Return

When rainfall dampens the brown, crusted, outstretched arms of these ancient oaks, a reenactment of  beauty begins. Delicate green fronds curl around the branches. The verdant festoon is  called “resurrection fern” because, in dry weather, the fern’s fronds curl up, turn brown, and seem to be dead—that is, until the next rain, when they turn green and spring back to life.

Resurrection fern is the common name of an epiphytic plant that in our part of the country grows most often on the massive limbs of live oaks..

I never tire of seeing this happen. As I write today, I feel as if it has begun to rain for me. My long absence from this blog as well as the two others I regularly write posts for has been a dry time for me, and I have missed both the writing and the exchange with readers.

During the past year, my husband, Joe, has lost most of his vision due to retinal bleeding and glaucoma. There have been multiple medical appointments, injections, and laser surgeries for him. Loss of vision is never easy. He has met challenge after challenge with courage but also great sadness.

In mid April, I fell, resulting in a compression fracture of a lumbar vertebra with subsequent surgical injections, hospitalization, some unwelcome complications, and an addition to my summer wardrobe: a molded brace. Uncomfortable? Pain? Yes. Restrictions, certainly. But also so much support and help from our family and friends. Since we live with our youngest son, Ben, his wife Kristen and their children, they added helping us with all we needed to their already busy schedules. Right now, Ben is making pot roast for our dinner while 2 preschoolers “help”, Kristen is working in the yard, and they will do our laundry tomorrow!  Our oldest son and his wife, Sean and Teion, have helped so much  in numerous ways, including hours in the ER with me.  Our son in Nevada, Jeremy, calls and texts almost every day. Always attentive, our family has made sure we are cared for.

I had to hand over my calendar to others for all of Joe’s appointments as well as mine. Close friends from our church brought meals and coordinated driving in the early weeks, stayed with me during surgery, prayed for us, and along with our sons, daughters, and grandchildren have given help and poured encouragement over us. I cannot say Thank You enough. To all of them. To God, who blessed us with these dear ones in our lives to love us and care for us.

There is a great deal of healing and work yet to come. But there is also hope and always, God’s presence.  Today I feel the rain begin.

.

 

New Year, New Day, New Light

0Photography by Jeremy Parker, Reno, NV            January 2019

My son recently photographed the view from his bedroom window as sunrise revealed light snow which had fallen quietly in the night. I contrast his view of snow and the Virginia Foothills with my view on the same morning nearly 2000 miles away on the South Texas Gulf Coast. Snow is rare here. Many mornings I wake to dense fog, On other days I see mist rising from the lake behind our house as sunrise fills the sky with color.

new light, new choices, new mercy

new landscape

if I pay attention,

fill my soul with astonishment,

I can tell you …

it is never “just another day”

~ written with attention, astonishment,  gratitude, and recognition of poet Mary Oliver, who died last week.

Instructions for living a life –

Pay attention

Be astonished

Tell about it.

from Mary Oliver’s poem Sometimes, published in the book Redbird.

 

One Question

I rarely cross post in the three blogs I maintain. They seem very separate in theme and topic most of the time. But occasionally I write something which could easily fit interchangeably. I found this in my family story blog recently and offer it again here.

Originally posted in http://www.mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com on July 22, 1917, about a year ago.

One morning a few days ago, a writing friend who posts thoughtfully on FaceBook, posted the simple question, “What is the coolest thing you have ever done?”

I do not often enter threads of conversation like this, but this one so intrigued me as I read some of the comments that I quickly typed in one of my own, without considering more than a few seconds.

So many…birthing 3 sons! Sitting in front of a peat fire in Ireland with a cat in my lap while the innkeeper told ghost stories, watching butterfly caterpillars munch on dill with my 3 yr granddaughter this morning.

