11 May 2013

looking around


One year ago my sister and I met and secretively made our way westward to Ohio. Along the way we called Mom from Kris’s phone. Via speakerphone we began taking turns talking to her. At first she couldn’t figure out why she was hearing both of our voices and was a little confused. Why were we together when we live 3 hours apart? Finally we told her we were on our way to her house to celebrate Mother’s Day and her 65th birthday which, last year, fell on the same day. She was delighted!


Mom was diagnosed with cancer four years ago and last April discovered that it had metastasized. Because of the cancer in her chest cavity there was fluid buildup on her lungs and breathing was difficult at times. Since these birthday-Mother’s Days only come every few years, we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss our opportunity to celebrate with Mom. And in another year, well, we just didn’t know if Mom would be here. 

Turns out we were right. 2012 was our last year to celebrate with Mom. Nineteen days before Mother’s Day and 20 days before her 66th birthday, Jesus came and ushered Mom into the Next Kingdom. 

So Mother’s Day this year feels just a little strange. Mom isn’t here to love on or send flowers to or even call. Although I did have a dream last night that I could still text her. It was pretty cool. She even texted back. From Heaven. Then I woke up. 

I’m already planning ahead for Mother’s Day this year. I have several good cries already scheduled. Cause I know it will happen. There’s just an empty place when I think about Mom. 

In reality, I feel a little cheated. To my way of thinking, sixty-five was way too young to die. She should still be here. For Dad. For her kids. For her grandchildren. For the women who loved her listening ear and who needed her wisdom. 

But then I remember the evening I was praying for her several months ago. My spirit was crying out to Jesus on her behalf. I began, “Jesus, if you don’t come and heal Mom. . .” Immediately David’s words came: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. 

And then this thought from the heart of God: He wants my Mama. 

Please don’t hear that lightly. Hear it with intensity. He WANTS my Mama. God deeply desires her. He wants her in His kingdom. 

It was on that night that I knew I needn’t ask for her healing in this lifetime. I knew that God Himself wanted her. Intensely. And so I began asking God, with tears, that His timing would be perfect for her homegoing. 

And He answered so beautifully. She ran to meet Him in her sleep, just like she’d asked Dad to pray for. For her, the Next Kingdom is reality. 

So this Mother’s Day, in between my scheduled cries, I’ll be looking around and forward. Cause I’m a mother too. And Mom wouldn’t want me to cry too much. She’d want me to celebrate motherhood. My own motherhood. The motherhood of the women I love. My daughters. 

Thursday afternoon my girls treated me (and themselves!) to pedicures!! We’ve done things like this with my mom and sister and in other configurations with friends, but never before just us four. It was fun and beautifying and together. I’m choosing to look around. 

When we got home we all went for a walk together and then decided to have an impromptu tea. Fresh sprigs of spearmint tea and bags of rose tea. Papaya. Lemon cake in tiny slices. Cucumber sandwiches. Apple and pear slices. 

We talked. We laughed. We sipped tea. We just enjoyed together. 

As we sat and sipped I suddenly began to really see the dishes in front of me. A white embossed teapot from sister many Christmases ago. Tea cups and saucers, once my grandmothers, given to me by my own mother. A pink plate with a daisy and “Life is good” from my friend Heidi. A simple white plate from Danelle. Delicate Belleek china cream and sugar bowl covered with tiny springs of green clover, carried home from Ireland for me with love from Esther, one of my other sisters. Another white teapot, a gift to Elsa from Nana. 

Dishes that remind me of women I love. Some here, others already in the Next Kingdom. My heart was warm. My eyes were wet. It was a little looking back and a lot looking around and forward. 
Yes, on Mother’s Day I’ll probably look back a little. I won’t be able to keep from it. But mostly I want to look around and forward. 

I want to mostly just look around. I’ll see the man I sometimes call Hobbit: strong, caring, adventurous, loving me so well. I’ll see three ladies: the one who loves to be busy constantly and whose sketches amaze, the one who cares for all things hurting and marches to her own drumbeat, the one who is my shadow some days and other days has to be called away from her books. I’ll see two boys: the one we call the Energizer Bunny who hunts and the one we call Farmer who helps load pigs. This is what is around. And it’s full of goodness and love. 

It’s ok if you look back a little this Mother’s Day, but don’t forget to also look around. Do a lot of looking around. And linger a little. Soak a little. It’s good. 

