Dipping the Toe

Thoughts on life and faith and faith in life

Endings Are Beginnings

This morning finds me gathering our earthly goods as we make ready to move to our final destination for the last week before leaving The Summer of Our Great Adventure here in Nashville. I stop a few times to catch my breath as tears make their way up through my chest. The tears, though, taste sweet like gratitude that can never repay what’s been given. I look out the window where I’ve found myself so many quiet days on this trip and the movie in my mind plays itself through with the images of moments and people that have their way to my hearts’ door.

The girl and I sat in the local mall Saturday afternoon, reveling in more time to read, to absorb, to just be. My phone dinged a tiny surprise. Miss Ann was nearby, on her way home from a funeral….could she come to see us? She had known me before my parents thought of me, she and her husband friends with my parents since their college days. The last time I had seen Miss Ann or her husband, Robert (“Unk” to my kids) was eight years ago. They had come to see my father for the last time. He was fading from Alzheimer’s and Robert wanted to see his friend while he could still remember him.

Robert was my daddy’s best friend until his last breath. They died eight months apart. I still remember having a dream, so vivid, so startling. My father was on a playground sitting by the slide. I was watching him from a distance out of a window. He looked up and saw a beautiful Irish setter playing nearby and called for it to come to him. His face lit up when it sat by his side. I heard him say, “Go to Tam. She’ll help you.” I woke up in the early hours waiting to hear from Robert’s family. He was in the late stages of dementia and his family was by his bedside. “Tell him my daddy is waiting on him. Tell him it’s ok to go.” He was in heaven within a few hours.

So, this past Sunday, Ann sat beside me and the girl, having joined us at CrossCountry Cowboy Church where our hearts had planted themselves since we’d been here. We introduced her to Nellie and Orville, to Joanna and Fran and Ty and others who had taken their place in our hall of heart ties. I looked over at her bobbing her head to a familiar song being sung and smiled at her hands searching her beloved bible.

I could not believe the extravagant love of our Father to offer us this gift of a visit unexpected. As she drove out of the driveway this morning on her way back home, I let the tears fall as she waved a goodbye through her car window. I don’t know if I will ever see her again this side of heaven. But I know for sure her prayers follow me and my children past the miles between us. And I am so grateful to have seen her again.

As I turned my hand to preparing the home for the return of its people, they having gifted us permission to stay here in their absence these many weeks; laundry humming, vinegar spray spritzing away dust, plates rattling clean in the dishwasher, I flash back through the copious cups of coffee, the serendipitous moments of finding musicians on every corner, small town Fridays where everyone came out just because we could and mingled together around the center square.

Words and truths gleaned from so. many. books. from the shelves of bookstores and the home we’re in ticker tape through my head. The time granted, hard to come by in my ‘regular’ life, to start and finish books kept me fairly “drunk” on just breathing in the pages.

We sat in the Belcourt historic theatre one evening; a place where silent movies used to be shown when silent movies were the newest thing to marvel at and the theatre was the largest stage in Nashville; where the Grand Old Opry was housed for a few short years in the 1930’s and now where the girl and I sat in seats that had been there longer than either of us were alive. We watched a documentary on The Biggest Little Farm, a dream hatched and bloomed by a young couple desiring simplicity and finding it by inviting others into their dream.

We sat on the couch last night in the quiet of the early evening, the girl, Miss Ann and myself. So much life had been lived in the few weeks we’d been here. So much good soil upturned and fed. I turned to the girl. “I’m ready,” I said to her. “Me too,” she replied. In the time that we’ve been here we have planted a part of ourselves that will continue to flourish. We have walked into stories we want to continue to watch unfold. Parallel to that are the messages from back where we come from. “Come home.” “Let’s get together!” “I’d love to get to know you better.” “Coffee?” There are texts that light up my phone and my heart from those I work with. They make me laugh and remind me I have a quilt already begun back in Kentucky that everything I’ve read, heard, seen, walked out; everyone I’ve met and grown to love; every thought I’ve pondered, every sermon I’ve amended to…..all of it wrapped itself around the people in my world. No seed planted or harvested has ever done it alone. There is always water and sunshine and oxygen; till and gloved hands, baskets to gather and vases and plates to display the bounty. I am sensing that the Father of all these good gifts has granted this respite so that I can take new things home in my heart and share the bounty with those who are waiting to hear.

The girl and I…..are being prepared to come home for a spell. We won’t leave here easy or without a second and third look back over our shoulder. There will be tears. But we’re ready, those of you back home…..ya’ll come sit with us when we get there, won’t you?

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12 Days With Martha

The minute I stepped into her smile I wanted to stay there. The girl and I would be keeping watch in her daughters’ home one door down while they were away and we would most definitely be invited over. I was already waiting. The light from her windows that night reached out like a Little Golden Book, all amber colored and pulsing warmth as we walked away. There was love there and it called my name.

A few days into our stay my phone rang. Wednesday would be our day. I watched the clock for 11 and made my way through the yard that separated us. She offered me two options in case I was a vegetarian. I loved that she’d thought that carefully. I stood in her kitchen where she’d raised her children and said goodbye to her husband when he went to heaven. Her life was now filled with grandchildren needing books read and rides to activities and love sown with the thread of her presence. But today, Martha made me tuna fish and put it on cranberry walnut bread and brewed me strong iced tea. We sat at the table, the chairs creaking just as I’d hoped they would, bowed our heads and thanked our common Father for the food and each other. And then? Martha looked up at me and smiled her smile and sunshine spilled into my heart and ran through my veins.

