New; my word for 2019

She was a purple Giant. My first bicycle wasn’t huge, Giant was the brand. As an Old Order Mennonite girl, my transportation options were the family horse and buggy, walking, or a used bike from the family stockpile. But at thirteen I got my very first, very own, brand new bike. 

I rode barefoot on long summer evenings to neighborhood softball games in cow pastures, to the river for a swim, to friend’s houses for outdoor sleepovers. I rode in bitter winter with long socks and boots, layers of coats, scarves, and hoods, my hands and thighs numb-frozen when I finally made it to youth basketball games or back home late evenings. 

As the fifth of seven children raised by a single mother, new wasn’t something I was used to. Mom would sew us new dresses, we would occasionally get a new bonnet, and sometimes new shoes, but anything new felt wildly exciting.

New. My word for 2019 has felt slow in coming, but this three-letter gem has become engraved on my heart as the first weeks of the year progress. 

New: not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time. 

After three years of what has felt like a “fiery furnace” for our family, it feels like we are on the cusp of something new, something wildly exciting! 

New: my memoir, readying for publication, from the girl whose roles and rules were rigidly defined in childhood, but whose pen and paper secretly realized a much larger story.

New: stepping out in faith into a paid position as executive director of the non-profit my husband and I started in memory of our daughter after working ten years as a volunteer, from the girl who was told women cannot lead. 

New: training for my first half-marathon, from the girl who always before said, “If you see me running you should run too, because something scary is chasing me.”

New: release from a myriad of voices imposing the weight of the world on my shoulders, from the girl who carried far too weighty baggage in childhood. 

New: intentionally setting aside family time, from the girl who has worn too many hats, (not literally, can too many hats be a real thing literally?) 

New is palpitating, coursing through my being, daring me to step forward into the places I am being called, fondly remembering the girl I was, inviting me to become. And that new bicycle I got for my thirteenth birthday? It still carries me today, twenty-eight years later, reminding me this “new” I’m stepping into has the potential to carry me further than I ever imagined. 

Poetry, Family, Creation Care

A few weeks before Christmas, I took Our 9 and 6 year-old on a walk through the basement of our house. The goal was to find ten items that I would eventually write a poem about. We play the “describing game” all the time where one person defines something without naming it, and everyone else guesses. This time, we described without defining and took it to a whole new level of fun for us!

Here’s the list of items we found: Globe, Horseshoe, Maracas, Christmas lights, Toys, Nativity, Clock, Presents, Coat, Glasses. I had no agenda for what the poem might become. The end result as words flowed from me, was a poem about Creation Care.

I snapped those pictures from some of my favorite places with my phone. I love the way God uses Creation to speak to me.

Treasure

By Regina Cyzick Harlow

Sphere rumbles, rhythmic

Marchers, move toward eternal

Tired, worn out, used up sphere

Capitulating to misuse and consumerism

Wilds waning

Countryside yawning

Cities bursting

Beneath the pounding beat

Blind marchers march

Caught in the flow

Ever consuming

Ever using

Impetuous, heedless, injudicious

The stage set

A junction, once in periphery, becomes clearer

Marchers arrive at the hour of decision

Hope, born into their world

Salvation, Eternal Gift

Birthed from darkness

Offering joy

Pointing beyond time

Gate of Perfection

Marchers, every tongue and tribe and nation

Gathered in orbs of jasper, ruby, emerald,

Emanating from the One True Light

Basking in the warmth of One True Love

Sight returns

Vision restored

A New Heaven and a New Earth

Finally the Marchers treasure the gift

A New Name

I didn’t have a name for three days when I was born. My parents were waiting for the perfect moniker to dawn on them for their fifth child. Finally, they named me after a protagonist in the novel, “Not Regina,” by Christmas Carol Coffman. 

My first website, moons ago, was “inspiredramblings.” Later I started a new site, “myinspiredramblings,” but my writing was sporadic and I left it sitting there like a book collecting dust on a shelf. At one point I also had a recipe blog called, “The Kitchen Chic.”

