Out of Frame and Out of Focus

Why do we hold onto those old family photographs? You know the ones; everyone is in mid-movement, looking in different directions, a flare of light obscures a face while someone else falls off into the shadows. Heads chopped off; mouths open in conversation. Those really bad photographs. I have boxes of them.

My sister Ann went through every one of my mother’s photo albums and pulled out the pictures when we were cleaning out the house. She scanned many of them. We threw away the bulky old albums. All of the photographs went into large baggies to be distributed between the sisters. But the loose photographs still float around from Roanoke to Greenville to Atlanta waiting for who knows what to happen to them.

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FamilyGeorgia TannerComment
Listening to the Wrong Voice

Some days fear wells up in me from some deep place. It is quiet in its approach. I don’t realize it has come to visit me until it has crept in through the back door and taken a seat right there in my kitchen. Whispering in my ear. Telling me the saddest stories and the most insidious lies.

I will start feeling vaguely sad. And isolated. And slowly I realize it is because I am listening to this ongoing, monotonous voice that tells me really mean secrets about myself. Secrets everyone else knows already. Secrets about how foolish I am… what people really think about me – or worse, that they don’t think of me at all. I have no talent. I really have no worth. I am mean-spirited. Everything I think about myself is just a delusion, a lie, a big puff of smoke. And mirrors.

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The Last Days of Summer

“You didn’t bring tomatoes with you, did you?” my sister asks as I walk in the door. Four days out of town is too long to leave my vegetables and fruit waiting for our return so I usually arrive with my cooler in tow.

"Yes. I not only brought tomatoes from the house, but we also stopped at a farmer's market along the way and bought more." Since my uncle Robert died, the summer is spent in search of the delicious tomatoes that once were plentiful in his garden. Used to, on my arrival in Greenville, my mother would say, "We need to run up to Robert's and get some tomatoes and squash…I’ve been wantin’ squash lately.”

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Letters to Michael

I have had a new revelation this morning. Deep in the beautiful truths of ‘Good, Good Father’ and ‘Is He Worthy?’ sung by Chris Tomlin – those beautiful words washing over me, soothing me as my morning begins, I make a new decision. Michael needs to hear those words, those truths.

Michael is beyond my reach. Locked in a broken mind and a tormented spirit; at the unkind mercy of a broken justice system and sentenced to a life behind bars and in the company of felons. Because Michael is a felon himself.

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A Letter to Pauline Lucinda 

There they are- those names typed out in black on the well-worn page; the margins tan from the oil of our fingers. The title reads “Record from the Elias Mitchell Family Bible”. Line one; ‘Married to Pauline Lucinda Wade in Chester County SC. January 4, 1870.’ Twelve children line up below in birth order. But below that, the death order makes us pause.

William Thomas, born October 29, 1870, dies on April 5th, 1874. James Cleveland, born July 5th, 1872 dies August 17th, 1873. Mary Irene, known to us as Aunt Mamie, makes it to adulthood to become like a grandmother to our mothers.  Uncle Lumpkin makes it safely through, as well as Nancy Vistula – who my sister Nancy is named after. But little Sallie Beauford, born in 1887 doesn’t make it to see her first birthday.

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A Broken Vessel

Broken again. Hands emptied. Silly me. I thought I was entering the days of fullness and abundance. Each morning I met the sun as it rose with anticipation and an open heart. Five days to embrace sea and sand. Five days to write and plan. And here I am with pages and pages of notes and thoughts and knee-deep in sorrow, loss; depression creeping in, splashing around my knees like the cold water of the afternoon storm. Broken again.

This last morning I stare out into the sea and ask God, ask myself, “What did I expect? A cup filled to the top; a confidence unshakable,” I whisper into the quiet.

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He Will Swallow Up Death Forever

It all started in a grave… and a borrowed one at that. Usually, it was the women who bathed the lifeless body, rubbed the skin with rich perfumes and lovingly, carefully wrapped their loved one in strips of linen.

This grave was different. It held a king. A king from a foreign land. Messengers from that foreign land, angels, watched silently from the shadows. All was quiet. They had no songs to sing, no words to say as they watched the two men at their work.

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A Knock on the Door

My sister had a recurring dream in the months before she passed away. She told me about it one day as I sat on the edge of her hospital bed. In her dream, she climbed a long staircase; at the top was a locked door. She tried the door, but it would not open.

I think I shared with her the verse from the Revelation to John; that we are the ones who open the door. Our conversation went no deeper at the time. This recurring dream of hers continued and expanded and there came a time when she opened that door.

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Deception Behind the Veil

I grew up in a house full of women. I was just a young girl, so I didn’t quite understand the complexities of the dynamics at the time but looking back on it through the haze of the years, I realize that my mother was a force to be reckoned with. She had grown up under both the torment and joy of four older brothers and somewhere along the way she determined that she would stand her ground and speak her mind.

