Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#PraiseRant/LifeStories - Birthday Bananas

          In this crazy and dangerous world where so many have kicked the bucket before us, it's really great to take time once in awhile and celebrate those buckets that remain un-kicked. Birthdays are great for that.

          People usually celebrate birthdays by lavishing presents on a given celebrant, then singing off key and eating wax-spotted cake. As far as presents go, whether it's a T-shirt, or Nutella, or some home-made coupons that read "5 minutes of free back massage, but only five minutes", it's been my experience that the best kinds of gifts are the ones that come from the  people you love, which remind you (in the best way) of how lost you would be without them.

          The next best, however, come from random ladies who shop at Albertsons and don't know squat about you.


          It was my eighteenth birthday, and I was going in to work. Being the baby of the family there, and thus the easiest employee to tease, I was often subjected to good-natured joking about my age. This led to my shiny-bright newest age being an exaggeratedly big deal to all of us.The sun was warm, and my heart was happy as I crossed the parking lot, stepped in through the glass door and went to the entrance of the kitchen. I was met with uproarious jubilation and cheering, followed by Gary telling me he'd decided I was now old enough to roll the butter knives with the rest of the silverware. I grinned and gave jab for jab as I went to grab an apron.

"Hey Talia!"

"Yeah Boss?"

"Any chance you brought those bananas?"

"Oooooohh!! Shoot! No, I completely forgot actually. Sorry, I guess I'll just have to figure out how to make it myself sometime."

Diane poked me, and rolled her eyes.

"Aw, but WE don't get any if you make it at home!"

"Well, maybe for your own birthday then! Buy your own bananas." Having finished tying my apron, I shot her a grin and picked up an order. She took advantage of my hands being full and untied my apron strings as I walked away, making it fall to the floor and giving me no option but to leave it there.

"You know my birthday is in ten months!!!" We both laughed.

          The week before, my boss had told me about his favorite dessert; Banana Foster. I had never had it before, and he told me that if I brought the bananas, he would make it for me on my birthday. All of us were looking forward to it, but of course, I forgot. It was ok though. We could try again the next week.

          Smiling, I greeted a couple sitting against the wall and handed them their breakfasts. They were regulars; I recognized their faces, but I hadn't ever spoken to them much. As I adjusted the flowers on their table, the gentleman commented;

"That sounded like quite the celebration in there! What's the occasion?"

"Oh," I blushed a little, "it's my birthday. I'm eighteen."

"I was hoping that was it," his wife giggled. "The only ideas we'd had were that it was your birthday, or you were engaged. But as you walked up, I realized you looked a little young to be engaged."

"Wow, eighteen is a big deal!" he smiled, "You doing anything special? Is there going to be cake?"

          I laughed. "I'm not that into cake. I was supposed to bring bananas to work today so Patrick could make banana foster, but I forgot. I'll be having ice cream later today though, so that's probably plenty of sugar." We all laughed, and I went back to my cleaning and straightening.

          Lunch rush was busy, and all the Saturday regulars came in; the three old ladies who liked the corner by the window, Mr. and Mrs. I-Really-Should-Know-Their-Name-By-Now who lived in Poland once, the gentleman who always ordered the "biggest latte you've got", and the little girl who had a bright new bow in her hair every week. We were kept busy, and customers flowed steadily in and out for about an hour. As things finally slowed down and the end of my shift got closer, I walked through the restaurant and spot cleaned a few tables. My thoughts began to wander to the evening's plans, and I checked the time, wondering if I might be able to leave early.

          A bell on the front door rang, and I straightened up, prepared to greet the newcomer. To my surprise, it was the lady I had talked to that morning. She had changed, and was carrying some groceries. Grinning, she walked up and handed me one of the bags.

"You can't miss your eighteenth birthday dessert."

          That was certainly unexpected. I gaped at her, and looked down at the bananas in my hands. Then I giggled. The surprise and delight of the situation slowly made it to my head, and I bent forward in breathless laughter. For whatever bizarre reason, tears came to my eyes, and I looked up again as we grinned at each other.

"We were grocery shopping in the area, so figured I would stop by again."

"Oh, my, word. Can I hug you?! You're the best!!"

"Of course!"

          I hugged her as Diane snuck up behind me and snatched the bananas, scurrying back to the kitchen, and announcing loudly that we were saved. As the boss-man got to work in the kitchen, the sweet lady left. I washed up and put my apron away, and we all set the coffee table with spoons and napkins for a much anticipated dessert and some accompanying laughter.

