Friday, January 23, 2015

Hammer Down

I learned this early and I learned it well.

Never show your weapon until you're fully prepared to use it; then don't stop using it til you're done.

Thank God we had a relatively quiet, simple, and fairly joyful Christmas morning with the family.  With each passing year, but particularly with hindsight on '14, I am increasingly grateful for the times we spend together.

This season, without exception, has been rife with revelation.

Again, it's as I look back that I can see how this was coming on.  What seemed like an ordinary cough, what seemed like my usual tired finally revealed itself to be an actual case of pneumonia.  Within hours of the family traveling on after breakfast, I developed such an acute pain in my chest that I couldn't hold a glass of water.

Hindsight.  Thank You, God, for getting me through Christmas.

But I'm not really here to tell you about my ailment, except that this has been one of the weirdest spans of time I've known.

And I wasn't the only one ailing during this span.  My youngest g'babe had respiratory syncytial virus, not always awful, but often enough.  My oldest g'babe had the actual flu.  My daughter continued to languish in the deep thick of addiction and mental misery, so much that I can say no more than that for the triggering affects  ... hers, mine, possibly yours ...

And I really was so sick ~ not like cold or flu or even what I thought would be pneumonia sick.  I was just more out of it, exhausted, done kind of sick.

(This is fixin' to be some really depressing ___ for a minute, but I've found no other way to share all of this.  Commit or get off here, I reckon.)

There was some point in the midst of all of this at which I was overcome by a certain sense and an urge to scribble some things down, but like everything else including my worries, I was just too tired to lift any of it up.  There was some quality of the light in the room on this particular evening that invoked passage and I began my review.  Was I done?

(Sorry, folks.  I told you.)

I'm really not meaning to be dramatic, as I know that certain of my offspring would claim.

(Okay, maybe it's a tad dramatic, but I promise I've dumbed this down as much as possible.  It is what it is and still the truth.)

And the plain truth is:
I was wondering:
were any one of us to go within those moments:
had I said all that I'd needed to say?

We never know, any of us, when our time will come to leave this place.  I think that most of us, while we know not to take our time for granted, we're not as practiced at the practice of not actually taking it for granted.

So time's come now to hammer down.  The thing I'm trying to say is that I've spent some time wondering... if I were to go or if any of you were to go, would I be leaving anything unsaid?

And I've concluded that whenever my time should come ~ or yours ~ I do hope we both know that I have, in fact, used my weapon til the very end.  I will have, in fact, completed my work.

See, it was my daddy who taught me about the use of weapons, and he, being so expert, so adept with guns and such, was loath to commit actual violence ... but words.  Oh, to use our words.

I don't always say the right things, but God help me, I've tried, and I'll try right up til the end.  Just like Daddy taught me.

Dear God, may the words that come out of my mouth serve the purpose you have assigned to me.  (And God help us all when I get it wrong.)


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Trigger Happy

My blogger dashboard includes at least a dozen drafts ~ some published works, later unpublished for various reasons; some begun works, never finished.  This piece is something I've been trying to produce since Christmas Day.  I've written, re-written, edited, re-edited, stacked paragraph upon paragraph of explanation, never attaining a lick of clarity.  Hopefully, what follows will not include any of the garbled mess I've constructed thus far and will just make the point.  It's time to just pull the trigger on this one.


We've had a dialed-down version of Christmas pretty much since our kids have been grown enough to splinter off and form even more places that must be visited for the holidays. They and the grandbabies come for breakfast on Christmas morning between the santa stuff in their own homes and the forty gazillion other places they'll have to visit on Christmas Day.

That's it.
Just breakfast.
A couple of humble gifts for the g'babes.
Not a lotta hullabaloo.



This year I caught myself in a peculiar pattern that I now realize I've been practicing for some time.  While my Christmas morning breakfast menu is simple and everything I need is here for days in advance, I almost invariably go bonkers on Christmas Eve and decide to make a whole slew of extra vittles1, having neither the time nor ingredients that I need.

No longer quiet.

No longer simple.

Now, this is the point at which all previous attempts to convey my thought have gone awry.  I think that here is where simple is really going to count so I'll skip all the textbook analyses and postulations.  Rather, I'll just tell you what I know to be true.

And you know this too:  I talk about myself a lot ... but I feel kind of at the center of it all, you know?  Like, I'm the source and axis of everybody's drama, sadness, neurosis, etc. ~ the supreme matriarch of a supremely dysfunctional family.

