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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Late to the Train....

      You know how trends get started, right?  A few of the cooler people start saying/wearing/creating something that's a tad different than the normally accepted style/technique and then an edgy magazine will utilize this new thing in a few photographs, then a celebrity will start tweeting about it and then if you're lucky, a rock star will pick it up.... voila! You've got a trend.

Let's talk about all the trends I missed...a few of these on purpose:

  1. fingerless gloves
  2. parachute pants
  3. members only jacket
  4. stirrup pants
  5. swatch watches
  6. pogs & pokemon
  7. grunge rock (Nirvana, Pearl jam)
  8. Converse "Chucks"
  9. Twitter

Ones i wish I'd missed:

  1. shoulder pads

Very late to:

  1. cell phone
  2. call waiting
  3. Facebook
  4. DVR
  5. blue nail polish

  1. Music:
My parents did not listen to music...ever. I can remember going to the record section at Sears and not knowing what to get. I kept looking at Iron Butterfly's In a Gadda Da Vida cover and trying to muster up the guts to buy it.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIVe-rZBcm4
      So whenever I was fortunate enough to be able to buy records, i would play them until the needle had to be replaced on the turntable. Here is a short list of my first 45's:

  • Sooner or Later - the Grass Roots
  • Hey Jude - Beatles
  • Eric Burdon and War - Spill the Wine (I have no idea how or why I acquired this)
  • Lay Down - Melanie - Check out these lyrics:

"Lay down, lay down, lay it all down

Let your white birds smile

At the ones who stand and frown

We were so close, there was no room

We bled inside each other's wounds

We all had caught the same disease
And we all sang the songs of peace"


       OMG! Totally typical 60's Woodstock crap. My best friend and I couldn't understand what she was saying in the chorus. We thought it was "Lay Down, Lay Down, Lay it all down, Let your white bird smile up, at one plain and brown." ( I thought it was a racial slur.)

I'm proud to say my musical tastes have improved.

But the saddest, most important thing I was late for:

GRACE

I was in favor of receiving it.
But giving it was different.
As I enter into the "middle ages", it has become easier for me to realize that people do dumb, selfish things all of their lives because of human nature, lack of nurture, pride and stupidity. Knowing this releases me from judgment. I used to unconsciously categorize people: "divorced", "addict", "smoker", "unfaithful", "narrow-minded", "backslider", "liberal", "lazy", "thief", "psycho", etc. Now I intentionally try to see the whole person. I was raised like many others, thinking a good Christian was always in the right. What the heck is a "good Christian" anyway? The only categories I want people to put me in is "good mother", "supportive and loving wife", "creative", "fun", and "full of God's grace". 

People, Hop on Grace. Do not miss it.

I'm sorry I was late giving grace, Lord. Thank you for spilling your grace all over us with the intention that we pick it up and carry it to someone else.
And thank you that grace is not a trend. Amen.


"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."  2 Cor. 9:8


p.s.
In the interest of full disclosure, I think you should know that I still put people in the "psycho" category.





Monday, July 29, 2013

The Worst Part of Growing Old

That title is strictly subjective. I'm sure if you asked 100 people over 50 what they hated most about growing old, you would get 100 different answers including these:

  • Losing hair
  • Losing skin elasticity
  • Age spots
  • Poor eyesight
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Listening to your friends who are also getting old.
  • And all the other boring stuff .
Just peruse through "Prevention" magazine or "Readers Digest" and look at the ads. Ew.



Today I am going to reveal to you, my faithful reader, what is the worst part of growing old for me.

Losing a parent.

We blame our parents for practically everything, at most every stage of life we travel through. Then they become old and unhealthy and have the same attitude as we did when we were 6 and that's how we have to treat them. No one is prepared for this. No matter how many well-meaning people try to tell you what it's like parenting your parents. We rarely step back and breath in the blessings and wisdom and naked, raw love that our parents show us. Until it's too late.

Last week my father died. 
It was rather sudden. He lived in a nursing home and suffered with advanced Parkinson's disease. His mind was intact, however. More so than some people my age. But God decided it was time to bring Floyd into his elite circle. So we are learning to let him go. 

Those of you who know me, know that I was a daddy's girl. Always was. I can remember one day having a horrible fight with my mother so I jumped on my bike and rode several miles across a 6 lane highway to my dad's office. I walked in and plopped down in his lap and just cried out my frustrations. I was 14...much too big for his lap. But he just listened and patted my back. I felt so much better then. We had an unspoken code between us. "You and Me Against The World" or something very melodramatic like that.

I have a baby granddaughter due this week. God seems to replace the old saints with new ones. Even though he won't get to hold her, he will get to see her every day now. Dad will like that. He loved my kids and their kids. I am so blessed beyond measure that Floyd Griffin was my father. I am not going to keep writing my feelings because this would get way too mushy and personal and you did not come here for that. What I will do is share with you what I learned from him. 

