But I Was Right!

I have an internal moral compass. I really do. At the same time, regular church attendance helps me keep it pointed north. Without the lessons I pick up and the fellowship I enjoy with my ward family, I’d probably be more inclined to lie, steal, cheat, and so forth.

Yesterday, I was reminded of the power of forgiveness, the layers of meaning in the parables of Christ, and the importance of making one’s home a place of order, refuge, protection, and holiness. Nothing I heard was new, but all I heard was shared in such a way that it pierced my heart and renewed my resolve to be a better person.

In the first service of the day, a speaker told a powerful story that illustrated love, peace, and forgiveness. A person had committed a transgression of a serious nature, and his bishop counseled him on the wrongdoing. Lest there be some doubt, the sin was a serious one. After the “talk,” the person who had received the counsel was offended, and so was his family, so upset and hurt that they didn’t feel they could return to church.

Here’s what happened. The bishop’s leader talked with him about the matter and indicated that an apology to the man and his family was in order.

“But I was right,” the bishop insisted. “What he was doing was wrong and needed to stop.”

His leader again encouraged him to apologize. “Someone was hurt. See if you can handle the situation with more love.”

The bishop did as he was advised, and the hearts of the man and his entire family were softened, and yes, the behavior changed for the better. The man, a sinner like me and like you, responded to compassion and understanding in a positive manner. He, like all of us, had responded to condemnation and blame with hurt and anger.

Yesterday’s speaker went on to add that this situation had applications for all of us. It doesn’t matter who’s right and who’s wrong. If you’ve offended someone by your words or actions, apologize. Failure to do so could lead to family, both church and kin, rifts that can never be repaired. Bitterness will ensue.

In Sunday school, the teacher helped her listeners better understand the deeper meanings of several parables. In a graduate class entitled The Principles of College Teaching, I learned that there are several types of teachers. Actually, I already knew that, but what I didn’t know was that even in this nuts and bolts methodology course, Christ was perceived to be the master teacher. Asking, demonstrating, and telling stories, He’s the teacher to emulate.

In the final meeting of the day, the teacher shared ideas about making homes places of order, refuge, protection, and holiness. I was already familiar with everything she said, and yet there was something about the spirit in the room that caused me to sit up and take notice. All throughout her lesson, I kept looking at a collection of children’s building blocks that she had on the table. What was their purpose? 

Anne, the teacher, built a wall with the blocks, an object lesson that literally rocked my world. I told my husband about it last night, and something in the story prompted him to wash the dishes! I shared it with my daughter Elizabeth, and even she, a teacher, was impressed. I’m going to buy some wooden blocks and carry out he activity with my grandchildren soon. It was that good!

Everyone needs gentle reminders of how to live better, happier, more peaceful lives. And while you don’t have to be a church goer to hear those reminders, I most definitely do!

Want to share something you’ve recently learned that can improve the quality of your relationships?

Places and Things

Was it last week’s book club meeting that resurrected my thoughts about connections? Or was it the books I’ve been reading lately? Or maybe it was seeing a picture of my great grandmother and imagining that her eyes were looking right at me, right towards the future. Whatever it was, I’ve been thinking/feeling the connections, though sometimes fragile, of the ties that bind.

A few months ago, one of my sisters-in-law purchased a beautiful new dining room table and chairs and was in a quandary about what to do with the old one. She loved it and had enjoyed many fun times around it, and yet her needs had changed. No longer needing a table for basic family needs of the everyday variety, she now needed a more spacious table to accommodate her growing family of in-laws and grandchildren.

“Would any of your children be interested?” she asked.

After checking with the three of them, it was determined that Carrie and Rich would most benefit from the gift. The tiny table they were using had been perfect several years ago when there was were only two youngsters in their household, a toddler and an infant. Now they have four children who can sit in chairs and one who will soon be sitting in a high chair. A round oak table with a pedestal base and six chairs (two more to be added as needed) would be perfect.

My sweet, talented husband spent two or three hours a day for several days sanding and refinishing the table. I gave Carrie status reports every other day or so, and she seemed to be especially eager to see it. I send her a picture over my phone, and then she really got excited! While I could well understand the anticipation of such a nice piece of furniture, I sensed a little something else in her excitement, sort of an anxious thrill. I had to ask her about it.

