It’s been a week since I sat and reflected on much of anything. Got to back off the sweet tea. A week ago I slid into a booth in Durham, NC with Donna and Barry Loy to savor friendship and Carolina pulled pork BBQ with a glass of sweet tea. To spend time with the Loys is to find yourself wrapped in love and grace and a strong desire to do better. Kindness is catchy.
The rest of the week’s been full of family, revisiting familiar places and hanging out with folks I love and miss when I’m back at the perch. Good to be back in the land of Ahhhs and Y’all. Friday, my niece Sarah and I had a private baby shower at Southern Season in Chapel Hill. She’s going to have a baby in December, their first and a wee miracle.
Sunday, Chrissy, my sister-in-love, and I took off for Aberdeen to visit my nephew Eric and his family. We left my brother, Ralph, to serve communion at the Presbyterian church. He’s an elder. I can tell you that’s an answer to Mama’s, Daddy’s and Lena’s prayers that he’s even going to church, much less serving as an elder. Don’t you love stories with happy endings! God must really love them since we’re given so many chances to re-write the story, our story.
Speaking of churches, it’s an education in Church history to drive around in the South. So many different kinds of Baptist churches and I’m not talking architecture, nor First, Second or Third Baptist. In Wilmington there’s a big Baptist church and next to it is The Presbyterian Counseling Center. Wonder if that’s a new way to help you get it right and convert from Baptist to Presbyterian or help Presbyterians move next door free of guilt and shame. I just remember with so many revivals in the south I spent the better part of my growing up years living with eternal insecurity as I repeatedly went forward, confessed and tried to catch on to what it really meant to be a Christian. It’s never taken much to make me feel guilty. Any flashing blue light and I’m ready to pull over and confess, so far never in a K-Mart aisle with a blue-light special.
Last night we sat at supper with Chris, Ralph and my cousin Steve and Beverly. Good to be together, retelling family stories while eating Chris’s homemade soup and drinking Ralph’s wine. It’s OK. He’s Presbyterian, though he was raised Baptist. Maybe he went to the Presbyterian Counseling Center when no one was paying close attention.
Drove by Mama and Daddy’s old house yesterday. Hard to do since they’re not there and it looks beat-up, which is not the same as lived-in. At least the sign in the window’s been removed, one left by previous renters that said,”Forget the dog, beware of gun.” Every house, whether rented, owned or church parsonage said Welcome when my folks lived there. No sign needed.
The neighbor who bought the house had good intentions but fell on hard times so had to rent it out to UNCWilmington college students. Cars, trucks, jeeps, bicycles hang around the front of the house and off to the side where they’ve gouged out a road where Mama’s Azaleas used to thrive. The only visible reminders of what was are the numbers on the house, 229 oak leaf and the big Live Oak tree out front dripping with Spanish moss.
Last night at supper, Beverly served up stories. As the story goes, Beverly awoke one morning to find a little granddaughter staring at her face. Bev asked,”What’s the matter?” The child answered,”You’ve got a crack in your face.” Curious Beverly asked,”Where is it?” The child answered, “all over.”
Like kindness and welcomes, laughter’s catchy. Most days I manage to laugh, cry and try to learn from life’s newest wrinkles, changes in myself and in places I’ve loved. Mostly, it’s catching on to life without the folks who lived in those old home places or with you for more than 51 years. The ones who time and again pulled you into their hearts and homes with a welcome you knew you never earned and could never repay in kind.
Ralph said that they pulled out an old hymn on Sunday morning,”Love Lifted Me.” He laughed and said, “All I could think of was my brother Dan, when we were kids, and while everybody sang, “Love Lifted Me”, Dan would add,’Put me down! Put me down!'”
Memory’s a gift, though not without pain in the remembering, sometimes. Families are fragile yet stronger than they appear, sorta like a spider’s web, able to catch and keep what’s essential for life to go on. And we do go on, with the help of kindness, welcomes and laughter, plus confession and forgiveness with or without a flashing blue light.
Psalm 139 reminds me of this God of Persevering Love,”I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too, your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful–I can’t take it all in!”
And that’s pretty much how I feel on this Wednesday morning in early November as I try to catch-up and catch-on before my own story’s history.
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