Friends

I am incredibly blessed to have many, many friends.  I have been granted these gifts by God, and I got to see one of them back in the fall AND again a few weeks ago.

Before Tony and I built our new home, we were attending church in Houston.  A couple of years after we arrived, they hired a children’s minister named Jennifer.  I had been helping out with VBS for a couple of years before Jennifer’s arrival, and I had kids who were still under the children’s ministry umbrella, so Jennifer and I became fast friends.

I can’t even remember how or why. . .we just did.  Really–I know how or why–it was God.  It’s ALWAYS God.

Eventually, we built our home and moved to a new town and a new church home, but Jennifer and I remained friends.  She STILL has “World’s Best Babysitter” status with my kiddos–the only one that comes close is their Aunt Christy–and she’s family.

The long story short is that through several of us walking through doors that God help open, I was able to introduce Jennifer to her husband.  They dated (mainly through text message) and were married a mere 9 months later.  During this time, Jennifer and I helped each other through many, MANY difficult life issues.  Tony and the kids were in Magnolia that year for school, but I was still in our old district.  It was a weight to bear to be away from my family, and it wore on me that year especially. I cannot count the number of Frito Pie burritos and large Sonic Diet Cokes she brought to me at school during my lunch time.  She seemed to have a 6th sense for when I needed her to show up. She was my personal grocery shopper on more than one occasion–just MADE me give her my list and went and bought them all, then brought them to me at the end of the school day.

She spent nights in our guest room when she and Greg finally started dating in earnest.  I’d keep a ready supply of bean salad, Tostitos, Oreos and peanut butter for her. We would talk on my way in to work or on my way home,  and I was with her on her wedding day–going to get her hair done, getting an emergency Diet Coke from Sonic, and being a general runner and taking pictures here and there.

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One of the engagement photos I took of them at our house.

March of this year will make 7 years this sweet couple have been married.  In that 7 years, they have produced FOUR precious babies. . .sweet Jack, and triplets Lillian, Harvey, and Matilda.  I have not gotten to spend much time with her or her babies as they moved to Dallas shortly after they married, then recently moved to Georgia.  What with 6 babies between the two of us–and Jennifer with four ages 5 and under, we don’t get a lot of time to chat–or text–or even send telepathic messages.  But that has not lessened our bonds of friendship.

In September, Jennifer’s brother-in-law (who is our youth minister) was getting married in Dallas.  She had texted me the day before to see if I could help her corral the triplets during the wedding.  I was thrilled to do so and came armed with stickers. That was the first time we had been in touch in about a year.  No matter. . .friendship knows no expiration date.  Which was proven when we were 45 minutes away from arriving in Dallas.  I received a text.

“Are you close enough that you can stop by a Walmart and get some socks for the kids?”  Now–it may sound odd–but that text made my heart happy, happy, happy!  Seriously.  The time and the distance meant nothing at all, because who can you ask to get socks for your kids if you can’t ask your friend?

I had not seen Jennifer in probably three years at this point, but when we arrived at the church, I walked through the door, hugged her husband and the one triplet who was nearby, handed her the socks with no fanfare and said, “I’ll be back in 45 minutes to help with the kids.”

We DID get to talk a very, very little bit at the reception–but it was all okay–we had seen each other.

In late January, Greg’s grandmother passed away.  They all headed to our little town for the memorial service, and I was on hand to keep the kiddos in the nursery!  So fun!!!  On my way to the building, I texted Jennifer, “On my way. What Sonic drink would you like for me to smuggle into the nursery for you?”  Her reply, “Large Coke Zero.  You are my hero.”

In all of our bounty of time together over a few months, we had neglected to get a photograph of the two of us together.  In fact, this one below (from her wedding shower in February of 2010) was the most recent one I had of us.

Jen and Greg's Shower 106_025

My very good friend, Jennifer. She’s ten kinds of awesome.

So that Sunday morning after the memorial service but before church started (and I got to be in the nursery with the four kiddos again–such sweet, sweet babies–and they LOVE their Rice Chex and Cashews) I made a mad dash into the auditorium so that we could take this picture together.

