Monthly Archives: October 2012

Shout out for Rachel! Hurray!

I certainly don’t have the readership of Sarah Bessey has nor can I  toast as eloquently as did dear Preston at Deeper Story.  But, I want to say something today as Rachel’s new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood,  releases. Allow me to at least lift a glass and utter my, “amen.”

I am just a mama, wife, teacher and youth leader, working perhaps too quietly, in the town where Rachel Held Evans grew up. As such, I won’t attempt to comment on the breadth of her influence…huge as it is.  But, I would like to share the depth, the generational impact her heart and words are having, even here, in this town, which is tough on the message she is suggesting we reexamine.  What I read, the young women I mentor usually read themselves or get in some successful trickled down format. At 47, her words are freeing to me, they echo the questions I cannot so well articulate. At 17, 18, 19 and 20 her words are springboards…

The finest natural theologians to ever cross my path here in Alabama are young women. The most talented preachers and the most gifted pastoral hearts among our youth group of 250 are girls. The youth pastor and I realize what God has released to our care. We make room for it, encourage it, strengthen it with skill and exposure and most importantly, OPPORTUNITY!

When we are absent, away or just tired, they preach, they teach. Jeremy, our youth pastor, explains he is making up for 2000 years of inequality, so they get the slots. And be sure, they rock it when they do…

I just want to say to Rachel, thanks for leading the way, blocking a bit for those who come after…they are coming! They are right on your heels, girl! I know that makes you smile.

So, thank you from Birmingham! I am sure Tennessee and Dayton claim you now, but so do we, and we always will.

Congratulations!….to “a mother in Israel.” – Judges 5: 7

Kim Sullivan

This post is part of a synchroblog hosted by J. R. Goudeau thanking Rachel for being a woman of valor who speaks for so many of us. Read some other posts at J. R.’s blog.

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horses

I’m linking up with Amber Haines  for her weekly Concrete to Abstract writing assignment. As usual, her piece is stunning and the others linked to hers are excellent as well. Please go check them out and join up with us if you like.

My girls love horses. They have friends who let them ride. A dear family friend closed a betrothal deal with my youngest gal and his least fella, with a horse. Molly loves that horse. The fella, she said, “suits her fine.”  My girls have always begged to ride, to take lessons and they have been graciously offered many such experiences. They so love the horses.

Number One Son and I have a little different view of the sometimes still wild beasts.

It started for me when I went to work.  A sweet family let me stay half way with them many days on my longish commute to and from the college where I worked. I had their daughter in a class. She liked me and they adopted me, and well, I stayed at their farm many dark, cold nights.

They had horses. Not, slow-moving trail horses, the kind used to transport kiddos and old folks. HORSES. The daughter, 19, was a national champion barrel racer. Their horses didn’t look or run like any horses I had ever been near. They were Maserati’s on legs. They had two speeds: GO! and STOP! I only rode them once or twice with her. When I would go watch her race, I never stopped praying – they churned the ground they ran upon, it flew high as their backs. She, my student, nearly flew off them on every turn. The race of seconds felt an eternity.

Horses became wildness and fury and strength that might be pled a direction, if it seemed  good to the horse.

In Costa Rica, we flew above birds and monkeys in the tree-tops and bounced down rapid rivers that we would rate higher here. We explored volcanoed paths and slept nearly uncovered in dark, deep jungles. I roared laughter and delight in all of it, until our little jaunt on the horses. Here, my intrepid son and I broke ranks with adventure. Our trail ride was 3 hours, 3 hours of knee-deep mud and then rocky climbs, now made muddy as well. Our steeds were small and sure-footed and forever fond of the trot. They beat us and then for sport had us clinging to their manes to stay somehow aboard as we climbed. I might have uttered a few French words at the little Spanish speakers. I thought that trip would never end, we would never return to the relative safety of the jungle.

Those horses did as they pleased, well. Unfortunately, their pleasure and ours seemed worlds apart.  Their bodies made for those places and spaces, constantly pulled at us – trying to slow them to a gentle walk, to let them on out, away. They tossed their heads and pulled through our reigning in. It seemed a battle where they were stronger and wiser and we weak and full of fear.

Horses became the strength and certitude of One who would not explain, but would deliver us, if beaten and bruised, anyway.

For my mother’s 70th birthday, she took us, don’t you love that? to Cumberland Island, the largest and least populated isle off the Georgia Coast. A few families hold it, now in trust, as it has been ceded back to the state and ultimately all of us in these states, united. To say people hardy populate it is an understatement…I stood several times on a beach nearly twenty miles in length, not one other soul upon those soft sands.  It is primal and pristine. The oldest sons of the isle are not the Carnegie Clan whose granddaughters authored the Trust. The oldest line are the horses the Spanish brought as early as 1500. They have the run of their station and they take such seriously. They: browns, grays, whites and dappled, appear from nowhere: rush through a thicket, careen around the corners of the few homesteads and houses we visitors stay within. They look tranquil as they graze a far off on the moon and star lit dunes, but they fly at will and never cease to surprise in their nearness, their sudden appearing.

