Tag Archives: family

sound of cemeteries

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The Lord knows what we need, when we need it. He knew I needed to visit a cemetery on a hill on a brisk New Zealand spring to find closure, grieve and celebrate a life well lived.

*note, this post was written in October 2014

I’m in Akaroa today. It was a French colony and has a beautiful bay. The weather was excellent—bright, blue skies and brisk spring weather.

I hiked with a friend to an Anglican cemetery on a hill overlooking the city’s lighthouse and bay.
Home at Last
I wandered past tombstones with names of old and dates even older. We then made our way to the Catholic and “Dissenters” cemetery. The Anglican cemetery housed the remains of men and women with English last names. The Catholic cemetery’s stones had French last names, for the many French settlers in the colony, as well as Irish last names. Earlier today, I met a fifth-generation French woman who owns a dolphin tour company.

The Dissenters were English men and men who broke from the Church of England. They advocated for a separation of church and state and called for a Protestant Reformation of sorts in England.

I loved the Dissenters cemetery. On the tombstones are quarter-length ‘tweet testaments’ to God’s grace and their departure to their eternal home.

“Thy will be done” and “in a better place” were etched in tombstones.

With Christ, which is far better

With Christ, which is far better

My grandmother passed away this week. I wasn’t able to return for the funeral. It was really hard for me. Had I been in my city, I could have made it. After exhausting options, I accepted the fact that I’d have to miss remembering the matriarch of my mom’s side of the family.

A year and a half ago I lost my grandfather on my dad’s side. I was thankful I was in the U.S. to grieve, remember and celebrate his life well lived.

But God allowed me to remember my grandmother –not in the way I’d imagined. As I strolled up and down the rows of stone memorials, I realized the Lord was allowing me a chance to remember and grieve. I wasn’t in the cemetery where my maternal grandfather and uncle are buried and where my grandmother was being laid to rest. But I was in a cemetery, and as I read the last testaments and memories that family members chose to forever etch on tombstones, I was able to mentally write ones for Grandmomma.

“Peace, perfect peace,” and “until the day breaks and the shadows flee away,” are two of my favorites.”

Reading these on the tombstones reminded me that she’s in her eternal home. I could imagine I was there in the Lowcountry graveyard.

I didn’t know the people buried there, but I know the bonds of family, the love and the grief.

Some of the dates I saw on the stones were similar to my grandmother’s birth date.

Tombstone in the Dissenter's cemetery

Peace, perfect peace

On the walk down the graveyard hill, I crunched on a carpet of browned pine needles. I realized this was my chance to be in South Carolina—in a “Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe” sort of way. The path behind my grandmother’s house is carpeted with fallen pine needles. Pine needles cushioned the back yard of the home she lived in for her entire married life.

Cemeteries aren’t what you initially think of when you think of a peaceful and serene location. Perhaps an even stranger thought is of a cemetery being a vacation attraction.

But for me, I could celebrate the life of a woman who is now at ‘peace, perfect peace,’ and no longer has to wait ‘till the day breaks’ to find eternal healing and eclipsing joy. I was thousands of miles away—on the shores of “Middle Earth,” but the Lord granted me a window into the time of remembrance that I’d of otherwise missed.

The Lord knows what we need. He knew I’d be at the base of a glacier named after an Austrian leader when I returned the missed calls with a lump in my throat—knowing what words would soon leave my father’s lips and travel invisibly over the ocean to the ‘glow worm cottage’ I was staying in. He knew I wouldn’t be able to make it back to South Carolina. He knew I needed to travel to Austria through the songs of the Von Trapp family in Auckland’s Civic Theater.

Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away

Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away

Grandmomma loved songs. Her Alzheimer’s and dementia claimed a lot of memories – but hymns and Scripture were rooted deep in her mind in areas that disease could not claim.

I remember clearly the afternoon a preacher came by to visit my grandmother. I think I remember that she had had a hard week and her sentences didn’t always fit together and her memory was fading. The preacher made rounds, visiting the elderly and aging in the country.

We sat at the kitchen table, with a view of the carpet of pine needles, and I remember him saying something to the effect of, “Well, Miss Grace, shall we sing?” He started singing a hymn in a soulful and bluesy voice and my grandmother sang along—remembering all of the lyrics perfectly.

