Friday, December 24, 2010

A Priceless Gift

It was the Christmas of 1980. I was fourteen years old and had just fallen into the pattern of comparing myself to others, as a lot of teenage girls do. Somehow, I allowed myself to believe that in order to be as good as everyone else, I had to be like everyone else; look like everyone else; have the same possessions; wear the same brand name and style of clothing. I didn’t understand the underlying cause of that belief and I didn’t care at the time -- I only knew that I desperately wanted a rabbit fur coat that Christmas. Most likely, I wanted one because all the cool girls had one, and for whatever reason, I felt I was beneath them if I didn’t have one. Now looking back, I’m not so sure if I even liked rabbit fur. I certainly wouldn’t want one now. The problem was, I knew I wasn’t going to get a rabbit fur or even a faux rabbit fur coat that year because daddy had been laid off from his job and we were doing very well to have food on the table and electricity.

Mama made it very clear to me I was not going to have my heart’s desire that year. I didn’t know at the time, but my mama understood me more than I thought.
Mama was a very creative woman, and her talents were endless. One of her talents was the art of ceramics. Mama didn’t have the best vision, and I remember her working endlessly in the basement with a bright light and huge magnifying glass to add the smallest details to her pieces of art. One of the happiest moments in her life of ceramics was the year she won first place in the state fair for a Christmas ginger jar lamp, and second place for another piece she made, and a trophy for best overall talent in the show.

I didn’t notice at the time, but Mama also knew the feeling of comparing oneself to others. I believe she finally felt accomplished that day at the fair. She had done something she was proud of and probably felt pretty good about the fact she walked away with something the best in the competition had tried to win for years. The same people who made fun of her work behind her back because she was a beginner entering the contest. Eventually, mama’s vision became worse - to the point she had to quit ceramics. But not until she left a treasure behind.

Now about the Christmas of 1980. I remember it well … I remember for some reason, no one was there except Mama and me on Christmas Eve morning. My daddy and brother, Randy had probably gone on their annual Christmas Eve deer hunting trip with the other men in the family. There were six gifts under the tree. Three for my brother, and three for me. Three gifts representing the three gifts given to baby Jesus. All six gifts were made by mama’s loving hands as she squinted in the basement with the magnifying glass and bright light. “Things are tight this Christmas, honey, with daddy being laid off work,” said mama. “I know how badly you want the rabbit fur coat, and I’m sorry we couldn’t get it for you. I want you to open this one now, then we’ll let you and Randy open the rest tonight when we‘re all together. It‘s not much, it’s just something I made for you.” It was our family tradition to open gifts on Christmas Eve night. I’m still not sure why Mama chose this as a mother and daughter moment.

Mama had put a lot of work into the Christmas package itself. The box was wrapped beautifully with gold foil paper and a soft velvet burgundy ribbon tied around it. I unwrapped the paper, trying not to tear it too much, and inside the box was layers and layers of tissue paper. Inside the tissue paper was the lady figurine with black hair, wearing a black dress with splashes of red. Her eyes were dramatic and very detailed, and even her fingernails were painted. She was beautiful, but she was not the rabbit fur coat that I so desired. I forced a smile and hugged mama’s neck while saying, “thank you” in a very dry, insincere tone, and went upstairs to my room to cry.

That night, my brother and I unwrapped the remaining gifts under the tree. Each gift made and signed with love. She made each of us a clock with our name on it. I can’t remember the other two gifts of my brother’s, but I remember very clearly the lady wearing the black dress, my clock and my trinket box which remained on my dresser for years.

After mama went home to be with the Lord this past March, we started doing what most people do - we started cleaning house and finding everything we could to make us feel close to mama again. I moved out of the house when I was seventeen, and she left my room exactly the same as I left it. For years, every Christmas I thought about the beautiful lady in black and red, but could never find her. Finally in June, I found my little lady figurine in a box, in one of my dresser drawers, wrapped in layers and layers of tissue paper. She was still just as beautiful as I remembered. The only thing different was my attitude. Like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, my heart grew three sizes that day. I held her and I studied her in a way I never had before. I looked at her eyes, her fingers … every detail that I know my mama could barely see to make, but somehow made the figurine lifelike. I beheld her with far more appreciation than I did the Christmas of 1980.

