Full Measure

Meir was a wonderful cook. She was an old school, country cook- because that’s how Pa liked to eat. She kept very few recipes, didn’t use pretty serving dishes, or own gadgets more sophisticated than a simple hand mixer. Except for the Salad Shooter…

She kept a drawer full of old, dented aluminum measuring cups, several sets of measuring spoons, and two glass measuring bowls. They were very humble little instruments, but like everything else she owned, they were well loved.

Wedding season would sweep through the church every summer, and Meir gave two gifts to each couple. She gave a single picture frame and a set of measuring cups or spoons. I was with her all summer, and went along as she picked out the gifts she’d bring and a card to accompany them.

Meir did her devotional in the morning and her Sunday School lesson at night. After her lesson she’d sit at the dining room table and write her notes. Most of the time she’d write short notes of encouragement to her friends or her grandchildren. But during wedding season, she wrote in the special cards given to new couples.

One day while we were out shopping for one of those same old picture frames, I asked her why she gave every new couple the exact same gifts. I’m sure I didn’t ask nicely- but she didn’t snip back at me. She told me she liked to give a single picture frame for the couple’s wedding photo. In the frame, the couple is together as one, separated from all else on this earth, the way God intended a couple to be. The frames she gave were inexpensive- but deeply meaningful.

That night after her Sunday School lesson was done, we sat around the table- Pa dunked his cookies, I slurped my ice cream, and Meir made out a wedding card.

She wrote a verse from Luke, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you give, it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38

She explained it to me like this: When we give like Christ gave, without expectation or measure, we demonstrate His life of selfless generosity. And as long as we always give from our hearts in the name of Christ, there is fruit in our giving.

She gave measuring cups (and spoons) because we are meant to love without measure. We can all give something, in love, even when we have nothing to offer… except humble little measuring cups.

Be blessed, Y’all.

(c) 2015

Serenity

I’m sentimental. About everything. If there’s a memory to be attached, you can bet I’ll find it. Unfortunately, there is no discernment in which memories I cling to. I hold onto all of them- good, bad, or inconsequential.

Meir had a cross stitched serenity prayer, framed, hanging in the sewing room. I always found it amusing, in my cynical way.

It appeared in the sewing room right about the time I took up residence underneath it. The last thing you see at night? I looked at that frame every night for three years. If she was trying to be subtle, it would’ve been the first time. I read it every night. But I never bought into the practice of acceptance.

Only stability nurtures deep roots. No stability, no roots. No roots? You either hold onto to everything, or you hold on to nothing. Gotta give a girl credit- I am nothing if not tenacious.  Indeed. I have held on, and I’ve convinced everyone else I’m fine with that.

I have a garage full of memories. I have boxes of dust.

I’ve carried friendships and relationships far beyond their prime, kicking and screaming, until they completely drain me. It’s a kind of denial only someone like me can understand.

I’m twenty years late in learning to identify toxic bonds, whether the bonds themselves are physical or emotional. I’ve always seen my sentimental side as beautiful. Tragically beautiful, but never tragic enough to change.

Until now.

I wasn’t looking for the cheaply framed cross stitch. It was stuffed down under a stack of quilt scraps, and on top of Highlight’s magazines. Two hours later, I was still holding it.

Sitting in the middle of my room, looking at my memories strewn across the floor, it occurred to me that not all memories are healthy. I don’t mean they are simply painful. I mean they are toxic.

I’m heavily vested in hope, keeping scraps ‘just in case’, and being available ‘just in case’. It’s the same illogical sense of responsibility that kept Pa from ever being away from home overnight. Somebody might’ve needed him.

I’ve kept myself from seeing circumstances as they truly are. I’ve protected my own perception, rather than accepting loss and appropriately processing grief.

My health isn’t great. Adding the extra stress of trying to hold up the world is just no longer worth it. The world is heavy. In case y’all ain’t noticed.

I’ve been working through some rough reality, lately. I wasn’t really planning on working through it without support, but hey- while I remain fully committed to my delusions, I am finally learning the art of acceptance.

I’m still far from serene, but I can now place memories in the discard pile, without an emotional landslide. I call it progress. I’m still slow to let go, but I’m getting much better at it.

Be blessed, Y’all.

 

(c) 2015

Digging

I have a tendency to be restless. I have been limited a bit lately, and feeling isolated. Technology makes me feel like I am still in on the action most days. But the days aren’t really the problem. The nights are much worse. Getting inside my own head is a calculated risk. I either find all the darkness, or I find purpose.