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The lighting isn’t great. . .the weird ceiling we have in our church auditorium is on display. . .there are a few more wrinkles on both of our faces, and we still don’t get much time to talk, but oh how I treasure this friend of mine.  She is a blessing and a treasure and a gift–and I can’t thank God enough for her!

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The Same

Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

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Long time ago when Thad was barely 3, and I first went back to work, I drove Tony’s truck.  It was a five-speed, on the floor, Ford F150.  I also drove it when I was pregnant with Victoria which was interesting enough. . .but by the time it was “my” vehicle again, both the babies were born and riding to school with their Daddy every day.

Each morning, I would get up, get dressed–get the kids downstairs and fed and hugged and hugged some more, then I would leave for work dressed in  my cute, home-sewn skirt and some pastel top–teacher flats–hair coiffed, makeup applied, perfumed. . .and off I’d go.

More than once at a particular traffic light at FM1960 and Jones Rd., I would have to stop and wait several minutes to turn left to head to my campus.  During those times, I got more than one strange look.

Everyone from teenagers to truck drivers would look over at this beat up, faded, rusty, beleaguered pick-up (like people do who sit at four minute traffic lights), yet inside sat a  relatively young AND relatively plump lady dressed nicely for work–NOT the doo-rag/baseball cap wearing, scruffy, flannel-shirted geezer they expected to see.  (Nothing against doo-rags, caps, flannel, OR geezers).  Their faces registered sleepiness or boredom, then shock, then either surprise or humor–and quite often I received a wave or a thumbs up with their chuckles–a head shake as if to say, “Well, if that don’t beat all!” A curly-haired, 30-something lady was not the status-quo for a vehicle of such. . .character.

And that is how we are isn’t it?    To the outside world, at a glance, we are beleaguered.  Worn out.  Scarred.  Dusty.  Rusty.  Bent.  “Hard-pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. . .” (II Cor. 4:8&9) There is an expectation of how we will behave–respond–react.  Many days we, ourselves,  feel each dent and scratch.  We stutter and stop when the clutch is released rather than move along.

Yet a closer look–a time to stop and ponder–one more turn of the key with a firm foot to the gas shows those nearby and reminds us that we are NOT crushed or in despair or abandoned or destroyed.   “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made HIS light shine in our HEARTS to give us the LIGHT of the knowledge of the GLORY of God in the FACE of Christ.” (II Cor. 4:6) The LIGHT of the knowledge of the GLORY of God in the FACE of Christ is to shine from OUR  faces–from our smiles–from our eyes–from our souls–clean, shiny, dressed up, and smellin’ good!

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (II Cor. 4:16)

Rusty, dusty, bent? Yes.  But on the inside–renewed, clean, whole, sanctified, and purring like a kitten!

 

Sadie’s Lamp

2011, January 081This lamp belonged to Sadie Williams.  She is a woman I never met.  I may have seen a picture of her, but I could not identify her if I saw the photo again.  Despite all of that, I have known this lamp for about twenty years and owned it for at least eight.

It was delivered to me at a school where I was teaching by some missionaries who were headed to Italy.  It had traveled from Texas to Arkansas, then back to Texas.  I have discovered via The Mighty Google, that it is called a “Gone With the Wind” lamp and that it is a reproduction as it is electric (the originals were just highly decorated hurricane lamps that used kerosene).  GWtW lamps came into vogue after the release of their namesake movie, so I will assume that my lamp was produced sometime after 1939.  A part of it has been replaced–the very top metal bracket with the key is a shiny brass that does not match the rest of the metal.  I don’t know if it was Sadie’s or Sadie’s mom’s as Sadie was a teenager when the movie was released, but it is now mine and lives in my bedroom.

Sadie’s lamp is very old-fashioned and has huge tea roses painted on both globes.   If Sadie’s lamp had a scent, it would be a combination of Merle Norman face powder, and rose scented talcum.   It is a very feminine in a grandmotherly, time-gone-by way.  It is a rather large lamp, and it takes a certain person to appreciate it aesthetic qualities.  But anyone–anyone at all–would be able to recognize the loveliness of it’s light.

