Free Like A Dancing Turtle

There is a park near my home where I often go to run. We watched as the land was cleared and the pavilions went up. There is a dog park there. Andrew wanted to go and walk his  dog. As cancer took its toll on his body, we promised him we’d take him in the wheelchair. He had hoped for more. We all did. This park is my park. It has kept many secrets shed in tears and it has heard my laughter, too. A few days ago I took this picture and wrote this poem. It is my pleasure…my simple pleasure, to share it with you.

Today I went for a run. But I went for more than that.

My insides needed open spaces.

Verdant places to shake the voices, forget the faces

Talking blind and all insist on what I am…not who.

I take them in – deep or fringe.

But they are there with mouths like ovals,

Their brows upraised in subtle indignation.

 

Today I went for a run. But I went for more than that.

Lungs and legs and rivulets of sweat replace imagined expectations.

The ghosts feel real enough to me.

Blood pumps and oxygen increases

Life to my brain.

And just like that – my thoughts take the high road.

Faces fade and lose their voices.

 

Today I went for a run. But I went for more than that.

Flat and plastic need not apply in this green and earthy beneath my feet.

Wild birds swoop low over lily pads.

Curious squirrels twitch tails in bushy chat.

Fat rabbits gather for grassy snacks.

Blue skies cover all

Where gators swim in ponds that keep their secrets.

 

Today I went for a run. But I went for more than that.

My prayer, my plea, my inner me

Seeks paths and trails where I run free.

I pause in my rhythm to seek true beauty,

A Holy Maker kind of story.

I lean over the dock, hear my own respiration.

The turtles are dancing their water ballet celebration.

 

© 2012 Melanie Dorsey

Ponder and share with me if you ever feel the burden of the “faces and the voices” that seem to tell you what you are instead of understanding WHO you are?

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Simple Pleasures – One Ingredient at a Time

I recently shared that I’m experiencing a shift in this season of life. Honestly it doesn’t all feel like rainbows and ice cream sundaes. However, the feeling of slowing, of not hurrying, of  taking my sweet time feels good. Feels very good.

One of the ways in which I’ve noticed that I’m slowing is when I cook. Instead of seeing how fast I can get a good meal (or adequate as the case may be) on the table, I’ve begun to take my time. I breathe more deeply. I move slower. And thus I enjoy it more.

Actually I’ve always liked cooking but I’ve not always been as deliberate in my preparations. Trying new recipes is fun for me but I used to look for dishes that had few ingredients and could be put together quickly. These days, however, I find that a long list of ingredients and many steps no longer deters me.

Maybe it’s a sign of growing older.

But I have an idea that it’s more about embracing delayed gratification.

A few months after having lost Andrew,I realized that an aspect of maturity had settled within my heart and mind. Morning after morning the realization dawned again that he was no longer here with us. Yet I knew I must learn patience “in the wait” – the kind of patience that produces hopeful expectation for what is to come.

It’s called delayed gratification.

I believe in the life of the faithful that to gracefully accept the necessity of delayed gratification is a mark of maturity. It says, “I may not see now what I hope for but one day what I hope for is what I’ll see.”

I must wait to see my son again. I have the faithful assurance that I  will see him again when I enter Heaven myself. But I don’t know when. That’s hard. Very hard. Tears spring to my eyes and my throat begins to burn even as I write the words. I don’t know when I’ll see Andrew again. The pleasure of his company has been delayed. But there will be a day when every promise is fulfilled.

What does this have to do with slowing down in the kitchen?

It  has everything to do with patience and an unhurried approach to living and loving.

Andrew used to tell me that he loved my cooking and my secret ingredient is “love.”     My sweet boy.

Preparing a meal can very well be an act of love when there exists:

  • thankfulness for the availability and abundance of food
  • appreciation for the creative process of cooking
  • mindfulness in the deliberate, unhurried action of one thing at a time
  • thoughtful service to family, friends and neighbors from your table

On a recent Sunday I prepared the fried okra pictured above, I had three women of my heart in mind:

  • Mother ~ June Clark
  • Mamaw Williams ~ Mamie Jane
  • Mamaw Clark-McCurdy ~ Josie May

Often when I cook or bake I see them in their own kitchens preparing meals. Okra is  a southern staple and I couldn’t come from any deeper roots in the south (Mississippi & Louisiana) than the home places of these three women. Each one in her own way learned patience and to gracefully accept delayed gratification.