IMPORTANT THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY DAD.....
by Barbara Burks

How to hold hands.

I have been holding my dad's hand since my first memories of him. He was a hand-holder and a patter. Even when I was a teenager I was never embarrassed to be seen holding my father's soft hand. He had "engineer" hands. Because all he did was draw schematics, hold a solder gun, and read Popular Mechanics. My first-born is also a hand holder and a patter. Bless her.

How to shoot a gun.

I was about 6 years old when I received my first pistol shooting lesson. He used to take my brother and I to the county dump and set up targets for us with cans and bottles. If you want to make memories with your kids...take them to the dump and empty a few rounds into someone's old mattress. I believe that because of our exposure to both the fun AND dangers of all guns, I was never tempted to play with his vast collection when he wasn't around.

Patience.

Floyd Griffin was the most patient man on this earth. (He HAD to be to raise me.) He never lost his cool, was never rude to anyone, and never raised his voice. Let me be clear, I am not always like that...but he TAUGHT it to me, nonetheless.

What to look for in a husband.

First and foremost, my father never expected me to "look" for a husband, thank goodness. My husband, Buddy, does not quite share all of Floyd's qualities...his hands are not soft and he is not quiet. But having Floyd for a father made me seek a man who could make me feel protected, who can fix anything like my Dad (we rarely ever had to call a repairman and Buddy refuses to!) and who loves being with family. My parents were married for nearly 60 years and I pray I can show my children that same level of commitment.

Math.

Floyd made math almost fun. He got me through 12 years of it so that I would never have to take it again. This is probably where he developed his patience.

The value of education.

My dad was the first to graduate college in his family. He went to Georgia Tech on a GI Bill as a newlywed and held down several jobs, one being a janitor. He loved his profession (engineering) with a passion. That is probably one reason I was obnoxious about my kids going to college. I didn’t really care what their major was, as long as they completed school. Dad was very proud of all of them for getting their degrees. That could have been one reason I decided to go back to school to complete my college education at the age of 50. I now proudly wear his class ring as my own. 
  
Let your children be who they are.

My father never tried to change me. He would definitely discipline me if (when) I got out of line, but he was either proud of everything I did, or just tolerated it. He did not want me to be anybody else:
  • When I was convinced I'd be a professional polka dancer and would polka in circles around his chair for hours, him never looking up or telling me to stop...
  • When I created special concoctions to quench his thirst, such as 1/2 tea and 1/2 coke called "tea-cola" that I was positive he would love, he would drink it and say, "delicious." I tasted some just the other day in a moment of nostalgia. Not delicious...
  • When a raccoon wandered into our yard and we made him catch it and put it in a cage for a few days so we could have a pet raccoon, feeding it Honeycomb cereal and chicken bones...
  • When cartwheels were my preferred mode of transportation...

I sincerely hope I have allowed my children to be who they are because we who've been celebrated as children, will in turn celebrate our own.

To be content with what I have.

Floyd was a low maintenance kind of guy. Certainly he needed a lot of care in his old age...but besides that, was extremely easy to please. He taught me not to want what everyone else has just because they have it and I don't. He taught me the value of a dollar by teaching me about the stock market when I asked him what all those numbers on 4 pages of the newspaper were for. He had me choose a stock (Winn Dixie) and we watched it everyday. The exhausting and unsatisfying journey of climbing a social ladder never appealed to me because of the lessons I learned from the man who decided that $40 for a pair of slacks was ridiculous so he found a magazine ad for 3 pairs of pants for $19.99. He was so proud when he ordered them. They were designed for a man who was 5'9" instead of a man who was 6'3", and made of the cheapest polyester plaid fabric I've ever seen. But he proudly wore them with dignity until they mysteriously disappeared about 10 years later.

So, today...

I am a relatively patient woman that likes to hold hands, shoot pistols, clepped out of college math, chose a wonderful husband who gave me unique children I can celebrate, and am content with my surroundings and my family because of my dad, Floyd Silas Griffin, Jr. I would love to know what I taught him. I suspect he would say something sweet like, "that daughters are wonderful" but more likely he would say, "patience".


Floyd and Bobby. Just a couple of boys fishing.


 So long dad. Now it's you doing the cartwheels!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Valued or Vilified: The Church's Response


Today a series of unusual events led me to write about this topic.