They key has three functions.  Click one:  the bottom globe is lit.  Click two:  the top globe is lit.  Click three:  both globes are lit.  Both globes give a nice, golden glow to a room.  It’s enough to read a book by, but not enough to disturb someone who might be sleeping.  The top globe lit alone is not a function that is normally used by us.  The bottom globe lit alone is the one we use the most–just one click is all it takes.

When a child is sick and needs to sleep on a pallet in the floor with a bowl near their head or enough light to make it to the bathroom–Sadie’s lamp (click one) is the light that shines.  If either Tony or I go to bed before the other and we want to leave enough light so the night owl can find their way across the room–Sadie’s lamp (click one) lights the way.  If there is anything unsettling that may need attention in the night, but we want to rest until it’s time to go into action, Sadie’s lamp is the sentinel that keeps the time.

I got Sadie’s lamp from this little girl.

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Isn’t she cute?  I love her angel costume over her blue jeans–the north Texas wind blowing her blond curls–the shadows of the bare tree branches on the wall of her home along with the shadow of her Daddy taking her picture right below.

This little girl grew up to be My Friend, Carolyn.  She has been my friend now for twenty six and a half years.  Sadie was VERY NEARLY Carolyn’s aunt.  Of course, had Sadie BEEN Carolyn’s aunt, then Carolyn would have been a different person and might not have been my friend.  Chances are high that we would never have met at all.  The story of how Sadie was not Carolyn’s aunt after all  is a sad one.  It involves World War II and a girl back home who was waiting for her fiance to return.  I will tell it sometime, as it is very, very important.

However, for today we will just look at Sadie’s lamp.  The fact that it sits in my room in Waller, Texas after a detour FROM Texas to Arkansas, then back to Texas is an amazement to me.  The fact that the cute, little girl in the angel costume is my friend is an amazement to me.  How she even came to be my friend and the impact it has had on my life, the lives of my children, the lives of HER children (and grandchildren) is an amazement to me. The fact that God in his infinite mercy and wisdom and grace takes sad stories and brings good things from them is an amazement to me.  It reminds me of this poem that I have loved since one of my teachers in high school showed it to me.

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Bits and pieces.
Bits and pieces.

People. People important to you, people unimportant to you cross your life, touch it with love and carelessness and move on. There are people who leave you and you breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why you ever came into contact with them. There are people who leave you and you breathe a sigh of remorse and wonder why they had to go away and leave such a gaping hole. Children leave parents; friends leave friends. Acquaintances move on. People change homes. People grow apart. Enemies hate and move on. Friends love and move on. You think on the many who have moved into your hazy memory. You look on those present and wonder.
I believe in God’s master plan in lives. He moves people in and out of each other’s lives, and each leaves his mark on the other. You find you are made up of bits and pieces of all who ever touched your life, and you are more because of it, and you would be less if they had not touched.
Pray God that you accept the bits and pieces in humility and wonder, and never question,
and never regret.

Bits and pieces
Bits and pieces.

Lois A. Cheney, (God is no Fool, 1969)

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Tomorrow, September 30th is Carolyn’s birthday.  Happy Birthday, friend.  The friendship that we have is one of my greatest treasures.  You are a gift far above rubies.  Or sapphires since you like blue best.  You know how much I love Sadie’s lamp.  I will keep it safe until it is time to let it travel to another home and continue its journey and its story.

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A Bit and a Piece of God’s loving kindness, October, 2012, Searcy, Arkansas.

Forget being planted. Just. Bloom.

I’ve had a blog post rattling around in my brain for awhile, but I’ve been waiting for a time to get it all written just right with the exact pictures I want for it, and now–this second– I say enough!  I’m slingin’ it out there and will straighten it up later.

Three springs ago I bought some flowers for the librarian at my old school who was retiring.

May, 2011 Vinca the First along with other lovely flowers for Margaret upon her retirement still in their flimsy flats with rich, black soil.

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I guess I bought a couple of hot pink vinca for myself as well, but they broiled to death that summer. Or so I thought.

