Tag Archives: Church

Garage Sale Memories

20180504_184339_previewNormally, on this particular Friday of the year, I would be out of the house by now, yet here it is, 10 o’clock in the morning, and I’m still in my pajamas, set to go nowhere, intent on doing nothing and not happy about the whole lot of it. This is a weekend of memories for me. I’m breaking tradition by staying home, but alas, I have no intention of polluting my church and my hometown with the nasty coughing meanies that have infested and infected my chest. Yes, I’m sick. Yes, this is our city-wide garage sale weekend that coincides with my church’s annual garage sale for missions. It’s the church garage sale that I’m missing. And my mother.

You see, I have lived away from my parents and brother for my entire married life. After we married, grad school took us to Nebraska, 1000 miles away from my Pennsylvania roots. Then a job took us 1500 miles from there to Connecticut. My mother and I were always close. Even as far away as we lived, we still kept in touch by phone. When national phone plans made calling even more accessible, Mum and I would burn up the phone lines, talking for at least an hour or more each time, often about nothing or about the same things rehashed each time. I loved our calls because vacations were far and few between.

Finally, we had the chance to move back to PA, only 80 miles away from my family and in the same town as my husband’s. At first, after being away for so long, weekend visits seemed almost surreal, but after we gave my parents their first and only grandchild, visits became an almost monthly thing. There was nothing like being in the same space with them. Daddy died too soon in 1994 when our daughter was 7. After Mum was widowed at 65, only 4 years older than I am now, she lived with and depended on my brother for the next 10 years. She had this philosophy that “Barbara has her own family now.” It led to some martyrdom and some misunderstandings, but by then, it was 2004, and we had to move again, this time to Wisconsin, 670 miles away. Back to communicating by phone. I missed her hugs.

My mother was aging by now. The first signs of her slowing down were showing up. Adult onset diabetes took a toll on her, although sometimes, I think the medications took a bigger toll. We had been in WI for two years, when our daughter decided to join the collegiate world by graduating from high school. It was decided that Mum was going to come and spend an entire month with us prior to Lauren’s graduation.

Looking back, it was a special time then and is a special memory to me now. We did what we could with Mum’s health in mind. She and I went to Door County and stayed overnight, then took the annual lighthouse tour. It was not without its challenges, since Mum had trouble with the rugged terrain. She ended up with a splinter in her hand from a large stick that I found to aid with walking. That meant a visit to the doctor’s office where a nice, white-haired doctor flirted gently with her. She batted her eyelashes at him and reminded me of a shy, young coquette. Having been widowed for 10 years by now, she reveled in the attention of this doctor who removed the splinter from her thumb and maybe a little from her heart. I melted too.

That special time with her, where I could talk to her any time I wanted, hug her whenever and wherever, remains rooted in my soul as one of the last times that I truly had my mother with me. That’s what makes this weekend of the year so special to me. My mother and I explored the church garage sale where she delighted in picking up small trinkets for her friends back home. She scoured the stationary area for unopened packs of pretty note cards. She had her eye out for tiny boxes in good shape that could hold sachets and the like. Her eye for jewelry led her to the hard-to-find clip earrings that she wore, a little something for her, too, after all. If she had been healthy enough and closer to home, I’m sure that she would have bargain-hunted for clothing and kitchen wares as well. We enjoyed the grilled brats at Dave’s Brat Stand together in the brisk spring air.

It was with great joy that every year thereafter, when I mentioned the church garage sale, that she would ask me to find similar items for her. I did. By this time, she was beginning to need in-home health visits as her legs were beginning to not cooperate with her. The Parkinson’s would hold off showing its ugly head for a few more years, but she was weakening. Her last visit to WI was in 2010 for Lauren’s college graduation. I found a candy apple red walker for her at a garage sale to use to navigate the campus. It was one of the last times that she could be without support of any kind.

Each year, when the garage sale rolled around, I would scour the aisles much like she did for nice notecards, mugs and trinket boxes and send them to her to give to her care workers. One year, she liked a crepe flower that I sent so much that she kept it for herself. It now sits on our piano, one of the things that I brought home with me when we closed the family homestead after she died. That flower that cost me all of fifty cents means more to me than a dozen bouquets of roses because it meant a lot to her and serves as a reminder of the garage sale weekend we spent together so long ago.

Mum has been gone for almost 4 years. No more phone calls. No more trinket hunting. For a long time, due to circumstances and responsibilities thrust upon me, I could not mourn. I can now. It’s the oddest things that bring up the tears, and the oddest things that make me smile, especially when I think of our time together that very special year.

I have gone to the church garage sale every year, perused the aisles, bought and donated to help our mission program, and ate those lovely brats. Dave has since retired from his brat stand, having turned it over to other capable grill masters, but it makes me a little sad. There’s probably no difference other than the name, but I don’t know. Maybe the little tug at my heart is because I remember eating the brats of Dave’s Brat Stand with my mom. Every year afterwards, I would buy half a dozen brats and put them in the freezer to pull out for lunches. No brats for me this year. Darn illness!

