Joy Drops

I am a planner. I begin preparing for any upcoming event with several days of thought, imaginings of the food, the environment, any special needs. Next comes the recipe search, digging through my big box well organized by course and all the books I have acquired. List making comes next, menu and then ingredients, all the items for decoration to create the mood. Music selections, a whole different list. Next comes the gathering and finally the by the time of the event, I have given so much attention to all of my prep, it goes pretty smoothly.  That is my system. It works. Until I am given less than a week to throw a bridal reception for 20 people and I already have many of those planning days taken up with my Plum’s birthday events and a couple of days of wallowing in self-pity. Little time to do this event justice. I added a first step without realizing it, though, I asked for prayers about it all, sharing it as a joy Sunday at church.

I rushed about on the day of, yesterday, and made phone calls when I knew I was in over my head. My friend who’s home exudes beauty and warmth, I called her in to handle creating something out of the senior high classroom where we were celebrating in just a few hours. As we talked she said what I was doing was holy.  Not only did she agree to come and help, she slowed my anxiety and gave me perspective. She transformed that funky room into a place worthy of any wedding venue. It was special, it was magical, it was not on my list and it was so incredibly meaningful to have her hand in this union.

I called in Janet, asking for a quick hour of help to do something artsy with the huge chalkboard in the room. She dropped whatever she was doing and created a gorgeous backdrop that will be forever remembered in pictures but more than that, included a reminder of the love God bestows on all unions created in His name. Her thoughtful spontaneous gift added to the magical room, transformed something not on my list to a prayer for this young couple. To have her hand in the preparations for this event added another piece of the foundation of prayer, prayer that will continue long beyond the party.

I ran by the flower shop of an amazing woman in our congregation, she had offered to create a bouquet for mama, her gift to the new beginning. She has shared her love with us many times in the past, clothes for Plum, flowers for events created with real love. She prays for our family and puts her prayers into action. I was beyond grateful for this gift, I don’t have an income, flowers were not in anyone’s budget. I cried when she offered her livelihood to us, not something to be taken lightly. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed with the beauty she had created, even more so with the little buds she included for the groom and my Plum. Not on my list, on hers though and she added to the beauty, created magic in this last minute rush to celebrate a union. My tears were joy drops, words unable to capture my thanksgiving at having her hand involved in this day.

I rushed about in the church kitchen, without a real list completely unsure where to start. Our Associate Pastor wandered in, listened to me babble and then reminded me that many were praying for all of us on this day. His steady assurance, so calm and sure, slowed my anxiety, washed my frenzy away and allowed me to focus. Later, my miscommunication led to my friend not being at the church to take over when I need to leave to rush home for a shower. The back up crew of my Pastor, the small groups leader and my decorator took over. They shooed me out, I trusted something good would happen while I was at the ceremony. When I returned two different friends were there, the food was all arranged, better than I could have hoped, dishes were done, it was magical. No cake server, my sweet pal ran home and got her mama’s. A legacy, a tradition she shared with us, a piece of history well loved to start the union of this couple. Gifts of time and talents and love given so freely, I didn’t even ask, people just showed up.

This couple may never realize all the hands that went into the evening, they don’t attend our church. They don’t know all of my friends, the people who attended the event don’t all come either. We showed them the love of Jesus, the amazing hospitality of folks who just love, love new beginnings  and love to support each other when times are crazy and no one has a list. Sometimes I ask too much of my friends, often I forget to ask at all. I forget that I have friends who will support me, that I am worthy of their time and gifts. God takes over at those times, nudges people into action who live out His desire that we be the hands and feet of love. His grace lit up the church last night, brighter than the candles and little white lights strung about. His grace came in the form of friends who showed up and threw a last minute wedding reception for a couple they didn’t even know, a couple they will continue to pray for as the wedding ends and the marriage begins. I didn’t make a list that included God’s grace, that included prayerful loving hands touching every aspect of the evening. God fixed that for me, He had a plan all along. I couldn’t feel more blessed.

 

Loving Who God Brings

I found this post I wrote 6 years ago about loving and leaving, filled with worry but also trust in God that the future would work itself out.  Looking back on those years, I see how we struggled in mighty ways, how we relied on our faith and the prayers of our community relentlessly. The following is that story, from November 9, 2010.

