Sunday, March 28, 2010

She said Yes!

     My friend, Ann Wheeler Burton, slipped away from this earth on New Year's Eve a little more than eight years ago and ran joyously through the veil that separates this world from the next to greet her Redeemer, her Savior, and the lover of her soul. She had fought the good fight, won the race and claimed the hard fought prize that awaited her in heaven. When she died, Ann left behind a husband, two sons, a daughter-in-law, a grandbaby-on-the-way and a nineteen-year-old daughter. In the fall of that year, when we realized that Ann would probably be headed to heaven soon, I pulled her aside and asked her if there was anything that she wanted to do, any loose ends that together perhaps we could tie up. She thought about it for a while and then came back to me with tears in her eyes as she said, "I am so sad that I will never see my daughter as a bride." It was the cry of a mother's heart for that event and all of the others that she would miss. I understood.   
    Shortly thereafter I called the precious lady who owns Arzelle's Bridal Shop and explained the situation to her. Arzelles graciously allowed us to set up an appointment and even agreed that I could take pictures of what was sure to be an emotional time. I did not tell Ann of the plan until just before we left for the appointment because her health vacillated tremendously from day to day. I had prayed long and hard for the sweet aroma of Christ to be with us as we stepped into a situation about which I was a little unsure. As long as I live, I don't think I will ever forget that day.
     When we arrived at the Salon, we were welcomed as the most privileged of guests. Despite the fact that it was a very busy Saturday, and there were happy brides coming and going with lots of squeals and laughter, we were treated with great gentleness and the utmost courtesy. Arzelles had set aside the largest dressing room for us and brought in an extra comfortable chair for Ann. My daughter accompanied us to keep the mood from becoming too somber for I knew that young women love nothing better than dreaming about weddings.   And who in the world wouldn't want to model a few wedding dresses, if given the chance.
     We were allowed to go through the carefully hung dresses to find several for Ann's daughter to try on. After several slightly hilarious choices, the room grew suddenly quiet as Ann's daughter pulled one particular gown over her head. It was a classically elegant wedding dress that had just a little touch of embellishment...a beautiful gown to be sure, but it was the look on both Ann and her daughter's face that took my breath away. There was a mother seeing her daughter as a bride. And there was a bride looking at a mother who was surely heaven bound. Somehow, with shaking hands, I snapped a photo that caught that moment on both of their faces. The daughter's reflection in the mirror with the mother in the background, tears filling her eyes, but held in check by a look of pure amazement and joy.
     And as Ann gazed at her daughter, I heard her quietly whisper, "Yes, oh yes."

Flash forward eight years: It is the twenty-seventh day of March in the year Two Thousand Ten. There are seventy-plus people crowded into a house anxiously awaiting the arrival of the bride-to-be and the groom. The picture below is dominated by a girlishly happy young woman with a beautifully radiant smile. It is not hard to see the love shining forth in her eyes as she gazes at her soon-to-be husband. See how her hand is tucked under her chin just so. She cannot contain the love that she has for this man that God has brought to her. And he feels the same. He has planned this special evening with no one but this young woman in the forefront of his mind. Folks have traveled from near and far to celebrate with the couple. I was honored to be there last night for this moment just as I was honored to be there many years ago. And as we waited expectantly for the groom-to-be to share his story of the proposal and the father-of-the-bride to offer his sweet toast, I heard another whisper, so very soft and joyous, saying, "Yes, oh yes, oh yes."

