South Eastern Tourism Initative Writing Contest 2016 –“Spirit In The Yard”

“Spirit In The Yard”

It was a cool October afternoon as Harper drove into the city limits of Selma. Spanish moss draped the crooked limbs of the oaks lining both sides of the street. She immediately felt surrounded by history and recanted the memories of this place from when she was young. Harper and her twin brother, Spencer, had spent countless Fall breaks at their Uncle Al and Aunt Lucinda’s home. It was a massive house with a wraparound porch and enormous windows that rested on the banks of the Alabama River. On days like this, Spencer would help Al start a bonfire down by the water as Harper and Lu prepared each of them a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Then, they would enjoy sitting around and listening as Al told tales from his time spent in Vietnam. Time always seemed to stand still underneath that starry sky. Harper considered those moments as some of her fondest childhood memories.
Several years went by and the visits to Al and Lu’s grew slim. Both Harper and Spencer had grown older and were very busy with their own lives. Harper graduated college and moved to New York to work with a large real estate company with whom she had interned. She adapted very quickly to the big city lifestyle and had become very successful. With an extremely hectic work schedule, it didn’t leave much room for anything else in her life. She had been intending for six years to pay a visit to Selma. But now those intentions no longer mattered. Spencer, who had joined the military after 9/11, had called Harper with the news that Uncle Al had passed away. He had been battling a terminal illness for a length of time and it had finally taken its grim toll. Harper immediately felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. She had not seen her Uncle in so long and hadn’t paid him much attention the last time they were together. She recalled when he and Lu had taken a trip to the Big Apple. It was a trip they had hoped to take for decades and when Harper got a job there it finally gave them a reason to go. She was supposed to be their guide around the city showing them all of the must see attractions but the demands of a new job and fast paced living came first. Harper had apologized to them both repeatedly for not being more present during their trip and had promised to come visit soon. Now, that opportunity would never come.
As Harper drove over the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge, she looked down at the murky waters below. The river was like a reflecting glass to days gone by. Memories crashed over her like tiny waves breaking along the edge of the sandy bank. As she made her way under the huge steel arches, she imagined the thousands of feet that had walked over it’s pavement in hope for a better tommorow. To her right, sitting on the edge of a rocky cliff was a charming yellow cottage known only as “The Bridge Tenders House”. As she drew closer to New Live Oak Cemetery, she passed several historic homes. Their windows transported Harper to a time when the world moved at a much slower pace. She could almost see the ladies in big hoop skirts and the gentlemen in uniform who were called to action during the great Battle of Selma. She could picture the days when the trotting of horse hooves took the place of the noisy cars that were now zipping past. She finally came upon the big iron gate that led to the cemetery. For a place that held such sadness and grief, it was breathtakingly beautiful. Pops of pink and purple azaleas added a gorgeous blanket of color to an otherwise gray and dismal graveyard. The trees were bursting with vibrant reds and fiery oranges. Tiny peeks of Southern sunshine playfully chased shadows along the cement. Harper did not care for cemeteries nor did she feel comfortable being in them. Yet, she did not feel uneasy here. She felt a peace wash over her as her car came to a halt. It was almost a magnetic feeling that had led her here.
Al’s service had been a small, intimate affair with not much fuss. That’s the way she supposed he would have wanted things. Harper couldn’t catch a plane until later in the week unfortunately which had caused her to miss the funeral. So, here she was now standing all alone in the middle of the cemetery attempting to pay her final respects to this man who had left such a memorable impression on her childhood. The only problem was, she wasn’t quite sure where he had been buried. Harper adjusted her thick cowl scarf as a blast of Autumn air blew throughout the trees. She walked slowly up and down the aisles of headstones that stuck up out of the earth. She wondered the reason how each person ended up here as she read the names engraved into the slabs. There were old graves with deteriorating markers and some that looked as if they were recently placed. Half an hour passed and she was still not having any luck locating the site where her Uncle had been laid to rest. She was sure with his old southern money he would have had the largest headstone this side of the Mason-Dixon. But with so many names to pour over and the sun beginning to set, Harper gave up and headed back towards her car. As she was just about to round the last corner, a black figure bolted across her pathway! Harper was so startled she fell backwards nearly toppling over a vase of faded daisies. Panic pulsed throughout her veins as she scrambled back onto her feet. Shook to her very core, her eyes searched all around for the culprit. Whatever it had been was now nowhere in sight.