 

Several years ago, Chef and I went to visit a home that advertised a Border Collie mix in the paper.  We already had one who was hyper and we thought, wrongly, that getting another would give her someone to play with and burn some energy.  As we circled the area downtown, I became skeptical, it was getting rougher by the block.  What were we getting into?  When we found the house and approached the door, we were startled to see a mangy, dirty mutt tied up out front, eating rocks and barking frantically.  We tried to talk to the owner but she had no care or concern about the dog, couldn’t tell us much beyond the fact it was 10 months old and had been in 5 homes already.  This woman never got off of her phone.  Her small, dirty-faced, raggedy-clothed children wandered aimlessly through the duplex, unattended.  It wasn’t the dog we wanted but we knew we couldn’t leave it there either.  Without even a second glance from the owner, we untied her and put her in our car.  She shivered and shook, looked at us with distrustful eyes the entire ride home.  Chef dropped us off and went to work, probably feeling a bit relieved to have an escape from what was clearly a mess.  I just kept looking at this dog and at our other, oh so beautiful full-blooded one and thought, “Well, I can give you a home I guess but I just don’t really love you…I don’t even like you.  Your coat is ugly, it is so dirty and you are smelly.”

I set to work.  I bathed her and fed her and let her sleep.  We let her create a safe place just for her so the other dog didn’t bother her.  She began to fill out and we discovered that her hair shone, really sparkled.  I have never seen that on a real animal but it does.  She flourished in this safe place, knowing her food was steady, her bed was secure. She clung to me, followed me everywhere, I was proud to show her off.  One day we realized we loved her as much as the other dog, that all the nurturing back to health was falling in love time.   

Our story with Mama is much the same.  It just isn’t over yet.  We took her in for a night and she stayed for 10 months. She came with a just backpack, as she left it took 2 trucks and 2 cars to remove all of her belongings.  She came to us emaciated, broken down, scared and depressed.  We love her and when you love your children, you have to say no as often or more than you ever get to say yes.  I look forward to the day of saying yes, you can come back, we love you.

I have been blessed to love many pets but there will never be another like that one we rescued. I miss her still, my shadow, my sweet snuggler. I have two new beasts that I adore but my heart still belongs to that girl who needed so much nurturing to come into who she was and then gave back all that she had. Our friends and family have watched me invest the same amount of nurturing into Mama. They question the wisdom of getting involved again, many times I do as well. There are days when I am sure that I hate this child, I am so full of resentment, anger, frustration that I pray to never have to see her again. God ignores those prayers. He brought her into my life as surely as he brought my favorite pet. People aren’t so easily convinced that we have their best interests in mind, people don’t trust just because you give food and shelter. People just aren’t always lovable. I know this because I am so often not. Yet despite any efforts to protect my heart, I love this girl. The nurturing time long ago was falling in love time.

This young woman needs a mother, I long for my daughter. Neither of us are the one we would choose. We are each who God has provided. This week I am helping her plan a quick courthouse wedding, I am making food for the after party. Twenty excited phone calls a day asking about details, several lamenting the lack of interest from her mother, I can’t help but be reminded of Stella’s wedding that I was not included in. I am careful to ensure Mama’s mom has her rightful place, mine is very much behind the scenes. I know the hurt that comes from snap decisions about forever memories. Still, God just keeps throwing this young woman and me together, the seeds were planted almost 7 years ago. I look at how she has grown into a woman who truly sacrifices for her child, who tries so very hard to be the best mom. I see her doing it, all the hard stuff, telling him no as much or more than she tells my Plum yes. I see that she is maintaining her own home, feeding her child, attending parent-teacher conferences and acting as a real advocate for her son.

I don’t mean to compare Mama to a canine in any pejorative sense. I love dogs. And damnit, I love her. I let my actions tell her, I keep showing up with food and support, giving her a safe place for her emotions. I am trusting that God only asks that I love who He brings, He will handle the transformation into something beautiful. After all, I know He is still working on me. I am forever grateful for those who set aside frustration and anger and let me come back, time and again, as I grow into my own beautiful coat, shining with the love of Christ.