God Created YOU

We are launching into a trilogy series called “Chosen.”

Part One: Running to You

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July 8th – “Chosen:  Running to You” God Created You.

July 17th – “Chosen:  Running to You” God chooses us just as we are.

July 24th – “Chosen:  Running to You” God chooses us FOR something.

Part Two: Choosing You

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July 31st – “Chosen:  Choosing You” We choose to follow Jesus.

August 7th – “Chosen:  Choosing You” We choose to step out.

August 14th – “Chosen:  Choosing You” We choose to be restored.

Part Three: Chosen to Act

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August 21st – “Chosen to Act” Chosen to share the Good News.

August 28th – “Chosen to Act” Chosen to bring light.

September 4th – “Chosen to Act” Chosen to love the world.

Psalm 139

The Inescapable God

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15     My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.

19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

This passage is titled “The Inescapable God.”

inəˈskāpəb(ə)l/

adjective

adjective: inescapable

  1. unable to be avoided or denied.
synonyms: unavoidable, inevitable, unpreventable, ineluctable, inexorable;

assured,sure, certain, guaranteed;

necessary, required, compulsory, mandatory;

rareineludible

“meeting the future in-laws is inescapable”

Meeting the future in-laws is definitely inescapable and I’m glad that I have good ones.  God’s love is unavoidable, compulsory, unpreventable….Do you find comfort in this or discomfort?  It sort of depends on how you see God or the nature of God.  If you see God as an all loving, omnipresent (all present), and omnipotent (all knowing) that’s our strength and our shield and a very present help in times of trouble, you are comforted by this Psalm.  You realize that even though God knows all you’ve done and said and the things you’ve hidden away and the deepest recesses of your heart, God loves you anyway.  Jesus scatters your sins from the east to the west and they’re not held against you anymore by grace alone.  Christ is the victor over all evil and injustice in this world and we work with the Holy Spirit to bring God’s kingdom to earth.  If your view of God is a task-master, one that checks off like Santa if you do this naughty thing, or that, or if you simply don’t trust God because what you see God doing in the world seems so unfair, unjust, and unfathomable, then you have an entirely different picture of who God is.  Scriptures abound painting with  all kinds of different strokes about the nature of God, but if you take the full picture, the full painting, you begin to see that God is longing for us to return home.  Just like the father in the familiar prodigal sermon.  God’s longing for us to come home so that God can throw a party just as the father did in the story.

This points to what United Methodists call prevenient grace.  God woos us to God’s self, even before we knew, even before we are aware of it.  God seeks each of us out to have a relationship with God.  God calls us where we are, in all of the mire and muck of sin, and as Jeremiah 18:1-4 says, “18 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.”  God, as the potter, has the power to make all things new.  As Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  God creates each of us and calls us each by name.  God cares about each of us.  God seeks the heart of each of us.  To give us hope and a future.

8th grade was a very difficult year for me.  My dad was a United Methodist pastor so we moved the summer before my eighth grade year.  The exact wrong time to move if you’re a 5 foot 11 ½ inch girl and none of the guys at your school had hit their growth spurt yet.  I grew to this height in seventh grade, but we had been in the Hartsville schools for 7 years, but when we moved to Cheraw I was fresh meat.  My nicknames abounded that year:  giraffe, Olive Oil, stick.  They made fun of me for my long fingers and after a dance where some people had gone through my purse, I went home crying and being oh so dramatic and yelling at the top of my lungs to my parents, “I hate this town and everyone in it!”  I wanted to go “home” to Hartsville.  I felt out of place and wanted my old friends, old church and the familiar status quo.  Have you ever felt like an outsider?  That you didn’t belong?  Like Dorothy did you realize there’s no place like home.  It’s easy for adolescents to feel that way.  To hope that some day they will find a place where they fit.  As a teenager I always searched for this mythical home.  Even writing about it when I was 17 in a poem titled “My “Ganny’s.”

