Five Minute Friday: Glue

It’s what He created you to be. When He fashioned this family and set you at the center of it, God knew what they needed. You’re the glue that holds it together.

Dear friend, you struggle today with the burden of your role. Caught between the children who still need you and the mother that suddenly needs you. Then there’s the husband that will always need you, and the friends who know now is not the time to need you.

So, you keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other, doing the next thing. Because it’s what we do, we women who are the “glue”. We keep it together and hope it sticks.

Praise God we don’t do it alone. You know that, and so do I. We know where to turn when the going gets tough. Some days it’s a tricky balance and we get off track and things just seem like they might fall apart. But we keep moving forward.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-15

We do it because we can’t do anything else. We’re the glue, and we press on.

 

Lisa-Jo-Baker-FMFI’m linking up with the writers at Five Minute Friday. Hop on over and join the conversation.

Taking a Minute for Latte, Laughter and Life

140416_0001Over there, behind the card rack. I can’t take my eyes off you.

I’m not a stalker. I’m happily married and young enough to be your daughter. But there is something about you.

It could be the way you nod at the fella next to you with a smile that says “You matter to me.” Or the friendly wave at the guy walking through the front door. “Welcome! You’re one of us.”

Maybe it’s the laughter, the low rumble of your conversation.

Whatever it is, I can’t stop watching. And you make me smile.

I slip out my phone and snap a quick photo while my latte cools on the table before me. It’s a rare day that I take a seat in a coffee shop. I’m usually rushing through, grabbing a “to-go” as I pat that list of errands in my pocket. But today, I decide to sit a spell — and I don’t even hook up to the free internet.

So glad I’m just sitting here watching, because this is better than anything posted on Facebook or slipped into one of my favorite feel-good video sites. This is life. Happening right here and now.

You guys are the real deal. You’re friends. All grey hair and colorful shirts and chinos. All shared memories of hard times and good days. You’re all that and you’re sitting here in the winter of your life, laughing like it’s Springtime and you haven’t a care in the world. Oh, I know that some of you will go home to a lonely house to warm up soup for a solitary lunch. A few of you will head to the doctor or pharmacy for yet another prescription to add to the list that keeps growing. The lucky among you will go home to tasks that await, that make you feel productive and glad to be alive.

But you’re here now and you wouldn’t want to be any where else.

I know you, because you’re like my Dad. You have aches and pains, you have history and you know the final chapters are being written. But you live them like they’re first drafts.

That’s a good way to live.

I’m sitting here today because of a guy who could take a spot at your table. I met Levi on the Internet when he visited my blog, and he could be one of you. He likes coffee shops where conversation happens. And he loves God. Levi and I exchanged comments and he made me think about slowing down and taking a minute to watch life in my favorite coffee shop.

So glad I did.

Thought-provoking-thursday-banner_NEWI’m linking up today at Thought Provoking Thursdays with Lyli Dunbar. Join me here for more conversation.

 

Living an Easter Sunday Life: On “To Do” Lists and Brokeness

My “Things To Do” list for this week is long, and there’s some important stuff on there.140414_0001

But this morning, my head is filled with another list that speaks to me of Eternity.

We’re stepping into that painful climb to Gilgotha. It’s the Holy Week. Christ has been heralded as King. Soon He’ll be tortured as blasphemer. Every Lenten season, in this year more than most, I am walking with those women, following Christ’s trail of blood.

I want one last chance to kneel at His feet, to hear His words, to look in His eyes and celebrate what I behold — God.

Bible open on my bed, I know I have that chance. More than one, many every day. I can read His words and roll them around on my tongue. I can bring that list of ways I want to know Him more, questions I want to ask, thoughts I’d like to explore. And I can spread my list before Him and point, saying “What about this?” and “Please, show me that.” I know He’s listening. And I’m listening. On good days, when my “to do” list isn’t haunting, I am listening.

That’s at the top of my Eternal list — to listen. To hear Him…

in the laughter of friends,

in the birds rejoicing outside my window,

in the whispers that come when I still my heart to hear,

in words penned by those who also follow the trail of blood.

“I am broken at your feet. Like an alabaster jar…..I will bow my life at your feet.” ~ Rend Collective

Number 2 on my Eternal list — to look.

“We do not look with our mouths” is perhaps the wisest statement I’ve heard lately — and that from the mouth of a little one asking Mama to pay attention, not just mouth affirmation.

I played “I Spy” with God this weekend as I met fellow readers/writers from around the world on a college campus in Michigan. I saw Him in the broken and the blessed. He was there….

in the gentle spirit of a poet traversing the winter of her life,

in the kindness of a young woman leading her elderly mother across the campus,

in the beauty displayed for us by creative hands,

in the smile of the check-out lady at Johnny’s cash register.

And today I can celebrate!

Praise should be at the top of my list — every day. Thank you, Jesus, that I can get out of bed, stretch to the heavens, appease my hunger, use my mind, work with my hands. I celebrate His grace, His mercy. I revel in the onset of Spring, in the blessing of new human life.

And in the resurrection promise that is His to give to this one so unworthy.

