DIRTY ANKLES AND STREET LIGHTS

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By Lisa Huddleston

When the street lights came on, we were supposed to head home.

And our baths were drawn. And Mr. Bubbles and Mommy were waiting. And our Daddy was shrilly whistling out the front door meaning, “Come home, little girl. It’s time to scrub off the dirt ring that’s gathered around your Keds and thank God for another good day.”

And now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake–I hope Mr. Bubbles is waiting and the scum still soaks off with ease and just a little extra rubbing around the ankles. And I’d love to put on clean seer-sucker baby doll pjs to wear to bed.

Amen.

TABITHA, GET UP!

Mother and daughter walking arm in arm along trai

By Lisa Huddleston

 

Today’s sermon came from Acts 9:31-43. My pastor’s well-thought and well-taught points were:

  1. Follow Jesus’ example
  2. Depend on Jesus’ power
  3. Point others to Jesus

Clear, to the point, and well-supported by the text.

 

I sat where I usually sit. Comfortably snugged in between my sweet daughter on my left (with her sweet husband to her left) and my equally sweet husband on my right. We all heard the same words, we all read them on our various devices, and we all processed the points that were projected on the screen; however, we did not receive the same message. At least my daughter and I did not.

 

And here is where our paths diverged:

 

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. She was always doing good works and acts of charity. In those days she became sick and died. After washing her, they placed her in a room upstairs.

 

To cut this a little shorter, Peter was nearby so they had him hurry on over to see what he could do. The people figured Jesus had raised the dead, and Peter seemed to be following along in the healing business—maybe there was still time.

 

When he arrived, they led him to the room upstairs. And all the widows approached him, weeping and showing him the robes and clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them.

 

And Peter actually did it! Following the good example and in the powerful might of Jesus, Peter told Tabitha to get up, and she did!

 

This became known in Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

 

And that’s where the sermon diverged for my daughter and me. She heard that “nothing can hold God back when He chooses to act.” And those were the very words our pastor spoke, and they were and are very true words. And my daughter is young and has big dreams and sometimes what seem like impossible aspirations, and she left encouraged and inspired and quite full of hope.

 

I, however, am not young, and my dreams have grown smaller and smaller, and I heard these words, “Tabitha served people however she could. She looked them in the eyes, and she sewed clothes for widows and blessed others with her needle and thread.” Okay, that’s actually a paraphrase of Pastor Jim’s words, but it was the gist of what I heard and jotted in my journal. Tiny dreams that still mattered. Sewing clothes for widows whose husbands had been lost at sea and who probably would have worn rags without Tabitha’s caring for them.

 

And both sermons were preached today, and both sermons were true. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

 

HUMP DAY ON TERRA INFIRMA

UnknownBy Lisa Huddleston

Wednesday morning. Hump Day! Woot woot! But I’m not really feeling it. Every day is about the same for me right now so I find it hard to celebrate being halfway to nowhere.

My younger son who is living with us for a few months since graduation would chastise me for being so negative, but I try to tell him he just doesn’t understand me. He thinks he knows what’s right and solid and unchanging. He reminds me that I taught him those things. And he’s right–I did.

But now I don’t feel so firm. (And that last sentence just makes me laugh–I’m infirm in more ways than one!) I remember a dream I’ve visited many times since childhood: I am walking and then running on ground that is either spongy soft like a swamp or falling away from my feet like a landslide or a crumbling earthquake. As I run, the land dissolves or falls apart just as my feet leave it, and I am terrified of tumbling into whatever lies below. That’s how it feels today.

I was reminded lately that perhaps I should keep these dark thoughts to myself rather than sharing them and possibly spreading the darkness. But truth has its share of darkness in it, doesn’t it? And isn’t sharing a load halving it?

I heard something Sunday morning–something that I also thought last week as my daily Bible reading led me to Ecclesiastes. “God gives respect and place to everything we feel.” Pastor Jim was referring to the Bible, but I figure what’s good for God’s book has to be okay for my little blog, too.

So this is my truth today. I feel empty. I feel lost. And I really just want to be alone.

But I am trying in long obedience form to keep moving in the right direction, striving to keep my feet on something solid. And that’s how it is today.

Woot woot!

IT’S OVER ALREADY??

By Lisa Huddleston

Harbour Town, SC

Harbour Town, SC

Last week was our annual family trip to the beach–or at least with as many of the family as could make it. This year the trip included our daughter, Sarah, her husband, John, and our younger son, Nick. Older son, Chad, and his wife, Heather, couldn’t join us this time, but hopefully we’ll rope them back in next year. (Missed you, Chad and Heather!)