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This place has been my haven, through life’s many storms

A constant place of refuge, where things are close and warm

It’s seen my tears, it’s seen my smiles, and it’s picked me up each time

The one place that has never changed in the journey of my life

When I have felt lost – no real “home” – and confused

Or when I thought my heart was broken and my soul had been stripped bare

I go through life as a little child trying to keep on her disguise

But in these walls my face lights up for this is where my strength and hope lies

Things are brighter, life more precious, feelings really matter

Here I find my true self, amidst the family’s chatter

This place is not a castle, a mansion, or a dream

What makes it great is not itself but the things that are unseen

The simple words full of wisdom, lack of pretense, and genuine love for people and each other

Are the things I admire and respect about my grandfather and grandmother

Although I can’t say I have the pleasure of living here from day to day

This place is my strength and my rock and in my heart it will stay

A place given from God to me, to help me light my way

A place where I can dance and sing, a secret hiding place

Everyone needs a refuge, a place to feel free and loved

There’s always a light, open door, some chocolate cake and a hug

People need a “Ganny’s” to escape our stress-filled world

A home that shows the love and grace of Jesus Christ our Lord

Everyone should have a safe space, where they can simply be.  Simply relax.  Simply to take off the armor we sometimes carry around in our day to day lives.  Whether it is a societal shield or a learned behavior, to protect us from further wounding or to hide our hurt.  Why do we remember only the negative things years later, but we forget the praises in a heartbeat?  Why do we carry around our wounds?  When the great God of the Universe created us and calls us for a purpose.  God created YOU.  God created Me.  With all of our persnicketies and peculiarities.

We have to LET IT GO, as Elsa sings, or as Taylor Swift sings, SHAKE IT OFF.  We have to stop all of the negative tapes in our heads that we’re not good enough, we’re not worthy, we’re not strong enough, we’re not….enough.  Because that’s just Satan trying to keep us silent and feeling bad about ourselves.  Our baggage is the stuff we carry; the stuff we can’t shake.  At times, we carry it so long it becomes a part of us.  We begin repeating it in our heads in our litany of why we can’t do something.  It holds us back.  It holds us down.  It enslaves us, keep us in bondage, preventing us from being who God truly wants us to be.  Who God truly created us to be.  It can either be mistakes we’ve made or things that we’ve been subjected to be others.  Nevertheless, it’s a pain festering inside of us, an open festering wound. It’s time to let go and let God.  That’s where the healing begins.

It’s time to lay them all down at the feet of Jesus and he can play new words on the tape players of our hearts.

You are chosen.

You are beloved.

You are my beautiful creation.

You don’t have to DO anything to have my love.  You don’t have to BE anything to have my love.  I’m your home.  The place you belong is is resting in my love and grace.  You can hang out there forever.

If you’ve been carrying around these wounds, this baggage inside – take a moment and consider freedom from those things.  If you know someone carrying around this baggage, pray for them and that God will give you the courage and the words to ask them to lay their fears, worries, tapes, baggage at the feet of Jesus.

I’m reminded of the words from Paul encouraging Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6-10.  “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear.  God wants to take away our burdens.  God wants to be our refuge.  A very present help in times of trouble.  Don’t let anyone tell you who you are.  Tell them Whose you are and rest in that.  I know what I’m saying is easier said than done.  Some of us hold tight to our woundings like familiar, old security blankets.  Ask God to work on that with you.  God created your inmost thoughts, God knows everything about you, and God desires to give you abundant life in Christ.  Not a half life.

We cannot love our neighbors with God’s agape love until we first love ourselves with God’s agape love.  That sacrificial love that is exemplified as Christ dying for our sins.  So whatever your burdens are….Whatever separates you from feeling the love of God….ask God to reveal it to you….whatever baggage you carry with you….ask God to free you from it in Jesus’ name.  As Mother Teresa says, “When you know how much God is in love with you then you can live your life radiating that love.”  I want us all to radiate the love of God.  I’m praying as it says in Micah that we all seek to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.  Aberjhani, in Journey through the Power of the Rainbow says, “Love is our most unifying and empowering common spiritual denominator. The more we ignore its potential to bring greater balance and deeper meaning to human existence, the more likely we are to continue to define history as one long inglorious record of man’s inhumanity to man.”

I will tell you if you let go and let God in, God doesn’t promise to take the pain away, God doesn’t promise it will be easy, God doesn’t promise you will not be challenged and face all that the world throws at you, but God promises to be with you.  In Psalm 139:18, “I come to the end – I am still with you.”  These are the words of David, but they could express the emotion and commitment of Martin Luther King Jr. as well. The “end” nearly came sooner than later.

The year was 1968. The place: Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis Presley is living at Graceland with his wife Priscilla and newborn daughter Lisa Marie, and is enjoying the Grammy he has just won for his second gospel album, “How Great Thou Art.” In the minds of many, he is “The King.”