I’ve had many costly gifts in my forty-four Christmases on this earth, but none that changed my attitude as much as that one priceless gift from the heart did when I was fourteen. Sadly, it took thirty years to fully appreciate. Alone in my bedroom this summer, I couldn’t help but cry when seeing her for the first time in years. I felt the love of my mama again through the gift she felt wasn’t good enough for me in 1980, and apologized to me at the time for it “not being much” … Not knowing that in years to come, it would become the most important gift and lesson she could have given me. The attitude of gratitude.

By the way, Christmas 1981, I got a rabbit fur coat, and yes, I did love it, but eventually it went out of style and started to shed. I donated it to the thrift store.

I’ll treasure the beautiful lady in black and red forever, but even more so, the beautiful lady who made her for me will be treasured and appreciated the way she deserved to be appreciated the Christmas of 1980.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Legacy ...

L-R: Mawmaw, aunt Lela, Pawpaw, my Mama, aunt Christine, and aunt Marie- the cute little blond standing in the front.

A Legacy Of Faith … How it all began.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve heard the stories of my paternal grandmother’s faith and love of God, which was very instrumental in laying my spiritual foundation. But there’s more. A lot more.

I have rarely mentioned my maternal grandfather, the evangelist -- The Evangelist Saul Brasher. Now days when you hear the word “evangelist,” you probably picture a man on TV wearing a white suit who owns a private jet, and is asking for a financial gift, right? In my opinion, the word has been abused over the years to the point most people cringe when they hear someone is an evangelist. The word evangelize simply means to convert others to your faith. My grandfather spread the gospel all over Alabama and Georgia during the years following the great depression, when people needed hope in a way they never imagined before. As most evangelists did, he supported his family on the financial offerings he received from the church. During the great depression, there was no money to offer, so as you can imagine, my grandfather was not a rich man. No, not rich, but they never went to bed hungry, and they were blessed in ways money can’t buy.

My maternal grandparents knew hard times well. They knew poverty. They knew the pain of losing a child; They lost four children. They endured persecution from those of the same faith. Did you know that Christian soldiers are the worst to destroy their own? The first thing I think of when I look at the photo above is my mama’s hair. Her parents allowed her to get a perm for the first time when she was fifteen years old. Some of the women in their church went overboard with persecution, thumping the bible and pointing their self-righteous fingers in her face. Pawpaw stood firm behind his daughter, and supported her new hairdo. Pawpaw stood up to the finger-pointers, and I’m so proud of him for doing that. He understood that a person’s walk with the Lord has nothing to do with their hairstyle. He fought against religious legalism and taught us that Christ is about relationship, not religion. And most certainly not about judging others.

My grandfather walked through life just as he is posing in the photo above -- Clinging to his bible. Pawpaw literally breathed in an exhaled the word. He held on to his beliefs, and he truly practiced what he preached.

I remember when I was a little girl going to visit my grandparents in the country - Pawpaw had a trail in the woods behind their house that led a path to his “rock alter”. Every day, as long as he was able, he took his bible and walked that path to be alone with God. He spent many mornings on his knees in prayer. Not only did he pray for his family, his church family, and his nation, Pawpaw would spend much of this time praising God and giving thanks … just being with God one-on-one, loving Him. “Prayer is not just about asking God for something,” he’d say. He instructed me that we should be thankful, and approach God with thankful hearts like it’s Thanksgiving Day, every day.
God hears the prayers of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29)
This thanksgiving, I am giving thanks for the legacy of my grandfather, whose prayers are still being honored for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I cling to the word myself now, and hope to have the courage and the strength to continue in Pawpaw's footsteps in whatever the Lord has planned for my life.

Wishing all of you a Happy Thanksgiving this year.

Next blog, I plan to continue my family’s story - I’m not sure what it’ll be yet, whatever I feel led in my heart to write about.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Okay, Now What?

I am here because I publicly stated I would blog again. I made that announcement to motivate myself. I hate not to keep a promise. So here I am.

Now what?

Honestly, I’ve been suffering from the worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. I’m sure losing my mama has a lot to do with that, but I was even struggling before she went home to be with the Lord.

