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.

prickly_pear_cactus

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.

Guest Post- Paying it Forward Mammow Style

This guest post was written by a dear friend and ministry partner of mine, Brenda McClure.  She’s agreed to come alongside me this year and regularly write guest posts for us! Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know you could guest post, too? If you have an idea or would like to submit a post, send it to stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.  

Pictures from Aunt Susie 2538

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t think about Mammow.  This time of the year she is even more a part of my thoughts and day dreams.  Our birthdays are 4 days apart.  I spent a lot of time with her every summer when I was young.

She taught me many things, but the most important lesson she ever gave me was on Love.  It wasn’t one moment or one event or one day or even one week….it was a continual lesson that spanned all of our time together.  She showed me love of God, love of art, love of life, love of people, but most importantly, she showed me love of self.

“Brenda, if you will lie, you will steal.  If you will steal, you will kill.  If you lie and no one finds out, you still know.  If you steal and no one finds out, you still know.  If you kill and no one finds out, you still know.”

She would often point out someone picking up a piece of trash and throwing it away and then say,

“Brenda, they did it because it was the right thing to do.  They won’t get an award for it, but they may have saved someone from tripping on it and falling…..”

…her story would go on to be funny and ridiculous, but it had a great point.  Picking up that piece of trash could have stopped a city wide electric failure because someone didn’t hit an electric pole while on the way to the hospital to see a loved one after falling at the grocery store on a plastic cup.  Trust me when I tell you that the story would go on for up to 30 minutes.  It would have all the emotions from tears to hold-your-tummy-because-you-are-laughing-so- hard.  Can you see how great she was?!  She covered love your environment, love your surroundings, and love others in a simple story.

Until recently, I didn’t realize how often she did NOT mention the negative side of the story.  She never said, “I can’t believe someone threw that on the ground.” Or  “I’m sure the selfish person who dropped that didn’t give a thought to the person who would HAVE to pick that up.”  We all have the choice at how we see a story….how we recite the story…how we teach our youth…..

I think these stories are part of why my study on love has been so special to me.  They helped me grab our second commandment and not want to let go.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31b)  This is what she was teaching me so many years ago.  They go hand in hand together.

I love the phrase “Pay it Forward.”  In order to pay something forward, we must have received something first….and we did!  It started back on a formless and empty world that was covered in darkness and deep waters. (Genesis 1:2 NLT)  Over a few days, God gave that world light and life.  I believe it was all created through His love, and because of that, we can say He gave it light, life, and Love.  So this is what we first received…light, life, and love.  Then we can skip a few years and again see where God gave us the same three things again.

I am the Light. (John 8:12)   I am the Life. (John 11:25)   God is love. (I John 4:16)  Jesus was the gift that just kept on giving.  Jesus “paid it forward” and is continuing to “pay it forward” to us today.

Today my prayer is short…..God help us all to embrace your love for us and give it to others so they will know YOU!   We ask through Jesus.

Blessings,

Brenda McClure is a massage therapist and owner of Couples Touch of Love, a ministry seeking to heal marriages through the teaching of biblical touch.  Brenda has a heart for seeing relationships healed and brought back to the fullness that God designed them to be.

AVFM: Sometimes Action Speaks Louder…

Mom’s not here today, but she has a really great reason for taking a day or two off….

It’s been an emotional week.  I find myself raw with the weight of it all.  Lifted up by the prayers of so many family and friends, held tight by folks who consistently remind me that life continues to pulse through the hearts of those I love, and somewhat distracted by the everyday mundane.

Yesterday, I was inviting my mom and dad to my children’s living history presentation on Friday when it dawned on me that in my rush through the last few weeks…in my effort to survive through the chaffed heart that bleeds tears at the drop of a hat…I had forgotten that my daughter, Lizzy, needs to dress as Clara Barton.

I quickly ran down the list of sequined and sparkly clothing she has in her closet….do you think Clara Barton had a bedazzler? Or that her favorite colors were lime green and hot pink? No?  Weeellll….

As my mom watched this realization break over me, she picked up her debit card, grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s go get some material.” (The office we work in happens to be next door to Hobby Lobby….danger, Will Robinson..)