I just went out on the porch to take this photo.  It’s after 10 p.m., so I held a flashlight in my teeth and took  this abysmal shot with my iPad mini on which I am now typing with one finger.  (Twenty minutes later I have determined that until I get a keyboard to use with my iPad mini, I will not be using it to blog, no matter my level of determination. . .therefore I can now use actual photos of the vinca for real, but I give you this as a nod to my willingness to throw caution and good photography skills to the wind.)

Photo horriblus of the Vinca Volunteer.  Those are some whacked out colors there.

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You know that saying, “Bloom where you’re planted?”  That is what I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.  In fact, I think of it every time I step around this prodigious plant, ’cause this huge, blooming, survivor of a vinca was most certainly NOT planted.  It is what you call a volunteer.  Although why it would volunteer to plunk its roots down LITERALLY between a rock and a hard place , (aka: a brick walkway and a concrete slab)  is beyond me.  I assume the choices were put down some roots and get yourself a drink or die.  Obviously,  much like lantana and plumbago and some other hearty plants, this vinca is one that even I can’t kill.  But seriously, it didn’t HAVE to live.

I’m not even sure how it survived.  It volunteered itself the summer of the huge wildfire(s).  And SURVIVED a very, very long time with no one giving it water on purpose.  It IS growing right under the eve of our (gutterless) roof, therefore it gets watered a lot when it rains (which it didn’t from like March until the middle of September that first year).  It also  gets the ever loving daylights beaten out of it by the torrents pouring off the (gutterless) roof when it DOES rain.  The first time we got a for really, truly storm I nearly cried at it all pummeled and flattened to death.  Bye, bye, Sweet Vinca.

But the next morning, it had straightened itself up quite nicely and was putting out more blooms.  By the next day it was in a growth spurt and practically strutting–at least in essence.

This being my point.

Sometimes we aren’t planted. 

Sometimes we are tossed into the compost pile like some watermelon seeds I threw out at my old house.   Sometimes we are left in a pot awaiting transport or determination of where we are supposed to go permanently like some azaleas Tony hasn’t put into the ground yet.  Sometimes we are put somewhere that isn’t supposed to be our final spot, but negligence and forgetfulness  (and life) happen and before you know it, it’s either make it work or die.  Sometimes we end up being in an unlikely or  uncomfortable place where we really weren’t planning to be.  It may not even be where we are “supposed” to be.  The thing is–the watermelon seeds grew more watermelons, and we ate one that October which is NOT watermelon season.  Even in the south.  The azaleas are sitting in the pots in which they rode to our house March of 2012, but this spring when the ones in the ground bloomed, the homeless ones did too. The vinca  despite all odds survived rather than  burning slap up and is now a gorgeously, flowering plant that neither my order-loving husband nor I want to rip out of its unlikely home.

Why is there a Volunteer Vinca growing out of a quarter inch gap between our brick walkway and our concrete slab?  I really couldn’t tell you.   I can’t miss it–that’s for sure.  It’s large, covered in hot pink flowers, and is in. the. way.  But it makes me think.  And it makes me smile.

We can grow or we can die.  Those are the only options.  Merely existing is just a living death. And if there is enough life left for us to grow–even if we weren’t planted?  Well. . .we can still bloom.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”  Matthew 6:28 & 29

Volunteer Vinca:  A Photo Journey

You can see the Vinca Volunteer under Thad’s arm.  Obviously October of 2011.  Two little sproutlets that somehow grew despite horrible draught, burning heat, and downright neglect.  We were too lazy to even pull up the first shoots we saw.Vinca Blog

June, 2012.  Just a little over a year ago, we were astounded at how it had survived and grown.  At least I was.  You can still see it there between the rock and the hard place.Vinca Blog Summer, 2012 002

September, 2012 was when it really started showing off what with the rain and cooler temperatures.  This was when the thought began forming in my mind.Vinca Blog September 2012 014

And, tonight.  July21, 2013.  It’s a little beaten up due to a storm we had earlier today, but it’s already bouncing back.  We had some hard freezes over the winter so that at one point it was just brown sticks, yet here it is–about three feet across and the tallest stems about 12-16 inches high.  Amazing.Vinca Blog July, 2013 058

 

And beating a dead horse. . .this morning, July 22, 2013, in the light.