I’ve had such a difficult time dealing with mama’s death, my doctor prescribed valium and an antidepressant. Well, for the first three months I felt nothing. “Numbness is better than agonizing pain,” I said to myself. In moments that I should have cried, I just couldn’t. I felt completely numb. Up until about 6 weeks ago I was doing okay (then had a brief meltdown); I was going through the motions. Trying to clean my house and cook, trying to clean daddy’s house and cook, trying to care for Stephen, trying to be a wife, trying to pay the bills, trying to be involved in Stephen’s school activities … naturally I put my relationship with God on the back burner because I was spread so thin, I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) carve out more than time spent at church twice a week for Him. I got into that old rut that a lot of us fall into at some point in our walk with the Lord - Spending Sundays and Wednesdays at church, going through the motions of what we’ve allowed to become monotonous, then the rest of our time is spent on everything and anything but God. Why is it so hard to just stick to a morning devotion? Why is it so difficult to just draw closer to Him?

Without opening myself up to a religious debate, I dare say it’s because the flesh just isn’t willing and our natural tendency is to give in to our flesh and not to our spirit. How many of us are spirit-led and not led by our flesh? On a full-time basis? I believe a lot of us are. I know a whole lot of people who are spirit-led.

THAT IS WHAT I WANT! What does it say in Matthew 26:41? The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. That’s me. I am getting so sick of giving in to my own will (flesh) I can’t stand it. The strange thing is, in my case, my flesh is not high maintenance. I’m a very simple woman, and I don’t require a lot of attention, nice things or a fancy lifestyle. I drive an eleven year old second-hand pick up truck and live in a small single-wide, so it’s obvious I’m not a demanding wife; I never have been. I’ve always accepted whatever life gave me and figured it was good enough, although I didn‘t jump for joy over it, mind you. Would I like more? I sure would! But I’m not willing to put Stephen in a group home so I can go back to work for meaningless material things. Stephen comes first. So it’s been established my weakness is not material things. I do not desire to go outside my marriage to seek comfort … So very strangely, in my case, I’m led by my *responsibilities*. I have even more of them now that my mama is gone. I’m taking care of her home and mine. We have talked about combining our households and moving in with daddy, but it isn’t what any of us truly want to do. We would be cramping daddy’s lifestyle, his dog hates every human being on earth - he bites Stephen every chance he gets. Stress rises for all of us when we go to daddy’s house. Stephen is the most stressed out of all of us when we are there. Moving in with daddy is no longer an option. Period.

So what can I do to keep from going insane through this period of adjustment?

I know first and foremost - God must be placed number one in my life again. I KNOW that.

Okay, now let’s get back to the wreckage of a lifestyle I have going on here: How and where do I begin to make a new schedule for Stephen; my family; for ME? How can I start doing it all without losing my sanity?

Do you remember my mention of a brief meltdown I had a few weeks ago? For months I was numb. I couldn’t cry at all. The husband and I were at a local Barbeque restaurant. He was talking about work, and I was staring out into the parking lot when all of a sudden, I started seeing visions in my mind of mama. Visions of mom and me when I was a little girl, cooking together when I was so little I had to stand in a kitchen chair to reach the counter; My first day of school - I had a lump in my throat but tried to be a big girl and smile as mama played with my Cindy Brady-type pigtails and said she‘d see me in just a few hours, because I could tell she was on the verge of crying as much as I was; singing with mama as she played gospel music on the piano; mama hugging me when I was crying because a boyfriend dumped me, telling me about her experiences as a young girl; My wedding day as she adjusted my southern belle style wedding dress and hat, smiling and crying at the same time; I remembered her blessing me out and scolding me for divorcing my first husband; I saw the disappointment on her face when I told her I was pregnant (and unmarried, which in my family is a huge no-no). I saw her holding Stephen in the rocking chair and singing to him, and I remembered that she never brought the subject up again after laying eyes on him; I saw our arguments all played out again, and finally, I saw her on her deathbed while I fed her jello and held the straw for her to drink her sprite. Then at last, I saw her spirit leave her body and only her shell remained before me. Just like that, the most important woman in my life was gone …

Yes, all the above went through my mind in a matter of minutes and I began to cry, uncontrollably, right there in the middle of Full Moon BBQ. People began to stare at me, then they started giving my husband dirty looks as if they were thinking, “That poor girl! He’s dumping her in a public place! What a piece of crap!” We hurriedly asked for to-go boxes and left. I apologized to my husband, and he was quick to forgive. He understands because he also lost his mother years ago.