This Lenten season, I’ve walked in the shoes of John, the Beloved Disciple. While he was exiled on Patmos, God revealed to John the sacrificial Lamb, slain so that the Lion could triumph (Revelation 5:5-6). As John stood witness before the throne, he heard a mighty angel proclaim that only the Lamb was deemed worthy to take the scroll, which bore all of life’s lament and promise, and to open its seals:

“because you were slain, and with our blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.” ~Rev. 5:9-10.

Did you hear that? Do you know? The blood of Christ, the slain Lamb, purchased you and me for God. We are His kingdom, here on earth. We have been called to serve the Lion.

My heart will break on Thursday when we partake of a final meal with Christ, and it will bleed on Friday to see Him condemned and crucified. But it will rejoice come Sunday, when in the midst of the same trial and heartache suffered by so many in my world, I gather with them to live out “an Easter Sunday faith in a Good Friday world.”

Today, as I yearn for Sunday, I lay my list and my broken self at the feet of Jesus “like an alabaster jar.” Won’t you join me here?

In Good Company for a Nostalgic Journey

I call the biennial Festival of Faith and Writing my “guilty pleasure.” What could be better than spending three days surrounded by people who love to read, have a passion to write and like nothing more than talking about both?

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An early morning workshop at the Festival of Faith and Writing.

My fifth Festival experience is awash with nostalgia as I hike back and forth across the beautiful Calvin College campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here is where my oldest son acquired a college degree and found the love of his life. Eight years ago, when he was a junior at Calvin and engaged to his lovely wife, I signed up for the Festival. I had no idea what to expect, and I spent the weekend in awe of the esteemed authors who were willing to share their writing lives with me, a former newspaper reporter with dreams of writing a novel, essays, anything but a news story.

This morning, I sit in the beautiful Calvin Seminary Chapel with three published authors talking about “What Fiction Can Do”. Later I’ll find my way to workshops on writing about faith, food and failure. I’ll listen in on an interview with writer Rachel Held Evans, and tonight I’ll hear novelist, non-fiction writer and political activist Anne Lamott talk about “Meaning, Hope and Repair”. Sigh……

Some nuggets from this morning’s fiction workshop:

“Fiction is an opportunity to give language to longings.” — Author and pastor Sharon Garlough Brown.

“When I’m writing, I’m living on a higher plane. I’m happier when I’m writing….by writing I put order in the world.”” — Canadian novelist Hugh Cook.

“Fiction is a lie that tells the truth.”

“See it, feel it and write it.” — Author and book store owner Tracy Groot.

“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself.” – Harper Lee quoted by Hugh Cook.

 

 

 

Honoring the Saints Among Us: A Teacher’s Gift

 I am delighted to share with you my friend Monica Clark’s tribute to a teacher who made a lasting impression.

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The third-graders were ready for their last rehearsal. The girls dressed in white linen costumes lined up along the windows. Gold and silver halos danced and dipped, and stiff, silver angel wings stood at attention. The boys in their shepherd’s robes milled around like the imaginary sheep they were supposed to guard. Flush faces, sparkling eyes, and nervous smiles greeted me. It was too much. I excused myself and fled, weeping, to the supply room.

No, it wasn’t the Christmas pageant that upset me. It was the news that Roger Brenneman had passed away.

“It’s okay,” I thought. He lived a good life, a full life, a life filled with love and hope and faith. I was fine, until I looked into those shining faces and realized those children would never know Mr. Brenneman.

To understand, you have to go back to 1975 and a scrawny eleven year old who hated school. Four schools in three years had changed me. My main interest in school was skipping it. That worked fine in fifth grade where I once skipped 9 days in a row, but about the third time I pulled the old, “Missed the bus,” routine, Mr. Brenneman sat me down and demanded an explanation.

I couldn’t tell him how dumb I felt, how lost I was, so I sat in shameful silence. Then, he began to speak, and I soon realized he understood. He told me he wanted me in his classroom. I needed to be there to learn everything he had to teach. I was stunned to realize that he actually cared. I never skipped another day, and with his help, I caught up.

Mr. Brenneman wove life lessons through all our activities. We visited two local supermarkets, priced items, compared the differences, and determined the best place to shop. It sure didn’t feel like math, but it was.

We ran a bake sale and tallied up our money. We cooked applesauce in a giant kettle behind the bus garage to sell as a fund-raiser. We bought fabric, measured it out in blocks, embroidered—yes, even the boys—and stitched together a quilt. That summer, Mr. Brenneman took a group of students to Washington, D.C., and presented our quilt to Senator Birch Bayh. Pretty heady stuff for a Shipshewana kid.

We read great stories, memorized long poems, and wrote our own books. Soon, it was Christmas time, and one day we found jars of tempura paint and a stack of paint brushes in the room. Mr. Brenneman let us paint great murals on the large windows along the east wall. A huge Christmas tree, a giant candle surrounded by holly, and a manger with baby Jesus proved we were artists.

The morning sun streamed through the cobalt blues, blazing reds, the jaunty yellows, greens and browns, transforming mere paint into something magical. Our room became a wondrous cathedral with glowing stained-glass windows.