I can’t peruse the aisles, touch what others have touched before, scoff at the absurdities of other people’s taste, ooo and aah at others, wishing I had that much good taste. I can’t price out treasures and dig through the yarns and pattern books. I’m sick at home.

What makes me sadder is that even though my mother is gone, the church garage sale still means picking out little note cards and happy boxes. It still means the hazy vision in my mind of eating brats outside with her. It still means that she is here with me, full in body and mind.

That year was one of the last times that I truly had my mother. I mourned her passing long before death took her. The angers and resentments of settling her estate marred her memory for a time, but I am finally opening up to the exquisite pain of mourning. I am reliving the good times of the past more than the sorrows of her latter years when her mind kept slipping away faster than her body. I will sorely miss the garage sale this year. Not only am I bereft of brats at lunchtime, but this illness has left me bereft of revisiting one of my last, best memories with a woman who still means the world to me, an unreproducible moment in time with my beloved mother.

 

 

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When Men Wore Hats

Hubs and I were sitting in Arby’s today, eating our Sunday lunch and talking about today’s church service. It’s our usual routine. Church, lunch, chat. A little people-watching always goes along with that, as we share communion of Arby’s sandwiches with our fellow man … and woman. I love to observe people. I don’t do it to judge; I do it because they interest me. Today, I watched a larger, middle-aged woman in stretch capris and a pink hoodie order food with a small man in green shorts over black sweat pants and orange socks. A man dressed all in tattered black proved that he could indeed mix colors by showing me his upper butt crack. Pasty white on black – the “in” colors of 2014. (Okay, butt crack always makes me judge a little.) A tidy older woman with coifed hair and blue jeans came in, followed by a family with four children who hadn’t visited a bathtub in a week. We see all kinds during our Sunday ritual.

On this particular Sunday, Hubs had performed double duty for choir. He had sung with his all men’s singing group for our first service. When they perform, they wear suits and matching ties. Men looking dapper – mmm, gotta love it. So, when the full chancel choir entered the sanctuary for the second service, a number of the men who sang at the first service were also present in the full choir for the second service. As I sat in the back pew (where every good Christian sits) and watched the choir enter, I was impressed by how classy and well-groomed they looked. In our laid-back church, people wear whatever they want. Most of the time, it’s dressy casual, but there’s always a mix of blue jeans and suits. To see that many suits all at once in the choir loft was a real treat.

At lunch, after the obligatory, covert people-watching, Hubs and I discussed the morning’s service. I mentioned how well-groomed the men in the choir had looked. Hubs agreed. I was about to remark about how slovenly society in general had become when I happened to glance around the restaurant. I saw the lady in pink and her companion on one side of us and the family with the kids on the other. If I had said that remark, even though it was a general one, I would have insulted most of the people in the restaurant, so I shut my trap.

Perhaps it’s me. I’ve been told that I’m too prissy for my own good, but to me, it just means that I hold myself to a standard of appearance that makes me comfortable. But I have to wonder when society began to believe that all forms of dress are appropriate at all times. Frankly, I blame the leisure suit.

I grew up in a time where a person wore his or her Sunday best to church. We dressed, and we dressed well. I remember playing with the fox stole of the prim, elderly woman who sat in front of us. The mouth clipped onto the tail, and the young me, maybe 6 or 7, would stroke the fox, petting it. When was the last time you saw a fox stole in church?

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The ladies wore hats and never removed them. The men wore hats and always removed them. Suits and ties were de rigueur. My dad shined his shoes with tins of Kiwi polish every Saturday night. Dressed to the nines, we worshipped God in style.

Where has that mentality gone? I remember the first time a woman dared to wear dress slacks to church in the ‘70s. Titters and gasps rippled through the congregation as she walked down the center aisle to her pew. You’d have thought she was wearing slacks designed by Satan himself. The first time I wore dress slacks to church, I felt like I was sinning, so ingrained was the idea of wearing dresses for worship. Nowadays, I’ll admit to wearing jeans too, but they’re nice jeans. You know, the ones that aren’t ripped and still bleed dye in the wash. I can’t even tell you the last time I wore a dress. Or a hat and fox stole.

Today at church, it was refreshing to see that many men in suits and ties. I think it’s only right that if we are going to give God our best, then we should dress in our best. But then, does He really care what we wear when we’re doing His work? After all, John 3:16 does not say, “For God so loved the world of fashion, that He gave His only Son a Rolex, and whosoever believeth in His dress code shall have eternal good taste.” I still love to see a well-dressed person, so maybe a dress code for life wouldn’t be a bad idea, but it would certainly make people-watching at Arby’s a lot less interesting.

The Caller’s New Name

One of the fun things that I do is edit the monthly newsletter for our church. I started in January of 2006, so I’ve been at it for 99 months, but really it only seems like 3 months, plus 8 years. The newsletter is called The Caller. It wasn’t my choice. It’s been The Caller for over 20 years, through at least two other editors. As a title, it’s kind of old fashioned, with that “sittin’ on the porch swing with your best gal” feel to it.

