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Postcards from “The Past”

May 27, 2007

There are times in life when you need to plan ahead; there are times when you need to just seize the moment; and there are times when you need to sit back and reflect on days gone by.  This is the Memorial Day weekend — definitely a time of reflection, remembrance and respite from the here and now.

Sometimes the past is a hurtful place to visit. Sometimes, it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie and not go “digging up bones.”  But as George Santayana once said, “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”   And surely there is much from the past that we would all love to repeat.

Last night, while attending an outdoor concert in a local park, I caught a glimpse of a couple that I have known since I was six-years old. (that’s 38 years) James and Margaret Lively owned a local restaurant in Benton. At one time, it was a drive-in restaurant — a hang out for all the young people.  But as the young people (and James & Margaret) grew older, the car hopping stopped and they just stuck to eating indoors.  I reckon that I’ve taken many, many, many meals with the Livelys.

When I was a little girl, my Uncle Cooper would always stop there after church on Sunday.  The hamburgers were DE-LICIOUS!  Anybody that ever ate there (and there were so, so many) will tell you that Margaret worked like a “crazy woman” behind the counter cooking up the food, while James “visited” with the customers.  Sometimes, a body couldn’t even eat their meal for holding conversation with James.  Sometimes, you might notice an extra ring of the bell, a signal from Margaret to stop talking and get back to work.

At the counter, as a little girl (shucks, even as a teenager) I would sit on the bar stools that spun around, and I’d spin around.   It was fun.   When I was a teenager, my sweetheart and I would have lunch at Livelys almost every day.   And after I grew up and became a mother, my daughters often begged to go to Lively’s.  They still remember James letting them step behind the counter to watch him make their milkshakes.

Lively’s was a hub for local political spin, who’s who and the comings and goings of most West Polk County citizens. If it were still open, it would be the perfect set for a weekly television talk show. (if only I’d had that outlet way back then)

When I saw James walking through the crowd last evening, I immediately left my chair and followed after him.  He sat down as I tapped him on the shoulder…and Margaret was sitting beside him.   I wanted to surprise them, but the greeting I received from two old friends GAVE ME the surprise.  These folks have always been dear to my heart and a source of cherished memories for me, but I guess I had not given much account to the idea that they have cared a great deal for me over the years.  It made my heart leap to hear Margaret’s greeting and re-connect with these precious folks.

I’ve been in a real “funk” emotionally, spiritually and physically for quite some time. I haven’t been able to write like I normally have in the past, or as I wish that I could.  Margaret has always been such a supporter of my writing. In fact, that’s what she told me last night, that she “never missed reading any article that I had in the paper.”  Whether it was as a writer for the Cleveland Banner or just a letter to the editor in the Polk County News, I have always known that Margaret would read it.  She commented that she had not seen many articles lately.  And I confessed to her that I had been in a dry spell or something.

I’ve always known that writing is a therapy for me. I have always wanted to be a writer, and there was a time in my life when I just sat and pined for that acknowledgement.  I think I thought one had to be paid to write, in order to be a bona fide writer.  I also thought that one had to have “readers” in order to be a writer.  But several years ago, I came to the realization that if you write, then you are a writer.  You may never have money or readers…but writers must write!  I AM A WRITER!

I think Margaret was elated to see me too. That made me feel really good. It sort of pulled me out of my “funk” a bit.  It’s been a very difficult year for me.  For various circumstances, I just feel completely dejected, depressed and defeated. I haven’t been able to shake it — and quite frankly, my lack of control over it causes me to feel inept and like a failure.

My heart is so unsettled and I feel like there is surely something wrong with me. I want to live my life for the Lord; I want whatever I do to glorify Him, and I desperately need to write for that is very often how I communicate with God — prayer journaling.
I feel like I’ve been robbed of this part of my personality … maybe even my identity.  I’ve thought recently, “what difference does it make if I write or not — who cares or who does it matter to besides me?”   That very thought made me feel so very selfish…and I thought — “Shucks, just give it up. It’s not my gift anyway. It’s God’s gift.”

I’m not a preacher … but I guess I do preach from time to time. I’m not a teacher … but then again, I can teach.  I try to sing but I know, most of the time, it’s just off key.  But I am a writer and I love to write. I hate it when I can’t write.  While most of my writings are for my own therapy, as I said, it never ceases to amaze me that God uses it somewhere to minister to someone else.

I started writing when I was ten-years old. For seven years, I journaled most every day. At 17, I began dating someone for whom I cared a great deal.  I think he cared for me at that time — but it annoyed him for some reason that I kept a journal. He asked me to throw away my journals because they had stories from my past (of which he was not a part). And he asked me not to journal any more because I needed to share my inmost thoughts with him.

I did as he asked.  But I so wish I had not done that.  There was much to be written down in that time, that I wish I could go back and re-read.  I’m sure the writing was not that good, but it was my life and my passion and my therapy — and I threw it all away.
Until I was able to write again, I just felt very empty.  This same young man wrote me a letter two years later, apologizing for taking that away from me, promising to support me in whatever way he could to become a writer — I still have that letter.  I’ve been writing ever since; that is, until last year when it came under attack again.

Realizing that those who don’t remember the past are destined to repeat it, I wonder how the enemy of this world got such a stronghold on this passion I have to write. Nevertheless, just as one letter from my husband (now ex-husband) opened up the floodgates for words to flow out  — I think the little postcard from “The Past” in visiting with the Livelys has reminded me that regardless of “who” doesn’t read or support my writing, God is the one who bestows gifts and uses them for His good pleasure.

I work for Him and Him alone. If He wants to use any word that flows from my heart and mind through these fingers and keyboard to minister to or brighten someone’s day, then He can!  After all, He is God.   And He is faithful to complete the Good Work that He started … even in me.

So I thank my dear, dear friend Margaret Lively for reminding me of God’s call, God’s incredible GRACE and LOVE for each of us, that He never leaves us abandoned in this world. He will send a rescue … and thank you, God, for good memories and good friends.

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