“Mister T” and the Peaches

School is back in session! Although I don’t have children, I get to reminisce and share in the excitement this year because my new husband is a teacher!

I not only love this teacher ;), but I LOVE teachers and I loved school! Looking back, even the teachers who were “mean” spent their lives making sure I learned to pay attention, to give respect, how to multi-task, and (ugh!) even how to do long division. And, (now I know) they took on this job while making “dittly squat” for an income!

Both inside and outside of the classroom, my teachers delivered lessons that still stick with me to this day.

I remain in touch with several of my junior high & high school teachers who had a profound influence on my life. This story is about one of these men; we will call him “Mister T.”

Colorado Peaches

Colorado Peaches

Colorado peaches are some of the best things on this green earth! A fresh Colorado peach is so juicy, sweet and tender, perfectly ripened by the Rocky Mountain climate and soil—they are out of this world!

My father loved peaches—only Colorado peaches, though. He loved them so much that he bought the tree and planted it in his yard so he could experience one of those beauties at his whim! Plus, as the cancer began to take over his body, his trips to the grocery store lessened.

Sadly, that tree he planted bore not a single peach.

Year after year—nada, nothing, zilch.

My father passed away March 29, 2008 and never ate a single Colorado peach from his tree.

Why?

The question that is never far away

The healing doesn’t come from being explained

Jesus please don’t let this go in vain

You’re all I have All that remains

-Mercy Me “The Hurt and the Healer”

If you’ve lost someone close to you, you know how it goes. Even though you feel your world has stopped; the world, in fact, keeps spinning. Time continues forward; people keep moving on; there is always the “TO DO” list.

As we went about the tasks of cleaning out his closets, settling accounts, paying doctor bills, we nearly missed what was happening with the tree.

Neighbors began calling.

He had one of the old voice message systems that recorded messages on a mini-tape. We heard his voice at every missed call. It was heartbreaking, like he was still here and waiting to return calls. “Just leave a message and I’ll get right back to you…”

At least four neighbors called and several family members who had been to the house; all with very similar messages –

“…Let us know if you need help. Especially with that peach tree…”

WTH?

So my sister and I went out to the yard to investigate.

What we saw stunned us into silence. With tears in our eyes, we looked up and shook our heads in disbelief.

Five years after he planted it and just two months after he passed away, that peach tree’s branches were so filled with peaches that several of the branches hung to the ground! Many had leaned over into each of the neighbors’ yards—No wonder they were calling!

 

Peaches at last!

Peaches at last!

Our silence turned to awe.

There were so many peaches that each of those neighbors and family members picked to their hearts content. We packed several baskets and took them to friends.

Abundance

Abundance

We had some ourselves and baked no fewer than 12 peach pies which we froze and enjoyed over the next two years. Those pies were absolutely heavenly! We’ve held on to one, saving it for a very special occasion…

It’s May 30, 2014 and a beautiful clear Colorado day; the day before I will to marry my “Mr. Right” in Golden, Colorado. He and I go for my favorite run to Two Ponds and then around by my Dad’s old house. As we begin our run, I always pass by one of my favorite junior high school teacher’s house. Every time we do this run I tell my fiancé— “One of these days “Mister T” will be out taking care of his yard. I can’t wait to introduce you!”

We round the corner at the exact time we see his garage door opening and guess who steps out and begins working on his fence?!?

Barely able to contain myself, I nudge my running partner, “Today’s the day.”

I continue to jog right up to my old teacher. It has been years and he has aged; I can see it in his eyes. His eyes shine with recognition and a little confusion.

“Mister T!” I say, “It is Julie…uh..Stoddard…uh.. but soon to be different.” I wink at my fiancé.

“Oh my God it is!” He says and wraps me in a big hug.

“I always remembered the Stoddard girls; that deep voice you girls have, just like your dad!”

We go through the introductions and the reason we are back in town. He is happy in sharing his congratulations and I tell him how much he meant to me as a teacher and mentor. I know he is still making a difference in young lives as he shares some of his latest endeavors. Yet, there is a sadness in him; a weariness.

“How’s your dad doing? He still up around the corner? He still doing well?” He asks.

It’s my turn to feel sad.

“He passed away just over 5 years ago.” I tell him of the death sentence he was given. I also share with him the 13 years of bonus life we had with him and the triumphs of the unconventional treatments. I hold back on sharing how tough those last months were, watching the losing battle, I don’t like to re-visit that pain.