The day of the funeral, I went to see The Sound of Music live. The musical is a favorite of mine – my dad would substitute “Tessa Lyn” for “Eidelweiss” in the Austrian ballad. I couldn’t be with my family but through another Aslan-like plan, God closed a door, but like Maria sang, he opened a window. There’s something healing about music. It’s invigorating and the hills in New Zealand are really alive with the Sound of Music. “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” is a powerful song, the soprano singer who played Sister Abbess did a phenomenal job, her powerful voice gave me chills and I closed my eyes during part of it to absorb it. My grandmother was a woman who climbed every mountain and forded every stream.

I was able to watch part of the funeral, via streaming live feed, and I loved the hymns my family chose and I could imagine my grandmother sitting in her pew, singing for memory the songs of the Baptist hymnal. I watched online along with my cousin who lives in Germany.

Carpet of pine needles

Carpet of pine needles leading out to the bay in Akaroa, New Zealand

He donned a tux. I wore last night’s make up—the funeral was at 4:30 a.m. New Zealand time.

As I was watching, my phone data ran out and the hostel’s Wi-Fi refused to wake up from its intoxicated state. Frantically, I ran first to the front desk and then jogged down the dusky dawn streets of Auckland, looking for Wifi.

Starbucks. Must make it, I thought.

I jogged past an abandoned pair of black pumps and was cat-called in an alley. I passed people who’d been out all night. I realized this wasn’t the safest decision—running on a downtown, dark street in an unfamiliar megacity.

Starbucks was still a sleeping giant. I hesitate and pause on the street and start to turn to return to the hostel.

“Are you OK ma’am?” a Samoan security guard in a bright orange vest asked. He was on late-night patrolling the streets after Diwali festivities. Diwali is a South Asian holiday.

I explained my failed mission while holding back tears. He offered to let me use his phone as a hotspot. By the time we had it active, I’d missed the funeral’s finale.

I found a kind Samoan soul who sympathized and let a stranger use his data to connect to South Carolina. I told him he was an answer to prayer. I told him I’d prayed for help, and God sent help.

“God bless you,” I told him.

If anything, my mad dash was a chance to, in a small way, be a witness. If it was a song title, I’d say it was One Direction’s “Midnight Memories—” well, a gospel one, anyway.

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I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness

Thanks to another wardrobe, more commonly known as the Internet, I was able to be at my grandmother’s funeral, even if it was only for a short part. Thanks also to technology, I was able to watch the remainder of the service later on YouTube – an interconnected web of wardrobes. I’m thankful for the maze of mirrors, windows and wardrobes that connected me, in Middle Earth, to a small town with a street name with a Tolkien-sounding name if there ever was one.

God’s plans are not our own. Like Maria found—things turn out differently than we expected. I’ll see you on the other side, Grandmomma.

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front porch

There’s something about sitting on a front porch – a porch that’s older, much older, than you and most anyone you can presently think of. It’s a porch that’s heard many a secret, as the house’s inhabitants, and those who simply pass by, rock gently in red rockers and share stories from time’s past and time present.

There’s something about sitting on a front porch that makes you feel like the Time Traveler in H.G. Well’s The Time Machine. Stories of buggies, family trees and family mishaps are remembered. Children listen wide-eyed to the matron share of a time they’ve only read about in worn textbooks.

The present is discussed, of course, at length. “Did you hear about …” and “I wonder what … is up to.” The future is hypothesized — what will become of the family in the years to come, who so-and-so will marry, what will the grandson, niece or daughter become when they grow up.

Sitting alone, on this same porch, does the soul and spirit good. It soothes the worries, the aches and rejuvenates the weary.

Jus’ sit a spell, I can hear my aunts and great aunts say. So, I do. I sit, I think, I wish and I pray. I read too, I’ve decided nothing quite can top a good book on a front porch.

There’s something healing about the gentle rock, the bees humming among the hydrangea and the hummingbird’s thousand-calorie wing work out. Birds call to one another among the pine and magnolia trees. For a spell, one can hear the distant drone of machines tending to the tobacco a mile down the road.

Old glory, hanging from one of the white house’s columns, persists in tangling herself and getting knotted in her own affairs, much the mirror of the country she represents.

The wind flows gently, through the blueberries, waiting for their debut. The crape myrtle mingles. The surroundings are awash in green, thankful for the recent rains.

Peter Rabbit came to visit, though not to sit a spell. Bambi too – his mother nowhere to be seen, just like the movie. A turtle makes his slow journey across the country road, praying the pickup trucks will manage to maneuver around his slow journey.

Spanish moss, hanging from the tree that’s as old as the house, is tickled by the same wind that tangles the Stars and Stripes. Chinkle, click click. The beach shells, attached to a homemade chime, awaken when they wish and remind the rockers of days spent in beach chairs, with toes dug into the sand and arms extended for a suntan.