“Oh, don’t mind him!” a soft voice called out from behind a large tree. Harper looked in the direction the voice was coming from.”Hello?” she said. “That’s only Jeffrey.” a small lady answered as she stepped into visibility. The tiny woman was wearing a straw garden hat and a pair of bifocals rested on the tip of her nose. “Who is Jeffrey?” Harper inquired. “Jeffrey is a friendly ghost.” the lady chuckled. The lady didn’t seem to be worried in the least but Harper could feel a haunting feeling sweep over her. She didn’t believe in ghostly apparitions but still felt as if she was being watched. Who was this mysterious Jeffrey character she pondered and why did he not want to be seen? The lady had spoke of him as if he was some sort of companion and even called him “friendly”. Harper just smiled and commented on the clouds rolling in overhead. “Do you have someone special you are here visiting?” the lady asked. “My uncle was buried recently and I am searching for his grave. We sort of grew apart over the last few years.” she answered with a catch in her voice. “That’s a shame.” the lady replied with sadness in her tone. She reached into her shirt pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a black hand comb. Fishing around her pocket a second time, she drew out a piece of wax paper. Harper watched as the lady wrapped the comb in the paper and began to run her pursed lips over the teeth of it. A harmonious melody filled the air closely resembling the sound of honey bees. Back and forth she played. Harper quickly recognized the tune. It was “Amazing Grace” and had been her uncle’s favorite song. She wondered how the lady could have possibly known this or was it a coincidence. She was fascinated by this woman’s unusual talent. She had never witnessed anyone playing music on a comb before. “I’m Harper.” she offered. “It’s very nice to make your acquaintance.” the lady politely replied. “We weren’t expecting to meet anyone new today.” “We?” Harper stood puzzled. Who else was she referring to? A chill crept up her spine. She wasn’t sure if it was the fall wind or her paranoia beginning to set in.”Did you know that Selma is the comb playing capitol of Alabama?” the woman questioned as she plucked a flower off of a nearby shrub. “No, I wasn’t aware.” Harper responded. “When I was a young girl, families spent much more time together than they do now a days. Time was a precious gift and we didn’t waste a second of it.” the lady said. “Back then no one had television or internet so we connected to each other in more unique ways. Our family spent many happy days playing the comb together. It’s something you don’t have to be very good at but it brings people together.” Harper smiled and said, “That reminds me so much of my own childhood.” Memories came flooding back as she told the lady of the many evenings she had spent on the beautiful riverbank in Selma. Her heart ached for the days when life was much simpler.
“I could teach you to play the comb if you like.” the lady suggested. She reached into her pocket and pulled out another plastic comb. She extended it to Harper and instructed her how to wrap it in the wax paper. “Now you just put it between your lips and hum!” She did as the woman directed and an awkward buzzing noise escaped her lips. She played her favorite church hymn and it was soothing to her soul. She closed her eyes as a tear slipped down her cheek and fell. When the song was finished, she thanked the kind lady. “I really must be going now.” Harper said. “We certainly don’t want to get locked in here overnight!” As she began to walk back towards her car, Harper realized she hadn’t even asked the woman her name. She turned back around quickly but the lady was now nowhere to be seen. Where could she have gone so quickly?Harper thought. Her eyes searched in the direction the lady had went. A blurry shape in the distance caught her attention. She was certain it was the same figure that had darted into her pathway earlier. As Harper walked closer, the figure seemed to dissipate. Was it a figment of her imagination? She looked down at the headstone next to her feet. It read: Kathryn Tucker Windham. “She was twice blessed. She was happy and knew it.” What a lovely saying, she thought. The same feeling of peace as before washed over her. She wasn’t quite sure why but she is the one that felt blessed that day.

