11 Questions: Who inspires me the most?

Day 2 of the 11 question challenge and I fear that I’m already stumped. [smile]  Read this question and tell me it doesn’t give you pause.

2. Who inspires me the most? Think about the one person you most want to emulate. Who is it? Now what is it about their story or character that draws you to them? …The person you want to be like the most tells you a lot about who you hope to become.

I mean really one person.  Just one person who inspires me.  I am overly blessed and like the gift of great friends, I am fortunate to have many people who inspire me.  Rounding out the top of the list are my grandparents, parents, and in-laws. Each of these incredibly special people have taught me so much simply by being their authentic selves. From them I have learned that it is better to give than receive.  I have seen them open their homes to the world.  I have heard the stories of their perseverance to work to provide for their families and the stories of the stances they took against injustice.  I could do little better than channel a bit of their work ethic, love for family, faith, and passion to help others.

-Margaret

 

Lessons of Porch Time

I hope you’ll excuse my tardiness.  We are in Broxton and that means we are on “porch time.”  Keeping time by watching the sunshine as it crosses the blue gray planks of the porch floor, by counting the cars as they pass, or by Grammy’s calls to join her at the table is a gift and a blessing that I must soak up while I am here.

Just as I settled in to write this morning one of the trucks passing slowed to a stop and my dear second cousin once or twice removed Charlie joined us on the porch for a nice visit.  He interrupted Grammy’s breakfast preparations, but all that didn’t matter because when you are living by porch time all other household activity stops for a visitor.

Conversations in white rockers...

Conversations in white rockers is the most precious commodity on the porch. 

Charlie is a “retired” farmer and to him I’ve always been “Little Margaret.”  In the classic Southern tradition, he is a great conversationalist who shares stories in vivid detail, laughs with gusto, and listens intently to others’ sharing.  His warm embrace and genuine smile are always something I look forward to on my visits here.

This morning, as with any morning I linger on the porch for a brief period of time, my mind inevitably begins to wonder how I can hold on to the magic of the porch when I leave.  Through years of experimentation I’ve found that buying a couple of white rockers, wind chimes, bird feeders, and plants to recreate this magic elsewhere isn’t the answer.  The enchantment of the porch is bound in the invitation it represents to be in relationship with those that stop here to rest for a moment before they move on.  That invitation emanates from the hearts transformed by love who live here.  [smile]

Knowing that the magic of the porch comes from within gives me hope that even when I’m not surrounded by the beauty of a South Georgia springtime or sitting in a white rocker, I can still choose to live on porch time.  For now though I’m going to soak up the goodness of lingering on the porch for a bit longer and let the love surrounding me begin to ready my heart to invite others to join me in porch time wherever my journey next leads.

-Margaret

The 5 F’s and Aging

Fine Food Flavored with Fabulous Fellowship”

Yesterday we had the great privilege to enjoy each of our meals with both sets of my grandparents.  We lunched in Macon with my father’s parents, Mom and Pop, at their  retirement care village and dined in Broxton around the family table with Grammy and Granddaddy.  Both experiences of table fellowship were indeed a joy.  As always seems the case with meals with my grandparents our bodies and souls were nourished.   While sharing with us a story of some pastor he once worked with, Pop told us what this pastor always said was the recipe for a good meal:  “fine food flavored with fabulous fellowship.”  Our two meals could not have been any more different, but both were definitely good meals.

I feel so very blessed to have 4 living grandparents and even more blessed to have close relationships with each of them.  They are all now in their mid to late 80s and are aging.  From watching them age, I have learned that growing old is unique to each individual.  Sometimes aging is most evident in the physical changes to the body and other times it is apparent in the mind.  My Grammy is preparing for a knee replacement in the next few months.  Her walking and sitting have become painful, but that did not stop her from dancing in celebration of our wedding.  My Mom is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  Conversation with her is disjointed and difficult to follow.  Sometimes she may not remember completely who I am, but her smile shows that she remembers that she loves me.

Despite the individuality with which they are aging, each of my grandparents are teaching me how to grow old gracefully.  Their spirits of love and service to their community are still very much alive.  They are adapting to the changes they are encountering in their physical and mental faculties with the assurance that these do not in essence change who they are.  In fact they seem to grow more fully into their authentic self with every passing day.  They are teaching me that becoming fully Margaret will be a lifelong process of daily discovery and really the grandest adventure of them all.

