Charmed

(Today’s post is a “re-post” from October 15, 2011.  The story still brings me a sense of peace and the memories these simple charm bracelets represent fill my heart as much today as they did many decades ago.)

 

There are certain possessions that we all have in life that mean much more to us than their value.  Items that “in a fire” you would grab.

Besides Lita, I have a few things I would try to save in case of an emergency…..  the framed baby outfit I wore home from the hospital when I was born, a quilt made from my parents clothes when they were children both of which were Christmas gifts from mama and daddy.

I would try to grab family photos and my “important documents” box, but before any of those other “things” in my life (excluding Lita) I would reach for the charm bracelets.

In my living room, in a special place of honor are two framed charm bracelets, costume jewelry that means more to me than anyone else.  These charm bracelets belonged to mama and ma-ma.

When I was a very young child I used to spend a lot of time with ma-ma and gramps.  We had kind of a routine that included continuous pampering and exploration of my imagination and creative personality.

Ma-ma was the perfect homemaker, she could bake, cook, clean, sew, garden, arrange flowers, craft, she could do it all and she loved having a little one tugging at her apron strings offering to “help.”  I love pulling those apron stings, so we were a perfect pair!

One of my favorite things to do with ma-ma was to have her tell me stories,  stories from the charm bracelet.

Ma-ma’s charm bracelet was gold and from my childhood memory it had what seemed like hundreds of charms.  Each charm held a significance, the sewing machine, the thimble, a head for each child and grandchild, a replica of her brother’s Bronze Star, Virginia, Puerto Rico, Florida;  all remembrances of trips taken through the years.

For a young boy filled with an unquenchable imagination, that bracelet and the stories that were told about each charm could entertain for hours.

Many years later, when ma-ma died, I knew there was one thing I really wanted, I wanted that bracelet.  I hadn’t seen it in years and when I mentioned it no one knew where it was.

Through the days of purging ma-ma’s belongings someone found the charm bracelet and gave it to me.  As an adult, it wasn’t as impressive as it was when I was a child, you could see some of the charms were missing and it was tarnished, but just seeing that bracelet brought back a flood of memories and times spent with my grandmother that I would never be able to replace.

Mama’s bracelet was different.  Mama’s bracelet was silver and only had 5 charms on it… one for daddy, one for Tom, one for Sam, one for me and one for herself.  Four male heads and one female.

On the front of each charm our name and birth date was engraved.  On the back of Tom’s was his death date.

Somewhere through the years mama lost her charm bracelet she would mention it from time to time and how much it meant to her.

One year, when I was about 16, I knew exactly what I wanted to give mama for Christmas.  I had worked all summer and saved some money and knew that this would be the year I was able to give her the special gift.

When we open our Christmas gifts each year, we try and hold one back for the grand finale as we know it is going to be the “special gift” for that year.  This was my first year able to give the “special” gift.

I planned for weeks, I got mama’s gift, I made sure everything was perfect and on Christmas Eve, I proudly put that gift under the tree.

As we unwrapped the gifts my excitement built and for the first time, this year the excitement really wasn’t for what I was receiving, but what I was giving.

When the time finally came and all the gifts but one were opened, I proudly handed mama her beautifully wrapped package.  I sat nervously beside her and as she unwrapped the package, our small family watched in anticipation.

When the package was opened, there it lay a silver charm bracelet, just like the one she had year’s before.  Five heads, each engraved, a simple gift that meant more to my mama and I than any expensive gadget could.  To this day, the most special gift I have ever given anyone.

Mama and I both cried.

Through the years mama wore that bracelet everywhere and she made sure not to lose it.  She added three more heads through the years, Donna, Chelsea and Zack.

When mama passed, there was one thing I wanted.  Before I left Clayton on my way back to Florida after that horrible/wonderful week, I went to mama’s jewelry box and collected the charm bracelet.

