Sojourning Mercies: Lessons from the Blackberry Patch

Welcome back to a fairly new blog series called: “Sojourning Mercies.” This series consists solely of stories… stories of beauty, of hardship overcome, of reconciliation attained… stories of people defiantly singing alleluia at the end of a hard experience. Tonight’s contribution comes from one of the most beautiful women I know, Ann Davis. Ann continues to practice physical therapy in addition to a sustained, faithful life of service dedicated to trying to understand God’s love and extend it through her hands and feet. She has served on the board of the Nashville Rescue Mission for 40 plus years and has sojourned the globe more times than I can count. She is a best friend on mine and just happens to be my grandmother. I hope you’ll enjoy her sweet spirit tonight. If you do, please give her a shout out in the comments section and I’ll make sure her attention is brought to it. 

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As I visited the blackberry patch in my backyard today, I was flooded with memories from my childhood.

Growing up in the 1930’s on an Illinois farm held lots of excitement as well as affording me great memories today. Blackberries usually were ready for picking around the middle of July and the great thing about that was that the county fair was just two weeks away.

In the 1930s, there was not very many opportunities for kids to earn money, especially for non-essentials. The annual county fair was a treat my whole family looked forward to attending. My father provided the $2.00 family ticket for admission but my sister and I were required to earn “our own money” for rides and treats. Our mom always packed a picnic lunch of fried chicken, potato salad, and fresh garden vegetables, but we liked the big snow balls (a paper cone cup of flavored ice with a little tin spoon) the best. There was also a “Big Nick” ice cream bar for .05 cents.

So blackberries were our ticket! My sister and I covered our legs with Dad’s old overhauls and started to the field with our little half-gallon syrup buckets; the sun was hot and sweat poured, scratches and bites covered our arms, but nothing would stop the chance to earn change for the big day. Pay off was .05 cents for the half gallon of blackberries and our mother would accept it even if it was not quite completely full.

Of course there were other chores like cutting the thistles in the pasture for .10 cents and by fair time, we usually had over 2.00!

Now as a grandmother, I return to the blackberry patch behind my home and the lessons from childhood come rolling back.

1) The joy of having “our own money” to spend once a year on treats was like none other. These days, my joy comes with knowing I can share the berries with others as the taste of a good blackberry cobbler never goes away.

2) The persistence to stay on task as a child was the same as today. The passing thought of “why am I doing this?” But persistence has its rewards… if I can succeed at this, I can take on bigger tasks in the future.

3) One thing different about the berries and the money earned was that once we picked the berries, they were not ours any longer. They were to be enjoyed by others and maybe that thought was even better than having our own money.

If you have a story you would be willing to share, I would venture to guess that we could benefit from it. Please contact me via the “contact tab” above.

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Sojournies Mercies: Can I Ask You a Question?

Welcome to a new blog series called: “Sojourning Mercies.” This series consists solely of stories… stories of beauty, of hardship overcome, of reconciliation attained… stories of people defiantly singing alleluia at the end of a hard experience. Our first contribution is from Melissa Ann Lackey, a friend whom I know from some time spent in Montana. She writes with honesty and directness that I appreciate…. I hope you learn as much from her as I did! Melissa identifies herself as a: follower of Christ, wife of James, mother of Hudson, resident of Missouri, and blogger at www.dearbabylackey.blogspot.com.
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“Can I ask you a question?”  For most people this is an innocent question.  For someone with a physical disability, this usually makes us hold our breath and wait for what we know will be asked.  “What’s wrong with you?” “What happened to your ….?”  “Why do you …?”  “Do you have … ?”

I was born with Sacral-a-Genesis (SA) which is a neural tube defect that basically means I don’t have a complete spine.  Because I don’t have a complete spine, I don’t have completely formed hips, and also have bladder and kidney problems as well.  All in all, my birth defect is on the mild side as I am able to walk, though I do have a nasty limp.  Many with SA are wheel-chair bound and suffer constant back pressure and pain.

Growing up, I hated that question.  You see, it was a reminder that I am broken.  A reminder that as “normal” as I might feel – I am not normal.  If you look at today’s church you usually don’t see many people like me.  Yes, there are the elderly for whom the blessing of long life has included degeneration of their bodies.  Yes, there are the few who suffered an accident.  But those of us born with a physical disability are few and far between.

Why?  Looking back at my life, I think there are two reasons.  First, our abortion culture – no explanation needed.  Second, our church’s misunderstanding of how to interact with people who have such “issues.” 

Brokenness makes people awkward.  They either say too much or too little.  Usually those who say too much also say the wrong thing.  “Don’t be embarrassed!” “God doesn’t make mistakes!” “You’re perfect just the way you are!” “May I pray for your healing?” These are all well-intended comments, but if I’m honest with you, they don’t help.  Then there are the comments one is not meant to hear.  The rumors of what happened to you from people too afraid to ask.  The church worker who comments sympathetically about how sweet it is to see you try to do something because it must be so hard for you.  The discouragement from the mother of a potential boyfriend about pursuing you because you might have children who aren’t perfect.  Words said out of awkwardness, ignorance, or an attempt to comfort that simply hurt.  This doesn’t even touch those who say too little.  Those who ignore you because your brokenness is simply too much. 

Reconciling the goodness of God and the brokenness of my body has been a complicated journey. 

For a long time in my life the Lord gave me the gift of “oblivion” – I simply denied there was anything wrong with me and therefore didn’t talk about it.  I would get offended if/when anyone asked me about why I walk the way I do. 

For 22 years of my life I lived in this “oblivion.”  In that time, I was the picture perfect girl at church.  There every time the door opened, avoiding the no-no’s (sex, alcohol, and dancing – haha), willing to pray aloud, eager to serve, good at school, and completely lost in my sin; swallowed up by pride in my ability to do good.  I may have a broken body, but I was determined to be perfect in every other way.

When I was 22 the Lord was kind to remove me from this state.  Through the testimony and counsel of others, prayer, and bible study I finally began to understand that God is good, regardless of the state of my physical being.  In fact, my physical being screams God’s goodness.  The fact that I can walk though I am missing a large section of my spine is crazy.  The fact that I only have a limp despite both of my hip sockets being malformed and basically perpetually dislocated is mind-blowing.  The fact that I do all this relatively pain-free is a marvel medically.  I also realized that my broken body was really the smallest problem I had – my broken soul, full of sin, was a terminal disease. 

Now at age 34, I wish I could tell you that during these past 12 years as a follower of Christ the Lord miraculously healed my broken body – no more SA!  But that would be a lie.  It’s still there, annoying as ever.  But so is the Lord’s grace.

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If you have a story you would be willing to share, I would venture to guess that we could benefit from it. Please contact me via the “contact tab” above.

A New Series: Sojourning Mercies

Sometimes I think we just need to read other people’s stories of beauty, of hardship overcome, of reconciliation attained… stories of people defiantly singing alleluia at the end of a hard experience. So in addition to the “Our Emptying Church” series, I am launching a new blog series called: “Sojourning Mercies.” If you have a story you would be willing to share, I would venture to guess that we could benefit from it. It’s amazing how many times we think no one else can relate to or benefit from our stories, when in reality, that is completely untrue.

If you would be interested in sharing your story, please contact me through the “contact” tab. It would be a joy, an inspiration, and a learning experience to share in your journey. Grace and peace,

Kate