I sit next to the tiny rocking chair, reserved for the children, grandchildren, now adults, and the great-grandchildren. I sit next to the wooden angel whose expression never changes. Her dress changes with the season and holiday. Her spirit never sags.

1668. The Lyons. The house that’s remained the constant in my life of world travel. I’ve moved often and lived in more residences than most. This house has stayed the same.

The magnolia tree remains – the one I climbed and sat in, watching the country coming and goings, giggling and how I was hidden. The dirt road, where I squatted on many an occasion will always be “the dirt road” a road that harbors my doodles, dreams and prayers.

Granddaddy’s old store still sits, eclipsed by the trees, drooping with age and memories. It holds memories I wish I could be a part of — how would that work, you ask. Well, I am reading The Time Machine. Perhaps Wells’ secret works in the 21st century in the Lowcountry.

The fishing pond out back remains, though it is fish-less now.

Then, there’s the path through the woods, coated with fallen pine needles, that leads to more family land. Look up, I say, the pine trees swish and sway to make room for unknown lofty passersby. Crunch, you stepped on a pine cone. Ah! Don’t worry, as arms flap, fighting an invisible enemy, it’s just a spider’s web, newly spun this morning.

Walking down this path transforms me into a character from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia — I’m discovering a new land, don’t you know, and Reepicheep awaits, I’m just sure of it. No, it’s just the fox.

Rhythm. Motion. Wood on wood. Rocking. Thinking. Reading. Cogitating. Remembering.

It’s the front porch at 1668. Residence of the Lyons.

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american pastime, seventh inning stretch, captain jack sparrow

Why do they wear hats?

This is a true Tessa question.

I’ll admit, when my mom and extended family said/wrote on my wall, Go Gamecocks, my mind raced. What sports season are we in?

Baseball.

The American pastime (pass-time?). It always brings questions to my mind. Questions, yes, I have many in life.

As you know, I’ve grown up outside the U.S. and baseball hasn’t really been a staple in my life. Yes, they plan in Japan, but I lived in China. I won’t go into the political and historical implications.

I’ve been to a few games, two, maybe, a Rangers game and several Baylor games. None of the games I went to were particularly enthralling.  But then again, I hear you go for the atmosphere (This can be expensive atmosphere, enjoy the air).

The college World Series just took place, as I found out one game in to the series, that’s series lowercase, lest we get confused with the bigger event, or are they the same? The University of South Carolina took on the Florida Gators.

I am a staunch Carolina fan, as is my entire mom’s side of the family. Many of my family members are alums and/or have grown up a Gamecock. I was not allowed to wear orange growing up and neither were my cousins. I recently found out from a Clemson fan that he doesn’t allow his son to utter the word “Gamecock.”  (For those who are not acquainted with the SEC and South Carolina rivalries, Clemson University is the arch nemesis of Carolina. Their color is orange and purple, random, I know). The rivalry is serious.

I naturally will cheer for Carolina in any sporting event as I of course will and do cheer on Baylor University as I am an alumna and have grown up a Baylor Bear since infancy. My dad’s side of the family has several generations of Baylor Bears. One time in my college career, Baylor played Carolina in basketball. I sat in the Bear Pit, the crazy student section, with my jersey and I sported a Carolina baseball cap. I wasn’t too popular among my Baylor compatriots.

I’ll always cheer on both universities on in whatever sporting event.

My mom and dad and I Skyped through portions of the last two baseball games. I had many questions and musings.

The second game in the series went into 11 innings I believe.

“Is it like sudden death in soccer? Whoever scores, wins?” I ask.

“No honey,” my dad and mom said. Florida bats last. Ah, right.

Then, today, in the third game, I forget that there are normally nine innings, I’d misremembered and thought there were seven. Oops.

The seventh inning stretch. Ah yes, stretching is good. It reminds me of the intermission in movie theaters in India. I hear they stop the movie at exactly halfway through the movie, even if it’s in mid-sentence. Everyone gets up an uses the little girls or little boys rooms and buys meals.

Do the players stretch more than they normally do during this time period?

I couldn’t help but think that the pitcher’s dominant arm must be massive in comparison to their dominant arm. Are they then lopsided because of the imbalance of weight? Maybe this causes a swagger in their walk. Think Captain Jack Sparrow, without the rum.

I think it would stink to be the catcher. You are Asian squatting for ump-teen (not to be confused with umpire, which also sounds like empire, maybe they have empires) innings. The catcher has to arrange his mitt and catch ridiculously fast balls. Balls that go faster than any car in Thailand ever has. I can’t fathom throwing something faster than a car. Can you?

