How the high school track team reminds me of God’s faithfulness

IMG_3625For 24 years, I’ve lived about a 7-iron shot from the local high school. (If I were a decent golfer, it might be a chip shot, but hey.) I hear the marching band practicing all summer; in the fall, I hear the announcer on the PA calling the football games. I watch the before and after-school traffic jams throughout the winter. Soon I feel a bittersweet pang as I hear names being read off in that same stadium during graduation.

I love high school kids, always have. There’s something so endearing and vulnerable about them, even when they’re posturing and trying to be cool. They’re all insecure, some just hide it better than others. I get that.

When I first moved here, I would get irritated when kids threw trash from their cars as they sped past my house; now, I’m alarmed to see them texting as they go by, still speeding (some things don’t change). And sadly, there’s a whole bullying drama unfolding in my neighborhood lately that has a dark edge to it. That makes me angry…and sad. Continue reading

What Changes When You Hope in a Sure Thing

(“What Changes When You Hope in a Sure Thing” originally appeared as a guest post on http://ryanhuguley.com.)

crossed fingersIf you’re not a college basketball fan, “March Madness” may have seemed straight up nuts to you. And you know what? Maybe it was. I’ll admit I was one of those crazy fans hoping against hope that my team would win the tournament.  It didn’t turn out that way, but it was fun to follow the games and root for my alma mater.

But let’s be honest: my “hope” was little more than a kind of wishful thinking. I had absolutely no control over the outcome, no matter how much I wanted to see my team prevail. I could hope for it all day long but that had no impact on how things ended up.

Basketball is one thing, but many of us approach life that way. Continue reading

A Costly Lesson About Closed Doors

IMG_3405This past week I was looking for something in a closet and came across a box of old handwritten letters. They were still in their original envelopes, held together with rotted rubber bands. I pulled them out and the next thing I knew, I had lost an entire afternoon.

What a kick to read stories from my then-25 year old sister gushing about the new job she had come to love. To revisit my mother’s fretting over her upcoming nursing board exams and hear again, at the end of every letter, how much she loved me. Priceless.

There was my Dad, telling about a fire in the building next door to the church, so hot it melted the plastic curtains in one of the Sunday School rooms and Continue reading

They Called Me “Little Ernie”

 

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Ernestine

Growing up, we always spent our summer vacations with my mother’s extended family in South Carolina. We would head north in our un-airconditioned car from Key West, the three of us kids squabbling in the backseat, my mother constantly trying to keep us from killing each other, and my dad at the wheel, clinching his jaw and patiently pressing on.

After an overnight stay with my paternal grandmother in North Florida, we would roll in to Spartanburg the next day to spend a week or so with aunts, uncles, and cousins – interesting characters that fascinate me even now: the snuff-dipping aunt and her ubiquitous spit cup, the uncle who sang “shaped notes” with the men’s quartet and insisted there was a goat under the house, the eccentric aunt who pretended to read palms, and the gruff uncle who we thought was the luckiest man on the planet because he had a plow horse named Molly.

One of my ancient aunts measured how much we loved her by the volume of food we could stuff in our faces at meal time: “Eat! Eat!” (Those of you from the South will recognize that as a specific love language.) I once ate an entire cantaloupe at lunch just to please her.

I was thrilled when one Sunday, some of the older aunts and second cousins pulled out pictures of my mother as a girl about the age I was at that time. In a flurry of excitement, they declared that I looked “just like her” when she was young and they dubbed me “Little Ernie”. (My mother’s name – which I don’t think she ever liked – was Ernestine.) Continue reading

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

blueprintI was the single parent of a first-grader when I decided to have an addition put on my house. I had no idea what I was getting myself into; I only knew I needed more space and an upstairs bathroom in this tiny Cape Cod.

I’ll never forget the Saturday morning my little daughter came into my room to tell me, “Mommy, there are some men at the door to work on our house. I think they’re speaking Italian.” I told her I’d be right there to let them in, to which she responded, “Oh, I already did.”

Thankfully, they were the plumbers my general contractor had sent, not some nefarious scam artists prowling the neighborhood. By the time I got into the kitchen they were unloading their tools and already (presumably) discussing their strategy for upgrading my ancient pipes to accommodate the new plumbing - in Polish, not Italian, by the way.

The remodeling project went on for months. And truthfully? I thought I would lose my mind. I hadn’t realized the disruption it would cause. I never expected to have to make so many decisions about things I knew nothing about. And frankly, I had no idea how much it was going to end up costing by the end.

Yep, I was pretty naive to take that project on.

In the end I was glad I had done it, but I’ll be honest with you: If I had known what I was getting myself into, I seriously doubt I would have attempted it.  

As I was walking my dog in the neighborhood recently, I was reflecting on that experience and the whole if I had it to do over again part. Then a sobering thought came to me, Continue reading

Thinking Differently About Roots

I was honored to guest-post on ryanhuguley.com this week. Please head over there to read “Thinking Differently About Roots” in its entirety.