I watched as my mom gathered items to make my daughter a costume….from scratch…with no pattern, no picture…you know, just out of the blue…from her head…cause ya’ll, my mom is so cool!

I walked into my office this morning to find this:

2013-03-06_10-57-39_47

Yeah, so…she didn’t write a post for us today because she was busy being the best mom/grandma ever!  But no worries, she’ll be back later this week!

Grace and Peace,

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.

Guest Post- Doing Time With Love

This guest post was written by a dear friend and ministry partner of mine, Brenda McClure.  She’s agreed to come alongside me this year and regularly write guest posts for us! Isn’t that awesome?  Did you know you could guest post, too? If you have an idea or would like to submit a post, send it to stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.  

The gift of time has been on my heart lately.We give time, waste time, use time, and sometimes we even “do time.”

 

prison

Typically “doing time” is associated with jail time. How do we look at our time as a Christian? Do we give time, waste time, use time, or do time as a Christian? In Mark 12:30 the Bible says “and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” This time of love is often given without much thought.

As a matter of fact, I have occasionally found myself loving God in a “doing time” sort of way. I am a Christian, so I can’t do…. Well, a Christian wouldn’t do….It is funny, but often I have heard people describing their Christianity in terms of what they can’t or don’t do. I am a Christian so I don’t cuss, drink, smoke, dance….It is a “can’t do” service to God.

I wonder if that is the kind of service God wants from us?

Are we sitting in a pew every Sunday feeling like we are in jail? We haven’t made
enough or done enough that week to get into Heaven. We don’t feel like we can get to Heaven on what we have done so we try to do more, but always fail to do enough. I hate to tell you this, but you are right, you can’t get to Heaven by what you do or don’t do. You can’t get to Heaven on your abilities.

You can only get there through the grace and mercy of Christ’s life that was sacrificed on the Cross just for you.

His blood releases you from all of the “can’t do’s.”

Come to Jesus with all your sin and He will set you free. Often we think we have to wait until we have lost the addictions, lost the sin, lost whatever is holding us back. I am overjoyed to tell you that everyone sitting in the pews Sunday is sitting there with something they are trying to get rid of.

But I don’t think it has to be that way. I wonder if worship to God would be more pleasing if we were coming just to love Him. A friend reminded me of Romans 4 today. Verses 4-5, “when people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” And Romans 3:27 “can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law.”

It is based on faith. We don’t have to put ourselves in the place of “doing time.” Jesus already did that. And then He paid the ultimate price for our “crimes.”

For those of us who have been sitting there for a while, sometimes we forget what it
is like and we want to judge those who haven’t figured out what we have. We can’t honestly look at others without looking at ourselves. That can become our jail. Thinking someone else is getting away with or able to do something that we don’t feel we can, so we compare our Christianity to theirs. This is very dangerous. We are in the jail of our choosing, but we don’t have to be there. Our sin just looks different than what it looked like when we first found Christ.

We have matured…or have we? Comparing isn’t a mature way to live. I Corinthians 8:1b “but while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Love doesn’t compare, it shows compassion.” Love is the “get out of jail” key. Mark 12:31,  “the second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Is it possible that loving our neighbor is what will free us from the prison we have been living in? Could the way we give and use our time loving others help us get out from behind the bars that cage us in?

Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to use my time for good. Help me to release the time I spend that is destructive. I want to use my time to fulfill your needs here. Help me to look at others with love. Help me to release any jealousy that I might harbor about how someone else spends their time. I want to help others to be released from bondage that they may feel. I ask this in Jesus’ Holy name.

Blessings,

Brenda McClure is a massage therapist and owner of Couples Touch of Love, a ministry seeking to heal marriages through the teaching of biblical touch.  Brenda has a heart for seeing relationships healed and brought back to the fullness that God designed them to be.

AVFM:The Broken Fiddle…for when your feeling used 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.

