The Story that is My Life

My life as it has been and as it continues to unfold is a story. One story made up of many stories. One complex, yet simple story. One sometimes messy, but so beautiful story. One story that I wonder if it might be interesting to be told.

This blog is my attempt to put part, or parts, of that story into words, pictures, or whatever form my mind can wrap itself around or create from within myself to express what it is like to be the one inside Cindy's Story. This is an exploration on my part and on yours in reading, and seeing, and maybe even hearing. It is not necessarily chronological. It might not always make sense, but it is my expression. It is me.

You are invited to see how my story unfolds.....

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ruby's Meal; a True Story of a Meal I Will Never Forget

As we walked up the rock and dirt path to the quaint house, we could already sense that we were going back in time.  A wire mesh covered the small front porch with ivy and other wandering plants winding their way in and out of it above our heads.  Next to the front door a now yellowed paper was tack to the house telling us of the dangers of drugs that had been found grown in the area many years ago.

We stepped in through the front door and had to wait a moment for our eyes to adjust to the dimly lit room as there were only a few antique lamps set throughout the room.  A thin layer of smoke hung in the air just below the beams that stretched at odd angles across the ceiling.  The smell and warmth of the old wood stove greeted our noses and skin first thing.  An elaborate tapestry, stitched by its owner, of "Daniel in a Den of Lions" hung framed on one wall next to another thick antique, but empty, frame.  Next to a well used children's story book with frayed edges, sat a petite, solid brass, ladies' dress boot gathering dust.

The floor boards under our feet creaked in a few places as we ventured our way past inlayed shelves stocked with jars of every kind and color of canned fruit, vegetable, and meat you can imagine.  Stepping into the kitchen, the aroma of food directed our noses and eyes to a huge kettle of simmering stew waiting next to a steaming pan of freshly baked yet crudely cut corn bread.  Tw large pitchers of southern sweet tea sat on the crowded kitchen bar next to many thick glass mugs full of ice.  My thoughts reminded me that caffeine gives me headaches.  To the left of the stone fireplace built by her Cherokee husband, hung a painting of that very spot, with an old couple and a golden retriever gathered around, warming themselves in front of it.

"Isn't nice." Ruby stated, and then all, in turn, exclaimed how wonderful and realistic it was.

I thought the chairs looked like they might fall over and the proportions of a few things looked a little off.

"It's very nice."  She stated again, "Now, my husband really like this one, except he said it wasn't right.  He said, 'My hair's the wrong color.'  He was a Cherokee man, and his hair was as black as night.  We used to laugh at that."

Ruby looked at us out of the corner of her dancing eyes, then turned her own gray head toward us and grabbed our curiosity with her words, "You know, we didn't even speak each other's language when we got married!"

She paused a moment to give the eight of us a chance to gasp and exclaim.

"How did you decide to get married then?" Nancy asked.

"He used to walk down the dirt road by my house every day," she explained, "its possible to communicate without words you know, and when we got married, it didn't take long to find out what marriage is all about, even without language."

Then, just as suddenly as she brought up the subject, she directed our attention back to her old house.

"Why, he even built this very house for me many years ago.  Now look at this wonderful room!"

We stepped down through a small open doorway and saw an adjoining room full of windows, almost like a green house.  The sun sent streams of light in through the vines of various green hanging plants.  An old wooden table filled the center of the room so we took positions around it and stood in awe with what captured our eye.  Paints and brushes of all colors and sizes were scattered about.  All eyes were drawn to a half finished painting of bright life-like irises standing at the far corner of the table.

"Look at this painting, you'll never see anything like it," she stated.

"Never see another on like it?" I thought, "Why, I've already seen hundreds of paintings of flowers.  Sure it is pretty, but what makes this one any different from all the others?"

"Now come over here so you can see it better." Ruby directed, "Aren't these irises beautiful brother Ray?"

With that lead in, Mr. Ray Chitwood couldn't help but continue his boisterous telling of Ruby's artistic abilities that the world never had the opportunity to discover.

"Ruby entered a painting in a contest once, and she easily took first prize, but otherwise her art is just hanging in the homes of her family.  Someone asked her to paint these irises and said they would pay her to do it.  I think she should up the price, and if they don't pay it, Gene and I will."

Mrs. Chitwood agreed with a small laugh that she always used when she wasn't sure what others were thinking.  Her thin face showed a smile as she said, "I think the irises would look lovely in my country kitchen."

"Yes, if Ruby didn't give her art away to all her family, she could be rich!" Mr Chitwood almost shouted.

"Oh, Brother Ray!" Ruby said, but one look at her face showed no signs of doubt or disbelief in that fact.

"Now you boys and girls are hungry.  How about some of that delicious food?"  She turned and headed back into the kitchen, calling over her shoulder, "Come and get some southern sweet tea.  It's the best you'll ever taste!"

"There she goes again, making claims she cannot have the right to claim," I thought, "I will decide that for myself."

Mr. Chitwood said a prayer of thanks for the food and a hearty praise for the hands that made it, then we dug in, filling our large mismatched ceramic bowls to the top as Ruby directed, and taking hand sized pieces of cornbread.

"Mmmms," and "Ahhhs," and "Wows" escaped lips between bites.

