Thursday, January 28, 2016

when noticing isn't enough


It was still early when I shuffled to the window in my striped wool socks.

Peering through the blinds I found the snow laid like a blanket over the hills, carefully lining every branch of every tree.  I smiled at the shocking beauty as I anticipated my children's giddy response.  Ironic isn't it?   Something so cold and severe conjuring feelings of softness and comfort.  I don't like traipsing through the snow, but I sure do love gazing at it on the other side of the glass.

I began the mental preparation that would be necessary for me to bundle up and venture out with the rest of my family in a few hours.  The kids would want to play and I wouldn't want to miss it.  I would sacrifice a runny nose and frozen toes to join them.

When the time came we set out without proper sleds, just cardboard boxes and a couple of old boogie boards from our summer beach trip.  Oh, the beach...  We cut through the frozen path and into the woods behind our house headed for the the slopes of the golf course.  Along the way I stopped to capture the beauty with my camera.  As we stepped over the creek and into a clearing I once again stood with one glove off holding my camera up to the sky.  The square inside framed the bare black branches lined in white and pressed up against a skying trying desperately to turn from gray to blue.  I had just snapped a shot when he shouted back at me,

Stop taking pictures and come on!

My skin bristled.  He didn't mean to offend.  He and the kids were just eager to hop on those sleds and fly.  I waited until later, after we had all done our flying and flailing down hills, to remind him.

Sometimes taking pictures helps me to take my time.  I need to stop and notice the things that I'm usually too busy to see.  Snapping those shots helps me to slow down and capture a scene I want to remember.  It may seem that I'm being distracted from something, but I'm actually being directed towards something.  You don't have to wait for me, but next time, don't rush me either.

He shook his head and hugged me.  My husband is a patient and understanding man for enduring someone like me, someone who is
  always. capturing. something.
Not a day goes by that I don't seek something sacred to pick up and hold and admire.  I don't want to just notice it.  I want to capture it.  Want to know why?

If I just notice something it remains for me alone.  That's okay sometimes.  Other times I want to offer what I find to others.  In order to do that I can't just notice, I have to capture.
With a photograph.  With my words.

The things I capture can also connect, and that is monumental.

I want beauty and truth to wind through me and into others like a treasured thread of holy fiber, binding and strengthening.

Later that winter night when the moon had almost reached it's fullness I went to the window again.  This time the wood in the fireplace cracked and the low flames warmed me from behind.  I felt as full as that moon.  I didn't hold a camera, only a mug of hot tea, but I was counting on these words I would write to capture those moments too.

There is a fullness that comes to us when we allow both contentment and wonder to marry each other inside of us.  It only happens when we stop and accept the present of being present.  In my youth I squandered it away, carelessly exchanging the 'here and now' for the 'there and then'.  We set our eyes ahead on a future we assume will be better than the present, but that kind of thinking keeps stealing, never giving.  Eventually we feel the emptiness left behind.

A soul needs now.

That's where the fullness is found.  We can't eat a meal that is yet to be prepared but we can feast on what is laid out in front of us today - like a blanket of nourishment over a frozen landscape.

So stop and snap your pictures.
Linger to write your words.
Pause and paint a picture.
Slow enough to notice the holiness hiding in today.
At the moment your soul is feeling full enough to burst, pour out what you've captured for those around you and you'll realize...there's room for more.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

the go-to prayer we all need


In the beginning I read every parenting book I could get my hands on.  

It was exhausting.  Do you know how many people have opinions on
feeding
and toilet training
and vaccines
and discipline
and the list goes on.  Eventually I realized there was no way to learn everything there is to know about parenting. I stopped trying. 

I wanted to be a good mother, but sometimes we can spend too much time in the preparation.  Eight years later I know that being prepared to be a mother is a complete joke.  It’s like trying to sing a song you’ve never heard the words to...
{I'm guest posting at So Loved Co. today!  Hop on over there for the rest of my post and a fun little giveaway!}  

Sunday, January 17, 2016

finding home

Remember that song by the Dixie Chicks?

Wide Open Spaces.

Fifteen years ago they called.  I answered.
The wide open spaces of the Arizona desert welcomed me not by hugging me warm and tight but by quietly ushering me into her vastness.  I arrived seeking a graduate degree but left having found so much more.

