Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why I Was There

Sometimes things come together in such a way that there really can't be any question that it was totally and completely meant to be. That there is no question that you were exactly where you were because God said it should be so. That happened to me today, and I didn't put all of the pieces together until much later - I'm still kind of shaking my head.

Lauren's sermon this morning was on the story of the vineyard owner who hired workers in the morning, agreed on a fair wage for a day's work, and then continued to bring more workers into the vineyard until 5:00 in the afternoon - an hour before the day's work was over. At the end of the work day, the vineyard owner paid each of the workers, regardless of when they began their work, the same wage. The gist of the sermon was that God's mercy is for everyone in the same measure - no matter if you're the most pious monk in the monastery or if you're just a regular, flawed, average Joe or Jill.*

Then, at Sunday School, Vince told us about a young teen aged girl of his acquaintance who is suffering from some mental illness issues and is currently in a residential program. We spoke to the class about what they might say to this girl to give her some hope and encouragement, and then everyone wrote a note to her. One of the girls in our group wrote about how one must sometimes take baby steps to make things better.

Later in the afternoon, as I was getting the church ready for the 5:30 service, I saw a young man come into the church and sit in the last pew. I could tell he was crying. I went back to put on my robe, and when I came out, the young man was on his knees in the aisle in the front of the church. He heard me and stood up and apologized. I said that there was no need to apologize - that that was what this building was here for.

He told me a little bit of his story. He had gone to Oglethorpe University, which is right down the road from our church, and he lived in the apartments that are directly next to the church. He had responded to an altar call when he was 11 years old in Kentucky, and had dedicated himself to Christ, in the way that an 11-year-old boy can. Now, as a young adult, he was looking at things differently but he seemed to know something was missing. He had made some bad choices. He had just gotten off of the phone with his mom, and he felt sad and guilty. He started walking when he was on the phone, and ended up at St. Martins, and something called him in.

I told him that while I didn't know what Fr. Graham would say in his sermon, I knew the Gospel reading was the story of the vineyard owner and I gave him the one-minute version of the story. "The important message," I said, "is that God's mercy is for everyone, no matter the bad decisions." I invited him to stay and worship with us, and he asked me about the Episcopal church - a very different tradition than the one he came from, I'd expect. I told him that all were welcome, that the church encouraged questions and thoughtful discussion. He told me he needed to go back to his apartment, but that he'd be back. He told me his name was William.

William wasn't there when the service began, and I said a prayer for him, hoping that he'd find what he needed. When I stood up to read the Prayers of the People, there he was in the back pew. He had gone home to change out of his jeans and t-shirt, and he must have come in during the sermon. When I got to the part where we name the people who have been put on the prayer list, I said his name, and looked straight at him and smiled.

After the service was over, I went and spoke to him. He wanted to know if we had any bible studies and I told him about the men's bible study on Thursday mornings, and showed him the listing of Sunday School classes as well. I said "I have no idea what you're struggling with right now. But whether your problems are smaller or huge, all you can do is take baby steps and know that God is taking them with you. Ask for His help. And if you're worried about bad choices, every now and then stop and ask yourself if what you're doing is what God would want you to do." William stopped me and made some notes and said he wanted to remember what I had said. I told him that he is strong. And that he is loved. And that he is welcome at St. Martin's. And then I gave him a hug and told him I hoped I'd see him again.

So I probably helped William, at least I hope I did. But really, he was an angel sent to me. I spend so much time at church - but to be honest, I frequently get so busy that I don't focus on the message. If you read my very first post to this blog you'll know that I called it "Life in the Balcony" because when the kids were small, we sat in the balcony at church. There were always distractions up there - my kids, other kids - and you had to listen really hard to absorb the message. And my life is pretty constantly "in the balcony". Fortunately, today, I was listening.

God put me there with this dear young man as a reminder that He is in control, and that He has work for me to do. God gave me Lauren's sermon because there would be someone who needed to know that God's mercy is for all of us, not just those who are perfect. God put me in Sunday School so that a smart teenager could give me more words that would need to be heard. And then He wove them all together and put me in the moment and turned me loose, and I'm so grateful. 

If you're a praying sort, please say a prayer for William. I think he could use them.

*This is a terrible paraphrasing of a really good sermon. Forgive me Lauren, your words touched me today and in the interest of fewer words I did not do them justice!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Musings While Waiting For An Oil Change

Some people say that religion is the easy way out. That belief in a higher power allows us to disregard our own responsibility for our lives and actions. I maintain that proclaiming belief in God actually burdens us with the ultimate responsibility for our lives and actions. It is hard work to love our neighbor as ourselves. Frankly, it is sometimes hard work to love ourselves as our neighbor. And it can be a daunting task to live our lives as a proclaimed God wants us to.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling overwhelmed or sad or hurt or worried, the responsibility is more than I want to bear, especially the part where I have to be thankful for what I have, no matter how paltry that feels at the time.

But then I look at my kids and my parents and my siblings and my husband and all the rest of my awesome family. Or I remember the blessing of spending a wonderful weekend with my grandmother just before she died. Or I walk into my church knowing that I've never felt that I belong anywhere more than I do here.