Not long after I got my grandmother’s bracelet, I decided to have it framed.  I lived in Atlanta at the time and had a friend who was a framer, he made sure that it got the attention it deserved and did a beautiful job with the presentation.

After mama died it took me almost a year to have her bracelet framed.  It hurt too much to think about finalizing it and putting the bracelet behind glass.

Finally, as the 1 year anniversary of mama’s death approached I took it out and went to my local framer.  I carried ma-ma’s bracelet with me to show the framer what I wanted.

Thankfully, the framer saw the importance of this project and gave it his attention and dedication.  We picked out a frame that complimented ma-ma’s.  After finally, pulling together the strength to take the bracelet to the framer, I waited with nervous anticipation for it to be completed.

When I got the call that my frame was completed, I went to pick it up with excitement.  When I saw the frame opened, again I cried, just like the first time I saw it opened and just like the first time, I knew my mama was right beside me admiring the bracelet as well.

Today those two bracelets sit in a place of honor in my living room.  On a small table, two pieces of costume jewelry that mean the world to me.

(Note – since moving back to God’s Country two years ago, the bracelets still hold a place of honor, in my living room, prominently on my mantle.)

Life is Like Spaghetti

I woke up craving spaghetti.  Probably not the best choice on a day when the temperatures will push 90 degrees, but that’s how cravings go.

After Church I made my way to the grocery to pull together all the ingredients I would need.

As I wandered through the produce aisle getting mushrooms and onions and peppers, I began to ponder,  life is a lot like spaghetti.

If you think about it, we are the noodles.  The part of the dish that pulls everything else together, and as noodles, we attract all the good, the vibrant colors, the bad and the ugly in our lives and allow them to stick to us like the sauce of a good dish.

The vegetables in the dish are the moments and seasons of life that make the taste explode in our mouths, those small moments that make life what it is.

Like the onions and mushrooms, these everyday ingredients fill our life with the perfectly needed chunks that blend together with our “sauce.”  Not always perfectly sliced or diced, but needed to make a quality serving.

I enjoy a combo of garlic, green, yellow and red peppers in my spaghetti.  Like the little pops of life that sometimes catch us off guard with levels of punch.  Like the garlic and peppers, our lives are filled with moments and situations that sneak up on us, but when we accept those moments will come and incorporate them into the other flavors we experience on a daily basis, the pepper moments give us the opportunity to learn and grow.

I don’t make a homemade sauce.  In my mind those sauces in a jar are as good and less time-consuming than pealing tomatoes and adding the perfect blend of spices.  Like life, we can sometimes find easier ways of doing things that enrich us and allow us to use what’s available instead of going through the arduous task of making life happen.

The final ingredient in any good spaghetti is the meat.  I use turkey, not always the popular choice, but for me it works.  In my own life, I have not always followed the way of others, I lead an independent life that others may look at and think it to be out of the norm, but again, it works for me, it’s the life I was given.

After all the ingredients are prepped and put into a large pot they start to cook, just like life.   There are moments when the sauce boils and others when it slows to a simmer, needed moments in life to give us a perfect blend.

Sometimes the smell of garlic may be overpowering or the big chunks of mushrooms may not be very pretty, but as the ingredients all mold together and work with each other to create a perfect sauce, magic happens.

Just like life.  Sometimes life is messy, sometimes it is ugly, but most of the time it is a glorious gift and when you dig in and taste the wonders built on planning, preparation, simmers, boils and all the delicious ingredients pulled together, not much can beat it, even on a day when the temperature is approaching 90.

The good, the bad, the ugly and the vibrant colors all come together for the perfect dish and then you add the noodles, allowing everything to cling together, just like life.

So today, I decided to make a pot of spaghetti, a dish that reminds me of life.

Independence Requires Responsibility

This weekend we celebrate our nation’s independence.

The 4th of July is a red, white and blue celebration of national pride that we partake in every year.

In 1776, when our forefathers set out to form a more perfect union, the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence outlined the blueprint for our nation…..

