agreement, harmony, and unity. It actually moves us out of the realm of God's blessings. 

When the temptation comes to judge others, and then spread our opinion through gossip and backbiting, we should remember this helpful hint: Let the one among us who is without sin cast the first stone. (John 8:7 KJV.) 

Remember: God changes things through prayer and faith, not through judgment and gossip."

Sieze the Day

"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."  Psalm 5:3

    The old English major in me has been reasserting herself more and more these days.  Once upon a time I was someone who journaled religiously, and lately, the urge to do so has been overwhelming.  Thus, my new blogspot "Carpe Diem", which means "sieze the day."  I believe what scripture tells us:  that God creates for us a fresh and new batch of promises and blessings each and every day.  It is up to us to accept His ongoing and staggering gift of grace and mercy with open hearts and arms.  Read Lamentations 3:22-23.

     The past two years of my life have been very challenging to say the least.  To say I have been struggling is an understatement.  I am a care-giver and encourager by nature, and sometimes it is to my detriment.  When I found myself overwhelmed by a relationship that was too burdensome and draining, I had to step out in faith and hand my fears and doubts over to God and leave that relationship behind.  I quickly discovered that once I did, I could breathe again and my heart could heal.  My heart had truly begun showing symptoms of stress and disease.  Thankfully, it turned out to be completely healthy, but God used the medical tests to get my attention and show me that it was time to make a change.  Change is very hard, especially to those of us in middle age who find some sort of perverse comfort in doing things the same way over and over again, even when the outcome is always negative and not in our best interest.  That has been a life-changing realization for me.  God has dealt with me sternly, but lovingly, and I praise Him for that.

    As the new year begins and I seek to be the best mother, daughter, sister, friend and mentor that I can be, I am discovering that stumbling blocks appear seemingly out of nowhere.  The harder I try to be faithful in my service to the Lord by encouraging others, investing in the kingdom through mission work, and studying His word, the more chaos and strife seem to swirl around me.  This is what Paul describes in the new testament as spiritual warfare and it is very real!  Read Ephesians 6:10-17.

     To all my beloved friends and family, it is my wish in this new year that God's blessings will chase you down and overwhelm you with their abundance!