So, blog-friends, the recap above is what life has been like for the last 7 months. Before you advise me, I’m already in grief counseling. It is helping, and I hope that someday I can be as helpful to others as my counselors are to me.

So in closing, again I ask: Now what?

Thanks for listening …

Mia Renee’

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!

Just wanted to say I’m OK. A lot is going on right now. I’m now taking care of two households: Mine and my daddy’s. I’m miserably failing at both.

It goes without saying, I’ve been terribly depressed lately. Managing depression has always been a battle for me -- But having a disabled child put me in a darker place, then losing mama, as close as we were, has taken me to a new, lower level … a level I’ve never felt before. I know that God will hold me up when I can’t do it on my own. Most days I find that I am just simply going through the motions.

If you have emailed me and not heard back, it’s because I haven’t been checking my email regularly. If you’ve tried to call me and I haven’t returned your calls, please don’t take it personally … I just need what little bit of time I have to myself to be by myself. Over the last few years, I’ve grown to hate the telephone, and lately, I cringe every time the phone rings because I just don’t feel like talking. So please, like I said, don’t take it personally. I just need to withdraw right now. I need time to be with my thoughts and feel my pain.

It’s time to give in and let grieving take it’s natural course. I’ve been staying “busy” and putting it off for two months. In doing that, I‘ve allowed myself to become numb, and I know that isn‘t good.

This is the last week of school and I will be even busier than ever this summer. My daddy is very lost and lonely right now, and I worry about him. Most days I cook our meals at his house, and some days I cook here at home and he comes over to eat with us. I go over to his house every day to help clean and do chores that … well, let’s face it … men aren’t equipped to do, as mama used to say. But I have to say, daddy’s gotten used to doing a lot of things around the house since mama was too ill to do them, and he does a pretty good job.

I will check in as soon as I feel up to it. I do hope the desire to write returns because I have so much I want to share.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gratitude and Attitude - On Grief ...

Hello blog. Long time no see.

For the few of you who were unaware, I should tell you that my mama went home to be with the Lord on March 25th. I was alone with her at the time she took her last breath. Just the two of us in a dark and quiet hospital room. No background television noise, no monitors. The only light was from the bathroom door that I left cracked open just enough to see my way around the room. In the last few hours of mama’s life I had the privilege of caring for her as she cared for me for more than 43 years. How do you repay your mother in one day for all she’s done for you? You can’t. It’s as simple as that.

We knew she was dying, but we didn’t know it would be exactly eight hours after the doctor told us the tests revealed terminal cancer; they were going to send her home the next day with hospice.
As for me, I’ve known since last July. Exactly eight months before she died. I think I’ve mentioned somewhere in my blog before that I have a dark gift. Well, I once called it a dark gift, it’s probably wrong for me to call it that … Call it whatever you want. For years I called myself a freak. I have precognitive dreams. I never dream that something good is going to happen - it’s always a warning that something bad is going to happen. Sometimes the dreams are vivid, detailed visions, and sometimes they are filled with symbols that I have to seek God to show me the answer. The dream I had about mama’s death was the type that is filled with symbols. Because of this … gift, I took a class about spiritual dream interpretation so I could learn to accept and learn what is going on in my spirit. I won’t write the details of that dream at this time - maybe someday, but not right now.

Before I begin, I want to tell you that what I am about to share with you is very personal to me, but I allowed our minister to share this story at mama’s funeral, and I will write about it now because after searching my spirit and praying about it, I know it‘s what I am supposed to do. My hope is that it will help someone who has gone through the loss of a loved one, or if you haven’t experienced the grief of losing a parent yet, you will remember these words when the time comes and find comfort in them.

First, let me begin by telling you about my mama. If you’ve been reading my online journal for the last seven years, you’ve read numerous stories about my mama. Some of them I deleted when my blog was made public in our local newspaper last year because I wanted to spare her the embarrassment. My mama and I had a very, very close relationship, but we also had a lot to overcome in the last twenty years. I’m happy to say that our relationship was mended and all was right when she died. We were probably closer than we’ve ever been. As I end today’s entry on that note, let me end in saying this:

If you do have unfinished business with your loved ones, don’t let pride stand in your way of healing those hurts. In the end it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. You don’t want to have to someday look down into the casket of that loved one with guilt and regret that it’s too late.

I will continue ASAP …

Meanwhile, please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers. Today is four weeks ago that she died.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I'm Still Here ...