Last year, I decided to start blogging with intention under the identity, “Spicy Spirit Sister,” the name a reference to recipes, food, soul care, and ministry, all of which I love.   

Many of you started following me under this name and I’ve truly appreciated your friendship and feedback. However, the moniker still didn’t feel authentic. I could just as well have titled my site “the conservative hippie,” (explanation warrants a post of its own) “the grief companion,” “my plant-based-ish family,” or “the ordinarian,” and all of them would have represented parts of the whole.

As I take my writing career to the next level, I’ve returned to the name so thoughtfully given to me at birth for my web address. This name encompasses all of the nuances that make me, me. The title of my site returns to “Inspired Ramblings.” 


I look forward to continuing our connection and friendship here. 

Glimpses of the indomitable women that shaped my life

From day one, my life has been blessed with multiple indomitable women. In honor of Honoring Women Day, here’s a brief post about the virtuosic women that have shaped my life. With mom’s stoic Old Order Mennonite family and daddy’s colorful Russian/Hungarian family, I’ve had quite a conglomeration of influences, all of them prodigious!

First and foremost, my mom.

mom 1mom 2mom 5mom

This woman birthed seven children in nine years and three months. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she found herself a single mother and the sole provider for our family.

She literally worked her fingers to the bone, milking cows, tending chickens, butchering animals, working in a bake shop, caring for yet more children, and still running our household.

She lives most of our childhood with a crushed spirit and a broken heart, but her tenacity to provide and care for her brood never wavered. She is a women of quiet yet profound faith. She never allowed us to speak ill of our dad for not being there, even when she had every right to complain herself. She was and is quiet, meek, gentle, soft-spoken, and timid, but hear me when I say she is a force to be reckoned with when her mind is set and when the concerns of her children and family are involved.

Mom, it would take a book to begin telling you all you mean to me, but I pray my heart and life speak as loudly as anything I might say of the legacy you have instilled in me. I love you!

Aunt Lois, mom’s sister, played a tremendous role in my musicality and appreciation of music and singing. Although she was not permitted to have instruments or “worldly” music, I spent hours with her metronome, pitchpipes, tuning forks, and vast supply of hymnals. Aunt Lois taught me how to feel music in your soul. She was also a woman of great faith and conviction which she exemplified by the manner of her living. She died when I was a young teenager. I still miss her.

All mom’s sisters played their own unique role; Aunt Edie let me dress up in “fancy” clothes.

rrh.jpg

She still sings like a song bird and her talent as a professional seamstress is second to none. (That’s a skill I never mastered, but have great admiration for.) Aunt Ruth, mom’s twin, has always been a quiet loving presence. Aunt Mim always sees the silver lining, is a prolific writer, and gifted photographer. Aunt Mary Etta, for as long as I knew her, endured tremendous physical suffering and yet praised God anyway. I didn’t know Aunt Mabel as well, she lived in Missouri and I seldom got to see her, but she came to help our family when mom was laid up after being hit by a car while riding bicycle.

Two of my great aunts, Mary and Wilda Beery, and their mother, grandmother Mary Beery, instilled in me a love of memorizing and reciting Scripture and poetry.

Switching gears now, Aunt Nellie, one of my dad’s sisters, could make a sailor blush with some of her language, but she was one of the most caring persons I’ve ever known. I seldom saw her without curlers in her hair and a Coke and cigarette in her hands. She often held a fly swatter too, and her grandkids would say, “no beaty a$$, Nan, no beaty a$$.” Aunt Nellie worked in the coal mines.  Her rosary in her casket was made of Mardi Gra beads and a miniature Coke bottle. She left bags of “beads” for us, and my favorite colorful crocheted afghan for me.