Another King comes to town on April 3, 1968. Several death threats have been directed at King, and tension is high, but he feels that it is important to press ahead and speak at a rally on behalf of the sanitation workers. In the course of this address, he tells the story of an earlier attempt on his life, one that brought him perilously close to death. According to Ralph Abernathy, his friend and successor, Martin Luther King stood up that night and just “preached out” his fear.

“You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you drown in your own blood, that’s the end of you.

It came out in The New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. [Some time] after the operation, after my chest had been opened and the blade taken out, they allowed me to move around … and to read the mail that had come in from all over the states and the world. Kind letters had come in. I read a few, but one I will never forget. I had received telegrams from the president and vice president, but I have forgotten what those messages said. I received a visit and a letter from the governor of New York, but I forgot what was said.

But there was another letter that came from a young girl at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I will never forget it. It said simply, “Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.” She said, “While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing to you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I [too] am happy that I didn’t sneeze.”

In his autobiography he wrote, “If I demonstrated unusual calm during the attempt on my life, it was certainly not due to any extraordinary powers that I possess. Rather, it was due to the power of God working through me. Throughout this struggle for racial justice I have constantly asked God to remove all bitterness from my heart and to give me the strength and courage to face any disaster that came my way. This constant prayer life and feeling of dependence on God have given me the feeling that I have divine companionship in the struggle. I know no other way to explain it. It is the fact that in the midst of external tension, God can give an inner peace.”

He died the next day after giving that speech in Memphis.  In the course of his life, Martin Luther King walked through many dangers, toils and snares, but through it all he knew that God was walking with him. He had the very same faith as the writer of Psalm 139, the ancient poet who said to the Lord, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”

After this week of unspeakable tragedy in our nation, “sides” being picked in our offices, homes and especially on social media, and children being afraid to go outside and play in their yards, we can draw comfort from the knowledge that God made each and every one of us, God is with each and every one of us, and God works all things together for God for those who love God.  God was with those who were shot, God was with the people at the rally in Dallas, God is with the ones that are recovering, God is with their families, God is with each of us as we grapple with the who’s, why’s, and how’s, as we explain such events to our children. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

I will close with this prayer that Beth A. Richardson wrote after the awful tragedy and deadly violence in Orlando.

The news is bad.
We are outraged and horrified.
We are shocked and afraid.
We are overwhelmed and numb.
How many more times will we awake to such news?

Some of us sit in front of the television,
Search the internet for stories,
Watch, listen for something
That will help make sense,
That will soothe or comfort,
That will bring order back again.

Some of us can’t bear the words, the images.
The press conferences and scrolling news feeds
Freeze our brains, our hearts, our guts.

Some of us pray.
Some of us escape.
Some of us rage.
Some of us cry.

God, have mercy on our world.
Have mercy on the powerless and the powerful.
Have mercy on the first responders and those in ministry to the brokenhearted.
Have mercy on the victims, their families, their friends.

Sit with us in our terror, our sadness, our hopelessness.
And let us hold the space for others as we
Sit or cry, light candles or pray,
In solidarity, in hope, in love.
Amen.

You are chosen.  God created you in God’s image.  God created all of us in the image of God and freely forgives us no matter the baggage, no matter the doubt, no matter what.  You are loved.  Don’t let anyone or anything wrestle that fact away from you.  You are a beloved child of God, a fearfully and wonderfully made creation.  May we all feel , after this particularly hard week, God’s tangible love for each of us that calls us to a new, higher way, when we will all journey home.

An Open Letter to New College Students

I know that some of you have already started the mass exodus as one by one you and your friends leave for college.  Can you believe it’s here?  I know whether you’ve already started school or not, it carries with it a wide-range of feelings and emotions.  Excitement, apprehension, curiosity, freedom, change, joy, fear, nostalgia, adventure….what will this be like?  My hope is that no matter where you find yourself on the sometimes crazy rollercoaster of university life, you will find a community, and hold tight to it. 

My campus minister used to say, “The only way to live life is in community,” and he exemplified that by how he lived his life.  I know you’ll think I’m biased but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to root yourself in your new adopted home.  Get involved on campus.  Explore.

Enjoy every minute that you can of this new step.  I’m sure you’ve heard the advice “get out of your comfort zone” so many times you want to scream, but I’ll simply say be brave.  Don’t be afraid to take chances.  Don’t be afraid to get your nose out of your cell phone and start a conversation.  During those sometimes awkward or uncomfortable times when you’re not with the people that know your story, the people from back home – take a deep breath and know that it takes time.  Take a risk.  Try churches for a second time or a third time, not only to let your parents know that “you gave it a shot.”  Real community takes time.  It’s not going to be easy. When you share your lives with people it’s messy.  Let your guard down.  Don’t be afraid to show people all of who you are with the cracks and vulnerabilities. 