Horse became the Inheritor, always near, even if obscured… always ready to charge, bursting forth, coming quickly, not at our bidding, but in pursuit of  his own purpose.

How powerfully horses speak to our persons.  I have not seen them as a pet to parade or an always gentle beast, but I have come to love them, too.

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inside, OUT

I live in a very conservative,  constrictive, state. One can barely stretch, much less move. Often, dialogue and discovery are not encouraged, exploration is portrayed as an Enemy to be corralled, even eviscerated.

I love dialogue and discovery. I love learning, pressing paradigms, considering alternative options and better, innovative, new ones.  My kids are like me, my natural ones and my spiritual ones. They like the tension and the questions and the freedom of exploration.

Yesterday, while we sat before my fire, eating our down-home butter beans and squash casserole,  some of my kids and I looked at photos from a famous photographer…many of the shots taken at festivals in the Pacific Northwest. My son, the wanderer want to be, keeps begging me to take him there…my daughter, not naturally, pulled these shots for us to see. We stared at the foreignness that does not frighten them AT ALL: the glorious landscapes and the free-falling, high-flying folks.

“Take us,” they whispered.

I nodded gently, yes.

We are surreptitious in the way we wind in thoughts and images and mindsets more free. We play the music that calls such from us, we paint and write and dream.

My son presently wears his hair longer than mine. My adopted daughter, who helped us design costume yesterday, wrapped her hair in tartan plaid and bore it about all day as if she were a proud Kenyan or guru in India.

Some folks look strangely at these two…truth is, they are brave and strong enough to be – on the outside all they are within.

Dang, I admire them.

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taken to the trail

I’ve taken to the trail again. The season is perfect for woodland walks.

I  leave out about 4pm, the sun shining slightly yellow and filtering through the fading green leaves still clinging tight.

I say I am back training for greater journeys. I say it is about the exercise and stretching my body…but I come more for this kinship, and the resurrection of my nine-year old soul.

My path begins on zoysia and dives down into a draw. There the beauty of waist-high grasses, still supporting blue and crimson blooms, slows, but does not hinder me. I press through them and climbe upon a small ledge anchored and carpeted by pines whose scent sends me back to wood romps and straw sweep-ups in our yard. I run/slide down a little worn away trail and into a deep vale – where wet and sanded soil is blanketed by violets. They mush under my feet and buoy me along. An arch of green welcomes and I duck under sweet shrub, at once I am toddling  in my Nana’s yard…then chasing around corners and beneath hedges.  The ground grows hard where it has been driven over, parked upon and ornamentals rise before me, long too large for their once appointed station. Now the ground is graying, and my steps feel Georgian, middle, centipede grass grows scarcely and pine straw is strewn within its fingers. The scent of Camelia falls from the now great tree, I am eight and walking up from the lake.

The trail disappears back into the woods where once supple summer plants stand spidery and crisp. They reach out at me, the hands which one held their flowers, stand stark and grab gently. The temperature falls as does the elevation…the creek is not far beyond. As I near, I can see reflection. Summer’s shoals are sunken. The water is dark, deep and still, full of all the colors above: blue and golds and greens. I end my sojourn, turn my eyes and see sky  through the arms stretching to touch and connect with all brothers. I spin ’round under the canopy that covers and behold breathtaking beauty in every direction. How could I ever improve what surrounds me?

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chain

Today, I’m linking up with the voice of southern exposure, Amber Haines  for her Concrete to Abstraction series. My friend, Ashley Markin is hosting today in Amber’s absence. The piece she offers is pristinely powerful. Read it. This is not the me I usually traipse about as here. These girls push me to reveal one of my more interesting, if not beautiful, personas.

“Chain” –  I see the semi-rectangular links that held my swing at Nana’s under me and to the strong, iron cross-bar. Great heavy links which my Daddy used to pull down oaks follow. I see the charm bracelets which anyone who had the word mama in a name I called wore about their wrist. And then they are the hanging baskets suspended by a bit of chain in our backyard. Chain was not a dark or dreary word in my vocabulary. Chains held and did good work. Until…

Now the word makes me think of a song, a band whose rise to destruction also began by their testimony, in Birmingham. Now, the word “chain” gives rise in me to Stevie’s tortured vocals and Lindsay’s torturing ones. Now it’s all I hear, think about at the word.

I am secured to this place with chains of DNA and debts yet paid and some other oil and exhaust covered thing that feels the way my Daddy’s heavy pulls looked, but I never noticed, as they brought me near to him and warmth into my home. Here it leaves me cold and marred and broken by its weight, though the soul separating power no longer employs it to stretch my frame in twain.

We hammer steel here, no longer under big smokestacks, but in small artisan studios. The big dangers like the old gargantuan iron workings of Birmingham have largely moved abroad to torture elsewhere: racism and class warfare. But, tiny cauldrons still fume and ours was one of them.