But I would like so much for things to be different.  I would like so much to bless my family, to BE a blessing to my family.  Maybe it's an extremely absurd effort, but I see the utterly absurd truth of it right there in the cranberry bliss bars.

There's something more to this pattern, though, and its genesis can be found in one of Melody Beattie's daily meditations, Holiday Triggers.

It was clearest to me this Christmas Eve when I gave the batter bowl to the g'boy.

Having grown up in a single Momma home, I had my share of (resultant) childhood troubles.2   To some, it may seem an ordinary thing, but for me, a batter bowl and beaters is an extravagant and lavish gift. When my momma handed those things over to my sister and me, it was, well, joy unspeakable! Delight, security, peace, love.  Otherwise, indescribable.  All of this and more, in those moments, dwelled there among the three of us.

I'm reminded of it every time I bake.

And therein lies my real goal, my honest-to-God-I-just-know-it motivation for wigging out right before my family gathers.

For all that's been wrong in the past ~ the childhood troubles, the bad days, the crappy years ~ I'd like so much to replace the [textbook analyses] with something that might trigger happy memories.  We've had a few of those too, after all.

I pray that all of you have happy triggers, and that if you don't, you find the will to make some.

1   I grew up country.  Do not correct me!
2   This is a necessary relational statement.
2a Her single Momma troubles deserve another post entirely.

Can't fail to share this post by Jen Hatmaker, a really good resource for anybody whose family struggles with big event days.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Say Something Nice

It's Monday morning so, you know, I'm supposed to be working.

However, I came to my desk with a draft in mind ~ several, in fact ~ the first and most pressing one being on the subject of encouragement.  I had this whole thing to say about how, here, at the Christmas season especially, we oughta go out of our way to say kind words to one another, encourage one another, build and hold one another up.

However, again... when I got to my desk, there was an envelope propped here, something the man left  for me after rifling through the mail.  It's something mass-mailed from a local entity, but someone hand-wrote a note on the envelope ~ a personal note just for me, to encourage me regarding this very thing you're reading.  (And signed it.  This wasn't my man trying to keep me going.  :) )

Ummmm...I'm not crying or anything.  That would be way too super girly, but can I just tell you that my eye sockets are swelling and I might find it difficult to speak at the moment?!

So obviously, this thing just changed course just a bit!  Rather than share now what I think might be a great gift idea, I'm straight up telling you something that I know to be true:  encouraging words are a gift to the soul.

So consider for a moment how regularly you hear complaints/negativity versus encouragement (regardless of the target.)  How regularly do you share one or the other with those around you?  How easy is it to affect someone's entire day with your words?  Why not say something nice?

Complaining and grumbling:  that's ordinary, everyday material.
Let's put that aside and gift one another with something extraordinary.
T'is the season, now especially!
Pour out tidings of joy, I say!
Good tidings of great joy!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fade To Black

I looked up to see a teenage girl in the street, bags scattered around her, her pacing and watching nervously until a vehicle came around the corner, and she threw her things into it and rode away.  Several hours passed before it occurred to me that she was probably somebody else's zombie daughter and that I might have made a difference in that life somehow.  I might have just opened the door, stepped out into the yard, and asked her, "babe, are you about to make a regrettable choice?" Instead, I'd just watched the whole thing as if in a stupor.  

It's the same thing I do most days. 

Regrettable choices.  How many have there been now?
I'd ask who's counting as if to imply that nobody's counting but somebody is.
Somebody's always keeping score, at least in the game that I'm not even playing.
I'm losing, by the way.
Even though I have the most points.

I saw the girl through the window as I was sitting and staring, wondering what it's like to become a zombie, in fact.  Is it a slow fade?  Do you snap into it the same way that people snap out of things?

Like, I don't know ... denial, maybe.  Sometimes you snap out of that and what you get is a bite of red-hot reality.  I'm not really in denial.  I just really like the way that last bit sounds and sometimes I say things just because I like the sound of it.

But the real truth is that some parts of reality bite and I am regularly watching in stupefied wonder.  There are some situations still not getting better, some people still not coming home.  There are some places that I would bleed out if I thought it would make things better but I know better.  Knowing better might be making me bitter.  Just a bit.