Find a ministry that’s going to challenge you, nurture you, and love you.

Know that you have people out there that care about you and know you and love you.  Both those that you treasure at home and those that you will meet in the coming days.  Know that you have people to support you throughout this and don’t be afraid to reach out.

Blessings on your journey – may this be a time in your life when you are able to question and search and wrestle, but may it also be a time when you begin to discover the things that make you come alive!  In the midst of academic rigor and residence hall life – may you feel the love and presence of God. 

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Sara Bareilles – Brave – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUQsqBqxoR4

I Want to Go Home

There’s something about that saying, “I want to go home.”  We’ve been at the beach this past week with my fam and the kids had a blast playing in the ocean and the pool and going to the inlet to see Aunt Guyeth and catch crabs and play with Nemo the dog.  It was a great week.  But it’s funny, every time Enoch would get tired or cranky or even not get his way, he would say, “I want to go home.”

Now that didn’t mean that he really wanted to go home.  We would ask him if he wanted to pack everything up and get in the car, and of course he said no.  But there’s something about saying, “I want to go home.”

This past Wednesday parsonage families across the South Carolina Annual Conference moved.  These families are always close to my heart during this time of year because I remember how that was as a preacher’s kid in a parsonage family myself.  I don’t attempt to speak for all preacher’s kids because we all have different experiences and see things differently, but for me “home” was a big concept.

In the early years, my two brothers and I were sent to our grandparents house while Mom and Dad moved everything from one house to another.  They would set up our rooms with the our “stuff” and toys in them and it would feel a little more like home by the time we got there.  In one of these first houses, apparently I wrote my name and our phone number on the mattress in my bedroom in case it got lost.  I didn’t realize that not even the bed came with us and this was a running joke for the family that came after us.

We’ve gone down the road of explaining to people, yep, in our church one family moves out in the morning and another family moves into the parsonage in the afternoon.  For some reason, that’s a hard one for people to get.  It is a little strange.

As we got older we knew that when Mom started playing Steven Curtis Chapman’s “For the Sake of the Call” that we better get ready to move.  The Spring around the Cabinet convening time was always a time of anticipation/nervousness/fear that this would be the year when we moved.  And different families do this so many different ways in terms of how it’s communicated to kids, how the transition is made, how much of your own furniture goes, preparing the child to move, etc.

Now I want say that every move was great.  Or that every transition was smooth.  Or that each of us felt the same way about each place we lived.  There were definitely highs and lows and everything in between at each place.  But however we were taught to understand it, we knew that we were moving and that this wasn’t just something that was Dad’s job – it was his calling and that God would take care of us too.  Does that mean everything was always sunny and rosy?  Nope.  But I think I can speak for Josh and Caleb as well when I say that we wouldn’t be the people we are today if not for all of these experiences.

Even those times when we would say, “I want to go home.”  And that home be a house that now had another family living in it at our old church.  Some clergy couple friends have said that their daughter is having a hard time saying goodbye to her friends and her school and I totally get that.  It’s hard and tough and not fun.  And not all of us cope well.  Not everyone makes new friends easily and wants to leave the old town behind, but I think there are a great many of us that learn some things about ourselves along the way – making new friends, being able to talk to a wide variety of people, seeing different places and different communities and how different churches work, and all sorts of things that are just engrained.

So blessings on those this week in between “homes” and trust that not just home is where the heart is but home is also where you make it and how you create it.  Even if it’s the one picture hung on the wall or that one stuffed animal or everyone being together.  May we know and trust that our home is with God and that it’s not just something we cling to when we’re scared or angry or things aren’t going our way, but is something that is eternal and can’t be taken from us.  May we feel it and may we know it.