26 October 2012

Jumpstarting hope


 I woke up with a headache. Nope, I sure don’t love those mornings. After some prayer with my husband, some milk and vitamin I(buprofen), I went back to bed. Sleep was gone as I pondered the list of things running through my head. It felt like a list with 101 points, but in reality it was only several big things that gave the illusion of being many. 

Two words came to me in those dark hours before dawn. Joy and hope. 

I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp and her words about a “joy dare.” Take the plunge. Give thanks. Watch joy explode. 

And then just behind the thought of joy, came hope. As my mind rattled over the list of things in my head like an old pickup over a bumpy, gravel road, I wondered what I’m really hoping for. Do I hope for change? Do I hope for more? Do I long for peace or freedom? 

Then my mind put the brakes on. No more rattling over the washboard of my list. A pause to remember. 

My hope is in the Lord. 

If I set my hope on any of those other things-- change, more, peace, freedom-- I will be disappointed. Bitterly. 

But if I let my list stay where it will and turn my gaze of hope toward Father, His presence whittles my list down to size. My whirling agitation turns to peace. I have a sense of anticipation-- not for change or more or peace or freedom-- but anticipation for Him. He can take care of my list. 

Do you find it easy to rattle through a list as well? Where is your hope today? 

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

This blog post is brought to you by the letter “D.” My sweet friend Danelle sent me a message several days ago asking me to jumpstart this blog. The batteries were dead, but she provided the spark. No promises on how often I’ll drive through and leave tracks here, but hopefully it’ll be more often than once a year. There won’t be any races or fancy shows. Just simple ordinary drives through the countryside. Some days it will probably be tracks through the mud. Other days might be a slow drive through the mountains. But you’re certainly welcome to join me. 

16 November 2011

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16 January 2011

Hi. Today my name is Alexander.

When I was a kid I fell in love with the children’s book “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”, written by Judith Viorst. In the story poor Alexander experiences the worst of things. All in one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Everything from waking up in the morning with gum in his hair to being scrunched in the middle of the back seat on the way to school. From not having his picture chosen to be hung on the classroom wall to lima beans for supper. From having his marble go down the drain at bath time to biting his tongue. You get the picture. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I think the reason I love the book so much is that deep down in my kid heart, I identify with Alexander. I have the same kind of day every now and again. Even as an adult.

Today my name is Alexander. I had to deal with disappointment. Rather deep disappointment.

No one died. The house didn’t burn down. We didn’t lose all our savings. I didn’t iron a hole in my favorite shirt. The car didn’t break down. No one threw up. But something I was very much looking forward to got cancelled.

I really should say postponed rather than cancelled. Because that’s what really got me thinking in the first place.

I discovered that I tend to think that if God says “No” once then that was the only chance at the thing. It won’t ever come back around. Perhaps it’s the perfectionism in me that thinks that way. I get one shot at things and after that it’s all over. Only one chance. Better get it right the very first time, cause honey, that’s all there is. No three-strikes-and-you’re-out. No, no, no. One strike and you’re out. One chance is all you get. The door may open once, but if it closes, it’s closed up tight, never to re-open.

But today made me reconsider. Feeling the disappointment was rather Alexander-ish and I thought maybe it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But then I realized that the thing I was anticipating was not cancelled, but rather postponed. It just wasn’t the right time. Another time will indeed come for me.

Maybe there are second and third and fourth and fifth and sixth chances after all. Maybe there is another, better time for a thing. Maybe God is waiting for the right time. Maybe He hasn’t cancelled my dreams, only postponed them.

Take Jacob for example. Circa Genesis 25-48. He could have been named Alexander. He and Esau tried to crush each other before they were born. They fought pretty much their whole lives. Jacob cheated to get what he’d been told was his. He wrestled with an angel and lived to tell about it. His favorite wife died. His favorite son Joseph was “killed by wild animals.” There was a famine in the land. Son Simeon was put into prison and the other sons expected to take Benjamin with them back to Egypt when they went to get more grain. Life was just plain rough. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life. Skip the day. It was just a bad deal.

But Jacob couldn’t see the end of the story. He couldn’t know that Joseph was still alive and had been storing up grain to keep the whole Abrahamic family alive. He had no idea that Joseph’s two sons would be two tribes of Israel. God hadn’t cancelled His goodness (or what Jacob thought was goodness). Jacob just couldn’t see it. . .