He looks me straight in the eye, I see the sadness in him again, “I’m so sorry, Julie. He was a good man.” He looks over to my fiancé, “Not that you need to hear this right now, with your good news for tomorrow…But, my wife,” he stops and looks back at the door to his house, “Over 40 years we’ve been together…She’s in there…can’t walk; can’t take care of herself; wearing a diaper.” His shoulders sink, “I just got through prostate cancer. The next day she falls. Now she doesn’t even know who I am.”

I choke back the tears in watching my teacher struggling with this. It all just seems to flood out.

His eyes drop, then he looks up, “I used to talk to God all the time. Now I just have questions. Why? I just don’t know anymore.”

This breaks my heart. I remember those feelings; the anger, the questions, the frustration, the helplessness, the weariness, the very same struggle I see in him.

Breathe

Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do

Pain so deep that I can hardly move

Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You

Lord take hold and pull me through

-Mercy Me “The Hurt and the Healer”

And I did just what this song said. I fixed my eyes on the Lord and laid all my questions and feelings at the foot of the cross. I handed it over to the only One who I knew could bear my questions. I trusted Him to be faithful. But the heartache is still real; cancer is still cancer; Alzheimer’s is still a thief, death still happens. I still have questions.

But I trust I will be given answers some day.

 

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (The Hope Bible)

OR, like one of my new favorite quotes from Sonny Kapoor who repeatedly says in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, “It all works out in the end. And, if it has not yet worked out, then it is not yet the end!”

 

I grab ahold of my teacher’s hand and tell him the truth, “I wish you didn’t have to go through this. I don’t know why. I don’t have any answers.”

I really don’t. I hate this. I wish I had something hopeful to share with him. I am at a loss. I tell him he isn’t alone. I end up sharing how hard it was at the end for us with our father; the deep pain of watching one you love wither away, mentally, physically; the utter weariness and exhaustion of one’s spirit to witness such a thing.

But, I also tell him how I wouldn’t have survived without the prayers of my friends, encouragement from family and others sharing their struggles & stories. I tell him that God hasn’t left him and can handle his questions and to never stop talking to Him. I tell him how I believe God draws very near to us when we are brokenhearted; how I truly felt that. I tell him we will pray for him.

We continue on our run and we do. As we go by my father’s house and the tears come.

We pray for the pain we witnessed in “Mister T.” We prayed for his wife. And then I remember all those peaches.

I begin to wonder. Maybe, this is like those peaches that showed up after my father passed away?

Dad wanted those peaches so bad.

“Mister T” wants answers so bad.

But we may not get those “peaches” in our timing.

It’s the moment when humanity

Is overcome by majesty

When grace is ushered in for good

And all our scars are understood

When mercy takes its rightful place

And all these questions fade away

I fall into your arms open wide

When The hurt and the healer collide

-Mercy Me “The Hurt and the Healer”

 

 

And, just like this “divine collision” Mercy Me so beautifully describes, it is at this very moment, “Mister T”, my dad and I will sit down and savor that last peach pie.

The moment

The moment

Advertisements

“I’ll have what she’s having!”

Souvenirs

“I’ll have…”

I’m one of those people who always orders the same thing from the menu.

I say, “Why mess with perfection?”

I like what I like and the possibility of ordering something new and not liking it deter me from venturing out from my “norm.”

Why fix it if it ain’t broke? Right?

But, I have this friend–

She is a “skilled orderer.” Her mother, Grace, raised her with a love for food, an adventurous palate and infused her with passion and skill at mixing and experimenting with all manner of flavors, tastes, textures and variety. She’s been all over the world and knows what to order in every region. Not only does she have a published book titled “Souvenirs: A Creative Collection of Art and Cuisine”  that  fabulously pairs her recipes with her amazing artwork, but every time she cooks dinner, it’s a party for the taste buds.

Whenever we go out to eat, people’s senses are peaked and their eyes follow as the waiter walks by delivering her plate to the table. I giggle as they grab their waiter and point to her plate, trying to covertly ask what it was she ordered.

And, as the aromas from across the table make my mouth water, I watch with envy as she savors her choices.