Prayer for Moving Preacher’s Kids

Lord Jesus, please bless all of these children moving this week whether they’re toddlers to teenagers.  Give them peace and strength and courage as they move from place to place.  Help the move be an easy one.  Give them the friends that they need and the comforts and hope they need for them to feel at home.  Create a haven and shelter for them in this new place and a community of faith and support to surround them and lift them in this time of transition and uncertainty.  Provide the teachers, youth leaders, people that will give them that word of encouragement and will nurture and help them grow into the people you created them to be.  Give their parents strength and clarity and the rest they need to not only be pastors and leaders but also spouses and parents.  Give them the time and priorities and balance of both church and family and the vision and tenacity to know what needs to happen when.  Help these families find the special things that they need and locate the right box or restaurant or grocery store or park.  Give them not just a physical house, but a real and spiritual home.  Help make their way easier and for them to know and trust in your providence and love for them.  Surround them in your grace and peace that they may be wrapped in your mercies anew each day.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Dismantling a Home

Right now my mom and dad and aunt and uncle are at my grandparent’s in the big metropolis of Greeleyville.  It’s been over a year since my Ganny died and close to a decade since my Gandaddy died and it’s now time to start dismantling some of the home they created.  I don’t really like dismantling used in this context, but in the next couple months as family begins to decide what heirloom or furniture or keepsake goes where, it feels a little like that.

My mom called a little while ago and was asking about some of these pieces and what was going where and although I know that we can’t keep the house exactly like it was forever, there’s a part of me now that can’t imagine it any other way.  So I was laying in my bed, pondering what home means and admittedly crying – call me a sissy – yes I cry at series finales, heck sometimes just regular tv shows – and I realized that I could be laying there all night if I didn’t get up and try to write this out.

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, you move to a lot of different places over the years.  We had amazing church families and we always managed to make parsonages home.  You can do a lot with pictures, lamps, and other odds and ends.  I can’t imagine my life though with out Ganny’s.  I seriously can’t.

The very first Christmas we spent out in Greeleyville, was my first Christmas.  So the story goes, there was no heat and the wind was whistling up through the cracks in the floors and the walls.  Apparently everybody slept in sleeping bags together on the floor and Mom kept looking into the crib in the night to make sure I hadn’t frozen. 

It wasn’t fancy.  It wasn’t all dolled up, but it was family together.  It was love being shared.  To say we spent a inexplicable amount of time there is true.  Whether being dropped off as mom and dad led a youth retreat or when Caleb was born, (Josh and I had chicken pox), we weren’t there just for holidays and milestones but everything in between.  It was our safe place when we were children and always a running joke that if the end of the world came, we knew we had a place to go because no one was going to come looking for anyone in Williamsburg County.  We’ve talked about many a dream we’ve had and no matter what was on the outside whether monsters or wolves, a la our fear of Scar Face from Wilderness Family fame, we were protected in that house.

As I think about us packing things up over the next few months and disbursing things throughout the family, I begin to go over each room in my mind and what I love about it.  Even the most random thing can be so dear. 

Before Gandaddy died, their room was upstairs.  I’ll never forget her closet of bathrobes or the huge basket of makeup she kept in the top drawer of the upstairs bathroom (that took forever to build, much less put a bathtub in.  Still to this day, I’ve never seen someone with that much makeup in one place.  Everything was in tip top clean Ganny shape.  Make up in the top drawer with the lipstick worn down in a way that I can’t even describe but I’ve only seen her do.  Her brush, mirror and comb were in the next drawer.  I’m telling you – neat and orderly – no matter what. 

Ganny liked her cleanliness, even in the midst of Gandaddy’s “hunting lodge.”  We heard a lot about crumbs, putting coasters down and not putting our feet on coffee tables and a whole heck of a lot about germs.  “Dog” germs, “cat” germs, “school” germs.  When Ganny would give us baths as children, she would wash our faces and say that she was cleaning the “dirt beads” around our necks that we had missed.  As a child, I honestly did believe that she could see a dirt necklace right there if I didn’t wash up well enough.

I remember watching Dallas and Dynasty and all the CBS soaps – The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful and her two favorites that are now off the air – As the World Turns and not Guiding Light, but The Guiding Light as she would call it.  I had no idea what most of these things were as a child but I do remember her getting hopped up about Priscilla Presley being on Dallas and her always reminding me that she had listened to As the World Turns and The Guiding Light on the radio with her mother, Nana.

I’m telling you, each room means so much.  I never slept in the twin bed room upstairs, but I’ll always think of that as Josh and Caleb’s room.  And I’ll always know that the lock to that door was broken because me as a 2 or 3 year old accidentally locked myself in and couldn’t figure out how to unlock it.  I barely remember sitting on the other side of the bed (whose bedspread never changed) and my Gandaddy busting the door down and the lock never working right since. 