The church we so very hesitantly planted was supposed to be a small work of grace. I know now it was neither in his mind – ever. It was to his thinking all his and nothing if it did not grow large and powerful and connected to everyone else so. Our leader was family, by marriage, and he was nearly my death, if not all of ours. I worked for him, wrote some of his stuff. I thought I liked those handling the oversight of our work. Until they didn’t.

It was a classic case of egomania which moved on to more…a deadly infection which cost him his life and all of us everything but ours. It’s been a long time; he has long been as cold in the ground as that chain.

But, when you learn to shoulder such a weight and know its oily feel upon your skin that stains into the mind’s every crevice and all cracking places of your soul… When the smell of such is no secret but a like sentry sound, it is easy to know a brother, another so inclined.  Just such and I have recently locked eyes. And I am wondering is freedom mine to force anew?

Continue reading

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portion

I was reading Preston’s entry today at Deeper Story. I love that southern born boy who wants to see the world and write about it in an accent that goes down my ear easy. He was writing again about tables and the fare that we offer on them, the fellowship and deep truth which the things we partake there deposit into us. It reminded me of thoughts I started to chase as Karen made biscuits for me yesterday morning. I love biscuits – they are the comfort food I most crave. As I cannot seem to make them, my sister got all the biscuit making genes, I usually settle for my other favorite when I need some warmth or comfort – grits. Anyway, Karen got the genes from her mama/Granny and so has always made biscuits for me and all those she loves best. It’s been 20 years since I last ate her biscuits. She, of course, as all biscuit makers, was not pleased with the perfectly risen, golden brown glories she pulled from the oven. They were great. But, for me, greater than the actual biscuit is the act of biscuit making. Though I cannot work the magic myself, I have watched the conjuring a thousand times as the makers talked to me while the biscuits came to be under their touch. I first realized what she was going to do for me as I saw her haul the particular brand of flour down, pull the buttermilk – which had meandered to the back of the fridge free and heave down the Crisco can. I watched her hands, as I always have, bead the flour with the shortening and baptize it with the sweet-smelling milk, and then mix – not too much, the dough. She seemed to pay little attention, the whole for her muscle memory. I focused hard on love’s labor, through always near tears that come to be when I am with her. The biscuits were perfect, if by her standards, slightly tanned, like our sun-aged skin. Her’s less than mine, as her regimen has served her better than the absence of my own. We moved to the table, she serving my deepest hunger for sustenance that sticks, holds, and proves even in wilderness and before enemies that goodness is indeed my portion.

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table

Concrete to Abstraction writing with Miss Amber and company at her site. Always great stuff there. Check it out!

Mama and I often moved the furniture about her house. It was sort of our hobby. As the years went on and grandmamma’s and aunts did as well, she garnered more and more tables, side tables, dressers, beds and chairs. My Daddy says my Mama has enough chairs in that house: living space, basement and attic to seat everyone in their very large neighborhood. We are of the ilk that DO NOT sell furniture, at least not the kind that belonged to someone who was related by blood or love. It is a flat-out sin. Where I am from,  you can give it away to someone who will appreciate it or you can keep it; you cannot sell it. If it is in total dysfunction, and you cannot surmise a way to make planter or derive some other good use from  it, you can trash it.  But I imagine a burning would be more kindly looked upon than the trashing. Anyway, my Mama loves family furniture…she has a story for every mark made upon it. So it stays with her, under her care and watch, until she hands it off to me. She trusts me with the stories. I have now earned the right to keep some of Nana’s things. I also have most of my Daddy’s crazy Aunt Bea’s furniture.  As she never married and had no children, it fills my front rooms. But, I have Nana’s leather-covered end tables and green motif lamps which I love. I have her 1940’s radio. My mama has her better pieces: bedroom set, buffet, sideboard and table…I am not yet approved for the management of such. But, I do have Nana’s coffee table…I had it out in my living room, pre-children. But, it was not nearly sturdy enough for my hoards. So, I moved it to safer pastures, out of sight.

Nana’s coffee table is the piece of furniture which my hands know best. I ate almost every meal at her bigger tables: dining room or the pieced-pine kitchen one, if it was only me and Nana around to eat. But, my hands rubbed that oval rimmed coffee table silk smooth. I sat at it to play my games of cards or to make my own ovals in word find books. I remember rolling my marbles, bag left over from the forties, around the rim. I loved the sound of such. I’m sure my Nana and Dada did not. But, they let me do it, over and over. It somehow comforted my often disquieted soul. I think now about me wearing away the finish on Nana’s cherry coffee table with my marbles. It was well made, not a cheap piece for her army-life budget. I can see the rings I wore around its periphery and don’t imagine I would have suffered the same from my littles. But, she did. Nothing she had ever came before what was best for me. They gave me blessed space and precious quiet and the freedom to make what racket was mine to raise.

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