Are you grabbing the tails of flying kites, like dreams,
and letting them fly you, busting open sorrowful seams?
Days whiz past us and are we too busy to see
the gifts and dreams God’s already given to you and to me?
It’s one reason I stop, count, and slow down
Give thanks, and write each gracious gift found.
We’re visiting family in Alabama this week, and immensely enjoying the joys of southern hospitality. Southern hospitality isn’t just a legend– it’s a true experience! I’ve already enjoyed a few glasses of southern sweet tea and several delightful conversations. You’ll just need to come down here and experience it for yourself!
We walk in the Dollar General store, and a lady recognizes my mother and they talk for ten minutes, and she doesn’t at all look like she’s over 80, she looks like she’s in her 60s, and she tells us she’s been to Hawaii four times, and so many other places, and she invites my mom to join her group’s next travel adventure. She came from Germany, a soldier’s wife, and told all of her children to please not move so far away, like she did. (And they listened– they all live in town, or nearby in Tennessee, or Georgia). She can’t believe I have a daughter who is 13, since she says I look like a teenager myself, and I find it hard not to like this lady who is quite kind to say such things. 🙂
We visit a church on Sunday, and it is obvious we are visitors. I explain to the lady at the welcome counter that I grew up here and we are visiting family in town. She is friendly and so are others, and still offers us a gift– free coffee mugs with the name of the church printed on the side. We enjoy the service– the worship, the preaching, all of it! If I lived here, I’d be back for another visit. How interesting to be welcomed into town, as a stranger visiting a church, even though I don’t feel like a stranger! How unusual it is…that I feel I belong here, yet I’m still a stranger.
We take a drive around town and see what has changed. Pink and purple crepe myrtles are in bloom, dotting the town here and there. We pass by the empty plot where my old high school was torn down years ago, and we drive by the new high school, which is where the fireworks are to be held– in the back field.
Further down the road, we turn left, and go a block to see the new large hotel that is open and ready for business. We continue driving straight and go through the town square and see the pizza place that is one of my first restaurant memories. Right across the square is the bridal and formal gown shop that is owned and managed by one of my classmates– who returned back to town after years spent in Washington DC as an attorney.
We visit a yarn shop and find out the owner has an alpaca farm not too far away, and she dyes some of her own alpaca wool yarn to sell in the store. We touch and feel the different textures of the yarn. My mom purchases wooden knitting needles (the kind that would be allowed on airplanes).
On the other side of town, the university has fancy new boxes to watch the football games.We drive past the city pool, my old elementary school, and the field where we played softball. The old mill is closed down, but volunteers have restored the old train depot, which is on the path of a well-known biking trail. The town is a picture of beautiful, green, small town American south…my home, my south.
We all go out for lunch at the new Mexican restaurant, just opened, and another lady, who owns a florist shop, stops by and says hello. My mother and I, and her, went to Spain together when I was 13, exactly my daughter’s age right now, as part of a tour group organized by my Spanish teacher.
Circles come around and try to close. People get older, time passes, and we glimpse one another years later, and wonder of the life lived in the span. In the interim of any two lives intersecting, there is death and life and words spoken and words not spoken. I don’t know this lady very well, can’t remember her being on the trip, and that is OK… yet this encounter reminds me that I see people I’ve met, I’ve known, and much can be said of the interim of our passing smiles and hellos.
For those that I know and want to be known more than simply as a passing smile, I long to leave no words unspoken. I ask God for that chance, for that gift, and to please give me courage to speak up whenever I must. Now, I wait and seek opportunity to speak. Sometimes the most important words are the hardest, and we leave the most things unspoken to those who are the closest. I want to be turning from that. I want to be empty of unspoken words.
It is humid, and the air is heavy with the past, and sometimes I feel like I’m back in time. If an old familiar song plays on the radio, then I’m instantly transported, if even for a moment. I have only to see the faces of my children around me to quickly bring me back to the present, and I quickly whisper a prayer for them, for their childhoods, their lives, and their circles, still forming.
The old wooden deck at the back of the house is in need of repair. Planks of wood are curving upward, and nails are rusted. I see the wear and tear of time and heat and rain. The barbecue grill on the deck, which isn’t that old (only a few years), is not usable. My parents decide it will not be replaced. They stopped grilling a long time ago, and left it there only for those of us who visit. Times change, seasons turn. I end up cooking burgers on the stove.