The double bed room was the room that I slept in growing up til I upgraded to Ganny’s old room when I married Mike.  There was many a night that I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading a book until I finished it.  Ganny never complained or scolded me about that, because a lot of my love of reading had to do with me seeing her read ALL the time.  Seriously, all the time.  I remember the rattly old windows as the wind would blow and thinking oh my goodness, something is going to get me.

I remember Ganny’s upstairs room where, when it was still her room, I didn’t really go into it very often.  It was a little intimidating.  You knew if you moved something or put something out of place, she would definitely notice.  Her crystal jewelry boxes, one with a donkey and one with a swan on them and her perfumes all laid out.  I have no idea why one was a donkey and one a swan.  This may be a little gross, but I’ll also never forget her showing me this stain beside her bedside table where I had thrown up one time as a child and her not saying, well that really is terrible because you messed up my blue carpet, but her saying it matter of factly and almost as if she was proud that it was there because she saw not just the good and clean and nice with us but also the real and sick and wild with us.

When I think about the house and the “things” I might like to have from it, most of them are architectural.  Gandaddy restored this late 1800’s house and there are so many pieces of it that could never be replaced.  The huge fireplace in the middle of the great room, the steps that served as a stage, a boat, a runway, all sorts of things, the wrap around porch where we played for hours on the hammock, the church benches, and the rocking chairs.  All of these things made this house something different.

Some of the stuff I cherish is long gone now.  The “train” of old bus seats that Gandaddy mounted to trailers to cart us around through the woods on a mini tractor seeing “Godwin Land” with Touchdown Teddy and a statue of Mary among other things.  The bus that Gandaddy gutted and added army bunk beds, a tv, chairs, and the most random assortment of odds and ends imaginable – a white clay hand, bowling ball, old telephone.  We played for countless hours in that bus.  These things aren’t there any more and neither is the swing in the grape orchard, but they’re still right there in my mind.

You see, as much as I love that house, and don’t think I don’t, what makes a house a home is the people inside it.  What makes this house special, or at least to me more special than a lot of them, was that Gandaddy and Ganny infused it with their love.  It’s felt in every piece of wood or tile on the island in the kitchen.  Even in all the complaining Ganny did about getting her “new” kitchen.  Have mercy!  It’s felt in every one of Ganny’s sometimes prissy decor choices – liked the fringed curtains in the great room.  This house is not just any house, but love seeps out.  I’ll never forget at the visitation for my grandfather Ganny telling people, that these grandchildren weren’t just the apple of their Gandaddy’s eyes, they were his very eye balls.  (I know that sounds sort of strange but that’s how Ganny was and how she said it.)

So I don’t know who will get what.  And I don’t know what I will do when we start moving things out.  There’s a part of me that wants to just remember it as it was and not step a toenail back.  I can’t imagine seeing some of those rooms empty and I’m glad that Dad is taking pictures now for us to remember and I’m thankful for Lindsay’s pictures of the cotton that she gave us at Christmas and the pictures Karen and Guyeth took of the family all together.  There’s a part of me that knows that the love in that house, is just a piece or a glimmer of the home that awaits, where we’ll all be gathered just as crazy and off kilter as ever.  Both the wonderful Godwin-Burch-Moore clan and the equally as memorable and hilarious McClendon-Jackson clan.  I keep thinking of the line in Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “We are not home yet.”  That great cloud of witnesses may have grown over the past years, but they’re all here in our midst!

We may not be home yet, but I think we can help create a little bit of home everywhere we go.  If we open our hearts and our homes to those around us offering, sharing, giving, than we will experience God in more ways than we can count.  That’s part of what made their home, home.  You never knew who would stop by, from former students (both public educators) to the amazing folks of Greeleyville UMC to family whether blood or bond.  You knew there would be hospitality and almost all the time laughter and stories.  You see, their legacy was not just this house or this furniture or this land, but their’s was all the people they loved and all the lives they touched.

I hope that whether we have the physical Ganny’s as true north anymore or not, that we share our homes, that we treasure our times with our loved ones, and that we pick up and carry forth the legacy.

I’m finally starting to wind down to fall asleep.  Wohoo!  But I leave you with these questions – where is home for you?  What does home mean to you?  What makes you feel at home?  How do we share that with others?

This song always makes me think of all of the granparents and wise elders we have lost – including my beloved and always candid and cracked McClendon family.  I am grateful for the tremendous legacy left to each of us on both sides of the family.

I’ve always enjoyed this song.  Even though it’s more romantic in nature, you can get the sense or “feeling” of the enveloping love in it.