  1. I turned on the car radio. I almost never listen to the car radio anymore. I usually drive in silence or listen to my iTunes library. Lately I've only been listening to my son and daughter's new CD. (CoversCollection, Vol. 1) I actually reached my hand toward the knob, pulled it back, then decided to go ahead and turn on the radio.
  2. The radio was tuned to a station I never listen to. It was one of those local Christian stations that feature pre-recorded talk shows and play a whole lot of Sandi Patty, Petra, and Point of Grace. Not only that, but there was a talk show interviewing a lady with a decided southern drawl AND it was sponsored by Focus on the Family.  (no comment)
  3. I accidentally left the radio on. I have little tolerance for talk shows or talking of any kind. Especially from radio personalities. (Check out earlier blog)
Then I proceeded to listen for 15 minutes to a lady give a brief version of her life story. It was heartbreaking. Not in a tragic, terrorist bombing, kidnapped for 10 years, horrendous car accident, limb losing, suicidal kind of way. But I could just sense the despondency and hopelessness in her story. The story of her childhood. The story of her young adulthood.

Hers was a story of multiple unplanned pregnancies as a teen, no self-worth, shame, ignorance, and despair. Because she didn’t know her value as a woman and a human being, she listened to the Great Liar who told her that she could find value in men and substances. How many times have we seen this with our own eyes? With our own lives? It’s a tired old story, isn’t it?

Famous and not-so-famous magazines have been called out on their tendencies to over-Photoshop models. Sculpting a body with brushes and tools in post production is extremely common and finally exposed. More and more women are photographed and published looking more “normal” and less “Twiggy-fied” so why aren’t we happier with ourselves?

Because self-love doesn’t have anything to do with what’s going on with the external you, and everything to do with what’s feeding the internal part of you. Take it from this author…one who was saved by the grace of God from going where this woman on the radio had been. I know what it’s like to feel not good enough. As a child I couldn’t throw the softball far enough to pass the President’s fitness test without my PE teacher fudging for me. As a young teen on the track team, I always came home from meets with red or white ribbons, never blue. I wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough for my mother. I didn’t finish college when all my friends had a degree. I worked low paying jobs and then a no paying job. (stay at home mom). Nothing as drastic as our radio guest but all together with the verbal abuse I received as a child, acquainted me with low self worth.

Jennifer Maggio, the lady giving her testimony on-air, spoke of how she craved community so she took her children to church as a single mom. On one Mother’s Day, all the mothers of the church were asked to go up to the front and then the pastor asked their husbands to pin corsages on them.  Jennifer stood up there in a panic feeling like there was a neon arrow hanging over her head with “Single Mom: Failure” in lights. This is what broke my heart. I began to wonder how many women who are unmarried, divorced, widowed, with children who feel like a second class citizen at church. While every one of us would jump to our own defense if accused of treating someone that way, we are all guilty of assuming that the single parent does not need us, that they don’t want to socialize with a married couple, that their kids have some “issues” so we will keep ours away from them.

Church can be the loneliest place on earth to a single mother from what I hear. Since I was only single about 15 minutes into adulthood, I don’t feel like an expert on this subject. But I am somewhat of an expert on feeling I had little value during several seasons of my life and I do not wish anyone to feel that way. Let’s try to circle the wagons around those who need to feel a part of something, who need to feel the love of Christ, not feel ostracized for whatever led them to the place they’re in.  It’s time to start loving, People! And loving people.

 Some of the best moms I've ever known (who happen to be single):

Deb

Lindsey

Carmen (#nolongersingle)

My favorite single mom
This is not a post about being single and a mom, or about screwing up a chunk of your life at some point, or about whining about what's wrong with you....it's simply a call to open your eyes to who is around you. They are not better or worse than you. They are your family. Have you ever been desperate for value, or know what it's like to come to church and be lonely? If not, stop yer judgin' and throw another bratwurst on the grill for your sister over there.*
*and her kids!

If any of you reading this feels led to start a ministry for single moms at your church, please check out the resources here to help get you started.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ethel the Red

Every summer I spent a week with my grandparents, the Griffins, in their small shotgun house in South Georgia. I so looked forward to this week and always hoped it would turn into two! My grandparents' house had a front porch with a swing  and one small TV that got about 3 channels and it always seemed to be tuned in to Lawrence Welk or an evangelist at the highest volume setting. The kitchen was in the back of the house. These are the places I frequented when in Georgia. Dozens upon dozens of treasures were hidden away in this house. If I was lucky, I would find a contraption my dad built, or an old school paper or letter that he had written when he was my age. I vividly remember taking baths in their old white claw footed tub and drying off with their paper thin towels that were always frayed at the edges. There was no corner of that home that was off limits to me. Now there were a few places I chose not to visit...like the laundry room on the back porch. No laundry for me while I was on vacation. That does not mean that I didn't have chores to do while I was there. I "cleaned" the kitchen after my grandmother made her famous messes after each meal. I'm pretty sure she used flour in every dish she ever cooked. I did not like to clean up after dinner. Mostly, I think, because the kitchen (and house) was so old that nothing ever really LOOKED clean. But here's what I did like to do:
I liked to explore all over the neighborhood. Sometimes with my cousins or my brother, and sometimes by myself. My grandparents lived in a low socio-economic part of town...near an alley. Across the alley were older homes than even that of my grandparents.You know that young Barbara Griffin hitched up her jeans and ventured to that part of the street already, don't you? The main and only reason was because a woman who had a pomegranate tree in her yard lived across that alley and she would let us go back there and pick a few from time to time. I had never seen or heard of a pomegranate until my first trip across that alley. They are a little trouble getting into, but lo and behold, when you put that tiny sweet kernal into your mouth and bite down, it's akin to a liquid starburst!
Needless to say, my cute little tee shirts were always stained red when my parents came to pick me up and my mother was not happy about this. She wouldn't have been happy about me roaming all over the town with my cousins either...often barefooted. And if she ever found out that I had a crush on a silly boy that worked at the gas station up the road who was 17 years old when I was 13, she would have had a fit. He was such a dork, but he had longish hair and I liked that. We also loved to spy on people.We thought we were secret agents and lived as much like one as we could. ALWAYS spying on anyone who didn't know we were there. Hiding in a tree, under a house, behind the big brick fire pit - nothing stopped us while we were on a mission.