I'm obviously writing mainly for myself now.  Except for the others like me.  I do know you're out there.  I saw your daughter yesterday in front of my house.  I'm sorry, so sincerely, that I didn't help her.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Call It What It Is

why oh why
my tiny heart cries
oh why can't i be a poet?

were i to be gifted with lyric and rhyme
perhaps i'd live better in difficult times


maybe on those days that i wake up wrong
knowing better than to start the day
but having to do so anyway
and doing so
finding my foe
hot on my heels
chasing me down
attempting to steal
you know...

maybe then i'd lose the urge
to drink dark liquor
to smoke and purge
to curse at the ceiling
like a mad woman.

i don't do any of these things
well, most any of these things
but i do wish i had a big stick
to beat the dog that's biting at my heels

Monday, November 24, 2014

Envy Schmenvy


We've just finished a lovely, happy little series about the seven deadlies.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda written about each of them in turn as I struggle relatively with each.  I am a person, after all.

In case they're unfamiliar to you, and to clarify what I just said:

Monday, October 13, 2014

I've Got Yo' Wonder Woman

I promise ~ I'll try to choose my words, because, God help me, I don't want this to come out like some kind of horn-tootin' ceremony ... but I'm also being stalked by a nearly two-year-old boy and that vastly impacts the quality of most things I set my my mind (partially) to doing.


This past Vacation Bible School season, I was asked to lead the missions teaching portion for the kids that would attend on our church campus.  Uhhhhhhh.  It's one thing for my own kids to leave their own kids alone with me but the prospect of my having any possible influence on other peoples' kids... SHUDDER.

Well, I'd just been hearing something in a message series about doing for the kingdom of God and I'd been wondering if I really had been.  Doing, I mean. Anything, I mean.  Apart from playing dress-up, I mean.

So I said yes.

VBS wasn't too bad a deal, really.  I essentially hid behind my props and team members but nobody's ever gonna know that's how I got through it.

Anyhow, they asked me again to do a thing with kids!  Reeeaaalllyyy???!  
Am I being punked?!

Again, I gave my "yes" out of a sense of obligation and desire to bless God (just some teeny bit as much as He's blessed me!) and with complete trust that He'd get me through it.

And then ...

I could. not. bring. myself. to. the. planning. of. it.

Weeks passed.
Blips would cross my radar.
A random email.
A vague memory.
The stack of material gathering dust on my counter.

Admittedly (meaning, this is part of my excuse and I'm sticking to it), there's been more than a fair amount of drama on my personal stage lately.  I'm talking the brain-freezing, life-sucking kind of stuff that makes you forget where you come from.

There are other reasons.  Time management might not be a strong suit for me.  Or prioritizing my work.  (I'm writing this first thing Monday morning when I really should be doing payroll.  Sincerest apologies, employers, for real!)

But because I like finding the tootsie in the pop, I've decided that, really, God just wanted to teach me a right fine lesson in all of this.  And for Him to do it, I had to reach my scared witless stage.  (Anybody else do some of their best learning there?)

Here's how it went:

I got this email that said, "...and you'll be the first one up..." THIS SUNDAY.
I thought I had two more weeks to put it off.
I had my typical panic attack.
I unplugged and stepped away from everything and everyone.
I asked Him to tell me what I was supposed to do/say.
And He did.

I was pretty alright with His plan too.  It was a straight-forward and reasonable approach to instruction for children.  If it lacked anything, it might could have used a little personality.  I mean ~ no costumes?!  No team players?!

Truth is - and this is really the pinnacle part of this whole thing - for whatever reason, I knew that I had to take the message to them without any props.  No disguises.  No role-playing.  It would be important - for a reason that I did not sense or understand at the time - for me to be just plain ole' me.

Those last days before go time became more and more tense and when the morning came for me to show up ............. I could. not. stop. crying.

I ain't proud.

Really, it seems so silly in hindsight but everybody's got their own terrifyin', cold-sweatin', wanna puke, can't move kind of fear.  I reckon it turns out that mine is straight talking to a bunch of little kids.

At least two times during the morning (I had to do the thing twice and went to church in-between) someone made comments about my attire.  I don't mean, "I like your outfit." or "You look nice." or "You dress well." (when you're being yourself, remember.)

I mean, "Hey, you kinda look like wonder woman**."



Ohh.  My.  Gosh.

Apparently, plain ole' me can't help myself.
Apparently, though it's one of the most peculiar things I think I'll ever say,
God means for me to play dress-up.

What's a girl supposed to say to that?
Well, okie dokie, Lord.
And thank you, most sincerely!!

I could probably carry on a bit more or, at the very least, do some better editing. However, the boy's just come to me with a tube of hand lotion that he found in my purse.  He's eaten half the tube of lotion!  I probably better do payroll.

**just in case you need a reference point