In the beginning, I felt lost and alone.  I had lived my entire life among the pines and oaks of the east coast.  Those dusty mountains covered in cactus and cholla felt foreign to me.  The bougainvillea were of slight comfort.  Their bright color and familiar flowers swayed in the hot breeze like small flags of hope.  At the time I didn't know what to hope for.  When you're lost, there is much to be found and it's hard to know where to begin.  I had to begin with me.

The more I hiked the rocky trails, the more I realized that shade and shelter are rare in the desert.  More often than not you are left completely exposed under a sunny southwestern sky.  The true condition of my soul was exposed during those years.  There were times when I thought that scorching process might kill me.  What was buried deep within me wasn't pretty to look at - just dull and dirty like the surrounding earth.
Over the years the desert grew beautiful to me.  So did my soul.  Though dry and brittle, it's muted colors stood in stark contrast to the cloudless cerulean sky, the towering palms and the snow-capped distant mountains.  The desert possesses surprising strength and I began to see a humility in her that reflected great beauty.  She never bombards you with bold colors and bright lights, but instead sits quiet and solid under your feet in natural shades of brown and muted green.  You learn to see the subtle differences.  Your eyes are sharpened in the process, better able to discern the subtleties of this life too.  A pot full of poppies doesn't compete with a desert landscape, but is instead offered a simple canvas on which to open technicolor blooms.

When our plane landed at Sky Harbor airport earlier this week my eyes drank in the views.  I didn't feel lost or alone.  I felt at home.  Sometimes home doesn't come easy.  Sometimes you have to step into great big scary wide open spaces and allow yourself to be completely exposed, allow room for the contents of your soul to spill and maybe even break.  I have believed in God my entire life but I found him in the desert.  Or maybe he found me.  When my own ways led me to a dead end he was there, offering his.  I've been imperfectly following them ever since.
The kind of home I found in Arizona is the kind of home you never leave.  You carry it with you.  After all, home isn't really a place, it's a person.  And so all the places where you have found Him magnify His presence.  It's why I can feel at home while wandering the McDowell mountains of Arizona and also the Blue Ridge of South Carolina.  He stretches coast to coast, and beyond, if we have eyes to see him.   If we dig deep enough to discover him.

My worlds collided this week.  My Clemson family gathered in my Arizona home.  It felt like some kind of redemption, some kind of intricate weaving of the delicate threads of my life.  It felt like all the hard places were softened and settled into the muted landscape around me - a story to be told in a whisper - as a simple canvas upon which God's glory has been painted over the years of my life.



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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sunday, January 3, 2016

the Clemson i love


They called him 'Great'.
He grew up in a little South Carolina town called Great Falls.
If he were alive today my children would know him as Great Grandaddy.
{me and Grandaddy}
I called him Grandaddy.
He called me Lissie.
Before I ever reached double-digits he taught me how to dance and throw a football and drive a car {shhh...don't tell my mom}.

He towered over six feet above me, but I never felt small in his presence.
Because I lived only minutes away from my grandparents throughout my childhood,
I grew up holding his hand walking
in and out of football games
in and out of church
in and out of the grocery store.

As a child who loved being around people, it delighted me that everyone seemed to know us.  I had no idea that my grandaddy had never even met many of the people who stopped him along stadium steps and grocery store aisles.  He treated everyone like a friend.   I did too.  It is still one of the greatest lessons he ever taught me.
In the late 30's and early 40's my grandaddy achieved national acclaim as an athlete and become a local hero.  To this day he is still regarded by many as Clemson's greatest all-around athlete.  When he was alive,  everywhere we went people spoke to him and he willingly stopped and smiled and took time to see them.

His fame shined bright, but it didn't blind him.

On the contrary, it helped him see others better.

When speeches were made
and articles were written
and television shows were produced
touting my grandaddy's greatness, he always did the same thing.  He gave it back - to God and his teammates.