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Rest

Growing in Gratitude:  A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth!  Serve the Lord with a glad heart!  Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying).  Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice
giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible.  Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

When I was little my favorite fairy tale was Snow White whose “skin was as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony.”   I loved having the story read to me and eventually memorized the whole picture book in which her story in vivid technicolor illustration was told and would “read” it to my parents.  Already an academic overachiever, I took my beloved story book with me on my first day of kindergarten.  I vaguely remember thinking that my school bag must not be empty even on that first day.  [smile]

Snow’s been on my mind recently partly because I’ve just discovered the TV show Once Upon a Time on Netflix and partly because since our move last Tuesday I’ve found myself falling into a deep dreamless sleep each evening as if under a spell.  I suspect however the only spell I’m actually under is a combination of no pressing responsibility and the comfort of sleeping under roofs that hold so many wonderful memories of times spent with family.  Whatever the cause, I am grateful for this chance to catch up on my rest.

Today we will journey even further south to spend some time with Grammy and Granddaddy in Broxton.  There where memories of dancing on the porch await, where every sip and bite tastes a bit sweeter, and where time seems to almost standstill, I look forward to a deep rest.  With this rest, I can finally say goodbye to the remnants of mental exhaustion left over from the stress of stretching my mind in new ways over the last three years and begin to store up reserves for the exciting new adventures that await.

Today I am thankful for rest.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

Tasting Experience

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

I’m searching for the right words today.  This is a big day in my family.  We are celebrating, we are praying, and we are holding our breath.  Today we celebrate my Grammy’s birthday.  She has been tasting experience for 84 years today and if I had anything to say about it she would continue to taste experience for another 84.  Thankfully her health at 84 is good and isn’t really a worry at this point. [smile]

If I were to tell you the story of her life, you would probably think it very ordinary.  She grew up in the smallest of towns in Georgia climbing in trees pretending to be Tarzan and Jane.  As a little girl, she caught a train to travel just a few miles down the road to the “big” city to visit her father at the used car lot where he worked after the war and on Saturdays to watch the serials at the movie theater.  After graduating from her small high school, she attended Valdosta State College for women and cried almost every day for the first six weeks because she couldn’t go home.  Years later she met and fell in love with my Granddaddy, a newly ordained Methodist pastor, while engaged to someone else.  She raised three beautiful children and now is seeing her family expand almost every year.  No great-grandchildren yet, but new marriages among the grandchildren and new great-great nieces and nephews.  They retired in the town where she was born in a house on the street she grew up.  Now her days are filled with gardening, reading, writing prayers and letters, and loving on people in ways that make you feel so incredibly seen, known, and valued.  My Grammy has tasted life and is still reaching out for newer, richer experiences.

Today also marks the beginning of a new adventure for my little sister Rachel.  She is stepping forward “to taste experience to the utmost.”  Today she travels with our Uncle Steve to Guatemala to backpack around a new land for 3 1/2 weeks.  This is her first trip abroad and I am so excited for her, but I am also holding my breath.  Yes I am anxious for her to return home safely, but I am also waiting to see how this new experience will change her.  She is about to taste humanity in a new and richer way.  Her eyes will see things differently and I hope she will be inspired!  I am holding my breath in anticipation of what new tastes she will bring back and share.

I am searching for the right words today to express my joy at celebrating Grammy’s life that she has so richly lived and I am searching for the right words today to wish Rachel the very best as she reaches out to experiences life in a new way.  Holding Eleanor’s metaphor of taste in mind, I offer this table blessing today for Grammy and Rachel:

For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.  Amen

-Margaret

One More Hoop!

Got an "A" on my final paper!

Got an “A” on my final paper!

I’ve received my thesis back this week with a few pencil comments and a nice “A” on the final page which is good because I’d already had a couple of dreams that my reader would find some dreadful mistake and it would be returned bleeding red ink!  I knew I had put in the work and done my best but still having spent so much time on something and handing it over to be assessed is terrifying.