As a youth, I was a highly successful student, becoming valedictorian of my class, and accumulating academic accolades including numerous scholarships.  It was always my intention to do the same in college and have a lucrative career changing the world.  When I met my future husband in college, we married and had a youngster, leaving my aspirations for a college degree on permanent standby.  Since so much of my personal identity was wrapped around those achievements and dreams, I spent several years deeply regretting and resenting what I considered to be a huge sacrifice. The following poem was written during that period of time when it finally dawned on me that I was holding the most significant contributions I could ever present to this world and that my self-value and legacy would always be tied to the hearts I managed to touch along the way—whether I discard the remnants of a broken fiddle or lovingly coax it back to life.

Broken Fiddle

Each strand twangs as it rends apart

Until it dangles lifelessly at the end,

Curling up in desperation and fear—

Recoiling from the dreadful bow

That tore itself across the heart once too often.

The tender melodies have long since been silenced

By the constant friction of years of meaningless abuse.

This instrument was built to be held in loving hands

And caressed and treasured.

But someone gave it to relentless children

Who used the bow as a weapon to destroy the finely tuned wires,

And then discarded the broken fiddle

To suffer its injuries in a dark, forgotten corner,

To grow mildewed and musty.

broken_fiddle_2s

And then she came—picking up the broken fiddle

With loving fingers, caressing the scratched and dented wood,

Mending and healing age-old wounds,

Cherishing the spirit within.

Waxed and polished and strung taut with new life,

Resurrected through reverent hands,

The fiddle shrieks in high-pitched tones—becoming accustomed

Once more to the bow scraping lightly across its tendrils.

And then. . .the violin sings its tender melody for her.

© Carlene Welch, 1979

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.

Open Like a Lake….for when emotions are really raw

Glassy lake

so much hurt and preservation
like a tendril round my soul
so much painful information
no clear way on how to hold it

when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake

– Sara Groves, Like a Lake

The cursor blinks tauntingly at me and I sit here watching it and waiting.  I’ve tried to avoid writing today, but Simon says that “writers write” and “starving artists starve themselves mostly of self-belief and inspiration” so I sit obediently, with fingers poised over keyboard and wait for thoughts.

My head is full, and my heart brims over with a little bit of sadness and a little bit of malaise, and this is, most naturally, the time when words and tears spill out on the pages before me, but not today.  Today I want to stick my head in the sand and stay disconnected from this sadness in me and I know that opening the floodgates for words, opens the floodgates for emotion too.

A song plays in my head- one I heard this morning on my way to work that sounded pretty but didn’t tug on my heart because it was just words then and not real life. Then news comes of a life lost far too soon and the heart within me that is a mother and a older sister broke in two for the mother and sister who lost her, and suddenly just words turns to heart-aching truth and I am thankful that someone has the gift of making these truths into beautiful music. In the midst of the ache, a friend reaches across a thousand miles with a post about God and goodness and like the spot on my windshield where rock beat glass- it is the second hit that cracks the whole.

I tried earlier to write a post about speakers, but it didn’t come and I sat and stared and watched the cursor blink.  Then I tried to finish a post on secrets, but even those words wouldn’t come with any sort of rhyme or reason.

So instead I just sit and write. I am writing exactly what is happening as I am writing and I wonder if this might not be the first moment I have been truly present all this day.  But presence hurts today, so I stay quiet and keep my head down and hide in the back corner of the office hoping that no one will notice and come looking for me, because what I need most right now is just time.

So I apologize if the resources post is not up today, and quite honestly it may not be up tomorrow because tonight I will spend hugging babies and husband and truly relishing the people I love in my life.

So here is the resource for you today….and the tip on relationships for you the rest of the week:

Photo by Melton Microfilms

Photo by Melton Microfilms

Love.  Love deeply and strongly, and…please, please, please- SPEAK IT.  Say it out loud. Hug it out long.   Don’t wait, say it today, say it tomorrow and say it a lot. Leave no love unsaid- not in your marriage, or with your family, or with your friends, or with the lady who sits at the end of the pew and raises her hands when she sings worship, or with the man on the street corner who holds the sign that reads, “single dad just trying to make it work. Please help.”

And remember:

when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake- Sara Groves, Like a Lake

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 .