“maybe when things turn green again…” – J. Mayer (In Repair)

Meg had a track meet. Of course, it started early and we had to be there even an hour earlier. It was cloudy, cool, threatening to rain on us again. Last year there were lightning storms and tornadoes in the nearby sky. I did not want to be there, then. I did not want to be there this year. I am a horrible parent/friend fan, a burnt out one.

All Meg’s ( and my ) favorite friends of hers were there competing. I see them all the time. At school, at our house, at theirs. Today, I saw them all differently, better. I saw sweet Maggie, whose love for Meg holds her no matter what comes. Maggie is Meg’s steadfast forever, who is more excited for Meg’s victories than Meg or even her mama. Alex, who broadens Meg’s world and reminds me of me before I let them run me far on past what seemed sane and true and good. Alex, who sat with me and talked call to care and to be there for those who need. Alex, who will not miss her moment, or the opportunity to sit aside another in his or hers. Payton, who has all the answers and shares them as generously as Meg shares her two sandwiches with him at lunch everyday. Payton who every day grows more humble and more gracious and more kind. Payton, who will help Meg, I know, and will offer all in his hand when the wind blow the other direction. And it will.

As soon as I saw them, today, this fair weather fan decided to stay on and watch, all day, to see what they would show me and us all. I hope when I hugged her like my own, spoke with trust  to her like the old soul she is, and fed him in Meg’s stead, that they realized that my time and interactions with them were life-giving to me. Yes, they ran well, jumped far, bested their times tremendously. But, more than that, they loved me well and let me love them in return.

And in the down times, when none of them were on the track  or field, I  got a few of my own miles in, too.

It took me only a few minutes out of the parking lot to realize that something had shifted since I had been (walking) in Birmingham. The pears had flowered… even before I saw them, their scent caught me. It is not a favorite scent of mine or many. It is a sickening sweet, with a rough edge to it which is all at once everywhere. People plant those things in yards and along roadways and in parking lots. When they flower, all the world knows so.

I took a few tentative steps beyond the black top aside the stadium and they assaulted me, first the scent and then the white flowers were also in my face. I dropped my head to block both and saw a green, new, deep and dark upon the dirt. It gave under my tread and spoke silently, “it will be good…to say you know me.” – JM

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walking on the water

Not far from the house is a dock/bridge that winds back and forth across the marsh, out to the channel. One can take a walk upon it, as many folks were doing, or fish from it or bring a boat up to it at several points. The thing about it that struck me so was its solidness. One could jump high, land hard, and feel no shuddering. It was steadfast. It did not move, though the sea and land beneath constantly ebbed and flowed, rose and fell with the tide. Fish darted and flora swayed underneath us, never still. But, the pier pathway remained stationary.

I love the marsh, the briny, almost too much smell that means life is coming to be. I have sweet, sweet memories of marshes below Mobile, aside St. Simons. I find them the most nurturing of views.  Marshes are the home of all my gentle beginnings.

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a new blue

The beach was windy, a bit cool most of the week. But, Sunday, after walking in the morning, we decided to take a evening turn toward the pier. As soon as we hit the beach, it assailed us. The sea was blue, shining blue…a blue we had never seen at that beach in the 35 years she had been coming or the times I had been there, or at any of the beaches on the Gulf, Georgia coast,  South Carolina coast, North Carolina coast, Cape Cod, Maine, California, Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, etc. It shone from under the now calm waves. The blue seemed to be illuminated. It was ethereal and breath-taking. It pulled my head and body around toward it. I walked staring into that blue and not ahead of me for miles. It made me feel something at once old and new. The color caused me to taste a season of life so long ago I could barely bring the detail of it to mind. But, I was young and the place it brought before me was sheltered and mine to explore.

For hours we tried to name the color, make associations. An artist and  a writer could not call it anything but Other, entirely other.

It seemed a Presence. A compelling, Know I am here.  With you in your own attempt to be other than you are. 

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Wash away

On the way to walk, I tried to give God a tiny gateway and I agreed to play one Josh Garrels song. Over my speakers came, “Flood Waters.” It is a favorite of mine and one of the few overtly God focused songs I can  listen to. Here is the chorus:

“Flood waters rise, but it won’t wash away
Love never dies, it will hold on more fierce than graves.”

************

It was again sunny and just the right temperature to run or walk. I figured I better get this body back to walking first. There was not a cloud in the sky.

I went back to our local park , the one with the lake, the one next to everything in this tiny hamlet that is the kids’ home. Their elementary school, 100 years old, is across the street. The city hall and sweet little library share the property with the park. Most of the moments I have had in Alabama have happened there.