 

 

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Vinca Blog July 22, 2013 001

It looks to me like the collective is giving this little offshoot a pep talk.Vinca Blog July 22, 2013 002

Just do it.

I love to write. It’s not that hard for me. I am able to fire off 500 words in nothing flat. So how come I’m not blogging? I have all manner of stories and thoughts and things practically running laps in my brain. Hmmm. . .that will be something to ponder later.

Tonight, I read Stephanie’s blog post. She is kind of doing a post a day type thing–and she really IS doing it. I love it. I always know whatever is there, I will be happy that it is waiting for me to read.

So. . .here goes. My daughter is getting entirely TOO lovely.
Seriously.
I know this happens, and I embrace it. . .but seriously.

On another note, Thad is growing too, but he still does stuff
like playing “The 1812 Overture.”
On his teeth.
With a comb.
Also seriously.

Tomorrow I get my very first student teacher ever. I have fixed her a spot to land and a little basket of goodies, and I hope she’s ready for the likes of me. She will not see an immaculate classroom that stays neat all day or is even neat when I leave it, nor will she see a refined educator, but she will see REAL teaching–the good, the bad, and the junior high. Her name is Wendy. And since I found out (last Friday) that she was coming, I have thought back to the lovely soul that mentored me; Mrs. Ballard.

She was 42 and pregnant with her first baby. (It just struck me that I am 43–thankfully not pregnant, but marveling at how she did it.) She also had gestational diabetes and had to watch what she ate. I mainly remember her eating tuna sandwiches and carrots when what she wanted was a package of Nutty Bars and a big glass of milk. I also remember her eating a lot of Tums. (A proclivity that I shared with my own pregnancies–the Tums–not the tuna.) Because of the change in her diet, she had actually LOST weight during her pregnancy, and her maternity jeans had gotten too big, so she wore regular jeans with a rubber band through the button hole, looped around the button. I was amazed at this trick and appalled that I did not know about it sooner. She was sweet and dear and kind and PATIENT above all else. She went into pre-term labor three weeks before I graduated. The School district in Searcy played a little fast and loose with my up-coming certification and just let me act as the sub for the remainder of the year. That amounted to three weeks without pay and two weeks with.

I will never forget the day I took the kids on a field trip to somewhere that was more than an hour away. At one point, I looked around the bus and realized that besides the driver, I was the only adult on it. And I was really just a kid atop an adult shaped step-stool at the time. It scared me half to death. What kind of IDIOTS turned me loose with their children and allowed me to take them somewhere in a motor vehicle? I very nearly had a panic attack right then and there. . .but I couldn’t, because I was THE ONLY ADULT ON THE BUS!!!! Frightening.

(Seriously)

I went to see Mrs. Ballard one night after her baby was born. It was spring. She and her husband lived out in the country, and he had just tilled their garden to begin planting for the summer. The dirt was rich and black–fragrant, slightly damp and loamy–the dirt of my childhood. I couldn’t resist. I didn’t even ask permission. I pulled off my socks and shoes and went running through their freshly turned up garden in my bare feet. They stood and laughed at this crazy woman-child.

And then, I went in to see the baby for the first time. A beautiful little girl. She was tiny. I marveled at her too.

Mrs. Ballard had a BIG basket of goodies for me full of awards and post-its and colored Sharpie markers and stickers and an EZ-Grader that I have to this day. (It says “Miss Watts” on one side and “Mrs. Langley” on the other. I also used the pretty Sharpies to draw balloons all over it.) In her sweet generosity, she gave me the stipend (pittance more like it) that she received for having had me in her classroom as an additional student. She said she thought I had earned it more than she had. That is SO not true. Obviously, I will never forget her. She’s been on my mind.


A very PATIENT advising teacher, a very tiny baby, and a very young, IN LOVE WITH TONY LANGLEY, “Ignorance is Bliss” me. With dirty feet from running through a newly tilled garden.


