Red Threads and Ruby Slippers: The Biggest Surprise of My Life

SurprisingI have had a lot of surprises in my life: some good, some not so good.

But there was one surprise that sort of defies categories. It is easily one of my best and most awesome days (in the truest sense of the word, like I was laid flat by awe).

This is the first time I am sharing my reflections about this day and I chose to share it over at my friend Lisa’s place mysocalledglamorouslife. She invited me to be a part of her series, “In Her Own Words,” which is a great honor. When she told me I could write about anything at all, this is what rose up.

I hope you enjoy one of my favorite stories. While you are at it, check out Lisa’s blog. She is pretty awesome herself.

Won’t you join us here for the story? And feel free to share your best surprise either here or with Lisa.

 

A Book Review: Living the Quaker Way by Phillip Gulley

This is the second of my book reviews for Blogging for Books. This time I chose and reviewed Phillip Gulley’s Living the Quaker Way. To be clear, I am not getting paid to write this positive review, but I did get to read a book I was interested in for free, which is pretty cool in its own right. For you bloggers out there, check out Blogging for Books and pick your own free read. As an author, I know how glad writers are when they get an objective review. So, Win/Win.

Book Review Phillip Gulley QuakerI loved reading Phillip Gulley’s Living the Quaker Way. I was first introduced to Gulley as a fiction writer, hearing my brother rave about Gulley’s Harmony series. When I looked at Gulley’s author page to find out more about his books, I was thrilled to learn that he also had a nonfiction book on the Quaker faith and
traditions. Having been interested in Quakers for some time, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to learn more.

Gulley did not disappoint. He laid out the basic tenants of the Quaker faith: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality and then expounded on each one. Chapter by chapter, tenant by tenant, I found myself both resonating and being further challenged by Gulley’s expositions. He manages to walk the line between challenging the reader to grow in their journey without completely overwhelming them with an impossible task. He calls us to greater heights and then admits his own failings (After all, who of us can be completely truthful all the time? Certainly not me, and thankfully not Gulley either).

Gulley also interweaves the history of the Quaker movement and the diversities within the tradition as he writes. Like all denominations, Quakers have their more conservative and more progressive groups and have even had factions and divisions over the years. He also debunked an assumption I had that all Friends only sat in silence for their meetings. Some meetings have pastors that give a small message and sometimes there may be music involved with the meeting. Apparently there is no one right way to be a Quaker, which is quite a relief!

What I love most about Gulley’s Living the Quaker Way is that he presents Quakerism as a way of life. One does not have to attend a Friend’s meeting to become a Quaker. Simply embracing the principles that are the heart of the religion and living a reflective life counts. To this end, Gulley actually includes a 30 day guide at the end of the book that takes the reader through the Quaker queries day by day. We are invited to meditate on how we are embracing simplicity by reflecting on questions such as “Do I keep my life uncluttered with things and activities, avoiding commitments beyond my strength and light?” and “Do I recognize when I have enough?” I am greatly looking forward to spending the next month meditating on these queries and seeing where they take me.

I never got tired of reading this book. Gulley stays to the point and keeps the reader interested with personal stories. I did have to pace myself so that I could digest the material properly since the material is so rich and challenging.
In short, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is seeking to know more about Quakerism or just curious about this group of people who simply call themselves “Friends.”

The Sanctity of Life and the Miracle of Grace

Dena Hobbs:

My friend Tara at I Might Need a Nap says so eloquently what I haven’t had the courage or ability to say. All life is sacred. It is time we rethink Capital Punishment. It is beyond time.

Originally posted on I Might Need A Nap:

In September 2011 I heard a name I’d not heard before.  I heard it on the radio, saw it on Facebook.

Troy Davis.

This young man only three weeks older than I am was convicted for the August 19, 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, a police officer in Savannah, Georgia.  His execution was scheduled for September 21.  That day my heart was very heavy.  He had been denied clemency, but his execution did not happen at 7 p.m. as scheduled.  The Supreme Court was reviewing his case.

I sat on the edge of the bed in my dimly lit room.  My children were all asleep, the youngest piled in next to me.  The Fella was out of town for work and had been for quite some time.  I was alone, fervently praying for someone to save this man’s life, all the while fearing the worst.