I was lamenting and thinking about Meir, today. I think she hangs out up there just waiting for me to complain so she can smack me with a perfectly timed reality check. She had so many “Meir-lessons”… I hear them just as she spoke them.

She told me she “had the depression. Once. Weren’t nothing good dirt and digging couldn’t get me over!

She got so mad at Pa one summer (the one immediately following his retirement), she went out and dug an entirely new flower bed in the rain.

She said she “don’t need no pills. I’ve got dirt.”

Pa vehemently disagreed, but never to her face. The only time he ever went out the front door was when she was out back digging.

Whenever a friend was feeling down or sick, she’d call them. Sometimes there was bad news, and the older she got, the more friends she lost. She spent a lot of time calling, writing notes, cooking a dish, visiting hospitals… and digging.

I never had the desire to dig and plant. But I do realize it was never about winning prizes for yard of the month. It was all about distraction.

Everybody has their own digging to do. No two people work through tough times the same way. And that’s perfectly fine.

The way Meir dealt with pain, anger, and grief was to get outside of herself, and help somebody else. Her method of distraction wasn’t always pretty. But eventually she worked it out.

Her motivation was entirely selfless. And that’s what kept her corner of the world beautiful.

Be blessed, y’all. Try to be a blessing to someone else.

 

(c) 2015

Approval

I believe we spend most of our lives seeking approval and acceptance from our family, friends, and peers. Some children are blessed with a strong cognizance from the start. I was not one of them. I was the kind of child that I try to keep my child separated from.

I was a mean kid. I was a rude teen. And I carried the same contrary disposition into adulthood. I never worked through the years of underlying issues that caused my anger. I simply ignored them. All of them.

The last two years of Meir’s life, she helped me deal with myself in a manner foreign to my nature. We spent entire weekends talking.

Of course, I was always dependent on her, and I’d talked through everything with her, all my life. She knew me better than anyone else. But those last two years, she was more than just my Meir. She changed the dynamic of our relationship when she forced me to look beyond my own horizon.

Meir became every standard by which I measured myself. And she changed me.
If Meir knew I was giving her this much credit, she’d correct me real quick. She’d tell you God changed me. And she’d be right. But I never would’ve listened to God without Meir. I never would’ve sought truth. I never would’ve told it, either.

So, I made it through her last two years slowly opening up nearly thirty years of buried insecurities and doubt. Meir helped me find the good in myself.

The good in me is not an outward confidence. I’m average looking, and not particularly social. I’d rather keep to myself most of the time.

Once Meir was gone, there was no one here to build me up. I hadn’t yet worked up to feeling self confident. Wherever I found a crack in my façade, I filled it with the compliments of others.

I kept my spirits up by accepting admiration and platitudes from anyone willing to lie to me, as long as I didn’t have to face my true reflection. But then, in the words of my favorite earthly judge, “They ALL lie.”  Boy, do they ever!

Isn’t beauty is in the eye of the beholder? It should be, but I overheard a young lady recently quip, “Only ugly people believe that.”

Meir taught me beauty is intrinsic and internal. Whatever manifests itself in appearance is strictly superficial. Our physical body does not reflect true beauty.

The body ages, but the spirit matures. My capacity to love is limited only by my own self worth.

I have been stumbling down the same roads, for far too long, and I’ve let others influence me in ways that have caused one detour too many.

I still have far to walk. We all do. I see a clearly marked road stretched before me- and I can see the extra miles I’ve wasted seeking the approval of others.

There will always be others who will try to change me according to their own agenda.

Empty promises and compliments might come easy, but they sure don’t come cheap. I’m done picking up the check.

Be true, be you, and be blessed, y’all.

~Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.~
Galatians 1:10

(c) 2015

Dumplings

Confession: I can’t cook… I have no culinary talent. Mama was never fond of cooking, and since Blondie was always the more domestic sister, she was preparing meals for us by seven years old. Of course, we mostly survived on grilled cheese, pizza, and Hamburger Helper (you don’t need hamburger, but it helps). She “cooked” until the day she dropped a kitchen towel into the oven, and nearbout burned the house down. After that, we were restricted to microwave food prep.