 

Another happy addition to this year’s trip was the long-awaited return of the Karl Huddleston family plus one, Anna’s boyfriend. It has been roughly ten years since we were all at the beach together, and it was lovely to see how easily we slipped back into the daily routine meeting every morning on the beach (anytime before noon counts as morning, right?) and then regrouping either for dinner or dessert most evenings. Afternoons were spent biking, walking, napping, reading or shopping. Lazy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

John, Sarah, Nick, Derek, Anna, Laura, and Amy

John, Sarah, Nick, Derek, Anna, Laura, and Amy

And now it’s over. Sad doesn’t even begin to describe that. What is it about time, and it’s flying faster and faster the older one gets? Oy. I guess the only good part about that phenomenon is that next year’s trip will probably be here before I know it, and I can already start counting the days.

Karl and Sandra, Chuck and Lisa

Karl and Sandra, Chuck and Lisa

 

 

 

 

Who knows what next year will bring? With all that was the same about this year’s vacation, I couldn’t help being struck by the differences that have occurred since we had been at the beach with Karl, Sandra and their girls.

One obvious change, all of us have gotten much older–even the kiddoes!

In their case, I really think that change was for the better (no offense, guys). No longer did we have six children running hither and yon or whining at dinner or crying when all we wanted was to take a simple photograph. It was such a joy to be with young adults who were just happy to be out of college or out of the office and sitting on the beach. What a blessing!

Saving our spots!

Saving our spots!

Regarding us older folks, well, the ten years showed on us, too, but not quite in the same positive light as it did on the younger generation. However, graying or thinning hair, spotty skin, widening waistlines, and roadmap wrinkles are only shallow judges of true beauty. Pshaw! I truly think the four of us are better for the wear and tear when we consider the wisdom we have gained–and hope to use in the next few years when we bundle grandchildren off to the beach. (Hint, hint)

Who cares if someone cries in a photo or spills blue ice cream down his or her Salty Dog t-shirt? We know now to savor each moment, because it really is “all good.”

They say you can’t step into the same river twice, and I know that is true of the beach as well. But, I am thankful for sweet traditions and memories that last week and the many, many weeks before that have built.

Now–only 354 days to go!

MIDNIGHT FRAGMENTATION

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By Lisa Huddleston

Categories. 
A place for everything; everything in its place. 
Right wrong. 
Black white. 
True false. 
All neatly filed away.

But tornados come. Hormonal, chemical, literal winds of time whip apart the categories that give order to my life and then chaos reigns. 
Organized religion, educational theory, liberal conservatism and vice versa. 
Illicit or elicit? 

I feel the sucking pull, and it really does sound like a train. But there is no safe place to go to hide my brain from the storm, and I know my thoughts, my files of self, will soon be flung to neighboring farms and driven into hardwood trunks of trees to hold the fragments of who I thought I was.
 
Lord. Jesus. Christ. Have. Mercy. On. Me.
A mantra. 
An OM. 
A chanting lullaby to calm the wind. 
"Peace! Be still."

But I will never straighten this mess again, and I am doomed to uncertainty. Of this am I sure?
 
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, dirt that I am. 
Naked I came and naked I will leave with miles to go before I sleep.

MAINTENANCE MONDAY

Keeping everything running smoothly ...

Keeping everything running smoothly

By Lisa Huddleston

Some times Intentional Living requires maintenance, and that is exactly what today has been dedicated to. Yes, I did ride my bike and walk on the treadmill for a while–both maintenance related tasks for my physical person–but that’s not all. Because today is President’s Day and Chuck is home, we have scheduled all sorts of long-needed repairs on our aging house.

To start with, the plumber arrived early this morning to work on several old and leaky toilets. Nothing glamorous about that job, but oh did it need to be taken care of–and it makes me very, very happy to know my toilet will not be falling through the floor and into the basement. That would not only be painful but more than a little awkward. I’m glad and thankful to know I have a firm foundation!

Next, and hopefully very soon, the electrician will arrive to do several  jobs that have needed to be done for years. I can’t even explain the technical situation, but for many years one nook of the house has been without power, and I simply cannot wait to have it restored. I’m tired of running extension cords to my desk lamp, stumbling through the dark when I need to head into the kitchen at night, and worrying that we are all going to one day go up in flames. I will be absolutely delighted to flip the wall switch and have the ceiling light fixture turn on and to sleep without midnight worries over fires. Oh yes, simple joys are best!

And it’s not just the old broken things that we hope to restore. I am also thrilled to be putting a brand spanking new outlet in the butler’s pantry so that I can move the microwave and toaster off of my too-crowded kitchen counters to this discrete location. Yay! I truly can’t wait! Tis a joy to be simple!