I’m pretty sure Aunt Ethel has an Energizer Bunny inside. She has endured many physical complications from a horrible car accident years ago, yet at nearly 78 years old, she still works and cares for others. She lives a good four hours from us and we’ve never arrived at her house without an entire feast prepared. And we ARE expected to eat, even if we arrive late at night. I recall arriving around two am when we were children (car trouble) and she had baked ham, macaroni salad, and all kinds of other goodies prepared for us and was vacuuming her living room.

Aunt Tresa was full of life and laughter. She wore red lipstick and red heels. She kissed my brothers and made them cry. (Not really, she just loved how embarrassed they got with a bright red lip print on their little cheeks.)

Nearly all of my aunts lived out of the area, but they have all left their imprint in my life.

My mother-in-law, Sandy, has spent her life invested in children, teaching them to read. She has traveled the world, and is independent, stoic, composed, intelligent, a master gardener, and a life-long learner and reader.

sany.jpg

My sisters and sisters-in-law have also inspired me in many ways.

sistrs

This brief post is only a glimpse of these tremendous women, and there are many others who have shaped my life in various forms. If I can leave even a portion of the legacy of faith, tenacity, and meekness that these woman have instilled in me, my life will have been worth it.

On this day of honoring women, today I salute my grandmothers, my mom and mother-in-law, my aunts, my great grandmother and great aunts, and my sisters and sisters-in-law. I am who I am because of each of you! I love you!

Simplifying in 2017

Six people in a 1700 square foot house has caused me to re-evaluate “stuff.” We’ve always had clutter but I never saw it as excess, just disorganization. 

I’ve long felt the call to live simply and sufficiently and in many ways I feel like we do. I cook nearly every meal from scratch with many homegrown preserved ingredients. I make our own variety of soaps, detergents, deodorants, and try to live as closely to the earth as possible. We have one TV in the whole house, which is one too many if you ask me. I shop at second hand stores and we wear our clothes completely out. We live and work and play very closely as a family, focusing on building character, relationship, and communication skills and try to avoid excessive digital/electronic time. 

But now, now we’re busting at the seams of this sweet little brown brick ranch and I realize the piles of dirty dishes and clean unfolded laundry are more because of excess than disorganization. It’s not that I’m disorganized, although my husband and brother-in-law would sniff at this comment or rather burst into fits of uncontrolled laughter, but we simply don’t have the room for what we have.

 This sign on the door of my kitchen cabinet aptly sums it up. 

I’m responding to the internal tug to minimize, simplify, reduce, and refocus. I’m pretty sure God and the universe are trying to tell me this, because I’m seeing shared links, blog posts, books, and quotes about simplifying everywhere. 

Besides clearing clutter and excess from our home, I’m also taking a hacksaw to the commitment calendar and it feels oh so good. I’ve had to practice saying “no” in the mirror, but I’m getting the hang of it. My life is of little value to others when my own well is empty and dry. My prayer is that I maximize my opportunities to serve in the capacities to which I am called. 

I will share more with you along the way, but here’s our pretty little cabinet that contains all our dishes now. (And it’s still more than what we need daily.) Imagine, I thought we needed an entire cabinet for cups and glasses and one for plates and bowls and I still didn’t have room for everything before the purge. 

I hope you all have something to look forward to in 2017. I’m looking forward to a slower pace. 

Peace and Love, y’all. 

More Interruptions

I had no idea when I posted last about life’s interruptions how greatly our life was about to be interrupted. Death, a most unwelcome intruder, visited our family once again with the unexpected passing of my father-in-law, Edward Lyle Harlow. He died of an apparent heart attack April 30.

I was going by to drop Elsie off for a few hours so I could paint at my office. I was pulling into the driveway when my mother-in-law found him collapsed on the kitchen floor.

The next few hours were a blur. As we sat around the kitchen table, steam still rising from his coffee cup on the warmer, I was reminded again of how our lives had been interrupted.

I was angry. I hurt for my husband, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, myself and our children. I was not at all ready for this interruption.