Here’s what she said. “It’s because it makes me think of Granny.”

“But it was Lisa’s table, not Granny’s,” I reminded her.

“Yes, but Granny and Granddaddy were there a lot. I know because I have pictures of them sitting at the table,” she replied. “Plus, we went there for a lot of holiday get-togethers, especially at Christmas, and I think it’s going to be just so neat to have the table we sat around in my house. It’s going to be like having my family with me.”

Interestingly, that same week I read Great House by Nicole Krauss, a novel that spans generations and continents as it describes four “constellations” of people and their connections. Right smack in the center of all but one of the stories is a huge desk that somehow found its way to America and was in the possession of young Daniel Varsky until he left New York City. At that time, he left the magnificent desk with a young novelist for safe keeping, and over the next couple of decades, she (Nadia) became quite attached to the piece of furniture, so attached that she actually went to Israel to reclaim it.

When the book ends, the huge desk is sitting in a warehouse in New York, and a man named Weisz has paid someone $1,000 just to sit in front of it for an hour. The desk had once belonged to his father, a Jew who was forced to leave Budapest decades earlier. I haven’t done justice to this marvelous book. My purpose was to bring up the desk itself and show how things can become so meaningful to us. Possessions belonging to people of our past can help give meaning and comfort to our present.

In last week’s book club meeting, we discussed Sarah’s Key, a novel about some of the people who were among the 13,000 rounded up by the French police force and detained in Vélodrome d’Hiver to await transportation to Auschwitz. The time was July, 1942, and the historical events are true. The novel goes back and forth from 1942 to 2002 as the author tells Sarah’s story and then Julia’s. Julia’s little family is renovating her husband’s family home, and because of a journalistic assignment, she stumbles upon some intriguing information about the history of the house. Did I say intriguing? I meant unsettling, almost horrifying.

When interviewed, the author of the book, Titiana de Rosnay, said that she’d always been fascinated by houses and the secrets they hold. When we discussed the novel, my friend Tilara mentioned that she can still feel the presence of some little children who used to live in her house. She and her family moved in about three months ago, and sometimes she imagines the children scampering up and down the stairs.

This is kind of a lengthy post for me, and it might seem a little jumbled up. It’s just that I know how Tilara feels…and how Julia of the novel felt. Some places seem to have energy and light while others seem to emit negativity and a sense of foreboding. Why? Is it because of the people who lived there?

And back to the furniture, it can link us to the past and the people we loved. At the same time, I’ve been in antique stores and felt some negative “stuff” emanating from some beautiful pieces. Was there friction, contention, heartache, or pain attached to its owner?

So tell me what you think. Are there places that make your heart sing and others that make you feel sad or disturbed in some way? Are there pieces of furniture or other possessions that can also evoke feelings from you?  I’m glad to report that Carrie and her family are loving the table and chairs, and it makes me happy to think of how much this would please her grandparents.

Joann’s View

If you’re open to life and all it has to offer, all sorts of invitations, views, and people will come into your life…even mountain top home tours.

When I woke up this morning, the room was still dark. Even so, I could quickly visualize the tree right outside the bedroom window and the sloping front yard with its dogwoods and crepe myrtles. When my new friend Joann (not her real name) who lives in the mountains surrounding Lake Lure wakes up in the morning, she opens her eyes to one of the most majestic views I’ve ever seen in my entire life. To say it’s awesome is doing her “yard” an injustice. Her house is built on stilts, and she has no yard as such outside of her bedroom, just mountains and a splendid view of Lake Lure.

Meeting Joann was just one of the many delightful events of the weekend, but I’m starting with her because our meeting seemed so serendipitous. Yet, was it really? My sister-in-law Karen and her husband had been staying at Rumbling Bald Resort in the Fairfield Mountains, and Karen had become part of a walking group that met at 7:30 each morning and walked for an hour. The walk had a tour guide who led them on a different walk each day, complete with tidbits of interesting information about the area. I joined them Friday morning, and it was both invigorating and educational.