Happy Tablescapes from the Daughter with a little help from the Mom

In the past month or so The Daughter and her husband have been fulfilling what they believe to be a "calling" to have their home constantly open for family and friends. I have learned much from my daughter in this regard. Sometimes the guest bathroom isn't spic-and-span, but when you have seventy people in your house, who notices? The invitations are often sent via email (you probably already know all about Paperless Post and Evite) which helps tremendously to cut down on costs and keep the occasion in a budget-friendly mode. Friends and family might even be assigned food to bring. Sometimes The Daughter drags out a combination of her three sets of china (you remember that we are Southern women here), her Waterford crystal, and flat silver, but she is not tied and bound to this limited concept of entertaining. Her beautiful tables often boast a mix-and-match approach of cute paper goods, sterling serving pieces, silver trays, and heavy-duty plastic dinnerware. My own Momma might croak, but it not only works, it looks charming, and serves to make clean-up a breeze. My hat goes off to The Daughter and her hubby who also equally share the party prep. Their style is a combination of careful preparation and thoughtful organization coupled with a laid-back easy-going approach that makes all of their parties so FUN. And my job: to come early and do whatever I am told. And then, to relax and enjoy what always promises to be a delightful evening or afternoon, if I am lucky enough to make the guest list!

The tablescape to the left was what The Daughter used for Little One's Baptism Celebration (a longer post with pics to follow on this special event!)  I picked up the paper flower kit a while back (Martha Stewart's craft line) on sale for the unbelievable price of $2.00 at Big Lots, no less. I had kept these tucked away for a special occasion such as this! A few little Marguerite daisies tucked into tiny vases and more filling a modern lime green holder made for a fresh and delightful look.

And next, who doesn't love wheat grass? It is cheap and oh so easy to use! Since the lights would be dim and the house full of seventy plus people, The Daughter and I kept the grass in the wax coated box top that the Turnip Truck provided her to transport it home. We put some plastic underneath, removed one of the small containers from the center (you can see it still sitting on the table in the pic at the top) and inserted white flowering Quince branches that were just emerging into a makeshift vase fashioned out of a coffee cup. Then we divided the smaller container of wheat grass (using scissors and a sharp knife) into smaller sections to fill in the center so that the coffee cup-vase was completely camouflaged. Voila....a very lovely table that garnered tons of compliments!  Special note: you can readily purchase the kits to grow your own wheat grass but we did not make the final decision about the tablescape until Monday of the week before, which did NOT give us enough time (even with prayer!) to sufficiently grow the wheatgrass to the desired height! Thankfully, we called around and located a reasonable source not far from The Daughter's home!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Uncle Brother

      When I was but a little one, a few years older than our own Little One, I came to know and love my mother's brother. My momma and her twin sister did not call their only brother by his name (that was my grandmother's LouLou's purview to call him not just Dykes, but to always refer to him by his complete given name Edward Dykes), yet the twins lovingly referred to him and do so to this day as simply "Brother." And so it was that over time this man known as "Brother" quite logically became the "Uncle Brother" to the next generation. A hearty laugh, a gentle winsome smile, and a tender spirit are the hallmarks of this man who was a project and office manager for a securities firm by day while he dreamed by night of one day living for for a season or two on a sailboat. I like to think it must have been because he, like the rest of us, spent his childhood exploring the bays and coves around the beautiful offshoot of the Choctawhatchee Bay known as Cinco Bayou. I suspect he never got over his powerful addiction for the smell of the sea and the taste and feel of dried salt on one's skin. I am glad that was he who taught me first to sail and to know the sheer unadulterated and exhilirating joy of flying the hull on a Hobie catamaran. I am also glad that he followed his dream and did not abandon it for more mundane pursuits. He and my aunt did purchase that sailboat and did live for the better part of more than one year on it as they sailed up and down the coast of the Eastern United States and wintered in the tiny cays of tropical islands here and there.
       Today my Uncle Brother is slipping away. He has fallen prey to that great robber of minds: Alzheimer's and something else called Lewy Body Dementia. It makes me sad to say or write the words because I know the awful portent of the reality of loss that they have brought and are bringing to Uncle Brother's family: his precious wife, children, sisters, and grandchildren. Each day that passes brings to light a man who barely resembles the husband, father, uncle, brother and friend that they once knew. It is a most difficult and painful loss.
      Yet armed with my faith in God and His goodness, I like to think that when we see those whom we love slipping away from this world in such a manner, their ships have simply weighed anchor and are moving toward the fresh winds of that more glorious place. Their bodies here might be tattered and torn, but where they are going the sails are always filled with wind and the prow of their boat is moving briskly toward its destination as it cuts through the waves with a purposed and much anticipated joy. It is what gives me comfort and hope.
     In the Book of Revelation, it is revealed that there will be a river filled with the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the heavenly city. On each side of the river will be the tree of life and the leaves of the trees will be for the healing of the nations. And far as the eye can see, there will be no curse to be found. No Alzheimer's, no Lewy Body Dementia, no cancer or sickness of any kind. There will be no darkness to fear, no shadows, no lies, or false promises of any sort. It almost sounds too good to be true. And yet, the angel himself told John the Beloved, "These words are indeed trustworthy and true." I don't know about you, but I am living my life counting on it to be just that. True.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Tiny Tidbit