There are times when you sit with a person and their chair seems a bit more elevated than yours, their stories more interesting. Martha pulled her chair to even ground and we gathered together like women who had never met but always known each other. She wanted to know who I was and where I’d been as if I was coming off the wild frontier and letting her know the news from other lands. Her eyes flashed curious and bright and still learning. I got the feeling she’d just as quickly patch a torn sleeve as roll up a sleeve when sleeves needed rolling up and the hard needed tending to. I somehow knew I could tell her the truth about truth that was hard in the telling and Martha would not falter.

She shared the painful journey of a younger friend who had recently lost a child; how they knew at the birth that their time with their baby would be measured in days. This brave mama took a baby book meant to remind her of the moments from birth to high school and learned how to be taught how to number the days, to fix on the minute here and now as the clock counted down. At the twelfth day, on the twelfth page of the baby book, they said goodbye to their child this side of heaven and accounted for the blessings on the last page, the last day. And pain mixed with gratitude and it was well with their souls.

“Martha! This woman will teach others. It should be called Twelve Days Ministries. She will show us all how to number our hardest days and find the gold hidden there.” We looked at each other with truth dawning on us. We could teach ourselves, Martha and I, how to take twelve days and record what happens with eyes trained on our Creator. There was a gasp of silence, a grab- hold- of- yes- and -amen moment between us. Right then, Martha and I were sisters, friends, travellers.

The clock told us it was time. The girl would be home soon. Martha had somewhere to be. I asked if I could take her picture, that I wanted to have something to remember the day. It would be one of the first things in my Book of Twelve Days. And Martha and her tuna fish on cranberry bread would be one of my most treasured moments.

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Meeting Sacraments

Our thoughts of you, O Lord, have been too small, too few–for seldom have we considered how specific is the exercising of your authority…Every Moment Holy, Douglas Kaine McKelvey

Here I sit in this gifted space, wrapped in a specific kind of solitude, ordered and appointed communion sprinkled in, and all the time leaning into the listening. I hear You, Father, and it is good. I sat and paced in my mind, the right words to string together to do Him justice, as if He needs my justice done. My words are my crafting to give back to the Holy God of my what-in-the-world-is-happening. I smile as I remember; even my crafting is a gift from my Maker. He’s already outgiven me.

This morning the girl goes as a field hand on holy ground plowed here in Nashville by a man she has grown up listening to, reading from. We sat on a church pew this weekend and listened to the cadence of his heart in song and word. My mama heart was full up grateful. You place your treasure into the hands of others and pray they tread careful and true. Thank you, Andrew, and the others, for being real as my girl watches. I see the greening of new leaves in her eyes as tears of gratitude collect in mine.

Friday just past I met a friend I never knew I had. We were paired up as pen pals in February as a byproduct of an online group spun from The Kindness Diaries on Netflix. She in Tennessee, me in Kentucky. When Tennessee loomed on the horizon for our summer, she staked claim on a trip there and drove into my borrowed driveway this weekend and sewed a patch into our life quilt to wrap warm around us. God is the maker of friends and the roadmap to get there. Unexpected joy spilled down our faces as we said goodbye, knowing it was only temporary. The owner of both of our hearts has more to write here.

Sunday found us back “home” at Cross-Country Cowboy Church. We found our way here three years back and with each visit to Nashville, we headed to their door, where we sensed kindred spirits. How can it be that Dena and Fran and Ty and Sharon and Julie and Ann and Donna and Joanna and MaryAnn love us as much as we love them in two weeks’ time? I look over as we sing a familiar song and sweet Nellie and her husband, long in the sowing business, cause a catch in my chest and I snap a picture quick to remember the moment. These saints of good soil warm me and I can’t speak for a minute. Nellie comes up to me and promises to be my grandmother, not knowing my own have long since gone to heaven. There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place.

We head to Marcy Jo’s for noontime lunch and to check on my new friend, Crystal, who is working there. She looks tired and I look at her and ask like friends do. She was up late the night before making sure someone else’s joy was full. I just met her and yet I know for sure this is who she is. We are seated with strangers so those waiting can have a place to sit at other tables; a mother and her daughter. They’ve come to a weekend in Tennessee for a chance to spend time. She and her girl? They’ve come through some hard places together and won big time. “Didn’t I see you at cowboy church, I ask? And where are you from? Yes, came the answer, and Northern Kentucky……where we also call home. They knew our street and our house. All of us blinked in disbelief. We ate our pancakes and drank our coffee and our battle stories spilled out and it was good. Pay for their meal, I heard. I waited for Crystal to come by so I could whisper to her to hide the check in my hand. A moment later I looked toward the girl and she was gone. As I looked around, I saw her at the cash register. She had taken the check and was paying for the table. It seems the Father of us all had whispered to her as well. We stared at each other with tears in our eyes and chills on our skin. My Kindness Diaries friend, my waitress friend, Crystal, my Northern Kentucky neighbor and her girl and my own collide in a Light moment that all of us lost girls have craved. Unspeakable stunning grace.

I sit here on this rainy Monday, new forever friends gone home, girl gone sowing and reaping and can’t stop crying as I keep listening. Indeed, He Is Worthy.

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