Let the Good Times Roll

Let the Good Times Roll

We spent the weekend in New Orleans for Matt’s step-mom’s family reunion. The girls loved getting to see their Doc and GranJan and all their cousins, and we had so much fun exploring and eating lots of Cajun food. Matt and I love New Orleans. When we got engaged, we wanted a destination wedding that felt like a vacation for our guests but still wanted somewhere that our grandparents could easily get to. Since New Orleans is only three hours south of Jackson, we both grew up going there often for family trips, and it’s a festive city so it seemed like a fun place for a wedding. Two months before our wedding, Katrina tore through New Orleans devastating the city. My daddy was stationed with the emergency response team right outside of New Orleans, and I remember him calling and saying, “Liss, it’s time to find a Plan B. It’s really bad down here.”

With no electricity, scarce gasoline, very little cell phone coverage and only eight weeks to go, we started making plans to move our wedding from NOLA to Jackson. It ended up being just perfect for us, but we still have a special place in our hearts for the Crescent City. We’ve taken the girls back a few times. Lottie’s first trip she was not even two months old yet, but I snuggled her in the Baby Bjorn and we trekked all over the city. This time the temperature was a bit warmer, but that didn’t stop us from going all over and leaving our mark–quite literally as eating out with littles tends to go–throughout NOLA. Thank you, Doc and GranJan for a fun weekend.

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On Contentment & Tomato Sandwiches

On Contentment & Tomato Sandwiches

Sweet home Alabama. Friday afternoon we traveled to my grandparents’ farm in Leeds, Alabama. It’s just a few miles north of Birmingham, but it is the epitome of small town living. The pastures are all grown up now, trees covering where my Papaw’s beloved cows used to graze. The garden beyond the apple and pear trees is just a plot of grass now, but the memories are all there, verdant as ever. While we were chasing fireflies Friday night, I told Matt, “The air just smells different here.”

Since we will outgrow our current dining room table come November, my sweet Mamaw is giving us hers, the one she and Papaw bought when my mom was just a little girl. The same table I used to set up my grocery store on using the veggies from Mamaw’s garden and Papaw’s old scales. Saturday night we were eating dinner and talking about our favorite foods. Lydia told Mamaw how much she loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Mamaw told us there were only four things she needed in her cupboard–peanut butter, mayo, ketchup and mustard. We laughed about how Papaw used to eat tomato sandwiches–two slices of white bread slathered with mayo and a tomato fresh from the garden–every single day in the summer.

Some might call it living a simple life. But I think it’s living a content life. My grandparents have lived through the Depression and war. They know that stuff can be gone in an instant but that love never fails. It seems my generation wants everything our grandparents and parents had, but we want it now. There is an old cross stitch sampler hanging in my grandparents’ dining room stitched with the words, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We want to rush ahead and have today’s bread and tomorrow’s and next year’s too. And then we decide we aren’t happy with just bread. We want steak and dessert and maybe a shrimp cocktail too. And just like the Israelites complaining about the manna, we stare our miracle and provision in the face and stomp our feet and demand more.

We aren’t good judges at what we can handle. We think we are, but we aren’t. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. That’s who we are, surrounded by blessing after blessing and complaining that it isn’t enough. But my grandparents have shown me a different way. They have lived a different life. A life that says thank you for fireflies and tomato sandwiches. A life with hearts content, hearts grateful for this daily bread.

Four generations on the farm. I hope I give to my girls the legacy they’ve given me.

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On Salt Licks, Lemon Ice Box Pies & Leaving a Legacy

On Salt Licks, Lemon Ice Box Pies & Leaving a Legacy

IMG_6037This past weekend, we embarked on a little road trip to Sweet Home Alabama to visit my Mamaw and meet our new niece. Fueled by iced coffee and the Love Does book on audio (me being the audio), we made the trek to Leeds, Alabama, a small town just north of Birmingham. My grandparents have lived in the house my Papaw built since the day they were married, and my mom spent her entire childhood in this home. My Papaw went to be with Jesus almost five years ago, but his fingerprints are all over this home and this land.

So many of my childhood memories are on that farm. The golden sun breaking through the blinds, the smell of sausage and biscuits wafting from the kitchen, the sound of the train rumbling across the tracks just over the highway. Mornings spent in the garden where I would play underneath the trees bursting with apples, pears and figs. And where I secretly wondered how that odd looking fruit came to resemble the Fig Newtons Papaw would keep in the pantry for an afternoon treat.

After Mamaw finished picking the ripe vegetables, we would head inside. Some days we shelled peas. Some days we snapped beans. But whenever we were done, I would assemble my grocery store on the wooden table in the dining room. I would drag out Papaw’s old scale and separate everything into baskets. The plump eggplants were my favorite, weighty with waxy skin the color of a moonless night. Once I had everything just right, I would invite Mamaw to come shop at my grocery store. As she made her selections, I tallied up her total on a yellow notepad. A few years ago, we came across a small stack of these now-wrinkled and faded receipts. She had kept them all those years.

In the late afternoon, I would go out to the pasture with Papaw to check on the cows. I loved sitting on the tractor with him and hearing all his stories about his beloved bovine friends. He would tell me how each one came to the farm, its age and its personality. He would tell me about the bull too and how he had to be careful with that one. We would ride past the salt lick (which I know from experience is quite salty) and make sure the cows had plenty of fresh water. Papaw used an old bath tub for their water trough. I would run around the pasture while the water ran, Papaw warning me to watch out for “fresh patties” and to never ever touch the electric fence. Even though I knew he’d already checked it a half dozen times to be sure it was off.

At night Mamaw and I would make lemon ice box pies, two at a time, and watch I Love Lucy marathons. And I would always sneak out to the back porch where Papaw would be reading his Bible. Every Christmas he had only one request, a new Bible. Because his one from the previous year would no longer be attached to the binding and the pages would be falling out from being read so often.

And every time I had to leave to go home, they would stand on that porch and wave goodbye. They tried to cover their tears, but I knew they were there. I didn’t even try to cover mine. I would look out the back window down the long driveway, waving one last time and at the top of the hill we would enter the highway, giving a little honk and a last goodbye.

My Papaw went to be with Jesus November 2008. A few months later on January 17th, his birthday, the first one he wouldn’t be here to celebrate, I found out I was pregnant. That baby would join him in heaven a month later and then another baby would join them both later that summer. But as I watched Lydia running and Charlotte crawling on the lawn in front of that porch, I smiled. The same patch of grass my Papaw once mowed. The same patch of grass my mom played in as a child and then me and my siblings a few decades later. And now my two girls enjoying the magic of that farm, lost in the sweet smell of country air and a lifetime of treasured memories.