In that moment, I realized…

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What They Don’t Tell You About Getting Older

This is a big weekend in the Hobbs House. It always has been really. You see this Saturday is my Father-in-law’s birthday and Monday is my Mom’s. For years we have celebrated our alternate parent’s lives back to back. It can be a bit hectic and time consuming celebrating so much life in one fail swoop. For years we did a lot of driving and eating the last weekend of February.

But things have changed, for now my Father-in-law is gone. He died a few years back after battling cancer at 85. We still celebrate his birthday in some way with his widow, my mother-in-law. In many ways it is not just an acknowledgement of his life and the impact it had on us all, but a recognition of hers as well. It was awfully hard on her to lose her husband of 59 years in her late seventies. We worried about her a lot those first couple of years. Would she bounce back? Would she find life again? To some extent when we celebrate my Father-in-law’s birthday with her, we are also celebrating the fact that we  still have her in our lives. Even at 82 she presses on and lives a vibrant life. She is a gift to her community and our family. We are just so grateful she is still with us not only to share memories of him, but to make new memories as well.

And then there is my Mom. When you lose one family member, it doesn’t take much math skill to realize you are going to lose the rest of them sooner than you wish. Each birthday we celebrate becomes more and more precious. Even though my Dad is 82 and my Mom is seventy something, I mean 49, I mean I’d better stop talking about her age or I’ll get in trouble, they are still active. They are involved with their church and community and friends. They are a vital part of our family’s life watching over our kids when we get busy or sick and lending a hand in any way that is needed. But more and more our conversations focus on their friends and age mates who are sick and dying. Even though I am just in my early 40s, since I was a later in life surprise to them I realize I am lucky to have had them in my life as long as I have.

So that is what they don’t tell you about getting older. That you will move from squabbling with your parents and having them on your nerves half the time for giving you such much advice to praying to God for one more year with them. One more year to hear their words of wisdom and having the blessing of their presence in your family.

As I looked through the card aisle today I realized they just don’t make cards that express that adequately. Yeah, there are gratitude cards and “I love you” cards, but there is no “I’m just so grateful to have had one more year with you in my life card.”

So, I decided to make my own.

For our parents, even though we still sometimes squabble, get on each other’s nerves and disagree:

what they don't tell you about getting older

 

So, if you are lucky enough to still have your parents, even if it is not their birthday, feel free to share a little love with them this weekend. You can even steal this graphic off my Facebook or Pinterest or just forward this post. Love and Gratitude are meant to be shared. Take the time to offer it while you are able.

The Arab Next Door

So far this month of racism posts, I have written about what it was like growing up in the South and what it is like having a Chinese daughter. But there is another type of racism that has been growing in our country and our world. Racism against Arabs spiked after 9/11 and has only grown more more complicated in these fearful days of ISIS threats and terror.

I feel very unqualified to speak intelligently on racism against Arabs. You see my anxiety does not allow me to interact with the news much. I won’t read over the details of the three Muslims killed recently in Chapel Hill (though just the headline breaks my heart). I won’t read anything about ISIS, although the talk I hear from friends makes my blood run cold. I wish I could tolerate actually reading articles on these matters, but I’ve been six months without a panic attack and I’d like to keep it that way. I guess I’ll have to keep relying on my husband and trusted friends to fill me in.

What I do know however, is what I have lived. And in my experience that is the best teacher anyway.

Some fourteen years ago we lived in a parsonage in the south side of Savannah that was provided for us by the church I pastored. After a year of living in our spacious ranch house, we got new neighbors. Our neighborhood at that time what people termed “in transition.” What that really looked like was that our old neighbor told us he was moving “because our streets are being taken over by blacks and copperheads.” (The snake part was unfortunately true. The downside of living so close to a marsh).

Sometime mid September 2001, our new neighbors moved in. Being the friendly, welcoming people we are, we went over to say, “Hey.” True to form, our old bigoted neighbor did not sell the house to an African American family. Instead he sold it to a family of Arab descent. A middle aged mom and dad, their two teenage daughters, and the dad’s parents.

We traded hellos through our  southern accents and their accents of a foreign land. Actually the grandparents didn’t speak much English so communicating with them involved only a series of head nods.