Not long after–still young–still IN LOVE–still ignorant, but not blissfully so anymore. *Sigh.* My first class of kids. I am taller than them, but that is about it. I remember EVERY ONE of their names.

Prayers for Wendy as she begins her Adventures in Jr. High, and prayers for me as I do something new yet again. The learning? It never ends.

Seriously.

Gems

Victoria and I are in the process of planning for the Mother & Daughter luncheon, 2012. This is our tenth year. How in the world did THAT happen? We discussed invitations tonight, and decided to use a silhouette. We batted around using Victoria’s silhouette, a bird, a butterfly, a teapot, a flower, a daisy, a Gibson Girl, or just a generic little girl.

In the end, we found THIS little jewel. Victoria and I BOTH loved it. I actually ADORED it from the moment I laid eyes on it, but being the mom of a thirteen year old girl, I knew to play my hand close.

“What do you think of this one?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Oh, Momma!!! I LOVE it!!!! What do YOU think of it?”
“I love it too, sugar.”
“What do you REALLY think???” (She is, after all, a woman-in-training.)
“I think I REALLY love it. Do you know WHY I love it?”
“No. Why?”
“Well, because it reminds me of you. You aren’t a little girl any more, but you’re not yet a young woman. And this silhouette looks EXACTLY like who you are right now.”
“I think so too. She looks in between like me.”

Do you know what I love most of all? I love that my 13-going-on-14 year old daughter KNOWS that she is “in between.” She isn’t trying to grow up too fast. She isn’t trying to stay a little girl. She is in between, and she embraces her in between-ness. I was NOT one to do that.

I always wanted to do whatever it was I was too young to do. Some of this may have had to do with my having an older sister, but most of it had to do with me being “prissy.” At the age of six, I INSISTED that my leotards on Sunday morning were to be called PANTYHOSE and my open-toed, block-heeled sandals were to be called HIGH HEELS. My Granny would save empty cosmetic compacts and lipstick tubes and cleansing cream jars for me–stored in her guest room chest-of-drawers–with the STRICT understanding that I was not to APPLY anything I might find in the crevices of the containers. Even my Granny who dug EVERY LAST AVAILABLE BIT of her Merle Norman Ladybug Red lipstick from the tube with a Q-tip was bound to miss some that my enterprising prissy fingers might still reach. I DID occasionally sneak and “use” some powder. It was really just Granny’s old powder puff that smelled of face powder, but it thrilled me no end.

I wore lip gloss as soon as I was allowed. I got my ears pierced as soon as Daddy FINALLY gave up and told me if I wanted to poke holes in my ears to go right ahead. I wore make-up as soon as I had my own money and convinced Momma that I would only use NATURAL colors. (This did not last for long as my photos from high school can attest.)

I don’t think any of that was bad. I am certainly not the first little girl to do so. And if Victoria wanted, this would have been the year that mascara and face powder and light lipstick would have made an appearance in our house. As it stands, she wants none of that yet. She likes to wear jewelry but has no desire to pierce her ears. She likes to wear body spray, but has no desire for make-up. She has long had her own personal preference regarding her clothes and what she “feels” like wearing. She has her own style. . .which happens to be chock full of grace and gentleness and intuition and tenderness and beauty that is beyond me to describe. She is like a luminous strand of pearls, my girl.

Of course, I AM her Momma, so I’m a little partial.

More Dragon Wisdom

We are now on the 8th book in the How to Train Your Dragon series–How to Break a Dragon’s Heart. Not that any of us WANT to break a dragon’s heart. That’s just the title.

The books are NOTHING like the movie–although the movie is pretty good. There is pattern that Cressida Cowell uses, but her writing is downright hilariously clever to the point that Victoria, Thad, and I have had some of our hardest laughs while reading her books–but it is laced with melancholy at times. . .and there are bits of wisdom dropped throughout like bread crumbs. Tonight, I ran across another. . .

“But I am not really lost,” she said to herself, “because it does not matter so much WHERE you are as long as you know WHO you are.”

That, and the fact that I HAVE to love a published author who uses the dash (–) AND capitalizes words freely and with abandon. Just sayin’.