Hello God..Is That You?

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Do you ever feel as if the Lord is calling upon you to do something great? Do you feel the stirrings in your heart that He has laid something important before you and he is asking you to step up to the plate? When God calls us he doesn’t look us up in a directory or use the phone to give us His to do list. His magnificent plan for us begins to unfold when our hearts are profoundly moved by something.  Only when we let go and allow ourselves to fully trust in his will is when we know we’ve answered his call.

Negative thoughts can be your greatest obstacle and keep you from accomplishing the duty God has summoned you for. You respond to God by saying, “I’m not worthy enough.” or “How can I make a difference when I’m only one person?” The Lord is mighty and able!  He has gone before you and knows you are capable. He gives his boldest tasks to his bravest warriors. Silence your inner voices by saying, ” God is greater!” He is more powerful than all of the hurdles you may have to jump to achieve what it is He has in store for you.  Release all of your worries and have faith! What are you waiting on? Answer his call!

 

 

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Choosing to Stand Tall When You Feel Defeated

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What do you think of when you hear the word defeat? I think of my favorite team winning a game against our biggest rivalry. The word defeat means “to have been beaten in a battle.” However this word can take on a whole new meaning if we let it. It’s like a yard full of weeds. No matter if you pull the weeds of doubt and self pity somehow they keep growing back. Many days we give this word the power to predict the outcome of our day. We feel it weighing heavily on our lives and often give in to it before our feet even hit the floor in the mornings. We feel defeated if things don’t turn out as we were hoping. We feel as if we have been conquered when our day takes a different path than we had planned. The emotions we are left with leave us feeling like we have lost. When you allow yourself to give up and surrender to these negative thoughts, Satan is sitting in the corner and clapping because you have thrown up your red flag. You have let yourself surrender to his lies.

Don’t be tempted to lose heart! Don’t give the enemy a place in your life to grow bitterness and resentment. You are a child of the most High God! This makes you an overcomer! This means the battle for you has already been won. Often it is necessary for us to go through trials in life so that in the end we can see that the journey was worth it. So rise up! Don’t lie down and let Satan defeat you today. You are only finished if you decide to quit.

 

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How To Find The Extra In Your Ordinary

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Now that all of the lights and tinsel are boxed back up and the confetti has fell on a brand new year, a lot of us are posed with the question, “Now what?” Some of us go into an after Christmas depression because the magic leaves us until the following year. I have been guilty of feeling this way before. However this year, I wasn’t dreading saying farewell to the hustle and bustle. I didn’t go all misty eyed like normal when I had to pack up the Christmas decor. You see, in our household, we celebrate Christs birth all year long. Still, theres something refreshing about having a new start. Whether you made resolutions or didn’t, truth be told, once we’ve said goodbye to the holidays life will eventually return back to our ordinary day to day routine.

Doing the same thing all the time can leave us tired and weary. Another day at your desk, picking up toys, or fixing the same old supper can easily make you feel as if your life is uneventful and boring. But, friend, let this be a reminder to you that your life is much more than that. You were created in the image of an extra-ordinary God! Your ordinary story is another chapter in his eternal plan for us. You can be used in magnificent ways to serve God right where you are! Even changing dirty diapers or folding laundry! God can transform your ho hum days if you will let Him. But first you must choose to seek the extra in your ordinary.

 

 

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Word of the Year: Choosing One Word To Commit to in 2016

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      Several years ago, I came across this neat little project called “The One Word Project.” The purpose is to choose one word, instead of resolutions, to shape your entire year around. Most of us go into each brand new year with a long list of intentions we are planning to make in our lives. We view it as a golden opportunity to wipe the dust from our slate. Like so many, I have made numerous resolutions yet only to fail shortly after. The pressures of everyday life can get in the way of the new goals we have set and eventually we find ourselves falling back into our old ways. A list of resolutions can be daunting and unrealistic. That is why a majority of those big plans we have are never achieved. When I heard about “The One Word Project”, I was deeply intrigued. I wanted to know how one word could improve me and mold me into more of the person I strived to be. So, in December of last year, I chose my first word: Present.