As I rinsed, and cut the okra pods, I breathed deeply. No rushing about. No hurrying necessary.

I dredged the thin slices in the cornmeal and deliberately took note of the tiny seeds within the “spoke.” Have you ever really looked at a slice of okra? It’s marvelous perfection.

I checked the heat of the oil in my heavy cast iron skillet. When I thought it was right, I placed one cornmeal dusted round into the oil. I waited. Not quite hot enough.

When the lone okra began to sizzle I added the rest. A few minutes later I took my slotted spatula and carefully placed the okra on a paper towel lined platter to drain. I added a sprinkle of sea salt and popped a morsel in my mouth.

Hot, crispy and unlike anything else you’ve ever tasted. The Women would be satisfied with these. My kitchen becomes theirs. The cast iron skillet, the cornmeal that always has a place in my pantry…these are their tools. I am their daughter.

I share this simple okra recipe with you.

And it’s my pleasure…my simple pleasure to do so.

Ponder and share with me ~ What is your simple pleasure in the kitchen?

Fried Okra

  • Rinse pods but do not dry.
  • Trim ends and cut into 1/4 inch rounds.
  • Dredge okra in cornmeal and pan fry in canola oil (preferably in your large cast iron skillet).
  • Okra is  ready when it’s golden brown.
  • Place on paper towel to drain.
  • Salt to taste.

Gracefully accept the necessity of delayed gratification. It is a mark of maturity. (click to tweet)

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The Holy and the Humble

photo ~ Michelle Smith

I clipped three pink roses from the front yard and arranged them in a small crystal vase. These will be nice in Mother’s room…a little bit of the outdoor scenery for her to enjoy.

“Look, Mother. The rose bushes are really blooming.”

Nodding her head toward the chest of drawers, Mother answered, “Your daddy usually puts them up there for me.”

I swiped at some dust with my bare hand and placed the vase of roses next to the small T.V. that sat on the chest.

For the past year my mother has been mostly confined to her bed. Due to a severe problem with her esophagus that has resulted in her inability to even swallow water her only source of nourishment is through a feeding tube. Mother’s mobility is also limited because without notice her knees buckle and she cannot support herself to stand. My dad is her sole caregiver. It takes me twelve hours to drive from my home in Florida to the rural town in Mississippi where my parents retired from the ministry. We have discussed their moving in with my family but so far Mother is holding out to remain in her own home. One day I know this will not be possible. For now I drive out every 3 months to visit and give my dad a break from the daily care.

I help Mother with her basic needs and read from My Utmost for His Highest with her. I talk with her of trivial things and important matters. We watch T.V. together.

I organize, clean and cook for Dad. On one visit I made a big pot of turkey and wild rice soup and filled quart sized bags to go in the freezer. Another time Dad and I had a fish fry. He fried the catfish and potatoes while I mixed up the batter for the hush puppies.

I timed my last visit so that Dad could attend summer camp meeting services in Jackson. Each morning he got mother’s “tube and nutrients” going first thing. Then showered, shaved and dressed in a suit, he drove an hour and a half to Jackson to the campground.  It was good for him to go and visit with the other pastors he’d known and had fellowship with for many years. He shared with me how two or three of them had hugged him and prayed for him and Mother. I could hear in his voice how this act of kindness and compassion had touched him.

Each time I drive out to visit with Mother and Dad I pray that God’s grace would be sufficient—and it always is. I pray that God would be glorified in our time together and our service to one another—and I believe He is. I have come to expect and to bear witness of God’s grace and glory on each visit.

One thing I did not pray for but have experienced and now expect is with each visit I learn a little more about myself. It is as though God shines a white hot light upon the little issues existing here and there in me that need refining. And refine them He will—and He does. It is a process however.

There is no hurried work that is God’s. We may wish to rush Him but He will not have it as He conforms us to the image of His Son.   (click to tweet)

 

I see now with clarity what I only saw dimly a year ago. Our service for one another comes in many forms but always at its seedbed is the image of Christ washing His disciples’ feet and the holy preparation of His body by the women who served and worshiped Him. It is in the image of our risen Lord grilling fish on the fire for unsuspecting guests.