Also, can you imagine how bad it would hurt as the batter to get hit by a ball? Yep, that’ll leave a bruise.

Who would try to steal bases when the pitcher can throw as fast as a race car? But then again, does the pitcher have eyes in the back of their head to know they’re stealing bases?

“Why do they wear baseball hats?” I asked my mom on Skype.

“Why do they wear hats,” my mom repeated. “This is a true, true Tessa question.”

I’ve been known throughout my growing up years to ask similar questions, I’ve always got to know the mechanics.

My mom told me they wear hats to shield the sun, even though this particular game is at night, to keep sweat out of their eyes and to “complete the total look of the uniform.”

OK, I can respect that. It’s be like not wearing socks with cleats or volleyball knee pads. And, by the general populace wearing them, we can all simulate the Captain Jack Sparrow swagger without the rum or massive throwing arm.

Baseball. I’m still learning about American culture. I am still asking questions. When you’re a third culture kid, there is always another question because there’s no true place that’s completely home.

Carolina won, by the way. Two-time champs. That’s right.

Don’t forget: it’s not sudden death, there are nine innings unless there’s a tie, you can be Captain Jack Sparrow and don’t get hit by a fastball.

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Grace

Grace, she became my mother.

Jimmy Needham’s song, “Moving to Zion” has a line that resonates within me. “Grace, she became my mother.”

Grace is my mother. And my grandmother.

My mom’s name is Grace Lyn. My grandmother’s name is Grace. If I have a girl, I want Grace to be a part of her name.

Grace is my heritage–in my earthly family and my heavenly family.

If there’s a theme, a thread or trace of an element in my life, it’s grace. Through Grace and Rudolph, my mom came into the world. Through Grace Lyn and Jim, I came into the world. Through God’s grace, I am His child.

Reading Andy Stanley’s book, “The Grace of God,” and listening to Jimmy Needham’s song, I am reminded of how crucial grace is in all of our lives.

“Grace is bigger than compassion or forgiveness,” Stanley writes. “Grace is the offer of exactly of exactly what we do not deserve.”

Sometimes I forget this. I try to earn grace, but grace can’t be earned.

“It is the knowledge of what we do not deserve that allows us to receive grace for what it is. Unmerited. Unearned. Undeserved. For that reason, grace can only be experienced by those who acknowledge they are undeserving,” Stanley writes.

Stanley says grace is understood best when viewed within the context of relationships. I agree.

In his book, Stanley outlines grace throughout the Old and New Testament. It’s part of our heritage as God’s children.

Stanley’s book reminded of me the ways my parents showed me grace throughout my growing up years, mirroring what our Heavenly Father does.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

I love that grace is the undercurrent in my life.

How is grace playing out in your lives?

Thomas Nelsons’ Booksneeze program provided me with Stanley’s book. My opinions are my own.

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Uncle Sam’s Plantation

It’s modern-day slavery. It’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin on Uncle Sam’s Plantation.

Star Parker’s book is a vehement presentation of how big government enslaves America’s poor in a vicious cycle. Parker came out of the same background she writes about having been on welfare.

Parker talks about how welfare, taxes and minimum wage helps, not hurts.

I think her argument could have been presented differently, but I think is very close to hitting home. The book began abruptly and Parker’s tone of anger carries throughout the book. She makes it seem like she’s best buds with Rush Limbaugh as well, which concerned me.

Welfare keeps people dependent on Uncle Sam, Parker argues. To stay on welfare, people must meet certain job requirements, such as agreeing to not get a job. For many in poverty, the security in knowing you have money coming in outweighs the risk of trying to find a job that will probably pay less than the welfare check.

Poverty in the US is not decreasing. Welfare is decreasing the likelihood of the American dream coming to fruition and making it hard for rags to riches stories to take place, Parker argues.

One example Parker gives in minimum wage. Increasing minimum wage drives employers to raise qualifications and education requirements for those they hire because they can’t afford to hire as many people. This rules out many in poverty who don’t have the education or experience many employers are now demanding.

“A thriving economy is not the solution. Although the poor need free enterprise, capital investment, and rising productivity in order to obtain better living standards, the lack of a sustainable moral code and value system brings such endeavors to naught,” Parker writes.

Unless values and morals are addressed, Parker argues, the problem will perpetuate. Moral relativism is not helping Americans.