         I didn’t have to think hard when it came to choosing my first word for 2015. I immediately chose present because it represented my hope as a new mother for the coming year. I wanted to be completely alive in every moment, capture every smile, experience every first, and slow down and pay more attention to the world around me. Often we are so busy planning the next big thing that we lose out on the joy of the moment we are in. I think this past year is the first of many years that I have actually achieved what it is that I set out to do. I became a stay at home mommy and for me it was easier to become more engaged in every aspect of my sons day. There are times when I still have to take a small break for me but for the most part I am living my dream!

    As I sat and pondered on a new word to commit myself to in 2016, I look next to me at a picture hanging on my wall. The word “Journey” is staring me boldly in the face. The quote on the plaque reads: ” Life is a journey and love is what makes that journey worthwhile.” It’s as if the Lord placed this word before me. I am excited what the coming year has in store. For me, my hope is that I will learn to fully embrace this journey of life that I’m on. That along the way, I will accomplish all of the things God has written on my heart. That I will grow ever closer to Him as I walk along this path. And even when I grow weary from the trek I will be reminded that on this journey I am not alone.

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    I pray blessings over each one of you in the coming year. May you each fulfill what it is that you set out to do and may you be reminded that God is with you today and everyday of the year!

How To Embrace Each Day As A Gift

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The giving season is in full swing and the presents are piling under the tree. You have shopped for the perfect item that is sure to surprise everyone when they open it on Christmas morn. One thing that you won’t find in a bright shiny package, wrapped up in strings is time. Each day is a gift. We are not entitled to another 24 hours and our days here are numbered. How do you choose to unwrap your day? Do you choose to start each day with a grateful heart and thank the Lord for another blessed day on Earth? Or do you go throughout your day just barely making it by?

You will never have this day again. Stop and take notice. Savor your coffee just a little longer. Enjoy your hot shower for an extra five minutes. Laugh a little harder. Eat the biggest cupcake. Get down in the floor and see the world from your child’s perspective. Today is all that you have with these little blessings. Tommorow they will be just a tad bit older. They will view things a little differently. Mamas, our time with them is fleeting. Make the most of the present by being engaged in the world around you. Pay attention today and enjoy your children. Let their sweet grins and sticky kisses cling to your heart. Let their little hands grasp your soul. Unwrap this day and appreciate all of life’s gifts because you won’t get it back again.

 

Learning To Serve God Right Where You Are

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I have always struggled with the desire to “do something” greater than myself. No matter what I have found myself doing in life, I’ve always aspired to make an impact in others lives for the better.  Don’t we all strive for this? To be remembered for something good?

The constant need to always do more can drain you of your enthusiasm and steal the joy you receive as an incentive. It’s human nature to want more-have more-and do more. Still, you can begin to feel the actual weight of it all dragging you down. God wants you to know that no matter where you are..right at this very moment reading this…you can serve Him! It doesn’t matter what you are doing, you can give God the glory..right where you are! (1 Cor 10:31)

Whether you lead a life outside of the home working a 9-5 or you are at home changing diapers all day, the impact you make on your children’s lives are the same. You are raising these littles for the glory of God. You were called upon because He knew you had the strength to do it! No job is too big or too small for Him. Praise him while changing diapers! Praise him while preparing your big presentation! God doesn’t care what it is. You are a part of his beautiful plan. He is painting his masterpiece with you in mind.  Don’t allow yourself to fall into the negative thinking trap that the world is just to big of a place. Stop listening to those lies falling upon your ears. Making a difference in the world starts with one person. God looks for faithfulness. He looks for willing hearts. No matter what you can learn to serve God right where you are.

 

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