And when we give someone a glass of water or pour the nutrients into the bag of a feeding tube, when we empty the container of bodily waste, when we sponge a back with a soapy cloth, when we prepare a meal for the freezer, our service is an aspect of our worship.

Do our big dreams of ministry to the body often overshadow the reality of small acts of service to one body?

Hours after I had placed three roses in a crystal vase, I glanced from where I sat in the living room to Mother’s bedroom. There I saw the pink roses in the crystal vase and just behind them a bottle of Gold Bond Powder and a tube of Avon cracked heel cream.  My first inclination was to remove the medicated powder and foot cream from sharing space with the lovely roses in the crystal vase. But that urge was quickly replaced with a stronger one from the Holy Spirit to leave them together. After all, I have witnessed on many occasions that the beautiful and the base are often interwoven.

The unlovely and ignoble things are not of the physical body nor of the practical matters, but exist in the cravings of the flesh.

So I cry out, “God, do Your holy work in me. Shine Your light upon my little issues here and there. Refine me as gold. Conform me to Christ. Perfect Your work in me…unhurried, not rushed but at Your leisure. Merge the holy and the humble within me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

(This post is linked to Finding Heaven and the Soli Deo Gloria Party.)

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Unlearning

Photo - courtesy of The Scenic Route

When I was faced with the very opposite outcome of what our family had hoped and prayed, I felt greatly disappointed. Disappointed with God? Yes. I remember receiving an email from an acquaintance who had prayed for our son. She seemed to have many questions of her own and wrote, “…but God does not disappoint.”

I remember thinking, “You feel that way because it was not your child who suffered and died.” I wrote back to her, “I feel VERY disappointed.”

(I’m guest posting for  Eileen at The Scenic Route today. To read the entirety of “Unlearning,” click on The Scenic Route.)

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Grace Upon Grace

GRACE at the beach retreat ~

What a beautiful time filled with God’s grace and sisterly fellowship at the women’s retreat in Rehoboth Beach, DE, last week. I taught my new Bible study, “Life in the Key of G ~ Grace & Glory.” The setting was lovely and it was all coordinated to a “T” – delicious food, desserts, special touches and spring décor.

Each woman used her unique gifting to knit hearts to one another and glorify God. It demonstrates so well a picture of each drawing from the depths of God’s grace in her own life and sharing it  so that grace upon grace abounds.

I enjoyed connecting with women with whom I have a spiritual bond because they were a part of the body of Christ who prayed for Andrew and our family. It was such a delight to get to know some of the women a little bit better. And when I got home, I missed my new sister friends! I also missed having every meal prepared and no cleaning to do! The good news is I get to go back! They have asked me to “write another Bible study” and come back next spring!

Highlights:

  • Hearing the volume of talk grow louder and louder during the Discussion Question time!
  • Walking around the meeting area and praying for each woman Thursday night
  • The presence of the Holy Spirit during our Friday night prayer time as some of the women stepped up for specific prayer
  • Feedback at the retreat, and since arriving home, that lives were changed as the teaching on God’s grace and glory went forth

If you are interested in having me teach “Life in the Key of G ~ Grace & Glory,” at your weekend event or retreat, please feel free to click on the “Contact” link above. You can use the form to tell me about your event and also ask for more  information on booking.

Encouraging Comments from those who attended the retreat:

“Your study on “Life in the Key of G ~ Grace & Glory” was Holy Spirit inspired and spoke to each of us in a real, intimate way. The guide was easy to follow and something we can refer to often, when we need to remind ourselves to walk in grace. Thank you for using your experiences to write a study that is relevant and fresh. Looking forward to spring 2013.” ~ LaDon H., (Pastor’s Wife)

“What an amazing retreat. I cannot put into words how God spoke to my heart. You opened my eyes to some new things in God’s word. I pray many doors open for ladies to hear this study. It’s so exciting to hear from so many ladies how they have been changed by this study. Thank you, God, for the anointing on your life to share with others.” ~ Joan B., (Coordinator of Women’s Ministries)

“Melanie, what a joy to see you after so much time has gone by. The Lord is truly working through you to so many in broken places. Thanks for making yourself available. The impact of what you shared this past week, will ripple on and on in our lives because Grace is freeing and as it frees us, we release it and it will free so many others. It’s soooo God!!! We love you and all God is doing through your life is both profound and eternal. A true forever treasure!” ~ Jacqueline S., retreat attendee