And, of course, all this physical maintenance reminds me of my need for spiritual maintenance, as well. I mean there’s always a lesson to be learned and here it is: Sometimes my faith gets worn, my resolve leaks out all over the floor, and I can’t for the life of me turn on the light of truth in my dark and dreary heart. (See yesterday’s post for a prime example.)

When that happens it’s best to call in the experts: spiritual plumbers and electricians to plug my leaks and jump-start the power of my faith. Who are these experts? The Holy Spirit who prays for me when all my words fail, the Word of God that stops the leaking of my resolve by showing me that I am in good company in the flawed and floundering family of God, the Body of Christ revealed in my friends and family who constantly seek to encourage my resolve and build up my faith, and, finally, my Heavenly Father who knows what is best for me and desires that I get it in a timely manner. What trustworthy workers!

Yes, maintenance may not be glamorous, although I tried to tidy up every area where these workmen will be serving us today so that at least it won’t be too nasty. But maintenance is one of the most important ingredients of Intentional Living–especially in the second half of life where so much is prone to needing repairs.

I am thankful for the knowledge of all these experts and for their availability to repair what I cannot do on my own. And thankful also for the reminder that life is a daily readjusting to the challenges that only God knows will come.

“Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Could be most anything. An encouraging word. A buffalo herd. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?” –Claire Lynch

God knows! And for plumbers and electricians and the Holy Spirit and the Word and my brothers and sisters on the journey called life, I am thankful that with some careful, intentional maintenance I can be in good shape to meet if not always conquer the challenges that lie ahead.

(Keep your fingers crossed on that whole power outage thingy–and the wires hopefully uncrossed! This ain’t our first electrical repair rodeo, and I admit to being a little skeptical. Some of those past electricians confessed their inability to help, and others just quietly faded away while promising calls that never came. But, hey, hope springs eternal … and I’m thankful for that, too.)

MAKING ROOM FOR TODAY

A spacious place.

A spacious place.

By Lisa Huddleston

In my last post I confidently wrote about “finding my fit” in a religious community. Today I am laughing at my assertions that one can really do that, and I find myself eating at least a few of my words for this Monday’s breakfast. The quandary I face is that we live in a part of the country that we truly love. It is beautiful, peaceful, rural, and a place of history for my family and friends. We have spent many years making this home a comfortable nest where our children can one day bring their children, and everyone has a seat around the table. Three of our four parents also live here on this farm, and we are blessed by a warm generational sandwich that would not be as easy to enjoy in another location. But it is not really a perfect fit.

For many years we have struggled with loving our life in the country and longing for the diversity of the city–a situation that I fear would simply be reversed were we to physically move. So instead of tearing ourselves out of our nest, we have tried to live with our feet in two worlds. This effort has been easier for my husband, because he happens to work in the same world in which we are now worshiping; but, for me, this straddling has been a difficult proposition. I miss having a strong sense of religious community around me. I miss plugging in during the week in Bible studies and service. I miss Wednesday night suppers and choir rehearsals even while I love and need the stimulation of a verse-by-verse study on Sunday mornings and deeply considered discussion in Thursday night home group meetings. It is a hard thing for me as for the gazillionth time I find myself pondering what the church is and should be (a community in which to worship, to be fed, to feed others, and so on)–a question I fear I will never adequately be able to answer for myself.

Room at the table.

Room at the table.

And so, for now, my fit is less “off the rack” and more “custom made.” One foot in the homeplace I love, and one in the spacious, some ways less, some ways more, comfortable place of the nondenominational church we have been driving so far to be a part of for more than two years. I know this will not always be a situation that will work, and I struggle with the lack of permanence I feel. But at 52, I have learned that no season lasts forever, and I am striving to exist in the present day more and letting tomorrow worry about itself. For now, there is enough room in my life for both worlds–just as there is enough room around my dining room table for both new and old friends, my growing family, and the changes the future will bring.

JUST GETTING MY FEET WET

Goal reached by Diana Nyad.

Goal reached by Diana Nyad.


By Lisa Huddleston

By now I’m sure most of you have heard a news report or read an article about the record setting swim by Diana Nyad over the Labor Day weekend. The swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage was impressive in its own right, but it was the remarkable attitude of the swimmer herself that made an impression on me. With lips still grotesquely swollen by the nearly 53 hours in saltwater, Diana said, “I’ve got three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is [swimming] looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.” Three awesome, inspiring messages that I think are worthy of a closer look.

First, never, ever give up. This was Nyad’s fifth attempt at making this swim, her first attempt taking place 35 years ago. Now that’s persistence! I’ve definitely heard this message before, but somehow I still need the reminder. Slow and steady wins the race. It’s a long obedience in the same direction. One foot in front of another. One bite at a time. Different words but the same message, and as I made my way back to the gym to “start over” once again today, I savored Nyad’s words: Never, ever give up.