“Values are transmitted through family, which is why much of the black community is in moral free fall and the rest of American society is unraveling as white family life collapses. Children learn from what they observe. With so many children born outside of marriage, in families with no father present, core values are missing from daily life, and children are forced to look outside to popular culture for guidance.”

Schools and governments are teaching it’s OK for men to sleep around and father children by many mothers and not commit to a long-term relationship.

Raising taxes hurts the poor too, Parker argues. I won’t get into all of her arguments, because there are many, but you get the picture.

Despite many issues, of which I’ll not go into, I think this book hits on many issues Americans need to grapple with. Are our current policies beneficial? Are we helping or hurting the poor? What does welfare do to our economy? Discussions need to happen. The blinds need to come off. This book was an eye-opener.

This book was provided to me by Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Tears.

It’s 1:57 a.m.

I just finished reading Nicholas and Micah Sparks’ book, “Three Weeks With My Brother.”

I cried.

I didn’t intend to stay up this late reading and it’s been awhile since I have. It was worth it.

For whatever reason, I used to pride myself in the fact that I didn’t cry reading books or watching movies. A proud entertainment stoic, I’d frequently tell to others this in response to their sharing about shedding of tears.

I did cry though, don’t get me wrong. I am a very emotional person. I just usually didn’t cry during books or movies.

Now, everything has changed. I find myself crying more in general and in books and movies. And I am OK with that.

Being a stoic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I cried watching Toy Story 3 the other night. Toys held, and still hold, a special place in my heart. Just like Andy in Toy Story, my toys were close companions. I believed they were real and took their feelings into consideration always. It tore me up to give away toys. Just ask my parents.

When I was younger, I’d line up all of my stuffed animals on our couch so they could watch TV with me. I also had imaginary friends, but that’s for another post.

I cried when Woody made the choice to write a note suggesting that they be given to Bonnie. I was snot-nosed and sniffly in the last scene when Andy gave away Buzz, Rex, Slinky and especially when he gave away Woody.

Growing up is hard. Adulthood is hard

I cried reading Nicholas and Micah Sparks’ book. It is an intensely personal book. It’s a memoir. The Sparks brothers lost both of their parents and their younger sister. I promise that wasn’t a spoiler, it’s given away on the back of the book.

Reading about their losses profoundly touched me. It reminded me, not that I needed reminding, about how strong the bonds of family are. What tends to make me cry is when I relate a certain sad incident to my life.  Reading “Three Weeks With My Brother” made me think about losing family. That hurt.

I cannot imagine the pain the Sparks brothers went through. My family is so important to me, so integral to who I am, I just simply can’t imagine. I don’t want to imagine.

My extended family has dealt with a lot of loss. I lost one of my grandfathers, two uncles and a young cousin. Reading this book opened some of those wounds. It was painful.

In the book, faith and trust in God is a crucial part of the book.

I think what God’s teaching me is that crying when reading a book or movie can be good. That sounds really elementary, but I’m realizing that different books and movies can bring out our past so we can remember God’s grace, so we can remember lessons learned and so we can value and treasure life.

Media imitates life. The stories we read and watch are snippets from our lives. Spark’s book, “A Walk to Remember” is based off of his sister. His book, “Rescue” is about his son who has developmental issues. Since media imitates life, there are applications to each of our lives if we’re willing to take them.

It’s important to be in tune with feelings and emotions. It is so important to process and share feelings — especially when tragedy and loss are involved. Holding tears in doesn’t help.

Reading or watching something sad that strikes an emotional vein can bring reflection and healing if we let God work.

No longer will I brag about being an entertainment stoic. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Trust me.

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birthday psalm

Something my mom started with me is having a birthday psalm. Whatever age you are that year, the psalm that corresponds to your age is your ‘theme psalm’ for the year.

This year I am 23. What a good psalm huh? What I’m going to do in subsequent posts, is insert personal experiences in the psalm, for example, how He’s led me through the valley of the shadow of death.

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want for He’s met my every need this past year
2He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me zip-lining through Thai jungles
He leads me beside still waters and across them in my life of travel
3He restores my soul daily as I sit in my green chair facing one of Chiang Mai’s mountains
He leads me in paths of righteousness even when I am tempted to turn
for his name’s sake spreading in Asia

4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death in the temple of the goddess of death and destruction
I will fear no evil, when my knees quake
for you are with me; even when viewing a cremation
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me in the face of idols

5You prepare a table before me I’m not lacking in anything
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; and Thai rains
my cup overflows for I am so blessed to live in Chiang Mai again
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me as they have this past year
all the days of my life, whether in Asia or America
and I shall dwellin the house of the LORD
forever.

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