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

As we gather on beaches, lakes, mountaintops and the communities of our land celebrating our Independence, I believe in these words more today than ever; 241 years later, the ideals of our founding fathers still stand.

As a people we are given more freedoms than any other nation on the planet.  The melting-pot that makes America great still stands strong today and while we have not succeeded in every way, I contend that the American experiment is the greatest of all time.

With our independence also come great responsibility, this is where I think we as a people have fallen short.

We live in contentious times, but that contentiousness will not destroy us, if we as Americans will just honor those unalienable rights that we were given.

Our independence requires participation.  If we do not participate in the process how do we make our nation better?

When we lend a hand to those in our community, support the needs of our citizens and become involved in the process that makes our country great, often times we find a kinship with others that may not be seen from the surface.

I have often found that once I get to know someone, our differences quickly disappear and our similarities rise to the surface.  I think it is time that we started celebrating our unique commonality as a nation and stop focusing solely on our different visions.

And it’s time that we stopped concentrating on “beating the other side” and worked for the common good, one that includes compromise from all sides and not just a win at all cost mentality.

However, with this independence that we all partake in, a responsibility is required.

For too long, some in our nation have lived on the backs of others, for true independence to thrive, everyone must do their part.

I don’t think anyone would argue that those hurting in our nation deserve our support, but when able-bodied Americans sit back and live off the hard work of others, the promise of that document signed in 1776 is tarnished.

It’s time that we as Americans, ALL Americans took responsibility and moved us towards that more perfect union.

Hard work is the backbone of our country, that includes arriving on time, staying late and working to the best of our abilities.

Most of us have had jobs that we didn’t love, jobs we felt were beneath us, but with hard work and dedication we can move up and forward finding a place where we best fit into the fabric of America.

Until ALL Americans take their place at the table and help move us forward we will falter.

America is and will always be the greatest nation on earth, some in our nation have forgotten that.  For those people it is time that you step up, bring your voice to the table and your hands to the workforce… participate, for our nation to thrive, we require everyone.

As we gather this weekend, and again on Tuesday to celebrate our nation and our Independence, I hope we will all remember the responsibility we each hold in carrying forward the ideals of America.

It is more than just fireworks and picnics, it is a 365 day a year responsibility to honor our greatness.

Happy Independence Day America!

 

When One Door Closes……..

Friday afternoon, I boxed up my company issued laptop and sent it back to the company I have been working for, effectively ending a chapter in my life that has provided joy, challenge, financial reward, stress and opportunity.

When I decided to resign from my job, I did so knowing that I would be giving up a lot, with hopes of gaining more.

The last year has been a difficult one, I have seen my voice diminished, my judgement questioned and my passion for a job that I have loved eliminated.  I knew it was time to move on.

While the passion for my job was gone, new opportunities came to me and I am now ready to see where those opportunities will take me.

When I bought a small business last year, I did so with plans of it being a simple investment that I would sell in a couple of years.

Impressed quickly became more of a passion and the thoughts of it being an investment vanished.  I found in Impressed the opportunity to capitalize on my artistic sensibilities and nurture my entrepreneurial spirit.

Who knew that t-shirts could be so much fun?

While I embraced the new business, I also committed to more writing.  I have always enjoyed writing and started this blog years ago, but somehow never had the time to devote to it.

In January, when I decided I was going to concentrate on my writing, the “pay-off” was immediate.

Over the last several months, I have been given the opportunity to write a monthly column for Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine and had a featured column in the summer issue of Cabin & Cove.

The feedback from my articles has encouraged me and I look forward to more opportunities to share my words with others.

For several years I have heard from family and friends that I should write a book.  Well, yes I should, and I would love to, however as with many things in life, fear prevented me from pursuing that dream.

The final agreement I had to make with myself when I  decided to leave my career was that I would pursue the opportunity of that book.

Once I made that decision, again, doors opened and I am now diligently working towards making the dream a reality.