“Thank you for making the Retreat a special blessing for us. Praying for God to continue to bless you and all you do and grateful to learn so much from you. Your glory shines through to others.” ~ Mary C., retreat attendee

“Thank you for sharing the treasures you have found in God’s Word with us. I am inspired to keep digging deeper to ‘live in God’s grace for His glory.’” ~ Althea W., retreat attendee

“Thank you so much for this weekend and for all that you shared. I learned so much about myself and about the Lord. Thank you for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and to be used by God for His glory.” ~ Brandy C., retreat attendee

“I had an amazing time with you this weekend! You touched me so much by what you spoke about! Thank you so much for opening up your heart and sharing things I know you hold dear to your heart. It was wonderful.” ~ Amy U., retreat attendee

“I will never be able to fully express my thankfulness to you for opening your heart to us. You spoke to my heart. You have helped me understand where I am at, it’s okay to be where I’m at, and that God’s Grace covers me through it all. I love you!” ~ Charnelle P., retreat attendee

Final Note ~ I truly believe that God has given me this message of “living by His grace for His glory” and I would love to share it wherever and whenever doors open. Please pray on my behalf that this happens in due season.

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Life in the Key of G ~ Grace & Glory

Melanie knows what it’s like to burn out spiritually and emotionally all while doing and saying the “right things.” It wasn’t until her late thirties that she began to understand God’s “grace for living.” A pastor’s daughter, busy worker in the church and all around “good girl,” Melanie describes herself as having lived for many years a kind of “white knuckled life.” She says, “I was straining to live righteously under my own power and in my own strength. Until one day the combination of my history, my personality and my own lack of boundary setting in a controlling situation proved to be the ‘perfect storm’ for an emotional and spiritual implosion.”

Through a series of life events, Melanie came to know the grace of God not just for salvation but grace for living!

In the bible study, “Life in the Key of G ~ Grace & Glory,” Melanie shares some of her grace stories along with those of other brave friends.

You’ll hear the “grace stories” of Murray, Laurie, Pam & Ted, Pauline, Heather and more. Each one has shared a story with Melanie of God’s grace in trial as well as the everydayness of life and how His grace has been their source, their sufficiency and their strength.

“Life in the Key of G ~ Grace & Glory” will inspire and strengthen you in your Spirit led walk as you embrace God’s own words regarding His grace in 2nd Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Five sessions include the following simple but powerful truths of God’s grace:

  • GRACE – How Sweet the Sound
  • The SOURCE of GRACE
  • The SUFFICIENCY of GRACE
  • The STRENGTH of GRACE
  • GLORY – It’s All About Him

 ”Grace is but glory begun and glory is but grace perfected.” ~ Jonathan Edwards

This Bible study is ideal for a retreat or can be condensed for a breakout session. “Life in the Key of G ~ Grace & Glory” includes a study guide and a reflection section as a take away bonus. If you are interested in booking me to teach this study or speak on a topic within the study, contact me here.

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God With Us

Since I was just a little girl I’ve loved God. It was at a tender age I accepted Christ as my Savior, and still there are many things I do not know about God. A few years ago I had arrived at a place where I thought I had some real answers about God and His ways.

But when our son was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer and did not receive the miraculous intervention we had prayed for and expected, I realized I no longer had all the answers. I only had one answer ~ Jesus Christ.

I suspect that you, too, have questions about God.

  • Why do the innocent suffer?
  • Why do bad things happen to godly people?
  • Why am I alone?
  • Why does God intervene in some situations and not others?

What if you got the answer to what I call the big question? Would it be enough to satisfy you? I’m not sure the answer to why my beautiful son, Andrew, was not healed would change anything for me or my husband or Andrew’s big brother and big sister.

In preparing to speak one week before the 2nd anniversary of our son’s passing on December 15, 2009, the Holy Spirit inspired me with a passage from Matthew 1:23.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated God with us.”

God with us. Just three little words but what great and eternal impact in three little words. God with us. You see, “God with us” assures us that God enters into life with us. He does life with us.

Despite the answers to the hard questions that we do not have, all we really need to know about God exists in the name Immanuel ~ God with us. The only question we really need answered is, “God, are You with us? God are You with me?”

I hope this short excerpt from my Christmas message will be a help to you.

 

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