Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Remember me...

Growing up, I remember how important "Decoration Day" was to my parents and extended family. We would travel to places and parts unknown to lay flowers upon the graves of those I'd never met, or barely remembered. Saddles were made to grace the top of monuments and smaller bouquets were fashioned that would sit in the vases that adorned the bases. While I was amazed at the variety of gravestones, the ages of so many children who had died, and the tingling soul tug that came from seeing my last name on a random relatives final resting place, I never quite understood the purpose of honoring the dead in that way. 

People tend to judge you when you are that person. The one who never visits. The one who doesn't take the time to decorate the graves of loved ones. The one who doesn't feel the need to sit down and absorb the non-existent essence of the dead body below them. 

In my mind, it's just a wrapper. Nothing more.

In a small cemetery in little-known Whitehall, In. lie the graves of my father, my brother and my mother, which were dug in that order. Within those graves is the dirty laundry their lives left behind. Not my father, my brother, or my mother...just their earth suits that housed their souls. Each one lies in a box within a box, tucked deep in the ground, covered with dirt and marked with a stone. But there's no treasure there.

Those I love and adore have no eternal connection to that tomb. What is lying far beneath the neatly trimmed grass is not what I loved. Those I loved are far above me, not stowed beneath me. They reside in a heavenly place of honor and glory with which I cannot begin to compete. They walk among the saints, they do not lay among the ruins and rot. They move about in a heavenly body, perfect, without pain, or disease or lack. 

My Decoration Day is planting seeds of remembrance in the minds of my children. My Memorial Day is recalling incredible stories that paint a picture that is so real, so visual, that my offspring all feel as if they were there, and that they know those of whom I speak; k now them as if they had met them in the flesh. Flowers on a grave cannot relay the the love my father showed me. It can't reveal the struggles my mother endured as a child. a teenager, and an adult-or her ability to keep going in the midst of her all her trials. It doesn't show that her love of and faith in God was the only thing that got her through. Ornamentation doesn't  allow them to hear the laughter of my Granddaddy, or taste the peach pie my Nanny made from the peaches that grew on her trees....the same trees I got in trouble for climbing. They can only experience the uniqueness of my Great Aunt Evie through the stories of bootlegging, shotguns, and "just when you least expect it" whoopings that she gave my daddy for a 6 month old infraction. 

When I share with them the times I sat under my Godparents' table and listened to my daddy and his friends tell tall tales, cuss, drink coffee and smoke unfiltered cigarettes... I want them to hear the booming laughter. I want them to smell the smoke, the coffee, the leather of their boots and the earth and concrete that dusted their soles. I want them to see that tiny little girl scoot covertly away from the "ladies" and slide right into where the action was. To close their eyes and see the congress of storytellers and realize that remembering is more than a flower. It's planting seeds that will root and grow into wonderful stories and memories that will keep those we love alive forever.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

  One day, while watching my 2 year old granddaughter, she jumps up on my lap, grabs my face, peers determinedly into my eyes and says, "Nan. Let's eat food!" I said, "What food?" She smiles, "Peetzee!"

Pizza it is.

While we were awaiting our "peetzee", three construction worker-looking men walked in. Of course, when you're two and too cute, you draw attention.

"You're a cutie aren't you?"

She nodded, "Yep!"

No guile, no false modesty. Just, "Yep!"

Oh that we would all be so simple in our communication with others. How much simpler would life be if we just all spoke clearly, meaningfully and without pretense? If we listened and responded without ego or too-tender feelings. If we could just accept the fact that we can't make everyone happy, not everyone will love you and that's perfectly ok. If we could just say, 'Yep" when we are paid a compliment, or even when we're told, "I don't want you in my life anymore."

The norm is to read things into a conversation, try to persuade or dissuade another, or simply refuse to accept what is said by telling oneself "They didn't mean it." when they really did.

Two year olds don't always make good decisions, but they are great conversationalist. Literal, concise, and the only misunderstandings come from their Dutchy speech and not their desire to manipulate.

