Inspiration from an “Old Friend from Far Away” (aka an effort to return to writing)

Hello my friends in the blogosphere! Have you missed me? I have missed you all so much…or maybe I haven’t missed these nights here at the computer nearly enough to return to them…or maybe, as I told a friend the other day, I am speaking so much now and I just only have a finite amount of words in me and it leaves me with nothing to write.  (She reminded me that I was created in the image of an infinite God and thus there was nothing ‘finite’ about me…including my words, but perhaps I was releasing them through the outlet of speaking rather than writing and simply didn’t need the writing as much these days.) Or perhaps I have simply become a slave to my busy schedule and make no place for this platform.  Whatever the reason, I am limping back this way complete with shiny good intentions to be here on a regular basis.  

My plan is to post regularly again in the “Ministry Resources” category (once every other week) and to hopefully share some words from you that I have been working on in my free writing exercises.  This second experiment terrifies me as these are some of the truest, rawest words I have written.  I have been hiding them in a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” notebook for over a year now and I think I am ready to share some.  But cause I am all scared and stuff and hate to do this authenticity thing alone- wanna play along?showyourheart

Here’s what I’ll do:  

I will post a prompt from my memoir writing book by Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, and other books every now and again.  I will commit to writing on this prompt for ten minutes and share my writing with you…and you share with me?  Post a response to the prompt and share your link in the comments?  What do you say?  If yes…super cool! Let’s do this thang! If no, well…then…I will share what I write anyway…So to start, just a quick story about how I came by this treasure of a book by Natalie Goldberg.

I was undone by her gift.  When I unwrapped it, it seemed…well…typical….of my sister- of her habits, of her life and loves…that she would gift me with a book for Christmas.  It is what she always gives- a tradition begun in her grad school days when money was tight and knowledge premium.

A sweet gift for a bibliophile like myself, but…well…expected.  I almost didn’t even flip through the pages….but I am so glad I did.

The book itself was one chosen specifically for me- Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg- a treasure for a storyteller and writer like myself.  It was a book I had longed for for several months and I was excited she’d chosen it for me.

“I just bought this for my Kindle!” I said and watched her face fall a bit.

“You can take it back if you want,” she offered, “but you should check inside first.”

I opened to the introduction and began skimming when out slipped a slip of cut looseleaf notebook paper.  Scrawled in blue magic marker in my sister’s handwriting was a quote:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you cannot do.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

Her letters formed straight up and down, started neatly and ran off the lines at the end of the quote. The slip of paper was torn cleanly from it’s sheet. I stared in wonder at this gift.

She’d stolen moments to write these words and tuck them in this book for me to run across at just the perfect time.  She’d searched and saved and thought of me when she saw them…and then she’d pulled the cap off of a blue Cars magic marker and written them down for me late at night or during nap time or when she could have been showering in peace.  Moments her busy-mom-of-two-with-a-newly-adopted-special-needs-chld-life just could not afford….but she spent them anyway.

As I flipped through, I found other slips of paper and had to fight the urge to read them all. I knew her intent was for me to unwrap these tiny gifts all year long- to dole out bits of encouragement over time…so I waited….and sat in awe at her gift.

I have loved working through this book over the last year….so now I am ready to share SOME of this writing with you…maybe these prompts will be as beautiful a gift to you as they have been to me.  Stay tuned…I’ll be back soon!

AVFM- Picking Stickers..for when love teaches

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 mother was one of the best stay at home moms ever.  She had absolutely no money, but she was creative and could make something special out of nothing better than anyone I have ever known.  My fondest memories of her come from early childhood when she managed to cook and sew and garden and milk the cow and wash on a wringer washing machine and care for my siblings and me. . . .and play with us.

She truly enjoyed beating us at our own game of hop scotch or tetherball.   She would join us building a play house and play dolls inside our clothesline draperies.  When I was six, we lived on a dusty patch of God-forsaken earth in Wingate, Texas.  There, Mama taught us how to make mud pies near the tank of water generated by the windmill.

