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Family

Katie, Martha, Louie

Family is what you make of it. In the beginning, as children, we take what we’re given and do the best we can. For some of us, it’s a continual blessing that grows richer and deeper with time. For others, we recover from the original family and, with some help, create a family out of the people in our lives. It’s all good.

However, for either one of those scenarios to work, we have to be willing to love and forgive on a continual basis. As it turns out, the biggest thriller any of us will ever know are the journeys we all take to be a part of something bigger than ourselves – a family.

This week I discovered that there’s a patch of family on my mother’s side living just 15 minutes away that I’ve never met before and I no very little about them, except for one important detail. My mother, Tina, rarely talked about her past at all, never told very many stories of what her childhood was like, for whatever reasons. I don’t really know. There was one exception and that was Ivan Toler, who she clearly loved and remembered fondly.

They grew up together in Georgia and he’s the one person I know of in the world that shared the best memories my mother had of those days. Today I get to meet him and sit quietly to just listen. No expectations of what the day may hold or what may be revealed. A new connection to family that comes with the best kind of loving invitation already secured by my mother.

Mom passed away in April of 2014 and I miss the phone calls with her because she was the one person in the world who would worry about me, even if there was no need to be concerned. She was also the one who cheered me on when I started the new thriller series, and said with confidence, “Oh, that will be easy for you.” I wasn’t so sure but Mom said it so easily and so quickly that I decided to just go with her view of things. People who love us can grace us with that kind of confidence from the inside, out.

They’re sharing the kind of love that doesn’t take anything away from anyone.

There’s more that can come with being part of a family, like old stories that sometimes run through our head and hurt our feelings and disrupt things like Thanksgiving dinners. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Look at it from a new angle by taking a good look at everyone gathered around your own Thanksgiving table. Chances are, no one else at that table even knows your old stories. For them it never happened and doesn’t exist because the past is gone. All they know about you starts with the day you met and moves forward. That’s their gift to you.

Don’t return the gift with the tags still on it by drudging up what no longer matters. Be in the moment and forgive the past by letting it stay right where it is. Then, try sitting quietly and listening to the stories as if you didn’t really know anyone in them, but knew you were really going to love them all. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. More adventures to follow.

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Hanging with my son, Louie, enjoying the day.

I have wondered for a very long time how anyone did anything that was good for them for longer than say six months, top. How do they keep going after all of the hurrah’s, good for you’s and the newness of a new place wear off?

Frankly, I don’t know because once the applause died down I found it too easy to slide right back to where I’d started and then some.

Regain the weight, and then some. Pile up the debt, and then some. Stop dressing up, and then some. Stop going out with friends, and then some.

It’s really easy especially when that little voice in the back of my head starts saying, what’s the point, are you really happy yet?

I was so convinced that happiness was a destination that when I got somewhere that garnered applause I was sure that this is where happiness resided. This is where all of those successful people found that little something that kept them going. When the feeling didn’t last I figured I wasn’t there yet and the idea of another long, arduous journey sunk me back into a feeling of hopelessness. I’d give up and slide backwards.

It never occurred to me that happiness can occur right where I stand and to bite off anything in life requires taking small bites, one right after the other, one day at a time. Not day after day, which sounds gargantuan and impossible, and is too much to take on in the face of that inevitable question – where will this get me? That’s an unanswerable question, by the way. Who knows?

But one day at a time, be right where you are, revel in it, enjoy the day. In other words, go local. That was great advice from my friend, Jesse Garza. Be right where you are and notice everything, enjoy everything, be a part of everything and know that it’s enough. Build from there instead of some unforeseen future or some distant past. Both are not happening right now. Besides, the future will probably look really different from what I expect and the past is my interpretation so who know if that’s accurate anyway.

It’s not always easy sticking to the present. Sometimes I feel like some of the bigger things I still want are stuck, mired in time that resembles mud. But then Jesse’s advice come’s back to me and I look around wondering what I can do today to be of service, get out of my head and actually have a little fun. Before I know it, things have changed as they always do and my life has grown bigger. As a bonus, I wasn’t whining about the past or the future to anyone along the way and I managed to be there for friends and family too. So, just for today I think I’ll put that rock down and go make cookies for that baby shower. More adventures to follow.

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Me and Mom

It took me five years to return home, to visit my mother. That’s a long time, I know, and causes a lot of curiosity about all of my reasons. Often, reasons are a distraction; labels that give a justification why I’m not doing something.

I’d count up the years and after awhile not going even seemed like my new normal. I’d hear others talk about their holiday visits home and I felt no connection. It was easier to stay away, it was that simple. However, something else was growing on the inside at the same time.

Faith in something better.

That faith got me to start making a phone call to my mother at least once a week when normally we spoke every six months, or even more. A kernel of hope or optimism that God really does exist and really is unconditional Love got me to ignore the conversations that would have normally wounded me and I changed the subject instead. Maybe there was more to learn.

Forgiveness carried me the rest of the way. Not the kind of forgiveness where I judged my mother and decided I would let it go. That’s still me standing on high and deciding not only am I better in general, I’m really compassionate too. Look at me.

My mother, my son

I was learning through action a subtler kind of forgiveness that has more to do with myself and what I’m capable of, including letting go of all that’s happened, didn’t happen and live in the day I’ve been given, instead.

What matters is I returned home, which just means the place where my mother lives now, and spent a long weekend sitting next to her, driving her around and just being without wanting something in return. I was even reminded that she has a wicked sense of humor and often goes out of her way to be fair, even generous.

The strangest part I’ve found is that when I go into anything without expectations the riches find me and I walk away with more than I ever expected. All of the grasping generally leaves me with less.

The place where all of the resentment and anger sat is left empty for God to fill. A vacuum is always filled. More adventures to follow.

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