The answers kept coming, but more than that, I started thinking. Not constantly, but an all day, in and out kind of musing – not unlike the repeating melody when an old song is mentioned and you can’t get it off your mind. Others were returning to the question as well, adding another cool thing they remembered. I kept returning to scene after scene in my mind, but the next thought I posted referred to times I have been allowed to play  musical instruments I would never have dreamed I would see or touch.
Played the organ in Gereja Immanuel, the oldest church in Jakarta, Indonesia.  Played the piano in Shipman House B&B, Hilo, Hawaii which was once played by the last Queen of Hawaii.
There are a great many ways I could have responded.  Some of them are constants, so much with me that I do not single them out. Years of growing into the certainty of God’s love and faithfulness.  Loving and staying married to Joe for almost 54 years. Moving 21 times in the first 28 years of our marriage, and making it home every time. Knowing by heart the stories of my ancestry, and the legacy of faith and love modeled for me since I was born. Surviving a massive postpartal hemorrhage that nearly claimed my life when my first son was one week old. Being witness to the courage and determination of our youngest son as he lost his vision. Added to the births of our own children, being part of the birth experiences of grandchildren. Being gifted with corneas from people I will never know for transplants that restored my vision.
Flying as a passenger in a jet plane piloted by my son. Admiring the homework, the family buiding of our sons and our daughters -in-law. Living in Jakarta, Indonesia for 4 1/2 years, learning a language I had never heard before, hearing the sounds of mosques and gongs and cik -caks and street vendors.  Traveling. Riding a speedboat across Lake Toba to the island within an island on Sumatra. Having a Singapore Sling in Raffles Hotel in Singapore, watching my sons and husband para-sail on the beach in Bali, climbing the steps at Borobudur, staying in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, visiting the Golden Bhudda in Thailand, riding a funicular railway in the Alps, hearing an organ concert in Notres Dame Cathedral, eating at sidewalk cafes in Paris, eating scones at Shore Cottage Tearoom in the Scottish Highlands, Seeing Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables in London.
Falling in love with poetry.   Learning to pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it. Learning to write it myself. Finding the sacred ordinary.
I wonder if “cool” means awesome, profound, or life-changing, or just interesting and unusual. I will probably keep remembering cool things.  And feeling grateful for all of them.

Garden Blessing

 garden beauty is not always found in flower beds

among our vegetables nestle shining yellow jewels

 scalloped, frilled, filled with goodness

making us laugh because they are named Pattypans

Among the most unusual of our garden produce, pattypans squash are beautiful and delightful to gather.  The name “pattypan” derives from “a pan for baking a patty”. Its French name, pâtisson,[1] derives from a Provençal word for a cake made in a scalloped mould. I love knowing that my grandchildren help to grow and pick foods for our table. When we sit down for a meal, Nora sings the table blessing she learned at school called the Johnny Appleseed prayer.

Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord

for giving me the things I need – the sun and the rain and the appleseed

The Lord is good to me. Amen!

A Reminder

November has been a month of spectacular sunsets. This one was changing so quickly that my husband pulled into a pharmacy parking lot for us to capture part of it before it began to fade. I will always remember this sunset, given on November 6, 2017 –  a day that an armed gunman walked into a small church during a worship service in Sutherland Springs, TX – a small town less than 2 hours from our home and killed 26 people, including children, a pregnant mother and the baby she carried.  The tiny congregation is decimated and the building itself will be demolished. I heard the awful news after we left our own beloved house of worship that Sunday morning. I was filled with grief at the time I saw this sunset. It seemed to me a needed reminder that God is still present even in the presence of evil.

A week later a memorial service was held by the church’s pastor, who lost his own teenage daughter in the massacre. I wept when I heard that volunteers had gone into the riddled church building, cleared and cleaned the space, covering bullet holes and painting the whole space white. Twenty-six white chairs, each containing a rose, were set into the space, which people could visit during the day. Now the building will be entirely removed, replaced by a memorial prayer garden. As my own family gathered for Thanksgiving, and this week as we pulled out old familiar ornaments to decorate our Christmas tree, I am reminded of those families who will have empty places at the table and who will not have family members there for celebrating this Advent and Christmas. There may be some who, like me, begin to shop early and already have gifts for a child or parent who won’t receive them.

I would rather have simply written a poem about the beauty of a November sunset. Instead, I offer my remembering and my prayers in this season of gratitude and beginning again of Advent expectancy. Lament has always been a part of its story.