Her husband is a wise man (for many reasons!) After years of sticking to what he was used to ordering and then sampling off her plate, (and eventually eating all of her food,) he has changed his ways.

Now he just closes his menu, nods and says, “I’ll have…whatever she’s having.”

But I don’t have the same tastes as she does.

But I don’t like hot and spicy.

But I’ve never heard of that ingredient.

But I can’t even pronounce that.

But, but, but…

So, I end up ordering the same thing.

And I miss out.

Isn’t this how we often end up doing life?

Playing it safe; sticking with what we know.

Saying, “That might work for you, but I am just this way…I have always been this way…I always order this.”

And we end up missing out.

But not anymore.

My friend is always gracious and allows me to sample everything she orders. And my taste buds burst out in celebration!

It has taken me some time, and I often think of all I have missed up to this point, but as I grew in trust, I’ve been encouraged and emboldened to try new things as we dine together.

 

And God is cooking up something in life for each of us that is so much more that we could ever ask for or imagine (or order!).

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Bigger plans than that thing you always do.

And the beautiful thing is–He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. He brings people into our lives to help us along the way. People who will inspire and encourage, or just another soul who has walked in our same shoes for awhile and who understands.

God knows us inside and out and figured out we would need a helper to move us forward into areas that frighten us.

He brings people into our lives that challenge us, hold our hand along the way and embolden us to try new things.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that all things are good choices for all people. Discernment and trust are key factors. (My friend always asks about my allergies and preferences before cooking up her magic!)

 

But, when we place our trust in Him, seek Him and ask Him for help, He will align himself with us, reminding us we are not alone. He will encourage us, guide us and light the way for our path.

“You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel.” (Psalm 73:24)

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20)

He invites us to spend time with Him; to savor His Words of healing, wisdom and direction. He asks us to dine with Him; to take and eat of the bread of life and sip from an everlasting cup.

“I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20)

So, the next time you hunger to try something new, or you find yourself salivating with envy over someone else’s choices, just close your eyes. Listen for God’s whispers of faith and focus your eyes on Him.

Breathe deep; smile and envision the café scene in When Harry Met Sally…

Open your eyes, and say it with conviction, “I’ll have what He has for me!” 😉

 

Dedicated to my fabulous, foodie friend Heidi Rosner. –Thank you for encouraging me in so many things!

Check out Souvenirs and all of her artwork at Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ through March! (or at www.HeidiRosner.com)

Or, better yet, just share some food with her! 😉

Again and again and again

Image from crossfitmf.com

Image from crossfitmf.com


I just heard that the first Monday of the first week of the year is touted as “the most depressing day of the year.” The first Monday after all that holiday time off, celebrations and festivities and then**Ka-BLAM!**–Most “New Year Resolutions” are already broken, those Christmas pounds are pushing at your pants and it’s back to “the old grind.”

Depressing.

But–Congratulations to us all! We made it through the most depressing day of the year already.

Maybe.

No lies—I have no doubt that this year will hold a cornucopia of events for us all.

Some good. Some bad.

Life is tough. Divorce, dead end jobs, relentlessly cruel bosses, mean store clerks, jerky drivers, taxes, financial woes, health struggles, and so on and so on…
Yet nothing leaves a bigger void than the loss of a loved one. Whether it be a sudden, unsuspected loss, like the quick tearing off of a bandage, or whether it is a lengthy illness, stretching out a loved one’s pain. Both are equally painful and both resulting in a galaxy-sized hole in your life.

My “energizer bunny” father and my joke-telling, sweet grandfather passed away within a month of each other. And several of my friends have experienced similar losses. One after the other; again and again and again; leaving void upon void that aches like the ghost-like pain of an amputee.

Part of you gone forever.

How do you honor that? How do you honor them?

“Maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.”—Walt Disney

This quote is from Saving Mr. Banks. The story details how Walt Disney, struggling to keep a 20 year promise to his daughters, fought to get the rights from Pamela Travers to her book “Mary Poppins” so he could turn it into a musical movie. I am glad I saw this movie many years after my losses. For me, this story overflowed with the relationship of father-to-daughter, daughter-to-father and that complex, yet special bond.
“Pamela” didn’t want to give over the rights to “Mr. Disney” because the characters were family to her. And through the movie, we discover they truly are her family.

And Walt Disney’s musical movie wasn’t what she had in mind to honor them.