 

RootsI am part of that group known as “GRITS” – girls raised in the south. I was born in Florida and spent my most formative years there. Well before the various ancestry databases were put on the internet (before there was even an internet), both my parents could trace their histories back multiple generations, even as far as the Revolutionary War.

My southern roots run deep; I was well into adulthood before my career prompted me to move away.

I’m more than one of the GRITS, though.

Where my “people” are from is just one of countless labels that could be used to describe me. I’m sure that’s true of you, too. We all anchor our identities in things like where we’re from, our career choices, sports allegiances, religious affiliations, and political parties, to name just a few. These descriptors become part of our personal narrative that helps us (and others) understand who we are. It’s pleasant to discover shared interests – or establish the basis for some good-natured ribbing – in order to enjoy common ground with other people.

But I wonder if there is a different way to think about our roots?

To read the rest of this post, please click here.

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When Is “More Than Enough” Enough?

IMG_2961I get a lump in my throat when I stand on the lanai of this home I’ve rented the past two months in South Florida. I’m leaving soon and I don’t want to go. (I know, I hear you playing the sad trombone for me.)

Yes, I’m glad to have avoided most of the miserable winter up north this year, and I do look forward to seeing my friends when I get back. But I was born and raised in the “Sunshine State”; I have a history here.

I’ve been gone for decades. The truth is, I never meant to leave permanently; it’s just the way life turned out. But I still have family in the area and friends that go back to junior high. When I cross the state line from Georgia into Florida each January now, I’m convinced the air smells different. It smells like home. Continue reading

What I Learned from a Flat-Footed Preacher

Jesus has been called the master storyteller, and with good reason. His parables were compelling and oh-so-relatable. His illustrations from daily life immediately drew people in.

I always imagined He must have used humor and dramatic flourishes when He was telling His stories. Sometimes I even pictured Him singing parts of the lesson.

Think about it. The people were so enthralled, they crowded around Him constantly to hear more. Would they have done that for a dry lecture in the hot sun, surrounded by other sweaty humans? I didn’t think so.

And then I went to Alaska.

breaching whaleIt’s been some years now since my daughter and I took this trip. We joined my parents for a cruise organized by our denomination down the Inside Passage from Seward to Ketchikan. The scenery was spectacular, of course, and the weather unseasonably perfect.

Frankly, as I stood on the deck of the ship, I fully expected to see Jesus return at any moment through those amazing cloud formations.

Yet there was another aspect of that week-long cruise that stunned and delighted me even more than my surroundings. Continue reading

The Guest I Hope Never Leaves

IMG_2355It’s foggy. The air is warm and thick. Below, the surface of the lake is perfectly still, the silence broken only by the occasional splash of a fish snagging a morning morsel or the whisper of wings skimming by.

I’m sipping my coffee across from an empty patio chair and a thought jerks me aware: What if Christ were sitting there, relaxing with a mug of Columbian deep roast in His hand and half a smile on His face? The incarnate God of the universe, choosing to spend a companionable moment with me at a simple plastic table?

I’m immediately humbled – and ashamed.

There are so many other places He could be and way more interesting people to enjoy a brand new day with. There are desperate souls with crushing problems and entire governments unravelling even now. I’m stunned that He would stop by here and I think, I shouldn’t be taking up His time. I don’t deserve Him.

I almost tell Him so; but I stop.

What if this is exactly where He wants to be right now? What if He intentionally opted to be here and His presence at my table doesn’t diminish His impact (or limit His intervention) elsewhere?

Well, obviously, I’d close this laptop and give Him my full attention. I wouldn’t be planning out the rest of my day, giving in to distractions, and letting my mind wander. For sure, I wouldn’t be glancing at my phone every time it buzzed.

And I’d certainly know better than to fret about my loved ones and call it prayer.

My shame at being in His presence turns to relief. I’m so glad He’s here. Tears well up in my eyes and overflow freely down my cheeks. He reaches over to touch my soggy face and in that healing moment, I exhale.

He smiles; He knows me so well. And He asks for a refill.

 

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I hope you have friends like this

I’m guest-posting at ryanhuguley.com today. Please join me there to read “Seven Marks of Authentic Friendship” in its entirety.

Paulette and I share a unique history that goes back 30 years. Time and distance conspire now to keep us apart but when we connect, even though it necessarily involves airplanes and major schedule adjustments, it’s always worth it.

She and I chose a career in Federal law enforcement at a time when earning the respect of our peers in a male-dominated profession meant embracing an over-the-top work ethic and developing a very “thick hide”. That experience cultivated a unique bond, in and of itself.

We were pregnant together and shared the unique travails reserved for expectant mothers in that kind of job. We raised our children in a world we viewed through a particular lens of danger and did our best to make their lives “normal”.

Early on in our friendship, we discovered we had more than just our careers in common.

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(If you’d like to receive an email when I publish a new post, please go to my home page here and subscribe. I’d be honored.)