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On one of those adventures, my sister and I decided to make a special pie with a beautiful crust made from a local plant known as a prickly pear cactus.  In our enthusiasm regarding the perfection of our creation, we didn’t even notice the barbed, easily broken stickers which protruded on both sides of each “pie crust”.  By the time we had finished baking and presented our goodies to our mother, our little hands had already started to swell from the angry cactus.

Now, I know as a mother myself, that the sight of us in that condition probably wrung serious fear from her heart.  But there we were, miles from anyone, no telephone, no car—nothing but tweezers and rubbing alcohol.  For hours, Mama sat with us, picking stickers one by one, murmuring sweetness and singing songs to two screaming, distraught little girls.

I tell you this story because it ironically always brings a sense of calm to me.  My mother did so much more than teach us to make mud pies that day.

She taught us to be thorough, knowing that missing even one sticker in our little hands could cause an infection.

She taught us to be patient, carefully looking for each sticker and removing it methodically.

She taught us to approach a painful situation with gentleness and kindness, lessening our pain with her songs and sweet nothings.

Most of all, she taught us to do all things in love.  I KNOW she had not planned on spending her day picking stickers out of our hands.  But you would have never guessed that by her behavior.

I miss her now.  She could still teach me new lessons each day.  Perhaps I can do the same for others.  Perhaps I make her proud.  Please Lord, make it so.

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.

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,

AVFM: Mama’s Music…for when life is full of her song

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.

music note

May 11 was my mother’s birthday.  She passed way too young over 25 years ago, when my youngest was just an infant. She was a magnificent woman who grew a huge garden, harvesting and canning everything she could to feed her family.  She raised free range chickens, picked blackberries and made all sorts of breads and pastries from scratch.  She also played hopscotch, made mud pies and wrote poetry.  My mother was a pioneer woman in a modern age.  She didn’t drive, we rarely had a telephone, and often didn’t even have indoor plumbing.  She made or remade all of our clothing. Recycling wasn’t an option—it was a necessity.  She would have embraced the new “organic” way of life that has gained such recent popularity.  But my favorite thing about Mama was her “joie de vivre”.  She was always singing in this crystal clear voice and I loved hearing her.  When she passed, I wrote the following piece in her honor.

Mama’s Music

As a babe held in her arms,
Snuggled close against her warmth,
She’d rock her chair and sing to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

When I would wake in bed at night
And cry out for her in my fright
She’d come sit and sing to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

Through all the hurts, she was there
To show me how to love and care.
She would work and sing to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

Then I grew up, as children do,
And I found when I was blue,
I’d sing those songs she sang to me—
Those peaceful, simple melodies

And they would soothe my aching soul.
It was then I came to know
The healing power she gave to me:
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

Now, my children have their pains
When tempers roar and teardrops rain.
I think of Mom and sing to them
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

The wind chimes on my porch were hers,
And when my hold on hope has blurred,
I listen as she sings to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies.

Mama’s music does live on
In every red-gold bursting dawn.
So, go on Mama, sing to me
Those peaceful, simple melodies!

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.

Yellow Jeeps- A Touchstone of Love…for when you just need to know

The drive home from Little Rock was quiet after his heart broke and shame spilled out into the space between the his perch in the back seat and mine in the driver’s.

“I must of done something wrong, Mom, I’ll try to be better….to be better. Why did they take all my food away?” He cried and said he was sorry…that he would try harder. I did what moms do- I comforted, I quieted…I told him it would all be all right.

But when he finally slept- exhaustion and the after-effects of anesthesia taking over- I wept fear.

We were traveling home from Arkansas Children’s Hospital with news that crushed my little boy’s heart.  He had been so good….he had followed all their rules…eaten only chicken and rice for six weeks, but the little section the surgeon had snuck in and stolen from his insides and the pictures they’d taken while they were there told of story of an overactive immune system that was attacking any food.  They wanted to take it all away…stick a pipeline of goopy elemental formula straight into his stomach and fingers crossed pray that would reboot his system.

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Xander at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Oct 2008

I was outraged at the words the doctor used in front of my seven year old child.  Words like “it’s clear he just can’t control himself” and “I am positive he hasn’t been sticking to the diet we prescribed” and “you are killing him with his food.” Words full of fear and shame.  It split me open and awakened the hibernating bear-ess that was inside and I fired that man on the spot.  I walked away from the appointment not knowing the ramifications of what I had done…the black stain of the doctor’s fear weighing heavily on my heart.

