Tuesday, November 24, 2015

If Teacups Were Women, A Thanksgiving Post

I have a collection of teacups in my dining room that's spilled over into my kitchen, and even into a bedroom, or two. They make me happy. Not in the kind of happiness like holding a baby for the first time, or hearing someone say, "I love you," but that homey kind of settled happy.

I've been collecting teacups for many years, and not just any cup, it must speak to me.

There were a few cups sitting on the bar waiting for a new home. I noticed how they'd been well used. I walked into my dining room and took a quick tour of the cups sitting on the buffet. They sit there every day as I casually walk past them but today was different. Most of these cups are rarely used...beautiful to look at, dainty, gold trimmed, fine porcelain cups.

Today, as I looked at my cups I was reminded of how cups are like women.

You know the one in your group of friends on Facebook who posts everything about her perfect life and you slither to the floor as you recall your not-so-perfect life. Your voice goes silent as the girls chatter on about their perfect marriages and their perfect children with their perfect grades. She has the gorgeous face, clothes, and body to go with her life and you bleed with envy. That perfect cup has never been used. It's probably not been through the fire yet, or maybe she's just good at hiding her flaws.

Then there's the hardworking girl that everyone likes. She's not ashamed of who she is. She's beautiful in her own way, yet smart and simple at the same time, a girl next door kind of quality. Her beauty comes from the fact that she knows she has a purpose. She's tough and she knows how to roll with life's harshness. I like this girl and her cup. I have several Transferware cups that are sturdy and dependable. They have character about them if you look closely enough at the detail. Most people don't take time to look past the simplicity of this girl. But trust me, she's worth a second look. This cup can take the heat of the dishwasher and come out beautiful every time.

And then there's the last cup I noticed in my collection. This one is beautiful and fragile. She's been through the fire and survived. Chips and cracks reveal the years of use to her frame, yet she can still serve her purpose. She was created to hold hot liquid, to be held in the hands of another. Her flowers, though faded, still bear the mark of her creator. If she could talk, I wonder what stories of love and loss she would tell. She might tell of tea parties and love stories, of little girls and weddings, and late night worries of sick babies.

I often think on these things as I'm drinking from antique cups of generations of women no longer with us. What stories would my Ma Bailey or my mother share with me if they were alive? I can only see them in my dreams where they live, and as I remember them.

Which cup are you? Have you been through the fire? You may be fragile as the last cup, but don't give up. You've come through the fire and you have purpose. You're strong and beautiful and if my cup could talk she'd tell you the same.

I've been through the fire, and so have many of you. There is One who is faithful to go through the fire with me, and you. I like to think I come from sturdy stock, but sometimes I'm so fragile the only thing holding me together are the flowers on the side of the cup. It's during those times my Savior is the one who gently picks up the cup and says, "This one's mine, I'll hold her today."

This Thanksgiving, 2015, I'm most thankful for Jesus, the Shepherd, who cares for me tenderly and loves me with an everlasting love.

He'd love to add you to His collection. I can promise He'll handle with care and your cup will always be full and running over...if you allow Him to fill it.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 12, 2015

When You Find Your Wings

Do you know anyone who didn't figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up till they were way past grown up? That would be me.

If you asked me that question when I was a little girl I would've said, " a mommy." I kept a doll in my arms until I was embarrassed for anyone to see me playing with them, and I can't even tell you how many times I ducked out of worship to hold real babies in the nursery at my church.

As I got older, my mom's dream for me was to work in a hospital as a lab or x-ray technician. We spent our lives in hospitals because of her cancer and I suppose she thought this was a wonderful opportunity for me. So, when someone asked what my plans for the future were, I'd look in my mother's eyes and say what she wanted to hear. I didn't know I had a choice.

And then she died when I was fifteen years old. Life changed and so did I.

Graduation happened before I knew it. Decisions were made with little thought and no input from any adults. I was accepted to a school with a journalism program, which is what I always wanted to pursue, but at the last minute, I changed my mind and went to a school with all my friends. As I said, there was no input from any adult. My school of choice, WV Tech, was a wonderful school. It's now part of West Virginia University. They didn't know what to do with me since they didn't have a journalism major so they enrolled me in the Printing Management major. Looking back, I should have gotten an English degree, but that was a different era and no one could foresee the future. I certainly didn't have a helicopter parent looking at my schedule either.

I left school after one year and married. We've been married thirty-seven years this past June.

I tell you all this because I'm wordy...I'm a back story kind of girl.

The first half of my twenties were spent in West Virginia on thirty acres in a little log cabin with horses, chickens, sheep and goats. I was happy as a clam except for the big hole in my heart where there were no babies. There was a sadness about me that only a woman that has experienced infertility knows. She's good at hiding her deep longing, tucked safely in bed at night or driving alone, then she and her Lord know.

The second half of my twenties were the complete opposite. We moved to the coast of South Carolina, Myrtle Beach for Pete's sake. Six months before, these words came out of my mouth, "it's a nice place to visit but I'd never want to live there."

Goodbye West Virginia, hello Myrtle Beach. God has a hilarious way of changing our plans and our attitude. We lived in a townhouse, adopted two beautiful babies from Guatemala, and made many lifelong friends. My heart and family was full.

Andy and Bailey
At the beginning of my thirties, we moved to the upstate of South Carolina and started a new life in a new house. We lived in that little house eight years and made wonderful memories and built more solid friendships.

We built our dream home in 1997, where we've spent eighteen years nesting. My beautiful children have flown from the nest and I've survived. We planted trees, bushes, gardens, flowers, and then woke up one day to shadows towering over the house. The road is no longer visible from the porch. The house is quiet, no footprints on the carpet. Familiar sounds are silent. A sign is in the yard foretelling of future owners. It's time.

Through all those years I've been home. If Andy or Bailey forgot something after they went to school, I took it to them. If a driver was needed for a field trip, they volunteered me because they knew I would go. I love to drive. If they gave out frequent driver miles, I'd win hands down. If cookies or a million other things were needed, I was that mom.

Our home of 18 years
When they left home a few years ago, I struggled to find my way. I didn't know what to do with my life without children to take care of. God has been so good and patient in helping me in the darkness. He has given me a voice through writing, a love I always had, but He's given me courage to pursue it and put my words out there.

He's also helped me uncover my creativity. It's been there all along but I stayed so busy with my to do list I wouldn't take time for creative outlets. He's given me courage to think outside the box which is monumental for me.

I'm finding my sweet spot at fifty something years old.

I've been buying and refinishing old furniture. My dream is to one day combine my love for tea and antiques and open some kind of shop. For now though, my garage is a workshop where I've spent countless hours, with a stiff back, sanding and staining.

I wouldn't change anything about my life. The most important accomplishment for me has been the two children who call me, "Mom." It's taken a lot of soul therapy to get to this place. God is faithful. I've learned that much about Him. He will keep His promises, ALL of them. He will satisfy your soul if you seek Him with all your heart.

Maybe you're like me and are facing an empty nest, or you're already there. Life goes on after children leave. It's completely different though, I can promise you that much. But I'm learning it can be good.

Life is a series of stages...but you have to know when to let go of one and embrace the next. The challenge is in the hand-off. Give yourself grace and time to explore who you are, who you were, and who you want to become. Until you draw your last breath on this earth, God is not finished with your life. There is someone you have influence over. Don't waste it.