So, from now on, I'm taking my cues from her. I will announce what I need, and from whom, I will not take things personally when the problem is not mine to own, I will accept that I'm not loved by all, and that's ok. Because, a toddler calls me Nan; she breaths my name out reverently when I pick her up from daycare. She also sneaks up on me in the kitchen and giggles, "Hey setsy mama!"

And it must be true....because two year olds never lie!

There you are....

The day we laid you to rest I thought I'd never see you again. Well, not until my own day of rest came.

But I was wrong.

I saw you just now; there, in the mirror. I saw you in the features that have become more and more like yours. I saw you in the silver highlights that I usually keep covered, but have now become prominent through my own neglect.

I hear you when I greet my children...those you help me raise and those you never met. "Hi, baby!" I say, and I hear your voice coming through.

I feel you every time I offer a warm and loving hug to someone who just needs to know someone cares.

I hear you in the sternness of my rebuke, in the warmth of my comfort, and in the logic of my counsel.

I feel you when a small child falls asleep on my lap, or comes to me in need of mending.

And when life gets hard and I want to quit, I hear your voice and see that face...yes, THAT face. The one you left me. The one that takes no nonsense. The one that says, "You can't quit now."

Yes, I still see you. In my daughters, in my grandchildren, and in those quiet moments when I look intently at myself.

And I smile....because seeing you there helps me not miss you quite so much.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Two Stories

Matthew 6:22-24 
22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 
23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Everyone has two stories. One story is told by the victor, the other by the victim. One is a story of triumph, the other of tragedy. One allows the grace and mercy of God to shine through, while the other affords the enemy all the glory and negates God's power and authority.

The bible tells us that if our eyes are healthy, then our body will be healthy. How we see things directly affects the outcome of our lives. If we see with an unhealthy eye, if we have an unhealthy outlook on our lives, then our lives will be filled with darkness. The night doesn't stop being night just because you shine a light on it. The day doesn't stop becoming day because we close the curtains and lock the doors and go to bed. We  alter our vision in the midst of both of those environments in order to meet whatever need we have at the time. Shining a light into the night doesn't make it day, but it does allow us to see more clearly in the darkness. 

 It's hard to believe that some people would rather live in darkness, but, sadly, that is the truth. They would rather focus on what they have lost, than what they have left. In doing so, they allow the darkness to grow and become evermore pervasive in their lives. 

They, in essence, bring about their own calamity by only seeing the negative. Their victim mentality effectively ruins their lives. Their pain, suffering and sense of loss becomes their only identifiers. Their speech becomes the weapon they wield, but the wounds they cause are all self-inflicted. They not only welcome the darkness, they block out any light that attempts to get through. Darkness, anger, resentment and self-loathing become the coverings by which they gain their identity. Much like the beggar's clothes of old.

It is your choice which story you tell, where you live, what your eye beholds. Not fate, or God, or anyone else. Yours. 
Everyone has a story to tell. One is told by the victor, the other by the victim. The one most told is the one that continues on...

Ephesians 5:8 

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light... 

Friday, November 20, 2015


"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in..."--Matthew 25:35

 In the summer of 1983, somewhere on the IU campus, I listened intently as a woman spoke a phrase that would be forever burned into my memory...

 "People aren't just hungry at Thanksgiving and Christmas." She then proceeded to challenge us to set up a program of continued assistance in our communities.

 Each year, her words come back to convict me...

 Red Kettles and Angel Trees tug at our charitable hearts.  Churches and other organizations begin to search for families in need. Wallets open more freely and people began to give, treating that feeling of satisfaction like a hit of an opiate. It just makes you feel good...and, let's face it, in some cases it makes you look good, too. 

 But have you ever thought about what happens in June? What happens when parents who qualify for free breakfast and lunch at school, but not an EBT card, have to start feeding kids 3 meals a day instead of one. Where does the money come from to buy shorts and T-shirts when that winter coat is no longer necessary. Who buys the sandals that replaces the boots. Who buys the $15.00 window fan when the temperature reaches 90°? Who pays for the ball sign-up, or the 3 day bracelets at festival time?