It tasted just like any stew to me.

All the girls and Mr. Chitwood sat crowded along the kitchen bar (I sat atop a big stump with my legs dangling down, and Sian and Paul ate at the table by the irises.  Ruby sat down with empty hands and a big smile for she had gotten hungry and eaten while waiting for us to arrive.

I wished that I wasn't being watched as I reacted to what I ate.  The southern sweet tea was as any other I had tasted in Cherokee country.  Our bowls of stew filled with spoon size chunks of beef, potatoes, and carrots, were seasoned nicely to someone else's tastes, but I feasted on the laughter that seasoned the room as Ruby recounted to us mischievous stories of her childhood.

"Have some more of my wonderful stew," she inserted more than once.  "You'll never taste anything like it again!  Here boys, finish this pitcher of sweet tea."

Again my thoughts replied that stew was not really one of my favorites, and yes, I would probably taste many like it in the future.

Somehow Ruby got Mr. Chitwood in such a jovial mood with her stories and her exclamations of, "You tell it brother Ray," that he forgot his problems of the day and entertained us with jokes, silly dances, and wild laughter.

At the point where stomachs begin to ache with laughter and the belt buckles are loosened a notch, each finished the final bite of their second (or third, or forth) helping of food and managed to convince Ruby that we stopped eating because of satisfaction, not distaste, though I had eaten so much that I would probably have distaste for stew anytime I saw it again.

"Now, wasn't that the best food you've every tasted!" Ruby exclaimed, then, without waiting for the answer my mind was forming, she took a few strides over to her pot bellied stove and came back carrying two of the biggest pies a person has ever seen.  My stomach moaned just thinking of stuffing anything more in it.

"Brother Ray, I know you love my lemon pie, and I made a custard too!"

"Woop-ee, would you all look at that!" he exclaimed and received a large slice of each.

"How will I do this?" kept running through my mind.  I watched wide eyed as a piece twice as large as I could possibly eat was lowered on to my plate, and then another.

"This is the best lemon pie you will every eat."

I remembered my mom's lemon pie, and I doubted it.

"You'll never forget it!"

Well, at least that part is right.  My eyes met Jeanna's with eyebrows raised, and we both suppressed a laugh as the same was repeated at each plate.  We began eating slowly.  On small bite at a time passed our lips and stayed for a moment in our mouths before being swallowed, as if we were being sure to savor every morsel, when really we were just trying to find a space for it.  The lemon, though very good when a person has room for it, made my mouth want to pucker, and the custard I slid onto Jeanna's plate after washing a few bites down with tea.

After many stories from Ruby and "Brother Ray," the pie had been eaten clean from all the plates I could see.  Now all I had to do was endure this uncomfortable stuffed feeling for the rest of the visit.

Ruth and Natalie, a student who enjoyed the art that she herself did, were now engaged in a conversation on how to paint a glass vase over the stems of the irises, when fits of laughter burst from the other room.  Seeing that the Chitwoods and Nancy were now involved in conversations trying to help put a bridge of understanding between the generation gap, Jeanna and I slipped into the little room where the guys were.  Sean and Paul each sat (almost laid) slouched on their chairs with their legs stretched out in front of them, staring with glazed eyes ahead at their plates.  The equivalent of half a pie each!  Laughter burns calories, I hear.

Ruby beamed with pride to hear such happiness coming from within her usually quiet home, and suddenly I understood the importance of Ruby'l stew, cornbread, and sweet tea.  My heart was stirred, and at last I tasted the flavors of this meal.  Flavored with the uniqueness of it's maker, and seasoned with sweet laughter and fellowship, draped with adornment from an age most only read about, a meal unlike any I've had before.  And on the day, it was the best meal I could ever have had.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Verses About the Pit and Death

I went down into the pit.  At the bottom, it felt dark, and alone, and hopeless.  Getting out was impossible.  

I gave up on life.  I made attempts to kill myself.  With my mind shifting to death, I died inside.  In my death, I felt no light, or warmth, or spark of a future in life.

I cried.  Help came slowly over the years.  Though I did not know it at the time, it was God who heard my cry and was pulling me out of the pit.

Now that I am out of that pit and have come from death to life, it is amazing to see that God spoke about these very things in His Word.  Take a look with me:

From the Pit
Lamentations 3:54-56 I said, ‘I am lost.’ “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ 
Jonah 2:2,6 “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice…  at the roots of the mountains I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. 
Psalm 30:2-3 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 
Psalm 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth,a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. 
Isaiah 38:17 Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. 
Job 33:29-30 Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life. 
Psalm 103:2-5 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
From Death To Life
Psalm 56:13 For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. 
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 
John 12:24-25 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 
Romans 5:17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 
Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 
Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 
II Corinthians 4:7-11 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,who loved me and gave himself for me. 
Colossians 3:3-4 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Psalm 16:1,11 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge… You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 
Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 
Psalm 34:22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. 
Psalm 42:8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life
Psalm 54:4 Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life
Psalm 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life
Job 10:11-13 You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose.
Isn't it amazing how God speaks to our lives long before we even know it!  God was the one who brought me up from the pit. He took my death, and gave me His life. This is how I see things now, and my wish for the future:
Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.