My mom and I go into the garage, which has never been used as a place for parking cars. It’s been the storage area, and is packed full of cardboard boxes. She shows me boxes of kitchen items, and pots and pans, and wonders if I need anything? We chuckle when we examine the contents of a bag filled with free Tupperware tools– old party favors my mom has collected from Tupperware parties. She has saved many of them.
We pick out basement treasures to keep. My daughter picks out a plastic jello mold with a flower on top. I accept the round cake holder and the lazy susan.
I decide to donate my old tap shoes, painted gold and tied on top with a lime green ribbon, still in their pink dancing box. I try to follow a rule in deciding whether to keep or toss– is it beautiful or useful? Sadly, the old tap shoes fit neither category. Besides, I only took dance lessons for one year. It wasn’t a major part of my life. Some things are easier than others to give up, or say good-bye to. My tap shoes are relatively easy to part with; people won’t be so easy.
I’m around the bend again, with my children, showing them bits of my past, and my childhood home.Traditions and memories fill my mind, but the wood is getting worn, knees and joints are getting old, and I’m feeling nostalgic. I’m slowing down to count gifts but they’re slowing down because age does that to people and they can’t move as fast and must stop and watch the young ones flit about. Surgeries, age, time, and distance are costing things worth more than with money, and I don’t wish the traditions and memories of the past be forgotten. I am seeking to hold onto tails of dreams, new and old, and long to mix the past with the present, the old with the new… before it fades and is forgotten. I’m asking God for kites and tails to hold onto and to fly, for circles coming round full and sweet… not mediocre dreams, but for what is better and what is best. He says– ask, give it all to Him, the questions, concerns, hopes, and all, and He tells me He gives bread to His children, not stones. So I’m asking– asking for His bread… and getting ready to fly.
Sharing with Laura at Playdates:
Sharing with L.L.Barkat at On, In and Around Mondays:
292. visiting “home” in Alabama, a safe journey, a beautiful drive
293. a stop at Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky, on the drive down, and marveling at another interesting aspect of God’s earth and creation.
294. kids enjoying the travel… maybe it helped that we broke the 14 hour car ride into two days? At any rate, the drive (which we’ve done in one day in the past) was much more enjoyable this time around for all of us!
295. Skype! Finally (late to the game) we’ve discovered skype and “skyped” with my brother and his family in Maryland. How fun!
296. the kids swimming in the neighbor’s pool, next to their grandparent’s house… playing with the neighbor’s grandchildren…. the same pool I swam in with the neighbor’s kids who were about my age… wow, to think of it!
297. the kids fishing in the creek nearby, next to an old restored mill, over 100 years old, a beautiful place. They each caught a fish.
298. fresh, juicy, pink-fleshed peaches, straight from the farm, we’re in the midst of peach season… delicious!
299. Looking forward to seeing friends here… from my small town to Birmingham
300. basement treasures
301. trying to catch fireflies (elusive so far…)
302. homemade blueberry cobbler
303. a screened in porch with a ceiling fan that is a dreamy place, even on hot days
304. warm weather; even if it is humid and hot, it is sunny and warm! I like warm.
305. ice cream (various flavors and kinds… pistachio, butter pecan, vanilla, etc.)
306. sliced mangoes waiting for us when we arrived the other night
307. a hotel upgrading our room at no charge! no real reason on the drive down south– we booked through hotwire,and when the lady at the counter asks if this room will work, we say the room will be too small– and presto! Upgraded at no extra charge. What a gift… God gives us little things on a road trip like a little more space… but He gives much more than this, like this, above and beyond.
308. watching fireworks– sweet and short, but it made us realize we are spoiled silly when it comes to the fireworks shows we have seen– half an hour in length with a grand finale. It made our upper midwestern fireworks look excessive, and the southern show look so small. Something in between has to be the right balance. 🙂
309. freedoms… for the freedom to write about faith, anything, without fear… for the freedom to worship, for the freedom to speak and assemble freely… for freedom God has given us from sin, through Christ.
310. amidst uncertainties of this life, this world, the future– that one thing is certain– that God never changes and He loves me, He loves you, He loves us, like crazy.