I’ve always been a good student, but even so I am still plagued by the dreams of making some academically fatal mistake.  Silly as it sounds, I have this crazy recurring dream that some registrar finds some missing credit on my high school [yes, you read that right, HIGH SCHOOL!] transcript and I have to go back to DHS and take another course from Mrs. Kennedy or Ms. Whitlock.  My 10 year high school reunion was last October!  Not sure what that says about me… maybe I put a bit too much worth in my academic achievements.  [smile]

Regardless of the potential insights these dreams might give about my self image, I have gotten quite good at shaking off the panic of waking from one of these dreams by reminding myself what my Grammy has told me since I was little that I always have the option to move in with her and “grow up in ignorance.”  [smile]  Her reassurance has always brought a smile to my face because while I might not learn that same things I have in school there is no way I would be growing up in ignorance!  Oh what an education I would have received from her and my Granddaddy’s example of love, service, and ministry… not to mention how much I would have saved on student loans!

Well, I’ve made my choice and find myself finishing up another Master’s degree in less than a month that is if I can jump through one final hoop.  Fortunately that final hoop isn’t a huge comprehensive exam… unfortunately there is very little I could do at this point to change the outcome and in that way the hoop feels a little like a ring of fire!  Before Caleb or I or any of our seminary friends can graduate for that matter we have to receive the approval from “The Faculty.”  I put “The Faculty” in quotes because like the nature of the discussions they will have about our readiness to graduate who exactly attends these meetings is shrouded in mystery.  My guess is that the mystery is for the protection of those who make this decision… aka so they won’t be hounded by the graduates.  I could easily promise I wouldn’t hound them, but I can’t promise a few of my always praised red velvet cupcakes might not appear on the doorsteps of the parties involved.  [smile]

Honestly, I’m really not all that worried about getting their approval.  I have done quite well in all my classes and I imagine that it is pretty rare that someone who has passed all their coursework would not be allowed to graduate.  Still they must have these meetings for a reason and I am left perplexed!  Ultimately, I think I’d rather not see behind the curtain and let the mystery remain because as long as I don’t know what’s actually going on at these meetings I can imagine they are super exciting.  I mean maybe they all turn into aliens or something!  [smile]

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Pillow Talk

Growing in Gratitude:  A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth!  Serve the Lord with a glad heart!  Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying).  Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice
giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible.  Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.  

In the midst of the celebration of our wedding, we received advice from just about everyone.  Precious little nuggets of wisdom that promise a happy life together. We’ve really tried to keep all the advice in mind as we’ve started along our journey, but of course each couple is different and we’ve had to find what works for us.  A particular bit of wisdom we received from my Grammy and Granddaddy (who celebrated their 60th Anniversary on April 1st by the way… so you know they are marriage experts) that we have found helpful in focusing our minds on the important things was their practice in counting the blessings of each day together before falling to sleep.  Grammy shared that each night while lying in the darkness before drifting off to sleep she or Granddaddy asks, “what are you grateful for today?” and then they simply name those things that float to the surface of their minds.  What a beautiful image of marriage and of life together!

Naming our blessings is a matter, I think, of cultivating a glad heart and a spirit more ready to embrace life’s challenges in a way that embodies real joy.  As the psalmist wrote above it is joining in on the “Dance of Life.”  In the spirit of learning and practicing life in a more mindful and intentional manner, I’m starting a weekly series here called “Growing in Gratitude.”  Gratitude takes practice and what a better day of the week to focus on adopting an attitude of thanksgiving than Mondays the first day of our work week.   So each Monday join me in counting the things for which I am thankful.  I would love to have you join me in this practice.  Feel free to add your blessings to the comments.

Caleb and I haven’t gotten into the habit of naming our blessings every night, but we do often practice this ritualized pillow talk that my grandparents suggested.  It doesn’t really matter if we have anything special to name, our spirits are lifted by the intentional practice of sharing aloud the things, people, or events of the day that made us smile.  Counting our blessings before bed is a lovely way to drift out of a day and one of the simple joys of life with Caleb.

Williams House B&B,  Amelia Island, Florida

Williams House B&B,
Amelia Island, Florida

Today I am thankful for pillow talk and for shared wisdom.

What are you thankful for?

-Margaret