 

Deep Roots

 

 

Magnoilia trees and blossoms are among my earliest childhood memories.  Like pine boughs and gardenias; if I close my eyes, the fragrance brings a surge of memory and story. Summertime in this part of Texas brings magnolia blooms in many yards, and even without closed eyes, I remember. I am thankful for roots!

“Like the magnolia tree,
She bends with the wind,
Trials and tribulation may weather her,
Yet, after the storm her beauty blooms,
See her standing there, like steel,
With her roots forever buried,
Deep in her Southern soil.”― Nancy B. Brewer, Letters from Lizzie

One Tiny Shell

 

This one tiny shell is less than 2 inches tip to tip, half the size of its photo. Although I have a basket of shells that are larger, I keep this one on top of the gratitude journal in which I write every morning. I pick it up before I open the book.  It is almost weightless in the palm of my hand, yet it is heavy with stories.The shell is one of a number of True Tulip shells  collected when Joe and I went with  our sons out to the mud flats off Sanibel Island, Florida. We spent most of the time on the beach near our rental apartment, searching for shells, building sand castles and a tracking a hurricane! Our sons still talk about it.

We added this to our last few days on the island because of a disappointed 9-year-old son. Jeremy used his trip money at the local Wal-Mart to buy a throw net, a net with weights that can be cast out to bring in small fish and other treasures. After only a single use, the net was stolen from the area where he had carefully spread it to dry. We planned the trip out into the flats to gather shells to soften the loss, an adventure all of us would enjoy.

I had no way of knowing in 1980 that many years later, one of the smallest of the shells collected during that family fun would be held in my hand during my morning prayer time.  It is one tiny shell, holding the sounds of the ocean and the laughter of my sons.

Saying Grace

IMG_1941

Most days begin with prayer and thanksgiving – for years now I have kept a gratitude journal.  This reminds me to focus on all the everyday ordinary blessings I receive as grace.  When we gather for a meal as a family, we hold hands and give thanks for our food. Nora calls this our “Maymen.”  The table is the same one I mention below in an excerpt from my blog post in 2014.

I am remembering childhood meals around my Terrell grandparent’s table in Smith County, Texas. There were hearty breakfasts with farm fresh eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy,  dinners (at lunchtime) that often included  peas and tomatoes from their garden and an iron skillet of cornbread cut into wedges.There were suppers, often the same food reheated or a bowl of soup, and Sunday dinners after church. There were holiday meals at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas where the table and kitchen were both filled with chicken and dressing or a ham, plus those garden fresh vegetables which had been put up into canning jars. To follow, there would be an assortment of sweets – cookies, sweet potato, pecan, and mince pies, and often a pound cake. The food and occasion might vary, but there was always the same beginning: This, too, was something I could count on.  Papa Terrell would say grace. Today we may say a blessing or give thanks, but he always said grace.  The words were always the same, and rattled off so quickly I could never understand them.  But his posture spoke to my heart with no need for words.  Over 70 years later, now I see him clearly in my mind:  gray head bent forward and bowed in humility.

“We offer grace at table as a form of waiting with confidence…reciting such a prayer is sometimes referred to as a way of preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. We offer grace in amazement that even the good things we have rejected are being offered again. And then we eat, and the food meets an earthly need of our souls, and we are made whole.” – Cynthia Rigby, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary*

For me, the calendar days designated to Thanksgiving are a wonderful approach to  beginning of Advent exactly because of this waiting with confidence…preparing to receive all that has been granted to us. Our family will gather once again around the old oak table, the very same one that Grandma loaded with food and where Papa said grace.

Autumn’s Gift

jenleavesLast fall my niece Jen sent me these 2 lovely autumn leaves.  She lives in New Jersey, so autumn puts on a more colorful show there than we get on the South Texas Gulf Coast. They arrived in perfect condition and I pressed them between the pages of my gratitude journal. This week I smiled with pleasure when the leaves fell again –  out into my lap. I texted her a thank you. It was as if they waited until the calendar said go for their repeat performance.