I found myself in a bit of a panic when my son presented me with his “New and Revised” Christmas list. It was loaded with all the usual kidcentric toys and electronics. Along about number three he wrote “Eat at home”. I kinda decided it must be one of those “assurance” requests along the same lines as “baby sister”, “pony”, or “pet pig”. In other words, I figured he was just slanting toward an impossibility, ensuring his other wishes would materialize by default. But the more I thought about it, the more mommy guilt settled in.

Since I don’t/can’t generally eat, I have made no effort to cook. My son has a fantastic memory- he knows by heart every menu within a 150 mile radius. I should be embarrassed. He’s growing like kudzu, and he eats all the time. I’m told it will only get worse. I want him to be healthy, and since I can’t figure out just how to go about keeping him healthy by eating fast food every day, I promised to honor his request.

We created a menu of foods he loves, and that I feel I can manage. I’ve vowed to genuinely try and learn. I am obviously ill-equipped to just begin cooking, like normal people do, so I made a list of all the various accouterments I “need” to actually put an edible meal on the table.

I now possess every kitchen gadget, and spice (no pepper) known to man. I have cutting boards, new knives, and measuring cups. The fridge and pantry are organized. We’ve been putting together a binder filled with simple recipes, to rotate menus, mixing and matching for variety. I’ve meticulously studied each ingredient. I feel much more like a chemist than a cook.

But– and there’s always a “but”, I have legitimate fears of failure. History dictates the odds. No good Southern girl would willingly admit to a complete putz in the kitchen, yet here I do declare.

I attempted exactly twice in the past two decades to prepare comfort food. The first time it was chicken and dumplings. Now, please know that my Meir made the best dumplings. She rolled them out so thin you could see through them. When I asked her for a recipe, she laughed. Flour, water, salt. Sounded simple enough.

I set to making a big pot. I mixed, shaped, and pinched the dough. I rolled it out. And rolled. And rolled. Those dumplings just refused to be thin. I kept on. Cut them into strips, and plunked the whole concoction down into the pot with a boiled chicken. They smelled fantastic.

I was so excited; I set the table and everything. When we got ready to eat supper, I took one bite, and realized something had gone horribly wrong. My dumplings were so thick they had to be CUT before taking a bite. I’d worked most all day trying to get it right, and my stubborn self refused to admit defeat. We choked them down.

I put the spoils in Sadie’s dish. Sadie was ninety pounds, responded only to Deutsch, and never missed a meal. Sadie loved chicken; she’d rescue my pride. She skidded across the floor to get to her bowl, and started to scarf up her portion. It was right about that time my husband started to laugh.

I looked down at (poor, poor) Sadie, who stood awkwardly by her dish, refusing to make eye contact. She had half a dumpling hanging out of her mouth, and was trying to chew it. She chewed it like it was rawhide, and with all her might spit it right back out. She didn’t even try again, she just licked all the chicken broth off her dry food, and then slunk off toward the back door. My husband was laughing, Sadie was choking, and I was bawling.

I called Meir the following day, and related the entire saga. I expected sympathy. I’d followed her instructions exactly. She laughed hardest of all. I forgot one very important detail… I’d made my dumplings with self rising flour.

It took me a year to get over the great dumpling failure.

The next meal I attempted was beef stew, in my pretty new Crockpot. The Crockpot had been my Christmas gift from Meir. She assumed I couldn’t possibly screw up with a Crockpot. It was packaged with a little recipe booklet. The beef stew seemed doable. Supper was going to be good! I added a little more than the recommended pinch of black pepper. A big pinch of black pepper… the entire shaker. The top wasn’t screwed on well, and when I went to sprinkle, the top fell into my stew. I grabbed a big spoon and skimmed all the excess pepper off the top, thinking I managed to save the stew.

I was (not so) pleasantly surprised when my husband invited a friend for supper. I didn’t object, his friend was a single airman, far from home, and we had enough stew to go around. The two of them loaded up their bowls, and we ate.

At the first bite, our guest started to sweat. Two more bites and he refilled his water glass. Five more bites, and he asked for loaf bread. Bless his heart, he never said a word about the extra fire in my stew. He thanked me, left, and likely suffered heartburn for days.

I decided I would keep my butt out of the kitchen. I clearly didn’t belong there.

I never owned up to the self rising flour or sudden shortage of pepper in the shaker. On the bright side, I’ve never had another uninvited supper guest, and I’ve managed to steer clear of the kitchen until now. Here’s to history not repeating itself.

Be blessed, Y’all.

 

(c) 2015