While we were traipsing all over the Rumbling Bald property, I became better acquainted with the early morning crew.  They were all from other places in the United States whose paths had converged at Rumbling Bald, and I enjoyed hearing their life stories and the circumstances that led them to the mountains of NC.  As we talked, Joann pointed up one of the mountains and said that her house was up there somewhere and that she had the same view of the lake that we were currently seeing, only better. “Yeah, right,” I thought. She invited Karen and me to come  visit her and even said that if she happened to be out, she’d leave the door unlocked. We didn’t really take her invitation seriously until she proffered it once again at parting.

The menfolk were playing golf all afternoon, so Karen and I decided “what the heck” and went up the mountain, around and around and around, until we reached Joanne’s home. It was gorgeous. It looked like one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs and seemed to fit right into the surroundings, partly because of the design and partly because of the materials. I’ve seen my share of lovely homes, but few have had the structure and the surroundings so beautifully matched.  Even the façade of the structure was partially stone, and the pillars looked like slim tree trunks. The inside floors were slate and wood, and pathways around the house were of skillfully laid stones.

Joann invited us in and took us on a tour. She allowed, even encouraged, us to take pictures, and so we did. She even asked us to “sit a spell” on her back porch, and we obliged her in that as well. While there, we discussed God and how He had led her to this perfect place. It was like a gift and one that she well appreciated. We also talked about decorating, children, careers, gardening, and the importance of friends. When we bid Joann adieu, Karen and I both felt that our mini-vacation had definitely been enriched by meeting such a fun, warm, hospitable, ditzy (her self-description) person. When we parted, the three of us expressed the hope that perhaps our paths would cross again.

After leaving Joann’s mountain top home, Karen and I went to Bat Cave and Chimney Rock where we spent a couple of wonderful hours. After eating a creekside lunch, we went back to Lake Lure for a boat tour, and as we were waiting for the tour to begin, we watched a wedding take place on the grounds. Nice. The boat tour was fantastic, and I have tons of stuff to share about that later. I mean, really, why does someone need a 7 and ½ million dollar home????? Boat tour complete, we joined the guys for dinner and a street dance. Fun.

That’s just Friday…and only bits and pieces of it. Later I’ll write a little about Saturday and our trek up to Chimney Rock.  The entire area is beautiful, and I’m wondering if anyone else has some tales to tell about your experiences there.

Sunshine and Shadow

There’ll always be elements of sunshine and shadow in our lives, and it’s our perceptions of each that make us happy or miserable.

This morning while walking a few miles at Scott Park, I was again struck with the contrast of sunshine and shadow, just like our lives. Even when you’re walking in the light, there are some things going on that you could notice and complain about. Some people do, loudly and frequently. “It’s hot as heck,” they say, “and my eyes hurt.”  Then you’re in the shadow. It’s good too, but sometimes you’re so busy feeling sorry for yourself that you don’t notice the slight temperature change or the slight breeze that cools your skin.   

Have you got anything good going on right now? Can you walk? Can you see? Did you sleep in a bed last night instead of on the street somewhere? Will you have lunch later today? Sunday morning before going to church, I spent some time watering my plants and flowers. I was lamenting the fact that I’d spent a small fortune on them, and despite my frequent attention, many were dying. Plus, it was almost unbearably hot, and I just wanted to get it over with and scoot inside to the air conditioned comfort. I was also thinking about a lesson I had to teach in a couple of hours, one that I felt a little anxious about. Although I’d spent hours reading and preparing, I still felt inadequate to adequately cover the topic.

Did you see a few good things going on in the above paragraph? There were several. I have an air conditioned home that has some pretty flowers and plants around it. I have running water that enables me to stand and water the petunias and ferns.  I don’t have to go to a well to get it. I have eyes to see not only my yard but all of Mother Nature’s handiwork. I have the opportunity to worship at a church of my choice…and to teach. I don’t live in a country where women’s voices are stifled. Here’s what happened to wake me up from my pouty, self-centeredness. I looked up. That’s it. I looked up and saw the treetops gently moving with the breeze, and beyond them was the bluest sky I’d seen lately…or at least that I’d taken note of. I gulped at the magnificence of the sight and wondered how many just like it I’d missed because I’d been too busy grumbling or looking down.