Even today, Mr. Brenneman’s lessons still resonate. He taught me I could do anything, be anything, and that it was safe to dream. Through his tutelage I have traveled the world, written and published stories and poems, and most importantly, worked with kids—kids just like me–who struggled in school, hoping in some small way to pay forward the gifts I received from a great man.

I composed myself and returned to the Christmas pageant, but made a note to stop on the way home and buy some paint for the windows.

Written by Monica Clark

Has someone touched your life in a way that made you a better person or left a lasting impression? Join us here to honor the “Saints Among Us”. You are welcomed to post here or on your own blog and link up to us here.

Am I a Writer?

5minutefridayJoin me today with others writing here at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog “Five Minute Friday”. Our prompt for today is “Writer.”

 

Planning my wardrobe for next week’s Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Mi, I have to stop and ask myself:

Am I a writer?

Sure, I blog and I write for a couple of local publications. And I hope someday to see my byline in a national periodical or (gasp) on the front of a published book.

But am I a writer?

I’ll be surrounded by great writers for three days next week, some whose names make my heart skip a beat (Anne Lamott, James McBride, Rachel Held Evans, Bret Lott, Luci Shaw) and others I’ve yet to discover. Heady company for a lifelong bibliophile.

To be a writer, what words must one write? And who must see it?

The words that have given me the most satisfaction are those of my father, spoken to me in afternoons spent at his kitchen table, capturing his life on video and in my notes. Those memories of growing up during the depression, of serving his country in the United States Air Force, of raising a family and delivering the mail — those words are the ones I treasure most.

I gathered Dad’s memories, wrapped them around collected photographs of the handsome soldier, the industrious little boy, and entrusted them to a local printer. On Father’s Day 2012, I gave Dad his gift — 50 copies of his life in words, “One Man’s Work”.

It won’t win a Pulitzer, but the slim volume of stories made Dad a celebrity in my home town. All 50 copies were given away or sold, and now Dad’s offspring, for generations to come, will have a record of their ancestor’s life in a little Midwestern town.

Am I a writer?

Yes.

 

The “Betty Effect”: Honoring the Saints Among Us

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She had sparkling eyes, a warm smile and a sweet voice that I can hear to this day. For a brief season, Betty was my mentor and my friend.

In thinking of the people who have left their mark on my life over the past 60 years, Betty immediately comes to mind. She attended the little country church where I worshiped as a newlywed, and she took this young bride under her wing.

Betty had a good three decades on when me when we became friends. Her kindness drew me to her immediately. Perhaps the ease with which she showed compassion was the outcome of coping with her own slight deformity. You see, Betty had been born with a hair lip and a little scar traveled from beneath her nose to the middle of her top lip. Betty’s external flaw was barely noticeable due to the joy that radiated from within her heart.

Betty taught me so much about what is beautiful and lovely in this world. She showed me how to create a pleasant home and how to enhance my own appearance. A business woman, she humbly offered advice and encouragement as I pursued a career as a newspaper reporter. Somehow, she saw past my shyness and insecurities to nurture the woman she helped me become. And at a time when my newly-claimed Christianity was still fresh and flaming, she gave me a platform to share my faith journey with other women in our church. To this day, I credit my ability to stand in front of a group of Sisters in Christ (or any group, for that matter) to the nudge given to me by Betty.

There is a term for the kind of fellowship Betty and I enjoyed during our brief friendship: koinonia

This beautiful word is found 19 times in the Greek New Testament. Rich in meaning, it is described as sharing with one another as Christ would have. “It implies the spirit of generous sharing or the act of giving as contrasted with selfish getting. When koinonia is present, the spirit of sharing and giving becomes tangible.” (Wikipedia)

Betty shared her life with me, giving generously and freely of herself. As a Daughter of the King, she took seriously the command found in Titus 2:3-5:

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Betty inspired me to live as a Titus woman, and to share koinonia fellowship with the young women God has placed in my life. Walking forward into my seventh decade, I’m finally comfortable with the role of mentor and “sage”. I love looking into the heart of a woman and searching out her giftedness. I am honored when she looks to me for counsel or advice. Praying for her home and her family is a privilege I take seriously, and celebrating the love of Christ with her is a joy.

As life swept us along, Betty and I lost touch with one another, and now she is with the other Saints in heaven. But the touch Betty had on my life remains. I believe all women need a “Betty” in their lives.

 

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Has someone touched your life in a way that forever changed you? Several of my friends have agreed to share their “Betty” relationships over the coming weeks. I’m calling these posts “Saints Among Us” because Scripture tells us that the saints stand about us as “a great cloud of witnesses.” They cheer us on and urge us forward, always surrounding us with their prayers.

You can honor the “saints” in your life here, or if you are a blogger and want to do the honor on your own blog, please link up with us here so that we may celebrate with you. You are welcomed to snag the icon at the top of my blog to link to us here.

Next week, my friend and fellow writer Monica Clark shares her memories of a teacher who showed her how to make learning a lifestyle.