Just Across the Bridge…for when you move toward life

Mid-BayBridgeIt had been a long day of driving. With the goal of dipping our toes in the ocean before sunset, we had set out with our friends before dawn and pushed hard through the day, only stopping to use the restroom and refuel.  The last fours hours were filled with the cacophony of children cries- “How much longer?”  and “I wish we were there already.”

We finally began to see palm trees and sand and signs for our destination and our hearts began to wake up.  As we paid the toll at the Mid Bay Bridge, the weariness of a day of driving fell away and the “Are we there yet’s” turned to “Woohoo’s” and we opened portals in our car to the salty air and in our heart to beat of the beach vacation drum.  We lifted arms out the sunroof and waved like madmen to the cars passing by.  The freedom was as tangible as the humidity in the air.

We arrived at our God-gift of a last minute condo as the sun was beginning to set.  We didn’t even go inside, instead, we slipped off shoes and started across the beach walk to the ocean.  Realization broke over me like a wave as we crested the dune. I grabbed my husband’s hand and jumped into his arms, “We’re at the beach! I can’t believe we’re at the beach!” He smiled and kissed me sweet and gave me that “I know, right?” look and we took off running to the surf.

We hadn’t planned this vacation with our dear friends. Come to think of it, neither had they really.  They had decided to get away just three days prior and it had all fallen into place in a beautiful way.  They were sharing their plan with us as we prepared our church for Sunday morning services.  “We are leaving for the beach tomorrow!” They told us.

Jealousy mixed with genuine happiness for our friends flooded into us as we celebrated with them.  Then the inevitable conversation.

“I wish we could go with you.”

“You should, there’s another condo available. All you would have to pay is food and gas.”

My husband’s eyes met mine.  He was already burning vacation for the week.  I began running the lists of “We couldn’ts” in my head….I mean could we? That’s crazy….just take off for the week…to Florida? The kids are in school and only have 2 weeks left, the dog- we’d need someone to take care of her, Charlie’s off- but I would have to tell my Mom/boss that I am taking an extra week of vacation and we’re right in the middle of a big project, we’re not packed, I don’t have any laundry done and I had planned to lose twenty pounds before anyone saw me in a swimsuit- we couldn’t, just couldn’t go….right? But, oh dear Jesus, how my family (and I) could use a break…

And then God started knocking down the dominoes….one. by. one. As He did,my husband and I started smiling, more than we have in a long time, even as we packed at two in the morning for a 4 am leave time.

cari and alisa on the beach

And I still don’t believe it.  Each time we cross that beach walk to the white sand of the Destin beach…I am in awe of how God brought us here and is ministering to our hearts.  It’s beautiful and restful and I am blown away by His love and generosity. We were floundering in the midst of our everyday existence and were beginning to be suffocated by the tyranny of our schedules back home.  God has been guiding us to rest more, but we keep pushing Him back- “after this event, Lord, I’ll rest.” “When school’s out, we’ll take a little break.”

But then He extends this beautiful invitation to LIFE and REST, and the siren song of it was more than we could resist.

xan and jacob on beach

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”- John 10:10

From the beautiful beaches of Destin,

Lessons from the Joy Candle: Lean into Joy

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The Kaufman Family Joy Candle

 

 

In my family, we have a tradition.  When a couple is married, they receive for their first Christmas a bottle of wine, wine glasses, and a set of drip candles. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s every year, we burn candles over the empty wine bottle.  Each drop of wax commemorates a moment of joy in our family.  As we burned wax over our candle this year, the aptness of the ritual, of the way I was taught by my father to grow this candle each year, washed over me.  I will do my best to share these thoughts with you.

 

 

The flame carves a deep well of wax in the center of the candle. Columns of color stand sentinel around it.

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I want this color to yield – to be transformed by heat into drops of cherished memories on the growing mountain of joy below, but they stand stoic. Just far enough from the heat to be soft and mold-able, but not close enough to be changed into something new.

I gently press in on the wax, bending them toward the flame and soon it yields and drip-drops down an unseen path.  When it runs out of heat and begins to cool, it is so much more than wax, but now, marks the path of a life well lived.

Joy is a transformative force of life, but not always gentle.  

You may be molded, softened and warmed by joy, but in order to be truly transformed by it, you must lean into it.  Into the flame and the flame of the vulnerability it brings with it, but what beauty that transformation brings with it all along the way marking the path of a life well lived.

AVFM: I Am Your Lamb (a little poem for the new year)

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

My mom wrote this poem during the days we spent camped out in the ICU waiting room after my dad had a massive heart attack 6 years ago.  At the time, we were not sure he would survive and if he did what sort of quality of life would be had.  They were some of the hardest…and most beautiful days of my life.  Time slows to a creeping crawl when you are waiting there, people you love visit and pray, and friends and family wrap around you like a warm blanket.  I have never felt closer to my mom and sisters as I did there snuggled under blankets in waiting room couches talking about, and waiting for, life.  When my mom told me she wrote this, I had to read it…and when I did, I knew…so did you.  