Hours later and several degrees hotter, I remind myself that I live in the American South, the land of magnolia trees, grits, and beautiful beaches. Hmmm. Makes me want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird.

John Marlon

He was a handsome devil, my dad.  Smart too. His granddaughter Elizabeth has often said, “Mama, Granny and Granddaddy looked like movie stars when they were young!” Maybe I’m a little biased, but I always agreed with her. While disillusionment, disappointment, and disease (not to mention Father Time) robbed him of “some” of his handsomeness, they didn’t take away his bearing, his essence. We all loved him and yearned for his approval. I think we were a little awed by him, and a steely look could bring us back in line on the double!

It’s impossible to sum up a person’s character and influence in a couple of paragraphs, so I’ll just share a few of my “Daddy thoughts” this afternoon. A quiet person, he could turn on the charm when he wanted to. Most of the time, however, he stayed in the background while my mother gadded about the house, the neighborhood, the church, the community. She was the social butterfly; he was the observer. While our mother was actively involved in all of our lives (four kids and the grandchildren), he always seemed to have the finger on the pulse. Observing from the sidelines, he knew our quirks, dispositions, and strengths, and yes, weaknesses too. (Sure wish he’d told me that he thought I was as smart as Ann before I was nearly 50! It could  have salvaged my damaged psyche.) This ability to read and understand the ones he loved pertained to his grandchildren too.

My father was a hard worker. I didn’t learn the value of working hard from hearing him talk about it. I learned from watching him. (My mother wasn’t a slacker either, but this is about him.) They both sacrificed time, money, and lots of material goodies they could have had if they hadn’t been so intent on providing shelter, clothing, and education for the four of us. And did they complain? Never! My brother Mike and I often speak of how they never ever even hinted that they minded the numerous sacrifices they made for our sakes.

I visited my parents’ graves after church today, and when I looked at his birth and death dates, I realized that he was one month shy of his 19th birthday when I was born. I stood staring at this grave stone in the hot sun and let that fact sink in. David, his fourth child,was born seven years later when Daddy was a week from 26! How did they do it? And what has happened to the sacred role of fatherhood in today’s society? I won’t go there today. I’ll just say how glad I am that John Padgett was my father, a man who took his parenting responsibilities seriously.  His children still miss him dearly.

Yellow Beach Umbrellas

While home might be one definition of heaven (according to Emily Dickinson), it’s a great big beautiful world out there that you can’t fully experience from behind the blinds.

Emily Dickinson reportedly said that home was her definition of heaven. I love my home, and at times it can feel downright heavenly. Still, going out where life is teeming all around you brings you a different and broader perspective than peeping out through the blinds. This past weekend was filled to the max with people, sights, and sounds that we wouldn’t have experienced had we just hung around home sweet home.

Here are a few of our (my) sights and impressions:

  • A beautiful wedding. We got to see a young couple vow love and devotion to each other and later watch  Hannah dancing with her Aunt Jenny at the reception. Sweet. We also chatted with old friends and sampled some of the yummiest shrimp and grits I’ve ever tasted.
  • Driving to the beach together and going the back way through Wisacky, Lynchburg, and Hanna. At one time, that was the only way to travel to the coast, and so our cruise down the back roads brought back a lot of memories. Quick one: When Carrie was an infant, we were on our way home for Christmas and got stopped in Olanta by a Christmas parade. I LOVED that. The stoplight in beautiful downtown Olanta conjured up that decades-old memory Saturday morning.
  • Tons of beach scenes including a mother using molds to make a starfish, an octopus, and other sea creatures from sand. Then there was a family of five slowly making their way down the beach whose father finally turned to the little girl who was holding up the gang and said, “Come on, little Sea Snail. You’re taking too long.”  Another memory was seeing a woman attempt to wash her hair in a sink in one of the restrooms at the state park. She said she thought there’d be showers, but since there weren’t, she was making the best of it. “It’s all good,” she said.  Loved that. Some people would have been grumbling and making life miserable for everyone else.
  • Cicadas chirping so loudly that I couldn’t hear the ocean for a brief stretch. Can you imagine what a loud symphony that was? It was deafening, yet cool. I felt the wind so fiercely that I literally had to lean forward as I trudged along. I felt the sun so strongly that even with my eyes closed, my retinas saw red (if that makes sense). I saw a long line of yellow umbrellas, millions of sea shells, and a woman flying a kite. I also read much of a novel and will always associate Juliet and the Guernsey folks with this weekend’s sights and sounds.