Yesterday, I locked myself in my house, put everything aside that I should be doing and wrote.  I wrote all day and once I closed my computer and sat down to watch TV, I started thinking and wrote some more.

It was a great day, filled with opportunity that I am actively pursuing a dream that has simmered inside me for many years.

Who knows if it will happen, but I can honestly say I am inspired each time I sit at this keyboard with the opportunity to write.  When the words start to flow and a sentence appears on the screen that I like, the excitement I feel is unlike anything I have ever known and I anticipate the words that will follow.

So here I am, I have set a new course and plan on seeing it through.

I believe in visioning, when you see something in your mind and will it to happen.  I am in full visioning mode.

I can see Impressed being successful and continuing to inspire my artistic and entrepreneurial spirit.

And I vision more opportunities to write, more opportunities to put words on a screen that inspire me.

I can see my book cover, I can see people reading my work and I can see a new happiness and challenge that I have embraced.

On Friday, I closed a door, but have thrown open my heart to a world that is filled with opportunity, excitement and new challenges.

Am I afraid? You bet!

Am I worried about the change in income?  Yes, and Georgia Power probably is too, but more than fear, I am excited by what can happen, what can be my greatest passion, what can be my next step.

On a personal note, I covet your prayers and hope you will remember me as I move into this next phase of my life.  It won’t be easy, but I look forward to seeing where the road leads me.

I Really Can’t Imagine

This morning when I chose my “Sunday Playlist” song, I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe filled my thoughts.

The words and sentiment of this song have had an impact on me since the tune was first released in 2001.  It is one of my favorite songs of all time.

What touches me about the song is that it gives voice to what we all imagine that moment to be, when we meet Jesus and find ourselves in the arms of our Lord.

Like you, I have envisioned heaven to be a place of perfection.  A place where the streets are lined with gold and angels fly by like birds living within an arboretum.

When we think of heaven, the beauty is incomprehensible.  I think we imagine having anything and everything we could want at the touch of our fingertips, a Willie-Wonka view of what is in store for us in our eternal life.

However, if you dig a bit deeper and imagine what we truly crave, those never-ending Super Bowl Games, the pizza buffet that goes on forever and the ability to eat whatever you want and never gain an ounce really isn’t what heaven is going to be all about.

As my faith and body have matured, I now think about the relationship of heaven and how that will be through eternity.

Have you ever watched one of those videos where a soldier comes home from war and surprises his or her family?  In every single one of those videos unapologetic joy bursts from the screen…… that is what I envision heaven to be.

I envision that we will see those reunions constantly, with overwhelming joy as loved ones, friends and a newfound eternal family are united in God’s presence.

Those moments of reunion will be filled with laughter, tears, joy and most importantly love and as many times as we witness the blessing of eternal life it will never grow old.

When I think of heaven, I know that God’s plan will be in place.  War, starvation, hate, judgement, lack of grace, all these human emotions will disappear.

When I think of heaven, I look forward to the days where we are all accepting of one another as the brotherhood of man and our unity outweighs any difference.

It would be nice to think that when we get to heaven days filled with double-stuffed pan supreme pizza awaits our every meal, but I think we are actually going to be too busy to worry about such mundane tasks as eating.

The celebration of homecomings, gentle nudges to those still on earth and helping to lead the lost sheep home will be what fills our days.

It’s true, I can only imagine what it will be like and I am sure my imagination doesn’t even come to close to the magnificence of what we will find when we reach heaven.

I’m sure Pizza Hut will be there as will an endless game of football and my 32″ waist, but those will all be sidebars to what matters.

The rewards of heaven will include more comprehensive work for us all.  The glory of having our angel wings will be our uniform as we work to ensure those left behind gain their wings too.

I can’t wait to be reunited with those I love.  The thought of seeing my friends and family free from pain and affliction is a promise I hold in my faith.

But as much as I look forward to strolling along those streets of gold, the rewards I imagine most are for the works yet to come.