Monthly Archives: May 2010

Book of Remembrance

There’s something special about the person or persons who are the first to remember your birthday each year. It’s almost as if they launch you into “your” day.  Last year, the first person to remember my birthday was a former student of mine named Chanele.  She called me at 12:01 a.m. December 13th and wished me and my voicemail (obviously I was asleep at 12:01 a.m. on a school night) a “Hip-Hop Happy Birthday” complete with her own rendition of the “Happy Birthday Song” in the tradition of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.  I still have this archived in my voicemails just so I can remind myself of the feeling of being remembered every once and a while.  I wish I could have archived what happened on December 13, 2004. 

Being a teacher has its perks.  Summers off. “Sympathy” discounts from vendors.  Sipping from the fountain of youth every day you encounter your students who seem to be able to program your technology faster than you can say “Atari.”  Ten years ago, I launched into the world of teaching, and just as quickly as I entered, I now make my exit.  Amid all the memories of emotional discussions about current events and literature, the dreaded discipline referrals, the gleaming lightbulbs finally appearing above student’s heads, and the board game filled classrooms the day before a holiday break, sometimes the little things that mean the most get lost in the shuffle.

It was December 13, 2004, and the drive to Olympic High School started off like any other.  Most likely with a startled awakening to a blaring buzzer and a quick shower.   A luxurious authorized trip to Starbucks then ensued.  After all, it was my birthday.   Little did I know, but the authorized trip to Starbucks wouldn’t be the only variation to my seeminly normal routine.

While juggling my Starbucks and a bag of ungraded papers I, with wishful thinking, took home to grade the night before, my unexpectant self made my way into the school.  As I rounded the corner and headed toward my classroom, I could hear students, in their opinion, whispering “Shh! She’s coming!”  At first, I wondered who “she” might be, but I quickly realized who “she” was.  When I walked into my classroom, my entire first period class stood before me shouting “Surprise!!!!” while standing next to a buffet of homemade food and a birthday card created on the whiteboard that read “Happy 16th Birthday (LOL), Ms. Browder” amid all the signatures and personal messages from each student.   

Nothing compares to the feeling of being remembered.  It’s a feeling that swaddles us with the reality that we matter and that the stamp we leave on the world may not be forgotten.  I believe God, in all of His splendor, relishes this feeling too. In fact, over fifty times in the Psalms David reports “remembering” God.  I doubt that it is a coincidence that every time something amazing happened in the Old Testament, someone built an altar right where it happened so the event would never be forgotten.  A permanent marker of praise left an indelible reminder that God was and is with us.

Not only does God enjoy being remembered, but, like my “Happy Birthday Song” He archives it.  In Malach 3:16-17 it says, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another and the Lord gave attention and heard it. and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and esteem His name.” (NASB)  God literally leans down over the bannister of heaven and listens in on our conversations about Him. When we celebrate Him over lunch with a friend, share a testimony in church, or call someone with a praise report in the fifteen minute drive to work, God leans in, listens, and takes notes.  Why? What’s He going to do with all these archives?  I don’t know, but knowing Him, it’s got to be for a good reason!!! 

Malachi 3:16-17 has an intersting translation in The Message Bible.  It reads, “Then those whose lives honored God got together and talked it over. God saw what they were doing and listened in.  A book was opened in God’s presence and minutes were taken of the meeting, with the names of the God-fearers written down, all the names of those who honored his name.”

Notice, God only writes down the good things we say.  He is not making a book to remind us of when we said something we should regret.  Keeping this in mind, I really hope that every day, I say something that He wants to record to remember forever.  I can’t wait to reminisce with Him for eternity.  I better get to talking and testifying!! 🙂

Memory Lane

It’s always intriguing, as an adult with adult eyes and understanding, to return to the places associated with your childhood.  After landing in Tulsa, OK, Thursday night, immediately greeted by that notorious Oklahoma wind, I now knew why it was not only fashionable but a necessity to have a teased, hair-spray laden coif when living here.  Not only was hairspray suddenly “legal” again, but things like saying “Ya’ll,” talking to people you don’t know, and waiting an extra thirty seconds to honk a horn at someone stopped at green light, were no longer taboo.  Within twenty minutes of my arrival, I remembered why I loved living here, and wondered why I was in such a rush to leave.

I didn’t land until midnight, but that didn’t stop me from driving through Taco Bueno to get a party burrito for the bargain price of fifty nine cents and a small “Big Red” soda with which to wash down the  Mexican fast food goodness.   Sitting in my rental car, savoring a burrito that can be eaten in literally three bites, two if you are really hungry, I remembered the many off campus lunches at Putnam City North High School in Oklahoma City.  Once the lunch bell rang, all students with driving privileges rushed to their cars so that they could make the most of that forty minute lunch.  Time Out, Taco Bueno or Mazzios were usually the places of choice, but for me and my friends, Taco Bueno usually won.  Forty minutes with a good friend, a good burrito, and Big Red Soda somehow made the ominous reality that the school day was only half over less painful.

The next morning, the fact that I was still full from my Taco Bueno indulgence from the night before forced me to skip breakfast and to enjoy only a Starbucks coffee, the universal food that links us all together whether we say “Ya’ll,” “Howdy,” or a fully enunciated “Hello” to greet someone.  The drive down the Broken Arrow Expressway could now begin.  Coffee in hand and radio up, I began my drive, only stopping once to ask directions from a semi-toothless man at a gas station.  There’s something comforting about being around people who don’t care if their coffee is Starbucks, and they proudly and shamelessly present their pinkish red gums when giving directions.  Once again, Oklahoma exuded the Southern charm I forgot amidst all of my East coast civilizing. 

The best part of my trip, hanging with my brother John, was about to ensue.  After paying the bargain price of $1.50 for a thirty minute trip down a toll road,  I had arrived at my destination.  There was my brother, waiting with his caretaker.  Without warning,   I was gently pried from that place called “Memory Lane” and plopped into the present where my once young “Bubby” stood before me as a man with graying hair, strong stature, and deep voice.  I wonder what I must look and sound like to him. 

In no time at all, John and I were on the road returning to Tulsa and to Memory Lane.  It wasn’t long before John began to say “Remember when mom…..” or “Remember how dad used to……”   This made me realize how important it is to park our cars on Memory Lane more often; however, Memory Lane looks much better in the Spring than it does in the Winter.  It’s easy to remember the things that brought us sadness or disappointed us in the past, but how glorious it is to remember those times when the Winter is over and the Spring comes.

Since my mother passed, definitely a Winter on Memory Lane,  memories, good and bad are the only things that I have to keep her alive in my heart.  Sure, there are pictures, family that look remarkably similar to her, and even my own eyes and voice that are constant reminders that I am my mother’s daughter.   However, there is something powerful when you sit with someone else that shared those same memories.  Somehow it makes those memories real and authentic where before you wondered if they were just a dream.  There’s something comforting about someone else verifying your life, and bringing you back to the places that established your identity.   My someone else was John, my brother.  He and I both established that the twenty-three years we lived before mom’s passing did exist.    Others may have chosen to forget those times, and many others may have never shared those times with us, but John and I will always have them and tuck them away in the hope chests of our hearts.  Although they may get dimmer over time, at least we will have each other to light the street lamps on Memory Lane,  and preserve the things that matter most in life.