 Who thinks about the other 10 months of the year?

 While I do think it is commendable that the holidays bring about good will toward men, women and children, I also think that we should all endeavor to do something the other months of the year. One person can't do everything, but everyone can do something. Feed someone, clothe someone,  help someone....make it personal. Ask you kids or grandkids if they have a friend whose parents can't afford something that most take for granted. Sponsor a ball player, or a dancer, or a cheerleader.  Offer free weekend babysitting to that young mother who still feels that working is setting the best example for her children.

January-October are not magical months in which all needs are met, and we should not close our eyes for 10 months while patting ourselves on the back for two.

God expects better from us...

Monday, August 3, 2015


1 Samuel 16:1
The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king."

One of my favorite witticisms is, “Where biology fails, God prevails!” Some of us are lucky enough to have wonderful grandparents, parents and siblings.

Others….not so much.

In my ministry, as well as in my personal life, I have seen the consequences of abuse, neglect, abandonment and rejection. I have seen mothers chose men over their children, fathers walk away from responsibility, and children blame their parents for their own mistakes. I've seen partners who leave without a second thought to the pain they are causing those they leave behind. I have also seen the internal struggle that rages inside those who search themselves for some shortcoming or defect.  The one that makes them unlovable to those who should love them the most.

Let me tell you, it isn’t pretty.

There is a place in the heart that cries out for a love that should be freely given, but is withheld. There is a place in the psyche that tries to create logic from an illogical situation, but fails. And there is a place in the soul that mourns the loss of connection, the loss of affection; the place where self-blame lies.
But why do we mourn? Why do we mourn when God so clearly says, “I have chosen someone else for that position. How long will you mourn what is lost, and ignore what I have ordained to replace it?”
I believe that biological connections are important. I believe knowing from whence you came sheds light on things like genetic predispositions, appearances, quirks and predilections. But it does not necessarily define who your family is. Those you define as family should be those who love you, believe in you and support your dreams. They should be those who meet your need with their ability without condition or resentment. Those who are not only willing to be there for you in your time of need, but do so with a heart that is grateful for the opportunity, expecting nothing in return.

In this passage, God is telling Samuel to let Saul go, stop mourning the loss of him and move on to the person He had chosen to fill the position of King of Israel. God didn’t want Samuel to keep holding on to something that he had already cut loose!

So, today I ask you… how long will you mourn?

And when will you accept the person into your life that God has chosen to fill in the blank…

Friday, May 8, 2015

One of Many First...

After 48 Mother's Days spent together, this Mother's Day will be the first without my Mama. Her passing was bittersweet, I suppose. She was ready, we were not. Her gain became our loss, her healing became our injury.

Her triumph became our tragedy...

 In honor of her, I would like to impart just a smidgen of her wisdom.

  Act like you got some sense.
   (This was a precursor to, "I'm fixin' to jerk you up and have a chill with you!")

  Realize, the only thing worse than a drunken man is a drunken woman.

  Don't go anywhere you can't take your kids, and you won't be anywhere you don't need to be.

 When you lose a good reputation, it's hard to get it back.

  Children eat first.

  Know that you can make it without a man, because no matter what his intentions...life  changes.

 Being called a little idiot isn't always a bad thing, depending on the situation.

 A good mother will kill or die for her children, and face any danger without batting an eye. 

 God will carry you through if you let Him. 

 Don't ask God, "Why me?" Ask yourself, "Why not me?"

 You can help some people so much they forget how to help themselves.

 Quit yelling at your kids. It doesn't help.

 You may have to get a second job.

 Make sure the dog's got plenty water.

 Getcha something to eat.

 Make your bed in the morning. 

 Throw in a load of laundry before you go to work.

 Put a little money back.

 Pay your bills early. 

 Act like a lady, you'll be treated like a lady. (works in reverse, too.)

 And for God's sake, you little idiot, brush that nasty hair, you look like the Bell Witch!

Dorothy Lee Lyle