And I accept the heavy, but light, responsibility to try to do as God would want me to, because He has given me more than I could have ever found on my own and I'm grateful. And that gratitude usually makes the hard parts easier. And when it doesn't I'll keep plodding away because eventually I'll get through the mud and be reminded of the blessings and how much my God loves me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Buford Hwy NE,Doraville,United States

Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Kind of a Crazy Story...

I grew up in a house with music. We all did some sort of music – from piano, clarinet, voice, and violin lessons, to guitar and banjo. We had bluegrass jams, violin and voice recitals and everything in-between. At some point, I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar so my dad showed me the basics and I developed into a passable, if elementary, guitar player.

My grandfather, who was very supportive of my music, gave me one of his guitars, and that was what I played – I took it to camp, I played it in my bedroom for hours at night, and eventually I took it to Florida State University with me. At some point, the guitar and I got separated. I wish like crazy that I could remember how, but alas, I have absolutely no idea.

Jump forward 30 or so years. 

A few months ago I got a phone call from my father asking me if I had ever had possession of Granddaddy’s Framus guitar. It took a minute of pondering for me to remember that that was the one I had used in my earlier life. I told Dad that I remembered introducing myself as “Maryann Daves and her Framus Guitar” when I’d perform in the talent shows at Camp Mikell (my staples were “Mr. Bojangles” and several John Denver songs if you have a gig you’d like me to play). I asked him why he wanted to know and here’s the crazy story.

In early November, my brother Michael, who is a professional musician based in Brooklyn, got an email from a fan, telling him that he had this Framus guitar that he purchased from a pawn shop in Tallahassee around 1990. On the back was the name “Daves,” and inside, on the label, was the name “M. Daves.” This gentleman wanted to know if there was any way it might possibly have belonged to Michael, or someone else in his family. Michael reached out to Dad, who reached out to me and sent me the pictures. Dammed if it wasn’t my old guitar! It makes sense that it was in Tallahassee, but as God is my witness, I’ve never stepped foot in a pawn shop in all of my 29 (well, 51) years. I would love to know where it was between 1985ish, when I graduated from FSU, and 1990 when the guitar angel found it.

Anyway, it was a nice story, and while, to be honest, I hadn’t thought much about that guitar in the years following college, it was nice to know now that it was still being played. And that was that.

Yesterday was my birthday, and Michael sent me an email with a picture of my birthday present.

He’s sending it down with my parents when they go up to see him and his family in August.

It’s a crazy story. One that still has me shaking my head. But I’ll tell you that this is the best birthday present I’ve ever received, hands down! Thanks Michael!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Mom and me on a family camping trip
 2013 kind of sucked. I know, that’s a really negative thing for me, the queen of glasses half full, to say, but it’s true.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some really great things that happened. Top of mind are:
  • I started two awesome new jobs – one as the director of the bell choir at our church and the other as an administrative assistant to five pediatric orthopedic surgeons at Children’s Orthopaedics of Atlanta. I really do love both of them.
  • Rick’s niece, Stephanie, got married in August to a wonderful man. The wedding was so beautiful and we had such fun.
  • Sara got confirmed, and her godmother, Beth, came for the ceremony. I was so proud of Sara, and so happy to see Beth!
  •  Hannah got her first apartment. That’s kind of a mixed blessing because it does mean that she doesn’t live with us anymore. But she is really happy, and really has her stuff together. I’m really proud of her too!

There are probably more things that I should have listed, but my overwhelming feelings about 2013 swirl around with thoughts of stress, financial worry and depression. So I’m really happy it’s over. Don’t let the door hit you on the butt on the way out, 2013.

But something happened last week that, while it didn’t change my mind about how crappy the last year was, it did put things in perspective.

On December 20, my mother called me to tell me she was going to the emergency room. That night she was diagnosed with another blood clot. That’s actually pretty easy to deal with – take blood thinners for at least six months and you’re fine (a gross simplification, but hey, I’m not a doctor!).

Unfortunately, the main reason she wanted to go to the ER was that she was in terrible pain in her left hip. On December 26, she called me again and said she was planning on calling 911 because somehow, some way, something had to be done about this bone crushing pain. I went to her house, called 911 because there was no way I could have gotten her to my car, followed the ambulance to Northside Hospital where we met my sister, and hoped that something could be done to help.

The short version is that Mom is going to have a total hip replacement later this month, which isn’t soon enough for any of us, but at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

My epiphany was not what you might expect. I could say that our health is a gift and we need to treasure our bodies and keep ourselves as fit as possible, and it would be true. I could say that we should treasure our parents because they will not always be here with us, and that would be true as well.

But what has really hit me hard is the fact that, at least in my family, none of us is ever alone. All Mom had to do was call, and Carole and I were there immediately. Phillip, who lives in Knoxville, made it clear that he'd drop everything and be here if we needed him. Carole, Phillip and I communicated throughout the whole thing, making sure that everyone knew what was going on. Carole was here multiple times over the past week while Mom was staying with me. Hannah was here on Saturday too, and Rick and Sara helped while Carole and I were at work earlier this week.Phillip's coming in tomorrow. No matter what, my family sticks together. And for that I am more thankful than I can say. We’re damn lucky. 

Phillip, Carole and me in Clarkesville, Virginia