But some things I did to pass the time would not have caused my mom to age more quickly than usual.
My grandmother, Ethel Lucille, would take me to the farmer's market to pick out vegetables. I grew up with an appreciation for the farmer who made it possible for me to go to a market and eat free boiled peanuts while my grandmother poked and prodded tomatoes and peaches. Next door to the farmer's market was a hunting shop called Staffords. It was fancy for a hunting store and is still there today. I would take my savings money into this store and buy gifts for my parents and my grandparents each time I visited. Whatever I brought my grandmother, she acted like it was a prized possession. And it was usually something that she never would have had on any sort of wish list, trust me.
She would also take me to church with her. A lot. An awful lot. I did not want to go into a Sunday School class with kids I didn't know, so I went in my Grandmother's class. Those old ladies acted like I was supposed to be there so I didn't feel uncomfortable at all. I sat on the front row with my grandmother's Bible in my lap and pretended to follow along. Ethel worked in the kitchen on Wednesday nights. So after I helped set the tables for dinner and wandered around the church during Prayer meeting, Grandaddy would pick us up (Lucille did not drive) and we would go home with extra rolls. "Church biscuits" we called them. To this day, I love a good yeast roll.

Even when I got a little older and wore too much makeup and not enough fabric I would revert to her little adventurous granddaughter who went barefooted everywhere as soon as I arrived. When I was around 16, my grandmother asked me to go to the store and pick out a hair color for her. She had graying strawberry blond hair and liked to add a little red to wash the gray away. So...being the artist and fashionista that I was, I chose her hair color according to what I thought it should be. And I bought her a black house dress with large exotic flowers all over it. Ethel never wore black or anything with large flowers so my plan was to give her a make-over. You have to understand that my grandmother was not a young, hip, trendy older woman who cared about what people thought. She was always old, kind of crippled, lived simply, and was funny in a quiet way. I was about to change all that. She let me dye her hair which made her my very first customer. It turned out red alright. It was nearly glowing. Imagine a light orange, almost peach color next to a brassy copper. that's what her roots looked like when they grew out. And do you know what she told me? She said, "This color brings out the orange and red flowers in my new black house-dress. I'll have to wear it a lot!"
Is that the kind of things that grandmothers have to say?

She taught me what it feels like to be worthy of love. She taught me other things too. How to warm your buns in front of a kerosene heater, how to make cornbread, how to raise an amazing son to love his mother, how successful one can be and not have central air and heat or cable tv, and hopefully how to love your grandchildren so that they can always feel home in your house.
I always wanted to please my grandmother. I liked to make her laugh. and would try very hard to be responsible for a giggle. She died a long time ago and sometimes I would forget that she was gone.

In August, I get the opportunity to be a grandmother to a little girl myself. I already have the immeasurable pleasure of having a grandson and that has worked out pretty darn well for me. (and for him, I believe) But a granddaughter! That's a new thing altogether. I hope that what I learned from Ethel I can impart to my own little grand-girl. I want to take her to church with me, feed her and teach her to make cornbread, teach her that even though she's at my house she will have chores, that no matter what she feels about something, she can say it and not be judged, show her that she can dye my hair whatever color she feels it needs to be, and model what lasting love looks like between an old man and old woman. I want to teach her to draw and to read classic books and love the Bible. I want to take her to a market or a museum or a monster truck rally. I want her little shirt to be stained with fun when she leaves me. I want her to find things her dad made and kept in the little drawers and cubbies around our house. And most of all I want to tell her stories about her dad and mom. About her aunts and uncles. And she will tell her kids about me one day. I hope it's not the one about how she dyed my hair purple and bought me a jumpsuit to match.