While are hearts are still broken, our eyes still weeping, the memories too fresh, we have found comfort in the gifts our dear daddy/husband/grandpa left behind.

An avid gardener and lover of flowers, trees, plants and landscapes, it was almost like our dear Ed knew what was about to unfold. Nearly every day since his death two and a half weeks ago, plants he ordered have arrived in the mail, one of which is called “Widow’s Tears.” A fancy honeysuckle showed up that he intentioned to plant along our chain link fence as well as wave petunias, dahlias, heirloom tomatoes, peppers and other plants. He had a sense of humor that was always present even among the most magnificent garden displays as shown in these photos.

Although we have had many moments of intense sadness, these “gifts” have evoked smiles through the tears. Although Eli and Elsie have had many questions and have cried many tears for grandpa, we are taking time as a family to care for his plants and remember him in a beautiful way. There is something so powerful and unifying in watering and tending flowers together as we rehearse stories and laugh about cherished memories of our precious loved one.

Interruptions. We cannot avoid them. We cannot prevent them. We cannot expect them to adhere to our schedule. But in time, we can find beauty rising from the ashes of our sorrow. We can find small, seemingly insignificant things that become the most meaningful moments of our day and if we allow it, we can grow from these interruptions. Just as we are tending the plants from daddy and encouraging them to grow, these interruptions can cause us to blossom more fully into the persons we were created to be. Adversity can be the fertilizer that nourishes the most beautiful gardens.

20130518-223017.jpg

20130518-223048.jpg

20130518-223059.jpg

20130518-223106.jpg

20130518-223401.jpg

20130520-170755.jpg

20130520-170820.jpg

20130520-170834.jpg

20130520-170843.jpg

20130520-170851.jpg

20130520-170858.jpg

Anger; a beautiful release

I attended a spiritual retreat this weekend. One might think it was coincidence that a day before this retreat was to take place that a family I know lost their 11-month-old daughter in a tragic accident. I believe God used this tragedy to reveal himself to me in a new and beautiful way. (***I do not believe God causes tragedy, but I do believe he can use it to form and transform us when and if we are ready to allow that.)

Through our time together, with people unrelated to this incident and most of whom were unassociated with my work through The Sadie Rose Foundation, God’s Spirit revealed to me that I was harboring anger, lots of it.

I admit, when I have the faith to believe that God can raise a child out of a sick-bed and he chooses not too or when I feel he could have easily prevented a tragedy, I wrestle with anger. I don’t just wrestle with it, I get downright mad. When I talk with families grieving their precious children gone too soon, I wonder why. Over time, these have snowballed into a jaded feeling that my prayers are ineffective and I have questioned at times whether or not God really cares. Why does he allow these tragedies to happen? Why do innocent children suffer?

At the retreat, we were given a Scripture to meditate on and to ask what God might be saying to us through that passage. Two phrases stood out to me as I read it again and again.

“They know his voice,” and “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:4 and 28)

I contemplated why these two phrases and wrote the following in my journal; answers I believe came from the Holy Spirit of God.

” Those children whom I call, know my voice. They are not afraid. I give them eternal life and no one can snatch them out of my hand. I know your pain. I know you feel these children have been snatched out of the hands of their family, but they are not afraid to come to me. They innocently trust and know and are comforted by my voice.

They do not perish. In truth, they never die. They are transitioned from their bars of clay into eternal life in the spirit.

They are held lovingly in my arms and no one, not death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate them from my love or can snatch them out of my hand.”

Wow… a new perspective for me. I did not get my “why” questions answered, I probably never will this side of eternity, nor do I claim to understand it. I am not disillusioned to think that this will keep me from ever feeling that anger again, but I know that I felt a beautiful release of anger, a letting go, and a new and fresh peace to move forward.

May the Holy Comforter be near to all who mourn this day and may we hear and recognize the voice of the Gentle Shepherd inviting us to trust him.