As Xander slept heavily in the back seat, I prayed.  Dear God, heal my son…show me what to do now.  This doctor was our hope.  And then my prayer got really real…God, why is this happening to him? Don’t you love him? Don’t you love us?

I was deep in a wrestling match with God.  Tuned out to any words of comfort He might actually have for me…the angry woman beating the chest of an embrace with her fists. Quietly, from the back seat comes my answer –

“Yellow jeep, God loves me.”

The “yellow jeep game” began as a leadership devleopment exercise my partner, Tim (bulletproofteams.com) and I were using to help demonstrate the power of “noticing.” We would go into a group and ask how many yellow jeeps they had seen that morning.  Generally, the number was low for a the group- two or three.  We would release the group for the day with the charge to count yellow jeeps. The next day the numbers would often be in the teens.  We began to notice yellow jeeps everywhere.

At the time, I was at a place in my life where I needed to be consistently reminded of God’s love for me.  So I prayed for God to send me a tangible sign of His love at the times when I most needed it…the Yellow Jeep.  When I see one, I say out loud, “Yellow Jeep, God loves me!”

There are few other times in my life when I have needed to know God’s love for me than that moment.  I looked out the driver’s side window, expecting to see a single jeep passing by on the highway….instead there, at the roadside jeep dealership, was a long row of them.

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With each one we passed, Xander said “Yellow Jeep, God loves me!” Twelve times he said it….and then he said, quietly and full of grace-

“And guess what, Mom? He loves you, too.”

What’s your yellow jeep?  Do you have a sign that reminds you that you are loved?  

Dreams of a Tiny Dancer…for when God-sized dreams are catching

“ What’s a God-sized dream, Mom?”

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She stands with head tilted, blue eyes glinting over her black rimmed glasses, complete with hearts and gold filigree and diamonds that scream her personality for all the world to hear.  She is stunning- this mini version of her father with her “Mom’s instincts.”  (It is, by the way, the greatest compliment I could ever receive that this child of wonder, full of love, would identify her personality as mine.) She munches Great Value BBQ chips in my ear as she reads over my shoulder a blog post written by another dreamer about a launching place.

“Is it a dream that God gives you or is it something that you ask God for?”

Her nine years feel like they have fast-forwarded thirty and I stop reading, struck by the question I echoed just three days earlier as my new friend and I made our way up US Hwy 71 toward a sacred meeting place for dreamers.  I’ve practiced this weekend the art of asking questions as an answer and so I do this now, seeking wisdom in the faith of a child.

“What do you think a God-sized dream is?”

“I think God makes us with dreams inside and with all the things we need to live them out.  What do you say always from the Bible? ‘God created a purpose for you before he created the Earth and created you for a purpose.’ Yeah…so I think he makes us like that.”

I smile.  Ephesians 2:10.  A verse that guides every dream conversation I have.  Never fear, moms, these “littles”, they do listen and take to heart.

“I think you are right on, sweetheart.  Do you have a God-sized dream?”

“Yes.  God gives me the same dream every night.  I’ve dreamt it more times than any other dream I’ve ever had.”

I start to correct her…that the ‘dreams’ we are speaking of aren’t exactly the same kind of dream that one has every night, but before I say anything, she opens her heart and spills out the dreams of a nine year old girl that wants to use her new-found gifts to change the world for Jesus.

“I am a primary dancer for a Christian dance company like Ballet Magnifcat. We are at this big auditorium filled with people and I am dancing with such grace and beauty.  The ballet ends and I am standing in the middle of the stage taking my final bow, someone hands me roses and I step forward and tell the story of Jesus and how he laid down his life for us and how we all need Him everyday. I invite those who don’t know Christ to come to the front and lots of people come to know Him. They come to know Him through my story. They come to know Him through my dance. I bring people to Christ with what God made me to do.  That’s my God-sized dream.”

I am undone by my tiny dancer.