I wish I could say I wasn’t freaked out by getting Arab neighbors, but the truth is I totally was.

Most of the time I could reason with myself that the teenage girls coming over to borrow phone books and pet our dogs were not involved with any terrorist plots.

But then one day I looked out our back windows and saw Grandpa dumping suspicious white material in the Back 40.

“That’s not anthrax. That’s not anthrax.” I kept telling myself.

It didn’t work. My anxiety ridden self called my husband in a panic begging him to come home because Grandpa next door was cooking up anthrax as a part of some jihadist plot. My husband tried to get me to breath and relax and told me he’d check everything out when he got home.

An hour later Jason took a stroll along the back of our property to get a good eye on the suspicious white substance. He came back inside, looked at me with steady eyes and delivered the news.

“Babe, it’s white paint.  Looks like they are doing a bit of home improvement.” He moved on to start dinner while I just sat with my head in my hands feeling stupid and confused.

the arab next door

I’d like to say all my prejudices about my neighbors went away after that moment. But that would be a lie.

When our church had an evangelism campaign late that fall, I walked over to my neighbors house with an apple pie and a flyer for our church. I though it was a risky move to invite Muslims over for worship, but if the associate pastor in charge of evangelism can’t be bold, then who would be? I handed my neighbors the pie and invited them to our church anytime. The mom thanked me and informed me that though they normally worshiped at a Baptist church nearby they would try and stop by sometime. Then she thanked me for the delicious pie.

I walked home and banged my prejudiced head against the back of my front door.

True to their word, Christmas Eve I spotted my neighbors out in the pews ready to enjoy our big Christmas cantata. I walked over with surprise to greet them. They were grinning ear to ear about the chance to listen to beautiful music and sing carols by candlelight. Their excitement melted my heart.

Then a few months later sickness fell upon both our houses. Grandpa suffered a mild heart attack and our beloved fur baby had emergency surgery on a blocked intestine. Although the loss of their patriarch would have been much greater than that of our pet, both households were taken over with worry- filled nursing. That first weekend Lucydog and I found ourselves walking the chain link fence line with Grandpa each hour on the hour as they both tried to gain back their strength. We would nod at each other as we both ambled around our respective yards. A couple of times I tried to encourage him and wish him well.  He would smile weakly as he reached through the fence to pat my healing dog.

Several months later when everyone was well and we were preparing to leave town for another church, my husband and I decided to sneak another fun night downtown in amidst our packing. As we walked the familiar squares, we spotted a restaurant we’d never eaten at before. It was a Mediterranean place and we were both in the mood for falafel, so we headed in. As we walked up to the counter to order, we did a double take. For there behind the counter was none other than our neighbor. We greeted Dad from next door (whose name I never memorized) and asked how long he had been running this little Mediterranean deli.  Turns out it was years. We had never taken the time to ask him what he did for a living (you know when he wasn’t running terrorist jihad plots out of the Baptist church he attended.)

For the first time that night we sat down and had a real conversation with our neighbor.

We asked him where he was originally from (Iraq). We talked about our worry over the looming troubles in Iraq, the great treasure of ancient Iraqi culture, and how much we loved falafel.

I walked back out into downtown that night feeling so sad. For over a year we had lived next door to this delightful family and out of sheer fear had never really taken the time to get to know them. How much more would we have learned if we had taken more time to chat over fence lines or gotten really crazy and invited them over for dinner? How much more blessed would we have been for breaking through our fear to befriend them?

I wondered how scared and lonely my neighbors must have felt. Being proud of their native culture on one hand and feeling the need to hide their heritage on the other.

I can only pray that the family that followed us were much kinder and more welcoming than we were. But my bet is that is not the case.

The threats and terror that are happening in our world are real. But what a loss for all of us when we let the actions of a few taint our view of thousands who hail from any Arab land. How much longer will be let fear and prejudice rule us?

For be clear, our fear does nothing to make the world a safer place.

Yet how much further would we get in our efforts to end terror if we pushed past the fear and took the time to build bridges and relationships with those who are “other” than us?

 

Do you have a story where you let fear of the “stranger” rule you? What helped you push past the fear? What was the result? Feel free to share in the comments below.