Worry Fast Step 2–Identify

relationshipsLess than a week into my worry fast I thought I was doing pretty well. I’d avoided some of the big pitfalls (much to my surprise). Mostly, I’d managed not to fret over family issues–Mom, Dad, my niece–praying and leaving them in God’s capable hands.

Sunday morning I sat in church as the pastor talked about spiritual practices, feeling pretty good about this fast that I originally thought might be sort of impossible. Then it hit me. I’d been worrying all week.

It’s what you might call a low-grade kind of worry. Turns out I’m a relational worrier.

While I managed to think about the big issues without descending into worry, I absolutely fretted over things like:

  • Calling a friend I hadn’t seen in too long.
  • Visiting neighbors I keep meaning to visit.
  • Inviting a friend to use tickets another friend gave me.
  • Wondering if I’d spent enough quality time with a friend I see too rarely.
  • How often I should call family members.
  • Finding time to deepen and nurture relationships I care about without depleting myself or taking away from my relationship with my husband.

It’s not like I was waking up in the night wondering what should I DO?!? I just had all these niggling little thoughts–worries–popping up in my peripheral vision from time to time. And I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

So, step 2 in fasting from worry is realizing what it is, exactly, I worry about.

 

Appalachian Thursday–When there’s a need

lasagna-kidsOur little, mountain church got word not long ago that some missionary friends on the far side of the world need a van. The old one gave up the ghost and transportation is important.

There were probably folks who thought about sending a few dollars, doing what they could. But a van, even used, well that would cost a good bit.

The kids, though, they got serious and began brainstorming ideas to help. They settled on a lasagna supper. They wouldn’t charge, they’d just ask for donations and have a few things to raffle off. They also thought about karaoke, but who does that?

Well, the adults got behind the idea. Donations came in for food and raffle items. Volunteers set to work helping the young’uns get their project off the ground. And one elder of the church mentioned in men’s Bible study that the kids wanted to do karaoke–ain’t that a hoot?

Such a hoot, that the next thing he knew, he’d been challenged to sing for his supper. And a fair amount of cash money was put up to see him do it.

The night of the supper the kids donned their aprons and served plates of pasta, salad, and rolls. The ladies set up a dessert table. That elder stood off to the side, trying to look calm.

mike-singingWhen he got up on the stage, he introduced the band–mandolin, guitar, and bass guitar. “This is how we sang karaoke when I was a kid,” he said. Then he took a deep breath and they were off. “Sing to the living God,” the tune went. The crowd grabbed the beat and kept a steady rhythm. Verses, choruses, instrumentals, steady on through to the end and a round of thunderous applause.

Then an encore of “Rocky Top,” just for fun.

The kids pretty well finished off the dessert table while the donation jars were emptied and counted. And the grand total was . . .

. . . $2,600 that will help buy a van for a missionary family on the far side of the world.

Amen to that.

An Unconventional Valentine

ladies-of-the-churchLife is hard.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but just living life really does get tough some days. Sometimes you’ll run into a whole string of those tough days right in a row.

I’m part of a group of women at my church who gather for Sunday School and Bible study and food and fun and sometimes all of the above. And I’m grateful to have ladies who challenge me to dig deeper in my faith; who hold me accountable and encourage me.

But here’s why I’m especially grateful for this group of ladies. They make life, if not easier, at least more bearable. Because when life inevitably gets hard, there they are with hugs and smiles and casseroles and maybe even a measure of correction if it’s needed.

Our last few meetings have included tears. There’s been the loss of a child. There’s some tough stuff happening with parents in their 90s. And illness. And frustrations. And family challenges. But there’s also been joy. A health scare that miraculously turned out well. A child who got a good report. One of our own who passed her exams and is ready to be ordained.

But whether we’re laughing or crying, here’s what this group gives each other that I don’t ever want to do without. L.O.V.E. If we need to cry, there’s someone to cry with us. If we want to celebrate, there’s someone to cheer with us. Listening ears, soft shoulders, warm hugs, sage advice, and hearts lifted in prayer.

Your support group doesn’t have to be church ladies, but I hope you have one. I think we were designed to bushwhack our way through life as part of a community.

Life is hard. But when I’m with my girls, it’s not nearly as hard as it could be. Thanks ladies. I love you, too.

An Appalachian Fourth of July

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Back home in West Virginia there was always a bean supper at Lucille’s for the Fourth of July. George and Lucille were first cousins to my dad and they had a little, white house up on the ridge above the church.

Each year, Lucille would organize the event with a big kettle of beans bubbling out in the yard, cakes of cornbread, chilled watermelons, and every kind of dessert you could imagine prepared by the ladies of the community. It was a potluck of sorts, although you knew the ham and beans would be there, having cooked for hours and hours in the open air.

Men played horse shoes and told tales. Women fussed over the food and talked the day away. Children ran wild, looking for trouble to get into and usually finding it. Some years we’d have a few fireworks that set Lucille to worrying we might start a fire in the pasture.

And as evening fell we’d gather–bellies sated, stories wound down, and children wore down–for music. They’d gather in the little front room of the little house and play and sing. Folks would sit wherever they could on the floor or the front porch, and listen or maybe join in.

And I would curl in Dad’s lap, dried sweat prickling my arms, equal parts exhausted and contented, and fall asleep to the sounds of music, crickets, and the voices of the people of my particular slice of this amazing country.

