Scooby Snacks

Encouragement comes in many forms. It’s our challenge to recognize it and use it for its intended purpose. I had such an encounter at Kroger yesterday that fueled my fire.

When I heard the words, “Hi Neighbor!” and saw the pretty face of a woman with her arms outstretched for a hug. It was the first interaction we’d had in a while outside of FaceBook. Then came my virtual Scooby Snack. She told me she had recently struggled in preparation to teach a confirmation class at her church, until she read a post from my blog that gave her the needed confidence. She thanked me for the encouraging words, but did she have any idea how much she encouraged me in turn?

I’m currently working with an author who believes in me fully, yet I fight with my inner-critic constantly questioning my work-in-progress. I had yet another golden checkmark in my column this morning from a world-renowned figure. On and on, our humanity fights with us, beating us down, scoffing and waiting for us to make a fool of ourselves. “Who do you think you are putting yourself out there like that?” it jests.

I’m a child of God, created in his great image, and it is my responsibility to use the gifts he has given me to glorify him in all things, though I fall very short. I am my own biggest work-in-progress. I pray that I will gobble up these Scooby Snacks and use them to power me along as I “lean in to the thumbprints that God has placed on me.”

New Year’s Bun

Every year on the first day of January, I think about my great-grandmother, even though I didn’t know her well. We called her Ma. Ma Cato. She was my mother’s grandmother, Granddaddy’s mother. Born in the 1880s on a new year’s day, she lived a complete life that I know nothing about other than the fact that she married a man and had ten children. One of them would grow up to be my grandfather.

My memories of her are few. Ma lived in a narrow mobile home parked on the property beside her daughter’s house. I suppose it was in Gainesville, could’ve been Oakwood where my grandparents lived. What does a five-year-old know about geography?

Regardless, I thought it was neat to go see Ma, though I only remember one snapshot in time. My grandfather had driven me to visit his mother, as a fine son will do. She made homemade biscuits inside her little trailer kitchen and let me make mud pies with her pans in the dirt outside. She had really long gray hair tucked up neatly in a bun at the nape of her neck. I never saw her any other way.

My grandfather died when I was six, outlived by his mother, so I saw her at the first funeral I’d ever attended. Years later during a summer visit to Oakwood, I remember calling Ma on the telephone. I remember how surprised she was that I’d thought of her and called her. I told her that I always thought of her on New Year’s Day.

But one of those early Christmases in my life, I received a present from Ma. It was the only time that ever happened. It was a small porcelain oil lamp shaped like a pot belly stove. The wick wound down into the belly with a gold key, its tiny globe and shade snugly fit together. Of course, I never actually put fuel in it as a functional lamp, but that figurine took a prime spot on my chest-of-drawers. Later in junior high school and beyond, it displayed on the hutch above my desk. Still to the day, some forty years after receiving it, that little gift that Ma Cato sent me is in my home.

I wish I could talk to her now, to wish her a happy birthday, to get to know the woman, to tell her I still have the present she sent me. When legend tells us to think of a new year’s baby, on the contrary, I think of Ma, a dear little old lady with a bun.