Momma wanted to give birth to a son named Joe, but all four of us turned out to be girls, so she gave up on the fourth and called her Nancy Jo. We were spread out along 14 years and two husbands, and she loved to say she broke the mold with each of us. We looked nothing alike and our personalities had little in common. We loved each other, resented each other, argued with each other, and insisted on taking our vacations together. We sat up late into the night talking and drove each other crazy on road trips. Family. Females. Sisters.

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GenesisGeorgia TannerComment
A Reason to Shop for Shoes

I was ill-prepared when I set out on this little journey. The sun was high in the sky, the air crisp and warm with a slight breeze. At the end of the trail there are waterfalls, clearly marked with an orange star. But I will not make it there. My hiking boots are safe and sound on the other side of the continent in the dark of my closet, as I slip and slide in my black Adidas on the hard-packed snow and ice that carpets the trail.

I will make do with a large granite rock and the babble of the brook intermixed with the occasional car on the road that runs parallel.

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Horizon Gazer

Have you ever found yourself saying no to God? I have. And let me tell you right now; it is the wrong side of the argument to be on.

 I have led an amazing Bible Study for the last 17 years and I started out on that path, at the very beginning with those words of ‘no’ in all their variations choo-choo-ing in my brain like a little toy train going around and around. “No, no. no.”

 God was pretty gentle with me, and patient, putting the bible story about the 10 spies who said no to him outside of the Promised Land into my head, (if you don’t know the story – look it up – it is pretty terrifying!).

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My Sister's Rings

I have been missing my sister Ann the last couple of weeks. Ann died suddenly four years ago and none of us had the chance for that last conversation about goodbye. 

 My mother always had a very practical view of death since she had seen it up close and personal when she lost her first husband in her 20’s. And as Christians, we view this life as the one that is temporary… and the next one is the good one to look forward to. If you aren’t familiar with that view, I will give you a few of Jesus’s words about it below. Rumor has it that Jesus defeated death and my family has always leaned hard into that truth.

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A Total Eclipse of the Heart – Sing it, Bonnie Tyler!

Sunday night, in Colorado Springs, I sat outside by a blazing fire with strangers and watched the gloriously white full moon turn the color of a blood orange in a total eclipse. It was amazing and beautiful – but it could not compare with the total eclipse of the sun on August 21, 2017. It is one thing for the moon to have its light from the sun blocked but to watch the light of the sun disappear is a whole different thing.

Did you see it? Do you remember the slight chill in the air? Travel back with me to that week of the sun going dark – I am glad I wrote about it then.

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The Slimy Pit

We are all standing together in a big hole. It is deep, with slick steep sides. We can look up and see light – the blue sky above us – brilliant and sparkling. But when we look down, obscured by shadows, our eyes gradually adjust and we begin to see the ground moving beneath our feet.

 It is mud; sandy and thick and wet. It is much too soft to find a solid foothold. We shift our weight, and it fills in around our ankles. Quicksand; the stuff of Tarzan movies.

 It holds tightly to our ankles, gradually creeping up to encircle our calves. We lift our knees high, trying to step above the thick bone-cold mud that holds us in its grasp. We look at each other; we are in trouble.

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You Have Called Me Higher

There he was, running away with little in his arms, but a blessing on his head. His name was Jacob, and he had a bad reputation for being a liar and a thief; a deceiver without integrity, only seeking his own advantage. Willing to destroy any relationship to elevate himself. He could play the perfect dark and disturbed hero on a Netflix series.

My new friend sitting across from me in the coffee shop leans in to admit in a whisper, “I really don’t like Genesis. Those people were supposed to be the heroes – but look at Jacob – I just don’t get it.”

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Romance Rekindled

I was afraid that it would never be that good again.

 You know the feeling. That giddy feeling of happiness. Your heart beating a little faster when you were in his presence. The time of intimacy spent alone… just talking…and just hearing his voice. The comfort of being able to pour your heart out when the world stopped on its axis and started turning the wrong way around.

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Extravagant Abundance

A cup full and overflowing. Extravagant abundance. These are the words that fill my mind this early morning before the sun has risen. Turn out the porch light and pour a cup a coffee. The house is quiet for the first time in eleven days.

Counting. Numbers have bounced around in my brain all my waking hours these past days. How many nephews and their children can fit into which bedroom? How many to prepare a breakfast feast for? How many to reserve a table at the restaurant for? How many bowls to put out for soup?

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Good News of Great Joy

Dare I write of a manger and a virgin giving birth? How do you possibly put pen to paper about such things?

Angels have sung songs about it; shepherds have crowded into a dark and foul shelter to see a newborn in his mother’s arms. The planets shifted in their orbit to send one star closer and brighter than all the rest. Stargazers charted their course and Herod slept fitfully in his bed unaware that a new king had come to town.

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