Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts, Life Revelations and a Priceless Pair of Shoes

As I sat cross-legged on the floor just beyond the altar of the Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville today, I had an epiphany. I knew that was where I was supposed to be. Right then. Right there. Surrounded by those exact people. A sly grin washed over my face as I realized, for the umpteenth time in my life, that all my stress and worry over trying to control the path of my life was unnecessary. God knew where I needed to be. And, when I found myself there, I humbly shook my head and acknowledged in my heart, "you win. again."

I must admit, my life has been anything but ordinary. And, as I stared up at the spectacular architecture of that magnificent church I was grateful for the unexpected twists and turns that led me to that spot today. In the pews directly in front of me sat hundreds of homeless individuals--of every color, shape and size--listening intently to what my new coworker Tom was sharing with them. I noticed several who used that time to sleep...most likely grateful for the cool comfort of air conditioning on an extremely brutal Tennessee summer day. Just days ago, I would not have pictured myself here--sitting cross-legged at an event for the homeless--but my heart was clearly at home there.

As the new event planner/volunteer coordinator for The Contributor--a street newspaper in Nashville founded to help shed light on poverty and homelessness as well as provide an avenue for income for the homeless--I was trying to take it all in...absorbing every detail of this day from the colors of the stained glass to the smile on the face of one of the ladies in attendance. The staff had been so welcoming, revealing through mile-wide grins that they had felt the same feeling of certainty about me as I had about them following the interview. They seemed genuinely relieved to have me there... a refreshing feeling, indeed.

Just then, it was announced that every person there would be receiving a new pair of shoes from the organization Soles4Souls. The reaction was something I will never forget. Cheers, applause, hugs and even a few tears made it feel more like Christmas morning than the last Wednesday of July. A tear rolled down my cheek as I watched the celebration over a simple pair of shoes-- an object that I have far too many of in my own closet. It was moving, humbling and a much needed reminder of just how blessed I am.

I'm sure this will not be the last time I have this sort of revelation while working for this organization. I realized today that the sudden gear shifts of life are just that--shifts. I was comfortable and stable doing a job for a client I have been with for years and then the CEO unexpectedly dies. The new CEO replaces me with someone local and it feels like a kick in the stomach. Fear and doubt and uncertainty suddenly become a swirling concoction that occupy my every thought.

Until today.

My experience today was more than just a first day on the job. It was a renewing of sorts. It was proof that no matter what curveballs life throws our way, somewhere there is a stained glass window with a sun ray pouring in, a new team member greeting you with squeals of excitement and the smile on the face of a lady for whom a new pair of shoes is a winning million dollar lottery ticket.

Thank you Oh Unpredictability of Life. You keep me on my toes and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Pretty Place

There is a place that beckons me. A place where childhood memories and dreams for my future converge. It is solitary. It is breathtaking. It is a Pretty Place.
And I need to return there...soon.

My first memory of A Pretty Place is a trip to visit my grandmother in Brevard, North Carolina when I was a young girl. My parents knew of this spot and I was intrigued by the wooded, winding and twisting road that led us to our destination. Located in the back of a YMCA camp, one would never guess that such a stunning spot existed as we passed cabins, basketball courts and the occasional stray camper on bicycle. But, the moment we pulled up to A Pretty Place for the first time, I knew this would not be the only time I made a trip to this spectacular overlook.

Built in 1941, the Fred W. Symmes Chapel, or "A Pretty Place" as it is more commonly known, was a gift to the boys and girls that attend camp at the YMCA. It is an open-air chapel with primitive wooden bench seating leading down to what is one of the most intimate, yet majestic, views of the Blue Ridge mountains I have ever seen.

Growing up a mountain lover, this spot hooked me from the start. I was drawn to the cross at the front of the chapel and how it seemed so perfectly perched on the rock wall separating the structure from the valley below. The saying on the ceiling above the cross was perfect, too: "I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills..." So fitting for this sanctuary where religion and nature intertwine.

On each visit, I would sit atop the rock wall and glance out at the breathtaking sight which, strangely enough, had the power to both captivate and frighten me with its immense grandeur. In the fall, the brilliant hues of golds and reds would make the mountainsides appear to be in flame...the sun hitting in angles creating a tapestry of color only possible in nature. In the Spring, the lush green of the hillsides would darken in random shapes as cloud formations would float past the sun. The tranquility I found here was unlike no other place in my travels.

The last time I visited A Pretty Place was my last Easter with Mom...a sunrise service, in fact. I need to visit again. I need to breathe in the mountain air and surrender all my worries and feel completely at peace.

I will return there soon....

Monday, July 04, 2011

Whiz, Boom, Bang...Happy Fourth!

The summer sun was pelting us as we arrived, cole slaw and lemon pie in hand, to ring in Independence day with a group of friends. It's one of those gatherings where you know you can let your guard down and be favorite kind of get together.

The house was brimming with guests--mostly familiar faces--with kids running to and fro. The food table was overflowing with an array of side dishes and the dining room proved a popular pass-through as it held the coveted dessert table. Each family awaited their turn at the grill and passed the time catching up with old friends and making new ones. Laughter was in abundance and the giggles of children added to the feeling of merriment in the air.

As the sun began to fade, brave souls trucked wagonloads of fireworks down to the pond as the observers positioned their lawn chairs and blankets for the show. Soon, darkness set in and the fireworks were well underway...accompanied by at least eight others on the horizon and throughout the neighborhood. Each pop and whistle bursted open into a display of color followed by oohs and ahhs from the appreciate onlookers.

A sense of contentment washed over me as I held my youngest in my arms and joked with friends around me. I am free on this day. I am free to celebrate as I wish and do as I please...and I realized I was exactly where I needed and wanted to be at that moment.Good food, great company, and the traditional whiz, boom, bang of a sky full of firecrackers.

It was a good evening, indeed.

Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe

If I had known how quickly this pie would go, I'da made more than one for tonight's festivities :) For those of you that requested, here is the recipe. It could not be easier:

Lemon Icebox Pie
3/4 c. lemon juice
2 eggs
2 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk (I use Carnation)

Mix together well, pour into graham cracker pie shell and bake for 30 minutes or until firm.

Serve with whipped cream.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine...

Found this great article on getting the most out of every day. It referenced one of my favorite all-time quotes by poet e.e. Cummings: "The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

That is my new mantra, peoples. OK, I guess it's not entirely new. I do laugh a lot just by nature of me being a dork. But, sometimes I take life much too seriously and let the little things affect my overall attitude. Every time I start thinking about the mistakes I've made, the way I might have been "done wrong" by others...well, it does affect my mood and outlook on the day. So, I'm gonna work on that.

If there is one thing I learned from losing my Mom eight years ago, it is that LIFE IS SHORT. Breaking news, right? Well it might as well be with the way I race through my days...completely overlooking many of the little things that make life good. I tunnel-vision on a project or event and lose sight of all the opportunities for happiness along the way.

Well that is changing, folks.

You see, I turn the Big 4-0 in nine days. And lest you think I'm having some big mid-life, birthday-induced epiphany, it's really not that. I simply have so much to be thankful for. I have lived hard and loved deep and lost big. I have laughed, cried, hurt, celebrated, and tried (sometimes not hard enough admittedly) to document it along the way. And, God-willing, there is a lot more to come. I mean, just today a three year old woke me up singing "Cock-a-doodle-doooooooooooooooo" in my face. A smile-making moment for sure.

It's gonna be a good day.