But - I'm not back. I have many blog entries in draft, but nothing published yet. I haven't had the time to dedicate to my writing like I want to. I really miss blogging/writing because:
(1) - It's what I do, it's who I am. Therefore, I write.
(2) -It's therapeutic for me.
It's as simple as that.

I want to write about my experiences during the Daniel Fast, but the truth is, it's still an ongoing process, and the personal revelation going on in my heart is at times overwhelming for me.

I will share two keywords with you that will be in my next topic, spiritually-speaking:

Hoarding and De-cluttering.

I've been astounded by the things I've discovered in my heart and soul. Examining the storage compartments in the basement of my heart, I found boxes deeply covered in dust and cobwebs, where I had carefully placed things I couldn't bring myself to let go of. Things that I couldn't possibly delete from my life because ... I may want to bring them up some day and make use of them again. But I've been shown that sometimes in order to move forward, you have to make room for that which is new. I've discovered that sometimes the items you've been hoarding in your heart serve only to clutter your soul, which makes it impossible to grow in your spirit.

So, as you can see, it's a process for me. Insight of oneself can be a painful but necessary experience. Right now, my Maker and I are having a Tug of War type of thing going on.
He'll win ... I know He'll win ...
Letting go has proven to be an enormous challenge for me, and I never realized that before.

I'll be back when I feel it's time. Or, rather, when my spirit knows it's time.

Monday, January 4, 2010

... A New Year

Hi everyone. I’m breaking my Internet fast to make this blog entry. I’ll pray extra to make up for it. ;)

The line above makes no sense if you’re unaware of “Daniel Fasting.” I’ll explain: Daniel Fasting is taken from the book of Daniel. Our church begins the new year with a Daniel Fast. Giving up meats, sweets, breads … anything that tastes good, really, and we put prayer and bible study in the place of these things. Last year, a week into the fast, my body let me know that I have some underlying health problems. I was already aware that I am anemic and have some form of arthritis, but I didn’t give it a lot of serious thought until I woke up one day and couldn’t move without stabbing pain in my muscles from the neck down. I added meat back to my diet and stayed off of sweets and breads for the next two weeks (it’s a three week fast). Last year was my very first time to fast and pray for that length of time, but I must say that last year was the first time in my life that I experienced spiritual growth on a whole new level. I wasn’t hungry, I was just denying myself my favorite foods, and I‘ll admit it was difficult at first. In return, I experienced spiritual clarity I’d never known before. I’ll get into that another time.

I should be honest and say that over the last few months, I’ve felt a decline in my spirit. I’ve allowed myself to become depressed. I should have been on guard -- it gets worse during the winter for me, except for last year. Last year I didn’t experience depression at all. Not even during the winter. Yes, I was physically exhausted as usual, but not severely depressed. I thought about that fact a couple of weeks ago and wondered why. Why wasn’t I depressed last year? Then I remembered that last year I walking closer with God. We were attending church regularly and since this past fall, Stephen and I have been “homebound” because of his health concerns. Aha, that’s it. I left a door wide open for the enemy and boy, is he clever. I didn’t even see it coming. I’ve battled depression since I was a child. I know for many, depression is a medical problem, but in my case it’s spiritual. Depression is a powerful tool, and if I’m not on guard, it’ll overwhelm my spirit. I opened the door by skipping my morning devotions. I’ve always believed that morning devotion is food for the soul like breakfast is the most important meal of the day for the body. I starting slacking in my prayer life and bible study in October and just look how fast I went downhill! Just as I usually skip breakfast, I started skipping my daily bread. The bible. The word of God. Our daily bread. Yep, I was fasting “that” and I now see the spiritual result. I don't like it.

It’s time to get into shape. For most of us, we make a resolution to get into physical shape in the New Year. That’s good. I’m all in favor of that. But it’s also a very good idea to give your spirit a lift and shape it up as well. I’m doing that, starting this week. I will be leaving off breads, sweets AND facebook for three weeks. Because we all know how I love my facebook contacts. It’s my only social life these days. But I’ll be communicating with my Heavenly Father in its place. I’m just getting online long enough to let you guys know, because I’ve received the comments and emails you’ve sent. I wanted to let you know that all is well! I’m thinking that I might keep a journal this time while fasting, and if I do, I’ll blog about it and link it from here.

I’ll be back in a few weeks. Y’all take care!