And this really isn’t a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day after all. There’s tomorrow. And the day after.

Am I willing to bear the disappointment for now, knowing that God is still good?

Am I willing to wait for God? Trusting in Who He is? Waiting for His glory to be revealed?

Are you? How are you plucking up your courage and faith and hope in the meantime?

15 January 2011

about Grandma

January 1, 2011. Saturday afternoon. Many people were reviewing their New Year's resolutions. My sweet Grandma, Rhoda Showalter, was beginning her "real life" in her new home. She passed from death to life. She traded a worn out body for a new one. She was ninety years old in this life. I find myself wondering what she looks like now.

Following is the tribute that a cousin and my sister read at her funeral. I wrote it after hearing stories and memories of cousins both near and far.

We cousins gathered at the front of the church and stood together for the reading.

---------------------------------------------------------------


Each of us standing here together today have at least one thing in common: Rhoda Showalter was our Grandma. As cousins we’ve compiled numerous memories and thoughts about who Grandma was and the place she occupies in our hearts.

We knew prayer was an active part of Grandma’s life. She prayed for us and she prayed with us. When we’d ask Grandma how she was, she’d reply “The Lord is faithful” or “God is so good.” She was always interested in us and didn’t want general information. She wanted to know the details! There were always hugs and kisses when you arrived and hugs and kisses when you left.

We remember songs sung at bedtime and countless stories read aloud. Walks to the garden. Picking up sticks in the front yard. Picking tea. The horse swing in the basement. Pink “Grandma candies” left under pillows at nap time (to be eaten ONLY after the nap was finished).

Grandma’s roses carefully arranged in a beautiful vase with asparagus ferns. Sledding on Grandpa and Grandma’s big hill whenever there was enough snow to cover the ground. Playing in the creek. All the little empty jars that Grandma kept under the kitchen sink, but gladly shared with us for insects, creek creatures and other treasures. Grandma’s toy collection.

And Grandma’s food: Warm gingerbread with lemon sauce and whipped cream. Raisin filled cookies. Citrus mint tea. Sweet potato casserole. Pulling taffy. Cutting off corn on the cob. Shelling lima beans. Canning pears.

Grandma was once seen wearing a grandson’s basketball shoes around the house. Just because. And Grandma let you put lots of butter on your bread. She’d drizzle the homemade whole wheat bread with honey and cut it up into little squares so you could eat it with a fork. She’d give you apple slices and raisins if you were hungry between meals.

Grandma was genuine. There was nothing hypocritical about her.

She was gracious. She may have felt “out of her element” at times, but you’d never know it.

Grandma was a mentor. She mentored others, but she also mentored us.

We could each stand and talk for hours of the ways that Grandma has influenced our individual walks with the Lord, but the essence of each story would be the same. She followed Jesus and wanted the same for each of us.

To borrow the words of C.S. Lewis, Grandma’s term is ended: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning! For Grandma this is only the beginning of the real story. All her life in this world was only the cover and the title page: now at last she is beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which none of us has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

21 November 2010

God's doing good things in the darkness


Several nights ago I remembered my poinsettia.

It was a gift to me a year ago after Daniel’s dad’s wedding. The day after Thanksgiving to be exact.

It was one of two at the front of the church for Daddy and Daryl’s very beautiful Christmas wedding. Please take it home with you, they’d said.
It was a huge, gorgeous poinsettia. It even survived the trip from Ohio to Pennsylvania in the back of our Suburban. In the cold. Nestled among suitcases.

And I enjoyed it all through Christmas.

Fast forward six months.

It spent the entire summer on my front porch. It was watered. Not very regularly, I must admit. For part of the summer I was even red-neck enough to let it sit on the porch below the air conditioner sticking out of my dining room window and let the condensation drip into the pot. Lazy woman’s watering can.

You get the picture. I kind of wanted it to live, but I really didn’t give it too much attention. It even survived the mini-tornado whose high winds removed everything from the front porch.

When it started getting cold I decided to bring it inside. It was still big and leafy and green. Not looking very Christmasy at all. But I’d heard somewhere that it needs to be in a dark place.

Ah ha! The basement dungeon we’ve got would be just the place. I took it down and watered it well.

And promptly forgot about it.