My grandaddy's half-brother, Tom, was also his high school football coach.  He told me how Tom was tough on him and always pushed him to get better.  Tom saw something special in my grandaddy, but he knew that to get down to it he would have to dig deep and work hard.  My grandaddy met that challenge.  His goal was always excellence.  He took every bit of talent and opportunity given, no matter how small, and used it up.  Nothing was wasted.  I think he believed anything was possible not because he was so amazing but because he knew the amazing things God could do through him.

When you realize that excellence is birthed from somewhere, from Someone, bigger than yourself you learn to tap into that.  And then - the magic happens.  For my grandaddy it was always about being faithful with what he had been given and leaving the rest to God.

When I think of my grandaddy I think of a man who turned his face toward God, gratefully acknowledging the source of his talents.  Then, when necessary, he lowered his head and got to work.  When the work was done,
the games won,
the records broken,
the awards given,
he always set his eyes back on God.  He never let the glory grow toxic inside of him, it was released like a flood of light back to it's source and then reflected onto all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.  When you leave the results to God you can leave the glory to Him too.

When I think of Clemson, I think of my granddaddy - Banks McFadden.
Anyone who knew Banks McFadden would tell you that he loved Clemson.  After only one record-breaking year of professional football played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and serving in WWII, he returned to his alma mater to settle down as a coach and husband.

That's when Clemson became our home.

He and my gran raised my mama and all her sisters in a little brick house on Riggs Drive.  My brother and I would be raised there too.
For my grandparents and the other players and coaches of their generation Clemson was never just a football team.  It was never just a school.  It was never just a town.  It was a people.  It was a family of people rooted deep and strong in that dense upstate earth just like those giant oak trees that line the campus.  Their roots are twisted and tangled up with one another forever.  To this day we have friends who coached and played alongside my grandaddy who are as close as family to us.

That is the Clemson I was introduced to as a child.  That is the Clemson I continued to love as a college student and now as an adult, raising my own children where the Blue Ridge yawns it's greatness.

Greatness.

Yes, my grandaddy was great - a great athlete and a great man.
Yes, Clemson is a great place
to grow up in
to attend school
to raise children.

But what I hope the world will see when our football team takes the national stage next week is that Clemson is great because Clemson is a family.  It may be the biggest reason I am proud of the coaches and players who will represent us in Arizona at the National Championship game.

In their faces I see so much more than a football team.
In their faces I see my grandaddy.
I see family.
I see a group of people who know the source of their talent and fame.  I see them believing the impossible not because they, as individuals are something special, but because they each have a part in something special.  Something magical is happening as they gratefully accept their gifts, put them to work, generously offer the best of themselves and then believe in the Gift-giver to produce the result.

All my life I have stood in support of Clemson.  And all season long I have stood behind our football team.  I've come clad in orange and purple, cheering my lungs out from the same seats I occupied as a little girl.  It's hard for me to wrap words around what I have seen, so I will simply say this -
I have witnessed greatness - Clemson greatness.

And it feels like family.
{my daughter, Lucy, at my great grandparents gravesite in Woodland Cemetery}

Thursday, December 31, 2015

the most precious thing

They had been playing in the basement for nearly an hour.

I stepped onto the landing at the top of the stairs to call them up for bedtime.  But first, I listened.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

the relationship i've had to fight for


Her hair was a tousled mess on the top of her head. She wore only the pink and white striped undies she slept in and the insulin pump connected to her hip.  With her thumb she pressed the button through the Hello Kitty pouch to make the pump screen light up.  She announced dramatically in a loud whisper - my pump says it's 7:05!  Is that true?!  How is that even possible?!  It's still dark outside!

A grin spread across her face as I explained it was, in fact, true and the clouds had covered the morning sun.  She danced lightly on tip toe and said something about how she should have known because her tummy was hungry for breakfast.

As she skipped back down the hallway to find some clothes I sat on the couch feeling like I had just been the audience for a highly acclaimed Broadway performance.  I was delighted by her.  If that show had started while I was still blurry-eyed in bed my response probably would have been totally different.  Thankfully, on that particular day I had resisted the 'snooze' button and drug myself out of bed early just as I intend to do every day.  It's my chance to get may head and my heart right before they need me.  It's the difference in me feeling enchanted versus exasperated with her, with them, my little people.

Barely a minute passed before she returned in her purple silk Rapunzel gown with her sewing kit in hand.  Ready to begin...