I think back to a late night conversation by the fireplace in Nebraska with another dancer. One older and who has walked much further through life, but who holds onto the dream of dancing for God again.  And to the woman who wished she hadn’t waited 54 years to begin believing in her dream of writing for Jesus.  And to the man who wasn’t sure that he was dreaming his dream or God’s and needed help discerning the difference. I think back on these conversations and I wonder at God’s timing.  I am in awe of the way He has prepared me for this moment through my experience with His dreamers of all shapes and sizes this past weekend.

Gratitude spills over and floods the room.  Thank you, dream sisters and brothers, for sharing your hearts and stories with me, for giving me the opportunity to practice listening and encouraging others in their God-sized dreams.  Thank you, Adonai Ballet Academy for a safe place for my daughter to hone her craft so that she has the skills to live out her dream.  Thank you, Sally for preparing my heart to hear this dream come from hers.  Thank you, Ballet Magnificat for inspiring dancers to dance for God.  Thank you Holley Gerth, for giving me the language around which to speak these hearts aloud.  But mostly, Thank you my Sweet Dreamer for sharing your heart with me and reminding me that I am living my dream of helping others to see theirs right where I am.

Photo credit: Adonai Ballet Academy

Photo credit: Adonai Ballet Academy

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AVFM: Precious Moments…for when your little ones are all grown up

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.

“Precious moments. . .sneak up on us. I don’t think it matters how young or old our children are.Sometimes it’s just a quick, funny smile, or a small gesture they make, that sparks that overwhelmingfeeling of total love.” – Shari Cohen, Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul

I got to see my grandchildren, Elizabeth and Alexander, in their annual school presentation last weekend. Their parts entailed making a biographical presentation of an historical person, including costume and 10 minute first person oral presentation.

They were brilliant!

lizzy as clara

Lizzy was Clara Barton

Xander was Nikola Tesla

Xander was Nikola Tesla

I enjoyed it immensely. . .almost as much as I enjoyed watching my eldest daughter taking in their work. It prompted memories of hours of Odyssey of the Mind competitions, volleyball and basketball tournaments, and academic honors ceremonies. That search for excellence is still within her and drives her daily. It makes her loyal to her husband and children and tireless in her faith. For this and many, many other qualities, I am truly proud.

On Saturday, I got to see my grandson, Crawford, and my new grandson, Roman. We joined my
daughter, Lora, and son-in-law, Dustin, at Crawford’s soccer game. It was a first experience with Roman, and a cherished one. Crawford was excited to have his grandpa there to watch the game and Roman was excited to pick the newly discovered grass from the field and place it in a bucket. Our parting moment, when he kissed my cheek without being prompted, ranks right up there with most beautiful moments in my life.

Lora Crawford and Roman

Roman, Lora and Crawford at the orphanage in Kramatorsk, Ukraine

I look at my sweet, sweet Lora, and so understand why God gave her the perseverance to rescue this child from his homeland. She has all the technical skills needed, certainly, but she and Dustin are the most consistent parents I have ever seen. If, as I believe, it is true that we can change this world one person and one act at a time, this desire to raise these two beautiful boys will make a huge change. What a legacy!

On Sunday, we joined my youngest daughter for lunch before she returned to an afternoon of homework as she pursues her Master’s degree in education. I watched her interact with others in the restaurant, taking in how beautiful she is and how charming she can be. She has a gorgeous love of color and surrounds herself in it. She teaches art, you know.

alexis

My beautiful daughter, Alexis.

She possesses an amazing talent—not just the artistic talent, but the ability to convey a joy of learning to the children she teaches. She has survived some traumatic emotional events, and continues to display an amazing amount of personal strength and determination. She is a natural caregiver, displaying a loyalty that few people ever possess. Give her a project, and she will accomplish it. Give her a challenge, and she will overcome it. I do so admire her inner strength.

I love this picture from her Junior Prom!

I love this picture from her Junior Prom!

Yes, it is true: it doesn’t matter how old or young your children are. There are those moments when you behold a smile, a turn of the head, a mannerism, and feel that total, unabashed love for your “little one”. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for my blessed family!

Blessings,

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Me and my family….aren’t they beautiful?

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.