I’d meant to check on it every week and water it. You know, check in on it and see how it was faring. Didn’t happen. For me it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”

Until that night I mentioned several days ago. Oh no! I’d forgotten all about that poinsettia! By now I was kind of hoping that somehow I’d be able to coax it into blooming. For Christmas.

Today I remembered to check on that poor, forgotten plant, deep in the hidden recesses of my basement.

And there he stood. Tall. Green. Not wilting a bit. With a few whitish leaves on the top and a few just starting to turn red.

I was shocked, to say the very least.

Something was going on. There. In the dark.

In the dark and damp of my basement, the poinsettia retained moisture in its soil that light and warm air would have stolen from it. And somehow, the darkness is causing changes in its leaves. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a blooming poinsettia for Christmas.

What is God doing in your darkness?

It’s far too easy for me to curse the darkness. I want bright sunny days. Beautiful breezes. Warmth. Light. Fresh air.

But in my dark and damp God is keeping my soil from drying out too quickly. I water it regularly with tears. And He knows that deep inside the heart of the plant, darkness is necessary to produce the most beautiful blooms.

Is my basement a lovely place? Nope. The part of the basement where I put the poinsettia is pitch black and has a gravel floor. It’s a little damp. I don’t love to go there. It’s not a good place for many things.

But it’s a good place for my poinsettia.

But not for long. Only for a period of time.

Then, up he comes. Back to the sunlight. Back to the warmth of my home. Back to the pedestal where he can sit and be admired. Hopefully sporting beautiful blooms.

Remember, your darkness won’t be forever. God’s only keeping you there so your roots can drink deeply. And so the darkness can cause you to bloom.

I’m wanting to rest in my dark place and let God do His stuff. Care to join me?

04 November 2010

Preparing a place. . .


We’re getting a room ready for Daniel’s grandma. She spent several weeks with us last winter and we’re preparing for her coming again this winter. She doesn’t like to be alone in her little house and since no family members are close to her, she comes to us.

Last year she climbed the stairs to our sparest of spare rooms. This year her hips are bothering her. She wonders what the cancer is doing in her body. It’s a slow-growing type, but still enough to cause worries.

The progress on the room continues. The room used to be an office for Daniel and I. My desk was moved to the school room. Daniel will use his laptop wherever he likes. (But that’s normal.) He’s also in the process of building several tall bookshelves to accommodate our tremendous library.

We tore off old wallpaper. We patched walls. We sanded. We painted. There is trim that needs to be painted. Trim that needs to be hung. A door to be stained. Carpet to be cleaned. A bed and dresser to be moved into the room. Curtains to be located. (I’ve shopped, but haven’t found the right ones yet.)

The shepherd’s staff is stuck into the flower bed below her window. It’s waiting for the bird feeder to be hung. I need to clean the window. The light fixture needs to be dusted.

Did I mention we’re preparing?

And then several days ago I began to wonder. Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for me.

We’ve sure had a great deal of fun getting Mammaw’s room ready for her. We’ve dreamed up things we’re sure she’ll enjoy. A bird feeder so she can watch birds. Books on the shelves. Ones we think she might love to read. A comfy recliner where she can sit. A bed with flannel sheets and a nice thick comforter. Homey. Cozy. Welcoming. Inviting. Restful. Peaceful. Warm.

And Jesus is getting a place ready for me.

Kinda made me wonder what it’s taking for him to actually do that. I mean, consider that he spoke into existence our present earth, sun, moon and stars. Six days and we get oceans, skies, planets, pineapples, rabbits, earthworms, goldfish, green beans, eagles, hornets, alligators, anteaters, fleas, bamboo, palm trees.

And since he left his friends on earth and returned to his father some odd 2,000 years ago he’s been working on a “place” for me? Hmmm. Must be some kinda place.

I wonder if he ever feels the same giddy excitement I feel in getting a simple room ready for Mammaw. I’m pretty sure he does.

But Mammaw’s room isn’t ready just yet. We still need more time. There is more work yet to be done. But when the time is right, she’ll come. Daniel will go pick her up and bring her here himself.

Must mean Jesus is still working too. The “place” isn’t quite ready yet. The thing is, he wants me to be working while I wait for him.

Mammaw has things she wants to get done before she comes to our house. Paperwork to attend to. A doctor to see. She’s not just sitting around waiting for us to come for her.

I keep seeing things around me (and in me) I know he wants me to be working on.

How bout’ you? Do you think much about the “place” he’s preparing? Are you working until he comes for you?
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