   During this season of my life I am blessed beyond measure to break open the Word of God and study the Scripture with a group of younger women. Each week, they bring the gift of refreshment to my soul. This tiny post I offer today in their honor, for perhaps without knowing, they are continually doing things for God, both great and small. I know, because I have been on the receiving end of their acts of kindness, their ministry of little things that calls to mind and bears the imprint of the Greater Love. Blessings, sweet sisters!

   image courtesy of Small Meadow Press

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Mom is Back!

    I passed a critical milestone today in my life after right side total-hip-replacement -- I advanced from the walker to the cane! I cannot remember being so excited about something so seemingly mundane, but when your ultimate goal is the restoration of personal independence, this is indeed a big step (no pun intended). As of this weekend, I have also left my pain meds behind in the dust and am hoping that my brain cells will start regenerating with regularity now that I am leaving the drug induced brain-fog behind.
   I am two weeks post-op and am so thankful for my brand-new steel and titanium hip joint. I am, for the most part, relatively pain free and cannot believe how much mobility I have already recovered. For those of you who had seen me pre-op, miracle of miracles, I can now stand up straight and no longer waddle quite so much or walk with my hindermost parts stuck out like a sore thumb. I had lost 3/4 of an inch in height and the physical therapists are hopeful that I will be able to recover most of this now that I can stand upright! My mom would be so proud that I am even excited about being able to hold my shoulders up!
   My family will certainly testify that my recovery has been a roller coaster ride. I will not bore you with the details, but days 6, 7, and 8 post-surgery were the worst. A weekend visit from a friend of Ed's who has had both hips replaced really helped to turn the tide for me. He encouraged me not to push too hard, to ice a lot each day, and to fill the bed with pillows of assorted sizes and shapes. It wasn't anything profound, just good plain common sense, but just what the doctor ordered. I took his advice to heart and quit trying to act like a rock-star hip replacement patient. It has paid off.
   I appreciate all of the prayers, calls, cards, notes of encouragement, meals, rides to therapy, trips to the grocery store and more that I have received.  They have made such a huge difference in my recovery and not only I, but my family thanks you as well.  The Lord has been faithful to me in ways great and small, and I know that I am a blessed woman. I still have work to do (they will NOT let me behind the wheel of a car yet!), but I am well on my way. As I have relied on my family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ, I have been mindful of this scripture:
          Two are better than one,
          because they have a good return for their work.
          If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
          But pity the one who falls down and has no one
          to help him up.        
                                       Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
and I have been comforted and found reason to hope in this Word of the Lord:
          The path of the righteous is level;
          O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.
          Yea, Lord walking in the way of your commands, we wait for you.
           your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
          My soul yearns for you in the night;
           in the morning my spirit longs for you.
                                               Isaiah 26:7-9a
Of course, it makes perfect sense, but I had never seen that the Messiah was referred to as the "upright One" particularly in the context of walking a path that He has made smooth for each of us, His children, who are so prone to stumble and fall as we limp along. It won't be long before I will be running in the path of His commands, for he has set my heart (and my hip) free! Join with me in praising His Holy Name!