Friday, July 30, 2010

Forty-nine years ago today....

This morning as I was figuring out what to do with myself today, I began to think about the significance of this day. You see, forty-nine years ago today, I was born in Johnson City, TN in Memorial Hospital on Boone Street. Forty-nine years ago this morning, a Sunday school teacher went running across Boone Street to the little church of Christ on the corner of Watauga Avenue and Boone Street and announced that his baby daughter had been born at 9:45 am. Sunday school began at 10:00am and I have no doubt that my father was not late at all for teaching his class. He may have been there at the last possible minute, but he was there, and more than likely, he was on time.

I reflect with gratitude on that Sunday morning. For though, my father did not live to see my tenth birthday, he has been one of the single greatest influences on my life. My childhood revolved around "going to church" three times per week. We went every night of the week if there was a gospel meeting anywhere in the tri-cities area. My dad, in his spare time, began going to preaching school. He also had Bible studies with any one interested in studying God's word. And if possible, my mom, two older brothers, and me, would tag along with him to those studies. Some were in our home, other studies took place in the homes of others. But for nearly the first ten years of my life, our lives revolved around the church and serving God. That really didn't end with my father's death, but it did change in intensity.

My mom continued in her church work after my dad's death. We also continued to visit other congregations during their meetings. We went to the area-wide singings that were held once per month. But we no longer, as a rule, were studying with someone on a nearly nightly basis. And in truth, it may not have actually have been a nightly thing. My memories are probably a bit skewed.

But the true point of this post is to explain that from my earliest days of life, I had no doubt Whose I was. I was raised to serve God, the Creator of the universe. I was named Lisa which means consecrated to God. My father rushed from my birth to teach others about God. I was taught right along with all the others who came in contact with my parents, especially my father, to serve God to the very best of my ability.

Now I'm not saying I have served my Father in heaven perfectly, far from it. But God knew my failings before He created me. He sent his Son, Jesus, for that very purpose.

I am most grateful though that I was born into the family to which I was born. I am grateful that my parents raised me with the knowledge of God. I am glad that I was taught to look for His purpose in my life. I am grateful that God knew exactly the parents I needed and He gifted me richly. So while most new parents talk about the gift that God has given them in the birth of a newborn child, it is nice, as an adult, to look back over my life and realize that my parents were a gift to me from our Creator. And that makes this one very nice birthday! And though my parents are now in their eternal home with God, I do hope that He makes sure to let them know that they are in my thoughts today and that I love them and am very grateful for them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Extended family

As I ponder my blessings, I must share a wonderful experience I had several weeks ago. I had the pleasure of traveling to upper east Tennessee and southwest Virginia a few weeks ago to spend two days with two special nieces. These two young women are sisters, same father (my oldest brother), different mothers.

I became an aunt for the first time at age 12 which was probably the single most exciting thing that had happened in my life up to that point. A year after my oldest brother and his wife delivered their first baby girl, they delivered another sweet baby girl. Those two little girls have always had a very special place in my heart. I feel that they are part mine!

On a Thursday afternoon, I left my home and drove to Weber City, VA to spend a couple of nights with one of those precious girls and her two sons. We stayed in the childhood home of her grandfather (her mother's father, so no kin to me.) The home is now owned by his youngest brother and has been beautifully furnished with antiques and lots of books. That's my idea of a great combination.

We sat up until the wee hours talking and enjoying each other's company. I slept in a bed covered with an old, handmade quilt in a room furnished with antiques.

On Friday morning, my niece's great aunt, (her grandfather's sister) came and picked us up and drove us to Gray, TN. We toured the Gray Fossil site which lies about a quarter mile from the high school from which I graduated. When we left the fossil site, we traveled on into Johnson City where we met my other niece for lunch.

Though these two young women are sisters, they had not seen each other since the younger was about one year old and the older was around eleven or twelve. Amazingly, they "took" right to each other and conversed as though they had known each other their whole lives.

After we finished our lunch, we went to a local park which overlooks Boone Lake, took a very short walk, and then left for Weber City again due to storm clouds quickly moving in during our walk.

Upon arriving at the house, the two boys quickly went to their rooms. Both being in the tween/teen stage, they had their own amusements to keep them busy on a rainy afternoon. Meanwhile, we womenfolk sat at the antique kitchen table and learned that it was the actual table where Aunt C. and her siblings had eaten their meals while growing up in this house.

The afternoon passed so quickly as we sat and shared our lives with one another. There we were, four women, representing three generations of an extended, disjointed family, thoroughly enjoying one another's company. We shared stories of our spouses, our children, our siblings, our parents' influence, or lack thereof, on our lives. We laughed together so hard at times that we nearly cried. Even though some of us had not seen each other for 20+ years, we were able to converse as though this was a daily experience. We shared that invisible bond of family, belonging. And even though our ages were diverse, 60's, 40's, 30's, and 20's, and even though we had been separated due to divorce and conflicts beyond our control, we had so much to share with one another. We each contributed to the flow of conversation and enjoyed listening to one another as well. Story after story we soon learned we had totally lost track of the time (8 pm) and left for a late supper at a local diner. Aunt C. asked us if we had ever eaten at the Hob Nob and when we answered, "No," all around, she replied that we "had to go to the Hob Nob, cause you aren't anybody until you eat at the Hob Nob." So now we are all somebody, and we enjoyed our time and food at the Hob Nob. We were joined there by yet another cousin from the extended family of my 30-something niece. And again, we all talked and shared and enjoyed the time.

The next morning, my niece Ms. R. (30+) and her sons had to travel back to middle TN to visit a little longer there and then head home to the northwest U.S. So I met Ms. E. (my 20+ niece) and we drove past my childhood home. Then we traveled to one of my favorite restaurants, The Farmer's Daughter, in upper E. TN in Chuckey. We enjoyed wonderful home cooking while visiting with two of my close friends from my 20-something years.

After lunch, I headed home and Ms. E. headed back to her home. Ms. E. and I just reconnected a few months ago after also being separated since she was a toddler. So each time I have a visit with her is precious and a learning/growing experience.

As I drove home, I couldn't help but count my blessings. I had just shared two incredible days with two precious young women (and two precious young men also, Mr M. and Mr. R.) As well, I had time with "Aunt C." and my two friends. And during my drive home, I was surrounded by the beautiful mountains of east Tennessee driving from views of one area back into the views of the Great Smokies! How blessed I am!