Next, you are never too old to chase your dreams. I don’t know if it registered with you, but Diana Nyad is 64 years old. You read that right—64! She was only 29 when she first tried to swim the 103 miles, and it would have been easy for her to excuse herself from this dream many years ago. But she didn’t let her age serve as an easy out. Age may make some dreams impossible–like there will probably never be a 64-year-old Miss America (eh–who cares?). But far too often we let age be our excuse for accomplishing less than we can. Want to get another degree? Go for it. Dream of making a difference in the world? It’s never too late. Still hoping to write a book, learn to play the piano, visit Italy? Go for it! Don’t falsely claim your age is your reason for giving up on your dreams.

Finally, Nyad reminded us that she didn’t make this swim alone; she had a wonderful team of people supporting her all along the way. Her team fed her, looked for signs of distress, cleared her path of jellyfish (as well as they could), and I’m sure buoyed her with their hope for her success. Her team made her dream possible, and Nyad gave them all the credit they deserved.

Chuck and me at Union University. Woo hoo!

Chuck and me at Union University. Woo hoo!

Who is your team? Family, friends, co-workers often make the difference in a dream’s fading away or becoming a reality. When I first dreamed of going back to school to work on a Master of Christian Studies degree, it seemed impossible. But I shared my hope with my husband who supported me all the way. My friend and pastor told me about a great program that was perfect for me. My kids and friends gave me the space I needed to study for two and a half years. And my teachers and classmates provided knowledge and emotional support. I was 50-years-old when I finally received my degree, and I know I could never have done it alone.

Today I am 52, and I haven’t stopped dreaming. I’m learning to weave, I’m studying yoga, and my husband and I are planning some new ventures into “backyard” farming. And I know those are just the dreams I have today. I will keep learning and growing and stretching as long as I live.

Diana Nyad’s mantra for this year’s training was, “Find a way,” and I encourage us all to do just that. Do you have a dream? Have you got the will? Then find a way! (And thanks for the encouragement, Diana.)

DEO VOLENTE

Plan C or D or ... ?

Plan C or D or … ?

By Lisa Huddleston

I’m sitting here dressed and ready to go, but I just got the call that my literacy student can’t make it today. So now what? Don’t you hate it when you’re all psyched up for something and then your plans are wrecked? Sometimes I do, but, in this case, NO! Right now I feel free to enjoy this rainy, cozy day. Hallelujah!

Why such relief? Because no matter how many times I teach, I still get nervous about it. Someone is looking to me for answers that I should have (I do have the teacher’s manual after all), but that I’m always worried I won’t. And that’s a lot of pressure for a person who really cares about getting it right.

It’s hard for someone like me to admit that she doesn’t know the answer, and the older I get, the fewer answers I seem to have. It’s unsettling. Years ago, I foolishly believed that as I matured I would grow wise and know more not less. Well … surprise! The reverse seems to be more accurate.

As I ponder this surprising situation, I am glad to recall others who paved my way. A couple of older ladies at a LifeWay conference who made me cry by telling their audience that it only got harder as they aged (“it” being life). Several professors as I studied for my Master of Christian Studies at Union University who frequently reminded us that there were only a few non-negotiable truths to hang on to and that many of the other ideas we called “truth” were negotiable. Writers galore.

And now I find myself in agreement with them. My fifties appear to be the decade for “letting go.” I have let go of my children, and I have been blessed to see all three head out on their own good paths. I have let go of some goals that no longer matter to the older me. I have let go of some relationships as our directions have diverged. And I have let go of some “truths” I once fiercely believed.

I could spend the next few paragraphs listing these discarded beliefs, but that would be silly–who knows when I may drift their way again? I’d rather state a few of those truths that have remained and that I trust I will still believe tomorrow (or this afternoon).

1. GOD IS GOOD. Despite the evil that appears to grow daily in the world, this is a truth I cannot shake. It is embedded in my core–I guess the Holy Spirit put it there–and I am thankful everyday for its foundation.

2. JESUS AS GOD/MAN PAID THE PRICE FOR MY SINS. Grace is real, and for that grace I would give my all (but it’s free!)

3. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER. How I treat other people matters–it matters to them, it matters to me, and it matters to God.

I know there are more, but I have just gained some unexpected free time, and I think I’ll use it to read. There are still so many books and so little time! I’m currently reading Bad Religion by Ross Douthat, and I’m discovering that I’m a perfect example of my baby boomer demographic. What a relief–I’m not alone, and God is still in control of this day, of this girl, and of this world.