          Never in my life have I had anything so delicious.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Dear Friend,.....

There are so many things I have wanted to tell you, but then somehow never said. 
        
        If only I worried less about hurting you, and more about telling you the truth.  Because really, even on the off chance that what I might say would make you angry,......this truth that burns in my mind and heart couldn't ever hurt you. 

So listen to me, and give me a chance. I'm sorry I ever bothered to tread lightly. 


You. are. immensely. worthwhile


        When I see you, I see a wonderfully alive and strong-sensitive spirit. You love much, and you struggle much, and some days you feel hopelessly lost between the two, but you're hanging on anyway. You truly love what is right, but there is a whirlpool of blackness smothering that love,... turning you angry towards it,..... making you cry out against the loss of it. Some days there is a penknife lodged in the pit of your stomach, and when you think of forgiveness, it just sinks deeper in. All of the whirlwind and scatteredness of it all leaves you exhausted and wondering why you should even care.
     
        I recognize that in you, because I've been there. Don't reject me because my story seems different, and don't assume that I don't struggle too. Listen, by God's own definition I was once hell-bound, but by His GRACE, and His grace only, I have joy again. Maybe I can't relate in the exact way I want to. Maybe your own hurts will never sound the same as mine. But here's the truth: you and I are both human, and grace isn't partial to anyone.

You don't deserve grace? Good. Because if you did, you wouldn't need it, and you couldn't receive it.

Please, rest your mind. Sooth your heart. You are loved.

Friend. Beautiful. Priceless. Strong.

        You know what is true! But somethow the message was lost in transit from your head to your heart. God's love is every bit as much for you as it is for me as it is for everyone else. It has nothing to do with your past, or what you think you are, because He doesn't look at that. What He sees is who He will make you to be, and the future He deeply wants for you. 

        At the very least hear this; my life is so much better because of you. I can't handle the thought of the loss of you. Your existence is a bright spot in a world full of chaos. Your smile brings joy. Your laughter is contagious. Your spirit is tangibly real and endearing. The cry of your heart is audible, and I want more than anything to see it reconciled with your joy. If I could do any one thing with my own life, I would convince you to see how beyond-words irreplaceably wanted and valued you are. The fact that you would call me friend is a privilege and a joy. But answer me this; if I, a sinful, flawed, frequently selfish and prideful human being could look at you and see worth, why couldn't the all-knowing, loving God that created you? 

        Rise up Child of God, and be alive again. His arms are open for you. He is waiting at the doorstep of heaven, searching the roads, ready to sprint for you at the first sight of your silhouette breaking the horizon. Don't dare doubt your worth. Don't you dare doubt the love poured out for you. 

        Dear Friend,..... thank you for being here. Thank you for being my friend. I know I sometimes talk a lot, and I know I mess up frequently. But thank you for listening anyway. Thank you for walking with me. You are a huge, crazy blessing, no matter what, and I speak because I care. Please know that God loves you, and your smile is an irreplaceable part of my life. :)

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Spirit Never Ages

"I've been playing guitar my whole life,... and I'm ninety two now, I think, so that's saying something!"
  
The gentle rustle of the old man's laughter has the same contagious happiness as the gold-tinted leaves of autumn, which sway just outside and peek in from behind sheer, ivory draperies. Wrinkled hands grasp the contrastingly smooth body of a young guitar; colored richly both by orange hues and the sweetness of the tune reverberating on it's strings. Though the notes possess a tremble of age, they sing together with the energy and skill of a young man still in love with living.

"I've played guitar my whole life. I must have been six years old..."

He turns and smiles, eyes watery as he laughs again at the thought. "...and did you know that I'm almost ninety?"

Autumn leaves embody a bitter-sweet joy. The turn of the season means fiery colors and crisp, cool air and a vibrant display of nature's best as summer fades.... and grows old..... and dies. Green leaves forget their gentle beginnings in a last, violent rush of color and celebration of the joy of being; then fall.

And winter sets in. And we breathe a choked sigh.

Yet the joy of it is.... Spring is on the other side. We may sleep for a little while... Our memories may quaver... Our bodies may grow old and weak. But our spirit stays young. The soul that God knit together will awake to a new life; an eternal summer; a joy that will never tremble.

And the bluegrass guitar of a Tennessee boy will forever sound true and sweet upon the ears of the Lord.

The delight of it fills the heart of God.

- for Randy
and his young, beautiful heart