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I Am Your Lamb

If you struggle through life, wond’ring
How you’ll make it through tomorrow
Or even through what’s left of today
Just look into the heavens
And clasp your hands together
And close your teary eyes and pray.

Pray to the One who loves you
More than anyone can love you
And let Him fold you in His tender arms.
For He alone can shield you
From the storms which have beseiged you
And He alone can always keep you warm.

Just say to Him:
I am your lamb—you are my Shepherd–
This is your flock—it is with You I belong.
Is it me You have called to?
Where is it that you need me?
Please know that I will follow, though the journey be long.

In the center of the tempest is a place of silent calm
Where we can have a moment to be still.
As it rages all around us and the darkness is upon us
We can have this time to listen to His Will.
Though the work is overwhelming
And there’s so much yet undone
We’ll refresh ourselves at Jesus’ feet
So we can travel on.

Just say to Him:
I am your lamb—you are my Shepherd–
This is your flock—It is with you I belong.
Is it me you have called to?
Where is it you need me?
Please know that I will follow, though the journey be long.

© Carlene Welch, 2012

 

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My sisters, mom, dad and I in October 2010 (5 years after his heart attack)
From left to right: my sister, Alexis; mom, Carlene; dad, Jim; my sister, Lora; and me

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

AVFM: First Memories- A Christmas Post

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

I awoke in the cozy warmth of our featherbed, covered with one of Mama’s handmade quilts, listening to my little sister giggling incessantly.  A warm, moist nose nuzzled my neck, and I opened my eyes to the most beautiful little lamb I had ever seen.  Those big huge eyes were staring into mine, and I was transported!  My baby sister had obviously just greeted her new friend, too.

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I called out, “Mama, Daddy! Look what we have!”  They came rushing into our bedroom, smiles as big as Texas spread across their faces.  My sister and I hopped out of bed and cuddled our new found friends with unabashed joy.  The cinnamon and cloves hung in the air, and the evergreen tree we just decorated stood in the corner by the sofa.  Our wood stove warmed the whole house as Daddy and Mama led us into the living room to look under the tree.  There were two pairs of deerskin moccasins, beautiful with beads and stitching and gorgeous in every way!  Daddy said, “Try them on and let’s see if they fit.”  They were absolute perfection!

Mama fixed biscuits and ham for our breakfast, with fresh milk from our milk cow, Bessie.  As Mama opened the oven,  we could tell from the fragrances that something VERY special was cooking in there.  I looked at the tree, with its popcorn strings and paper chains cut from a comic book, and this creation we all made together was magnificent.  My baby lamb bleated and Arlene and I ran off to our room to play with our new companions.popcornGarland

That Christmas is one of my first vivid memories and it stays with me to this day.  My sister and I were toddlers and we lived on a sheep ranch which would now be in the valley below the Fayetteville mall.  Life was idyllic and innocent in my world.  I’m sure my parents found it much more difficult.  We spent Saturday nights on the front porch listening to the Grand Ole Opry.  From our farmhouse, we watched the Fourth of July fireworks being shot at the drive in movie theater down the road.

But above all, this memory of Christmas is the most poignant—probably because I now know the truth of it.

The lambs, of course, came from the sheep ranch we lived upon.

The cinnamon and cloves spiced up the stick of bologna which was our Christmas dinner.  It was superb and so very special to us!

And those moccasins, beautiful as they were, represented the love my parents always gave to us.

The deerskin came from my dad’s good jacket, cut lovingly to fit our little feet.

The beading came from my mom’s one necklace, a set of beads my dad had won for her at the county fair.  She hand stitched them for us-creating as she always did- something beautiful out of bare essentials.

We’ve all grown up now, creating our own families and our own traditions.  But I never fail to remember this special Christmas and to pray that somewhere in my children’s world, my husband and I have created such a memory for them.

May this Christmas be filled with simplicity and joy and love for you!

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

AVFM- Goldilocks:The Modern Story

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

My Mom wrote this poem for me in December 2011 when I was working on a talk for a local women’s group called “Enough: The Art of Having, Doing and Being ‘Just Right’.” I sat across from her at lunch one day frustrated with the rate at which the talk was coming along and said “I need a poem…about Goldilocks…being enough.” Twenty minutes later, I had this.  I told you she rocked! Enjoy!

Goldilocks: A Modern Story

Once upon a time
In a land of twists and turns
There lived a girl named Goldilocks
With lessons to be the learned.