God bless America. God bless Appalachia. God bless the people who loved me so well when I was young and didn’t know how lucky I was.

Every Author Needs a Few Friends

Frances
Frances came from the Charlotte area!

Before I was published I might have daydreamed a little about the events I would do once I was . . . well, you know . . . famous. Signings, readings, interviews.

Now, two years into this published author business, let’s just say the reality hasn’t quite lived up to the daydream. I’ve done signings where the only takers were people I pretty much accosted and charmed into buying a book. I gave a talk (paid!) where one person came. And she didn’t know I was going to be there–she just sort of stumbled into the room.

There have been others that came closer to those early daydreams–my book launch was incredible. Doing a signing at the International Christian Retail Show was just plain fun. And then there was yesterday.

I did a signing and reading at our local Barnes & Noble to benefit the Literacy  Council of Buncombe County (you can still benefit them–if you shop B&N on-line, enter code ID #11827862 at checkout to donate 10% of the purchase through May 8). I invited folks and it was well advertised, but still, I was holding my breath knowing I could easily end up reading to the literacy council staff and my husband.

B&N crowd
My standing-room only crowd!

And then . . . people came. A reader who connected with me on Facebook came all the way from Charlotte, NC. Friends came and brought their own friends. Passers by heard me reading and stopped to listen, then stayed. After the reading others swung by the table and ended up buying books.

Oh, it wasn’t like Nicholas Sparks or Francine Rivers with a line snaking out to the sidewalk, but it sure made me feel good. And it was mostly because people I know came and made it look like an event so other people started paying attention, too.

My delusions of grandeur have yet to play out, but this business of having good friends I can count on? That’s better than any dream of fame or fortune.

Appalachian Thursday–The Outhouse at My Wedding

Dad at church
When we say it’s a one-room church, we’re serious.

We celebrated our 20th anniversary yesterday, which seems impossible since we only just met, fell in love, and decided to spend our lives together! But here we are, a chunk of LIFE under our belts. I think you could say our wedding was pretty uniquely Appalachian with some special, “rural” touches. I say it was perfect.

We got married at Laurel Fork United Methodist Church in West Virginia. I’m the fourth or fifth generation in my family to attend the little, white church on the hill and it was where I wanted to pledge my heart to my husband for life.

We invited our friends and family, but didn’t expect many to make the trek to Nowhere, WV, for the nuptials. Those who did travel from SC (where we lived then) were encouraged to use the facilities at their hotel before coming to the church 30 minutes away in Laurel Fork.

Ha-ha, they thought, a West Virginia joke. Nope. Even today the only bathroom is an outhouse. Of course, some adventurous souls might have enjoyed the experience, but I’m pretty sure everyone held it until the reception back in town.

When I was a kid, we actually had TWO outhouses at church. One for the ladies and one for the gentlemen. The ladies had two stalls (fancy) each with a separate door for privacy. It was painted white and tucked back in the trees behind the church for discretion. Unfortunately, it’s leafy, protected eaves seemed to be prime spots for wasps to build their nests, but you often have to sacrifice something for the sake of your dignity.

The men’s outhouse was a much roomier one-seater with an open end that served as an, ahhh, urinal. It was closer to the doors of the church, which often made it preferable when I was young. The wooden seat was worn remarkably smooth and there was always a stack of church bulletins in place of toilet paper. Waste not, want not.

And honestly? It wasn’t unpleasant to use. Oh, it wasn’t great on a January morning, but in general, it served just fine. It smelled of worn wood as much as, well, what you’d expect, and members of the church maintained both outhouses well. MUCH nicer than any port-o-let I’ve ever been in.

Outhouses have become something of a redneck or hillbilly joke, but I’ve used them and they’re no joke. They’re just the best way to deal with a necessity in a place with no running water. And trust me, if your power went out (along with the well pump), you’d be glad to have one.wedding day

Why I want you to be a Christian, too

cross-918459_1280Let me begin by saying that I realize some people aren’t Christians and have no desire to be persuaded otherwise. This post isn’t to try to convince you to believe. I just feel like it’s important for me to tell you why I would love for you to be a Christian if you aren’t already.

I believe being a follower of Christ is the best way to live and the only way to heaven. I believe we are ALL eternal souls and this world is just a short stopover on the way to eternity. I really, really want you to be in eternity with me and I believe Jesus is your ticket there.

If you were my friend and I thought you were about to marry someone who was going to make you miserable, I wouldn’t want you to marry them. But I’d still be your friend even after you tied the knot. I don’t love you because you’re a Christian—I want you to be a Christian because I love you.

I’m not claiming to KNOW what’s best for you or anyone else. But I sincerely believe that getting to know Jesus Christ and letting the Holy Spirit guide you through life is the way to go. I’ve found it to be helpful, comforting, and a generally positive way to live and I want that for you, too.

First, love God. Then love everyone else.

I wouldn’t be following that second most important commandment if I didn’t at least mention how much I believe following Christ is the best possible choice. I’m not mad at you if you don’t believe what I do. Again, I wouldn’t be following commandment #2 if I got all worked up and yelled at you.

But here’s what it all boils down to. I care about you—even those of you I don’t know. I believe you were created in God’s image and that makes you pretty special. So please don’t get frustrated with me because I want you to be a Christian.

I promise not to be pushy about it. I won’t hound you or harass you. But I do want you to understand why I want you to be a Christian, too. Simply put, I wouldn’t be much of a Christian if I didn’t.