It would seem, giving up the rights of her story to him meant letting go of what illusions she created to honor her family.

And my illusions are that, even if this “based on the true story” movie didn’t contain all the facts, it did honor those it was about. For me, those two hours in the theater were spent endearing me to “Pamela” and the love she had for her father; of discovering the man behind Walt Disney (his father, Elias) and the tenacity of Walt in his promise to his daughters, as well as remembering my own father and weeping about loss with those who have had this same struggle of how to honor their memory.

Life stops for no one. I mean, how does one grieve in the three days of bereavement leave some jobs allow? Even the “moment of silence” offered up at memorials passes away and is too quickly replaced with the hustle and bustle of this supersonic paced world we must return to.

We need a place to lay things to rest.

“That is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet. If you bring the right earnestness to your homemade ceremony, God will provide the grace. And that is why we need God.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert from “Eat, Pray, Love.”

So, whether it’s for a divorce, a job loss or a freshly opened wound created by a death; and whether it’s in a movie theater, a church, or the tallest tower of an Ashram in India; I pray that you invite God in, and find peace in honoring the losses in your life.
Again and again and again.

Dedicated in Memoriam of Harry Herbert Hyde who left this life on 12-30-13

LICKING ASHES

Licking Ashes

Licking Ashes

LICKING ASHES

“How about a nice greasy pork sandwich, served in a dirty ash tray?”

Sound pretty tasty?

Can you name that movie?

—I I LOVE movies and this used to be my favorite movie quote. (A quote from Gladiator now holds that place in my heart.)

Back to the quote–

Anyone?  Anyone? Buehler?(Hint: not that movie!)

Hint: An 80’s classic

Hint: Starred Kelly LeBrock, Anthony Michael Hall, Bill Paxton…

Remember “Weird Science?”

When I was in Jr. High, (and high school and college)my friends and I would often spend entire weekends catching a movie at the mall and/or being holed up in my parent’s basement with a supply of movies to get us through the weekend, only arising to pee or grab a snack.

One day, my Jr. High best friend Kelly and I spoke to each other only in movie quotes.

The whole day.

Totally awesome.  ;)—(It was  the 80’s)

I love the smell when you walk in the theater. I love the dumb quizzes they have if you arrive very early. I get excited and start planning my calendar watching the previews. I love movies so much that I stand in lines for premiers, pay ridiculous ticket prices, splurge the $20+ in movie snacks (P.S.- HARKINS Theater’s popcorn is the very best!) I love an interesting character, a plot twist, a poignant scene. I debate about them, blog about them and, like I said earlier, I speak “movie.”

Most people who know me, know my love of movies. It‘s contained on every one of my profiles on Twitter, both Facebook pages and my blog (www.juleseddy1.wordpress.com)

But do people know I love Jesus more?

Do my words, actions and thoughts honor this love?

Would I stand in line for hours to go to church; sacrificially give to further His kingdom? Would I discuss and debate the intricacies of this relationship with friends and with strangers? Will I raise my hands in praise at worship of THE MOST HIGH?

“He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’”

–Can you name this quote?

Hint: The Bible

Hint: A prophet spoke it

Hint: Old Testament

It is found in Isaiah

Beth Moore’s book “Breaking Free” discusses this passage and reminds us that anything we place higher than God is idolatry or misplaced worship.

It is a lie.

It is like licking a dirty ashtray.

I thought about the greasy pork sandwich quote as I read the Isaiah verse. We often sustain ourselves on lesser things; on empty, unsatisfying, non-satiating remnants that are dropped from the world’s table.

I admit it.

God created some pretty terrific things and He created us, so He knew we would have these tendencies to put these pretty great things before Him.–He saw it over and over and throughout the ages. Time and time again, people worship empty idols; placing things (and people, and success, and pride, and comforts and movies, etc.,) over Him.

But God also loves us so much that He pursues us; tracks us down in our misguided paths and shows us a different way.

Relentlessly, He does this by reminding us of John 3:16–

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son”

And:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. His mercies are new each day” (Lamentations 3:22)

And:

“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Joel 2:13)

And:

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

Just a few of my new favorite quotes. 8)

Turn from what it is that has “that place” above The Most High and return Him to the place of Honor.

And, guess what?!—They also made a movie of it all—Check out THE BIBLE mini-series now available on DVD! 😉