Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chapter 1 - The First Nine Years

You can see it in pictures when I was smallB a wispy-haired blond with pale blue eyes always looking off to the side as if listening for angels.  Oh, I wouldn=t have said so thenB just that perhaps it was the alone-ness that made me different.  For my first nine years we lived in the country, no other children close by, so I played mostly by myself with my dolls, building imaginary houses, making up tuneless songs with simple, rhyme-less words.  My childhood was otherwise as Anormal@ as anyone=s, or at least I thought so then.  My asthma kept me from being as active as some, but it was all I knew, so I didn=t mind. 
Daddy was my first Prince Charming. Stunningly handsome even now in his nineties, back then with his thick mane of black hair and dashing moustache he was aptly nicknamed AClark Gable.@  Tall and slender, too, he truly looked the part, especially when he donned his gray felt Homburg hat. It was post-World War II, and we were far from wealthy, but we had a home full of love, and my father provided for his family admirably by being a traveling salesman. I mostly respected (and probably a little bit feared) my father from afar, because he was so often absent-- and when he came home, the administrator of discipline!  I never doubted my father=s love for me, yet I constantly found myself seeking his approval.  I associate him with three things in my youth: ham radio, a new Buick company car every two years, and taking the family to church every Sunday.  
 I remember hearing about the church orchestra Daddy played in and directed before World War II took him off to the Civil Air Patrol, and some of my most vivid childhood memories take me back to adult choir rehearsal on Thursday nights. On Sunday mornings I would sit with an adult friend while Mama played the beautiful old pipe organ  and Daddy waved his arms in the choir loft above me, the two of them creating ethereal music for God’s ears. The Christmas cantatas they led still play in the soundtrack of my memory , as fresh as the pungence of the pine boughs we gathered on my grandfather’s farm to decorate the church the Saturday before Christmas.  I loved helping arrange the lights and red bows that adorned the stained-glass windows.
          My mother was my constant companion and caretaker, and as soon as I went to school so did she, as a school secretary and later a teacher. Mama got me up every morning and took me to school where she worked.  After the bell rang at the end of the day, I would join her in the office until her day ended.  Then we=d proceed home, sometimes stopping at the A&P for groceries.  I was her little helper-- whether it was putting Ablueing@ in the old wringer washing machine, running sheets and pillowcases through the Amangle@ or fixing us dinner on the big electric stove--until she tucked me in at night.
Today she would have been called a Asuper-mom,@ a liberated woman for the 1950s, because she did it all, from running the household day in and day out to driving her own column-shift Nash Rambler to work every day!  I=m sure I didn=t appreciate all she accomplished, because to me it was an embarrassment that my clothes, beautiful as they were, were homemade, as were our curtains and slipcovers and my dolls= clothes.  On top of all this, she helped look after her own parents and sisters, and kept my father and teen-aged brother happy.  And somehow she also  managed to entertain several of my cousins and an occasional neighbor=s child, once in a while taking  us all to Youth Fellowship or Vacation Bible School.
The other male in my life was my brother Charles, who was ten years old when I was born.  As with my father, then, I always admired him from afar, and he probably has no idea to this day how involved in his life I was.  Rather than being either my best friend or my arch-enemy, as often happens with siblings closer in age, my brother became my idol.  There=s an old black-and-white photograph (which Charles probably developed in his darkroom in our upstairs) that brings back such fond memories with me in my child=s rocking chair sitting beside my brother talking on his ham radio. 
When I was small, I had a vicarious adolescence through Charles.  I remember the excitement when he began to drive and polish his Acool@ cars in our driveway, and I had terrible crushes on his friends who came to our house. The music in our home didn=t fail to influence him.  I can still hear the haunting notes coming from his gleaming brass trumpet, the sound as graceful as the curves of the instrument.  Whether he was playing at church or in the high school marching band I must have beamed like the light flashing off the trumpet, I was so proud of my big brother!
I suppose I will never know which was the greater influence on my later yearsB the music that filled so much of my young life or the six years of piano lessons I was forced to take as a child.  Whatever the cause, I don=t remember a time when my head was not filled with music nearly every waking minute (and many sleeping minutes!).  Yet I do not consider myself an accomplished musician by any stretch of the imagination.  I can read notes on a page, yet if I ever knew much theory, most of it is lost to me now.  I have no gift for creating musical combinations or even playing an instrument.  My gift is an ear for harmony, and for the harmony of words.  Perhaps more than anything it was all those early years of going to choir practice with my parents.  Certainly, singing in choirs and musical groups has been my passion since my youth, and I have been privileged to sing with many excellent choirs under several gifted directors.  For all of these blessings of music God placed in my life, I shall never be able to express my gratitude, but most of all to my parents I wish to extend my deepest thanks.
“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.” (Psalm 71:17)

READ: Proverbs 31:30, Proverbs 22:6
PONDER THIS: Take as much time as you need to think and write about your important familial relationships, the people you grew up around, and those that are important to you now. Try to see threads that have come together to make you the person you are today.