The lake was no longer blue or driven by the winds into hard peaks that reflected the sun. It was deep brown, full of the neighbors’ trucked in top soil. There was no wind. The depression sat full and heavy. But, the flood had abated. The spillway played its normal tune, in the tones of a child’s play piano… it did not appear the black hole soundlessly sucking, sucking that it did the day before. The water was back in its, “it’s been rainy,” boundaries and the ground was hardening again. Debris though, was everywhere anything other than water might catch or be carried. All manner of trash, limb and leaf was strewn and strangling the inflows and outflows alike. There was no mistaking that there had been a flood.

My goal was just to be still in my head, focus on the gentle wind in my face, the blue of the sky, the firming of the ground. I did not think about anything much…just walked…nearly two hours…until I could feel a hot spot coming. My feet are in worse shape than the rest of me. Last year at this time I was doing 7-10 miles every other day with 10 lbs, in tow. I guess I still am, laugh, only now they are attached.

 I did notice one thing at the turn, where all the people park and I cried so yesterday. The trees there are ancient pines. Maybe it is my memory tricking me or something, but those trees always seem more fragrant. They move me more quickly to little than the young pines all about. I wonder about that…how instantly among them I am 3 or less and in my little folding fishing chair or maybe even in my portable play pen, the ones which were not nearly so portable. And  I am aside my lake and the fishing, napping under the canopy of those huge guardians.  I thought hard about the scent differential as I made my way round and round the lake. And it hit me, as came near them again…what might be so.

Those big trees are gored and scarred from lightning strikes, where limbs broke away in the wind and where infestations occurred. To the succor of all that, ran the resin. It runs not only within those trees, but seals it them up from the outside. It holds the great fellows together and bars would be enemies from reentry. It’s the resin’s scent that overwhelms me, transports me to innocence and goodness. The resin that does its work from the inside and from the outside.

My mind flashed to warm days playing in the pine-straw: cones loaded into the wheelbarrow, hours of raking the straw into piles and then blanketing the azaleas.  I thought about how the pine-tar would coat the inside of one’s grip and how a black sheen of it always darkened the legs of my jeans. It appeared from nowhere. It found me everywhere I roamed. There was no escaping.

That stuff is nearly impossible to wash away.

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scale

I am linking up today with dear Amber Haines and the concrete to abstract crew. Join us here.

I don’t have the kind of scale that measures our mass. I have a house full of teenage girls, all beautiful, all athletes, all with bodies strong and sure and able to run miles beyond me. Sometimes, worry crosses their minds – they wonder if they are gaining weight that does not behoove them in their pursuits. I see them hesitate over good healthy food and I rush to cut off such foolishness. I have been that route…had it consume me in fear and later console me in some feigned sense of control. I will not let it take up with them.

So, I keep no scale about. I offer them no option to let it number and name them. We choose health and exercise and good food. And so far, that has served their bodies and minds well. They press away ridiculous amounts of sugar and fats and fully embrace the good for them meals we cook together. And that brings all kinds of relief to me, especially on the cooking front.

I hope they measure the joy in their life from being able to do as they wish as they run hard and jump high. I hope they never measure themselves with some number which does not connote health or strength. I hope they love their bodies enough to care well for them rather than being consumed by them and some silly number on some scale.

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sweater

Linking up with the beauty at The Runamuck today. Check out Amber Haines latest offering in our Concrete to Abstraction series. It has been a joy to read so many fabulous pieces linked there. Check them out as well. And submit your own. We’d love the company. This week our word is SWEATER. I kept it. You said it looked better on me, tossed it over to me, warm and wool.  Our clime did not warrant it. But, I loved it…as it was yours, who covered and kept all my secrets, warmed my still cold soul.  For years, I wore it anytime the wind blew hard, threatened to swallow me. It seemed too much, as if it would  be scratchy, but it was not so. I first wore it in pictures, winter ones, before we all left out for our other homes. It is in my closet, near the one the little Peruvian lady mailed to Rob, the Christmas after he paid to tow her stranded car, in a city that was not his, and then paid to fix it,  with a sum she and her teenage son, Han, could not understand, a man they did not know, assuming. That Christmas they sent us sweaters she had made, softer than silk, Alpaca, deep greens…and a Christmas card in hesitate, yet beautiful English. The cards continued for years. Always signed, “Han’s mother.” Both are too warm for wearing in Alabama, both speak of a love, too much…  more than enough to cover and keep. So I store them high in my closet, not cloistered away in cedar…to remind me of love, too much.

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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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