She found a store- ‘twas filled with books
On every subject known.
They called it “Bears and Noble”
For its fame had grown and grown.

She was a pretty little thing-
This girl named Goldilocks-
She had lots of shiny shoes
And ruffled fancy frocks.
Her jewelry box had overflowed
With baubles of all kinds and
She spent each waking day
Searching for new finds.

“So many things to want,” she said-
“So many things to buy.”
The world was filled with wondrous things
And though she knew not why,
She just to had to have some more
Of everything in sight.
“Happiness” was all about
The shiny, blingy, bright.

“Goldi” stopped at “Bears’ first rack
and gazed at all the books,
Choosing the most recent source
Of new and trendy looks.

Sipping at her mocha latte,
Bored with wanting more,
Our little girl decided to go on and
Check the second floor.
Now Goldi had so much to do
She oft was quite fatigued.
This guilty moment in the store
Should have brought relief.
The laundry wasn’t finished yet
There were errands to be run-
There were groceries still to buy
And cleaning to be done.

The dinner meal was not prepared
And shirts still needed pressed-
But here she was at Bears and Noble-
Who would have ever guessed.

She’d go in search of written word
To help her organize
The overwhelming list of chores
That made her days fly by?

Nothing on the second floor
Gave help to Goldilocks.
She looked up frantically to
Check the time upon the clock.

If she could only be the girl
Who was in such control,
She could organize her world
And be the best at all.

Now, standing in the self help aisle,
The choices filled the wall,
And in this room of great advice
There were solutions for us all.

If Goldilocks could read this one-
Her business skills could grow-
And this one helps with losing weight
And this one keeps the budget low.

Her closets will be cleaner now-
Her children will be gifted,
And if she reads through all these books
Her world will just have shifted.

Wait-there is one book on the shelf-
It stands in quiet light
And after all these random words-
This Book is, well….just right.

                                        -Carlene Welch  
                                          © 2011

 

Blessings!

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com .

A Visit From Mom: It’s All a Competition

This is the first post in a new series here at Strings Attached called “A Visit from Mom.”  I am so blessed to have such a wise woman for my mother and doubly blessed that I get the opportunity to work with her on a daily basis and have her be an integral part of my life.  And guess what? She’s a writer….a really good one…and a great inspiration to me as a writer.  So welcome to a new tradition…I hope you enjoy her words as much as I do. 


On the way to work this morning, I listened to a commercial that involved a grandmother referring to herself as the “good grandmother.” Her grandchildren preferred coming to her house rahter than the other grandmother’s home because she had all the fun video games, i-pod and i-pads, and any other technology that could be sold for Christmas.  The other grandmother only made chocolate chip cookies.

In our world, we compete for jobs and careers, to make the best grades in school, to excel in numerous sports, and to get the biggest market share in our chosen businesses.

After an evening of trying to find some entertainment that didn’t involve competing for someone’s affection, surviving at the expense of other competitors, singing and dancing better than someone else, I finally retired to my room to read. My room is filled with self help books about how to compete in the modern world. I chose a little fiction novel which was a nice way to escape all the competition.

Somehow, we seemed to have missed the opportunity to learn the most important lesson about competition: teamwork.  I don’t mean forming alliances that you break when it’s most convenient for you. I mean genuine, working-together-for-the-common-good teamwork.  I mean reaching out to life up those who need our assistance and making a good impact on all those we meet each day.

In this week before Thanksgiving, I am most thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who doesn’t ask us to compete for his grace and support.  Thank you, Father, for unconditional love even if I’m not considered the “winner” in this world.  I am a winner for knowing You.

Blessings!

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom.  She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know.  She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts.  For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com .

Unwrapping His Promises: The Promise of an Abundant Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10

Today, do something playful. Maybe even a little crazy. And smile, radiant smiles spreading all over this world. 

The prompt is challenging me today.  Right now in this time of gift buying, and family visiting and house decorating and work and preparation….right now in the midst of all the “I shoulda oughtas”—to stop and play? Duane, you’re killing me with this offer of life in the midst of the mundane…the everyday…in the midst of a slow, worldy death.

And yet,  Jesus said—I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  Did you hear that? TO THE FULL!

So in this moment, when I am taking myself so seriously, an angel prompts me with a challenge….to play….to smile…to live. It’s so hard to shift gears, so I start with a smile…with a laugh at my daughters silly jokes…with a little game of foot ninja (this game has a much more interesting name that I can’t remember or spell) with my son…with a few moments to drink in the heavenly sound of my children laughing belly laughs that roll until the need to draw breath overtakes them.

This is life to the full….this is the promise of the abundant life.

 

Today’s promise can be downloaded by clicking here.  Thank you all so much for continuing this Advent journey with us.