Monday, March 4, 2013

A Hole in My Heart - Introduction

Dear Reader,

     This book is dedicated to my family, which as all families do, has changed over the years and is ever-changing still.  No one ever drops outB once you=re there, you=re always there.  Of course my parents, husband, son, brother, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles are there. And a host of friends who are as close as relatives. But so are you, if I=ve ever met you, or even just sat beside you on an airplane, passed you on the sidewalk, read one of your books or listened to your song.  And even if we=ve never met, or never do, I consider you family, and I wish I could look every one of you in the eye and tell you this one thing. But then, I=m only human, so this the only way I know how to let you know, if you happen to be on the other side of the world.  Here it is, this one thing I know:


“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” –John 3:16 (KJV)

          This is my story, but it’s not really intended to be about me. I write it only to help you write your own story, even though yours will not be the same as mine.  Each chapter concludes with a Scripture and a journal question. Please read the Scripture selections prayerfully before taking all the time you need to answer the questions.  I recommend that you try to complete only one chapter per day, as it is my hope that each one will evoke healing thoughts about your own life.
          Also, please be assured that each one who reads these words has already been lifted up in prayer for at least as much healing as I have received during this process. You must remember, too, that not one of us is ever finished learning and growing as long as we breathe. My journey is certainly not over with this book, but hopefully at its conclusion both of us can say we have made great strides along the way,
     Finally, forever and always, TO GOD BE THE GLORY!


     I used to think I was somewhere between Adifferent@ and Ajust plain weird.@  I never felt like I really fit in or belonged-- anywhere except sitting in the golden light in the field of dried grass behind our house, or in the soft, fragrant embrace of the pine forest across the road from the lake cottage.  Now I know that makes me just like everybody elseB touched with more grace and mercy than I deserve.
I once believed that I could see things more clearly, feel things more deeply than others.  Even as a child I shed tears over a beautiful sunset or the salty taste of the ocean on my lips.  I knew without a shadow of a doubt God was speaking to me through the elements of His awesome creation. I somehow sensed these were miraculous evidences of His love for us all, just hints of His greatest miracle of eternal life.  In my child-like way I felt that absolutely nothing was Acoincidence,@ but rather all part of an exquisite, perfect plan. 
     Now, of course, I=ve come to realize that this awareness is there for us all, if we just open our eyes.  I=ve also come to understand that I can=t MAKE you see any more than someone else could make me see when I was blinded.  Blinded by the world, my own fleshly desires.  It is, after all, a gift from God, eventually given to all who SEEKB that is the key.
     My deepest longing, now that I have discovered the key, is to share it with EVERYONEB that=s why I=m writing, I suppose.  If I could, I would open your head and your heart and just pour it in, this knowing, but that=s not how it works.  You have to do it for yourself.  Perhaps, though, by reading my story, you might at least want to open the door, look in the mirror, begin to open your eyes, too.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1)
READ:  John 1:16
PONDER THIS: Today, try to see God’s grace and mercy wherever you go—in a butterfly, a sunset, a green light when you’re in a hurry, a stranger’s smile. Record your observation, and more importantly, what you felt.

Spring Forward

      In just a few days we'll be moving our clocks ahead, as days are growing noticeably longer and trees are beginning to bud. Some of us have the sniffles from that annoying pollen that is required to produce the beautiful rainforest we North Carolinians inhabit. Daffodils are already brightening the dull landscape of winter with their sunny yellow faces. Many folks are looking ahead to summer vacation.
     I confess to you here and now I am forcing myself to press forward on a project that has been heavy on my heart for several years. I have begun it, put it down, picked it up, put it down I don't even know how many times over the past six years, at least. Steadily, however, it has progressed toward what I feel is completion, until at last I believe I am ready to share it with at least my little part of the world.
     I must thank my writer friend and mentor, Judy Colbert, for giving me the idea to share it in this space. Judy, I believe you were the mouth of God "whispering" in my ear through your encouraging e-mail. I will be happy to report to you this week I've taken my first step in publishing the book He has laid on my heart.
     I won't promise how frequently a chapter will appear, although I often claim to be "a completion person" -- once a project is begun I usually am eager to finish it (with the obvious exception of this one!). I also (with a wee bit of trepidation!) invite you to share with friends, AND to comment either on the blog or e-mail me with constructive criticism, either positive or negative. In other words, you are my "test group" or "reading group" and I WELCOME your comments. I truly wrote every word of this with the purpose of helping someone else, not for the joy of talking about myself. 
     Almost from the beginning I saw this as a sort of guided journaling exercise, with my story serving to stimulate introspection in the reader, and so I suggest you read with pen and paper (even better, a notebook!) at hand. You'll also need a Bible. At best, I hope to encourage growth and perhaps even avoidance of some of the pits I fell into. At the very least, I want you, the reader, to be encouraged about your walk of faith, to understand that a loving God has been with you every step of the way. But now I'm jumping into my introduction, so I will simply say, let us begin our journey together as I share with you A Hole in My Heart.

THANK YOU for traveling with me!

     "Who are my mother and my brothers?" He asked. Then He looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."       (Mark 3:33-34, NIV)

     "Keep in loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. "     (Hebrews 13:1-2 NIV)

     "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble."     (1 Peter 3:8, NIV)