We could probably update it to something more in tune with today’s world, like The InstaChrist or Jesusgram or iCall. My favorite is GraceBook. Something with a more technological feel would give people the impression that we’re a groovy and happening church, or should that be a tight and rad church? Because we are a tight and rad church.

We have a cool outreach to over 150 children on Wednesday nights. If we include the adults that volunteer their time to help, that number reaches 300. We have rad programs that reach out to the LGBT community within and without our building, programs that are committed to helping feed and clothe adults and children in our community and programs that reach out into the world through mission trips. We have an on-line presence with a website and FaceBook page. Our choir is growing again with a new choir director. Our one-on-one caring ministry is touching more and more people in need. A few years ago, our congregation decided that it was time for our building to be more attuned to our current ministries, so we’re completing a remodeling project that turned around our 50 year old sanctuary a full 180 degrees. It’s turned us on our ears, as we re-examined our ministries, stream-lining some, expanding others, adding new ones that count. Even cynics would have to agree that what we’ve done and are doing is tighter than skinny jeans on a hipster.

Our church is “tight and rad.” Translate that to “active and growing.” We are fulfilling our Christian commitment to reach out and care for those beyond our building’s walls. Growth is good, and yet the newsletter is stuck with an old-fashioned name. The Caller. As if we’re going to go knocking on doors and invite you to church. Who does that anymore? It’s not like we can go a-callin’ on the neighbors at any time of day. As a society, we’re not that way now. Who has time to sit and chat? We’ve all got phones that go with us every place we go. Why visit in person when a text will do? So, I’m proposing that an appropriate name for The Caller that would be in keeping with the current times and mission of the church would be … The Caller.

That’s right. No change. It may seem like an old-fashioned name for a church newsletter at first, like we’re not keeping up with the trends of the modern, secular society, but really, it is the universal message for all Christians to call people to Christ. That has never changed. We are called again and again to reach out. In response, we, the called, are reaching out to those who are in need of Christ and Christ’s care through us. We are calling them to us. We are The Caller.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be the editor of The Caller. I will continue until God calls me elsewhere or calls someone else to do it, just like He called me. What I do know is that during my turn as editor, I will always champion the name, The Caller. It’s a little awkward, a little old-fashioned, but it also says everything about who our church is as Christians. We are The Caller. And people are answering.

 

 

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Meet My New Pet, Juan Pablo

Water buffalo. Two. Mine, all mine.  Why? Because they were Christmas gifts.

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Each month, I put out the newsletter for my church. This is my eighth year as a volunteer. Every Christmas, my thoughtful pastors give us a small gift bag with chocolates and a thank you note. I think the note said something or other about giving two water buffalo. It’s a lovely gesture, but I’m still waiting for the pigs they promised a couple of years ago. So now I have two water buffalo roaming around in my back yard, which if you’ve seen my back yard, you will know is the size of a rather large postage stamp. Or at least, I WILL have two water buffalo roaming around in my back yard. They haven’t been delivered yet either. From what I understand, I have to share them with the rest of the church staff. I haven’t been told what the schedule is yet, so I don’t know if they’re going to be coming to my house for a week or a month at a time. These things should be taken care of in advance when one is giving a present like this, don’t you think? Really. What were my pastors thinking? I must admit that it must be the thought that counts here. I just can’t understand why they think the staff of a mid-Western church needs to share two water buffalo though. I’ve never seen any inclination of the staff to want to herd things. Shepherding the congregation is another matter altogether. Water buffalo? They can’t be used for baptisms. Wrong kind of water, so even around the church, they’re kind of useless. They can’t even be used to pick up parishioners from their homes on Sunday mornings. Face it, in the world of animals as autos, water buffalo are sturdy convertibles, but our winters are much too cold for open canopy water buffalo taxis. Around my house? Like I said, my yard is small. Even plowing up a garden plot wouldn’t take very long. And if I tried to have a garden, the water buffalo would stomp all over it when I let them outside to do their “business.” Really. What good are two water buffalo to me, Mrs. Suburban Mid-West Woman? I’m going to have to talk to the rest of the staff, but maybe we can give the water buffalo to Heifer International so that they can help two families sustain themselves. The shipping costs might be exorbitant, but I’ll feel better knowing that Sally and Juan Pablo (I’ve gotten attached) are being put to good use instead of trampling my garden or being played on like a jungle gym in the church nursery. I’ll miss them, but they belong with other people who need them more than I do. I think the church secretary will agree too. Sally never got the hang of answering the phones and Juan Pablo tried to photocopy his butt. Hello, repairman. Good bye, Juan Pablo and Sally. It’s for the best. I wish them well. I hope that for next Christmas, the pastors just donate money to Heifer International in our names. Well, I’m off to buy some buffalo kibble. Anyone know a good wholesaler? I’m going to need a lot. I just hope the pigs don’t finally come too. I’m not sure there’s room.

http://www.heifer.org/