We also went to a movie (Robin Hood), shopped a bit, dined out a couple of times, and chilled. Some of the shopping took place at a couple of flea markets that we visited with Ann and Allen, and I’m loving the little Dora and Diego game that I bought for my grandchildren to play when they visit the coast. Ann and I bought books.

The woman in the restroom was right. “It’s all good.” It’s so much easier to see all the things you don’t have (like no showers), but life is more enjoyable for all concerned when you take note of what you do have…but sometimes you need to get out of the house to do that.

Mama’s Favorite(s)

Without mothers, the world as we know it would cease.  There wouldn’t be any people…or animals either for that matter. If you’re here, someone went through some pain and discomfort to deliver you here.  If you’re really fortunate, you had a mother similar to mine…someone to love and nurture you, someone to make sure you ate plenty of veggies, someone to make sure you learned your manners.

Naturally many of my thoughts have been of my own sweet mama. I could wax poetic about how beautiful, witty, accomplished, and loving she was, and it’d all be true. What I’m thinking about today, however, is that she gave each of her children the most important thing a mother can give to a child: the feeling that all were deeply loved and cherished.

Yes, I know that David thinks he was always the favorite, but I know otherwise. I was her favorite, Yes, I must have been. After all, I was the oldest, her firstborn, the baby that she first saw and fell in love with at the young age of 19. I was barely over six pounds, but cute, very cute. I loved reading what she wrote about me in my baby book. She had started writing the new words I’d come up with each day, and then one day she wrote, “Jane says so many new words that I can’t write them all.” Gotta love that!

When I was 2, my brother Mike came along, a darling little red-cheeked boy who was always into some sort of mischief.  We were partners in crime and loved playing outside in the mud and trees and forts (that we built).  Hmmm. Now that I think of it. Maybe he was her favorite. After all, he was (still is) a lot more fun that I am. I’m constantly surprised and amused by the things he says. He loves to tell jokes, something that he and my mother had in common.

When I was 4, my sister Ann was born. She was the BEST baby and child of all three (and later four) of us. Smart and well-behaved, she said she learned to be good from watching the consequences of our disobedient behavior. Hold on. Now I see clearly that Ann was my mother’s favorite. And why not?  She was so good that she only got one spanking in her entire life and that was for “borrowing” a bicycle that my friend Jeanita had parked in the yard. Ah yes, now I see more clearly. Ann must have been my mother’s favorite child.

When I was 7, Prince David arrived. He was an adorable child…so cute. One of my favorite photos is of him propped up on the couch leaning into the side of it to keep from falling over. He looked like a chubby baby doll. While the rest of us were in school, he got to pal around with Mama, and they became  best buds. Once when a friend of my mother’s asked him what he’d been up to, little David Brian said, “Mama’s been dwaggin’ me around everywhere.” Hilarious, huh?  My mother must’ve thought so because she repeated the story often. Adorable little David. Maybe he was her favorite after all.

But no, the truth is that we were all her favorite children. While I’m positive that we exasperated, disappointed, annoyed, and exhausted her at times, she loved us unconditionally.  And when the grandchildren came along, she loved them too. Her oldest and youngest granddaughters were with her when she died, and I like thinking that she knew it and that it pleased her.

Of all the sweet things my mother ever said to me, here’s the best, something she wrote in a Mother’s Day card 12 or 13 years ago: “Carrie, Elizabeth, and Paul are blessed to have you as their mother.” Thanks Mama. I needed that. And thanks (from your favorite child) for the love, guidance, and wonderful example. I miss you!