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

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Left Behind

As I've been working this piece over in my mind these past few days, it's changed shapes on me several times.  At last, I'm left with the image of Dorothy in the lull of the storm and I realize, finally, what it is I want to say.

All hell is breaking loose around me.

There's unrest.  There's uncertainty.  There's fear.  Times are treacherous, I think, and then I know as certainly that the times have always been treacherous.

I'm just not always watching.  You may just as soon find me singing to the chickens and the pigs about my supposed troubles ~ like the fact that I can't actually fly, maybe.

I've said it before.  Were I to write it all down, we've had some actual, real troubles these last few years, but I promise that I know:  ours are naught compared to what's going on out there.

Out there.

Do y'all remember when I started this thing?  This writing thing?
Okay, well I do, obviously, and it had much to do with those already occupying this space - those good or Bad Teachers who were putting themselves out there, sharing their wisdom, their experience, or their lack of one or both.  They encouraged me to get on with it, my own version of bleeding out.*

But as the days have passed, it seems that they too - (many of) my favorite friends - have passed into the shadows.  And I feel a little bit left behind.

Have they given it up?  Have they given till there's none left?  Have they gone to the hills?  Are they busy digging shelters from the coming storm?  In any case, I have seen a few farewell posts and have also noted a few sudden, blaring absences.  My hope is that they are still out there and still clinging to our one, true hope.

The Coming Storm.

There are still blips on the radar.  One such is what Emily Freeman says here, and I keep thinking particularly of her bit at the end about her response to current events.

Current events are scary as all get-out!  (But then I know as certainly that they always have been.)  How, how do I not sense that the end is near?  Maybe you've sensed it too or maybe you haven't.  Maybe your momma did or maybe she didn't think the end was due in 1962.  Or '91.  Or last week.  Maybe your granddad had the same thoughts or maybe he didn't.  In any case, I have a hard time not wondering about the next big event and who might get left behind.  Will I get left behind?  (Remember, I'm bleeding here.)

But this is where I have to cling to my One True Hope, my shelter in every storm.

The Next Big Event.

For a long, long time, I had this notion down deep that I would do some kind of important thing in the world.  I used to be certain that I would wind up in the mix of inner-city kids - serving them, I mean.  And/or that I would travel to do mission work all around the ... well, depended a bit on the means of travel - but I really believed that I'd be going out there.

Nope, nobody needs comment about making God laugh and all that!  It's the ones whose lives actually do turn out as planned that are the marvel.  (To me, at least.)  So I've probably always known better than to have a solid plan.  (That just might be my most clever excuse so far!)

But I have had some ideas.  And some notions.  And some hopes that my life might go in certain directions.  Much of that now - you know - has been left behind.

But I do still have hope.

Certain Directions.

I recently and quite accidentally started listening to a new sermon series.  <-I just told a joke. 

According to Andy Stanley, I'm not so much in a lull as I am In The Meantime.  And it may just be that I'm here for a bit, unable to go in any real direction, unable to affect the changes I'd like to see.  I really do feel the way that I think Dorothy must have - frantic to see the chaos just outside her window, yet helpless to calm the storm.

Sometimes, I think that to be struck unconscious would be a welcome relief.  Sometimes, I think it's just a matter of time before I receive that blow.  The witch is on the loose.  The world is tossed about.  So little seems certain.  There remain certain fears.


Times are treacherous, that is certain.
But these times are not the everlasting Certainty wherein I place my hope.
These times, these uncertainties, these fears ~ they will one day be left behind.
That.  That is what I want to say.

*Writing is easy. You just open up a vein and bleed onto the pages.
–attributed to Red Smith

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

I have to come to terms with this and I have to do it here.


There are just too many words to keep sorted out in my head.

I do try never to make a bigger deal of one life than another because I sincerely believe that all of our lives have deep value.  The news of Robin Williams, however, has me stopped and staring.

Like many of us, I imagine, I've admired Mr. Williams over the long course of his acting career.  But I would not call myself a fan ~ only because I'm not a member of anyone's fan club, really, outside of my family.  It's more that I have appreciated Mr. Williams as a fellow citizen, possibly of the same ilk.  You know ... smart, funny, humane, "together".  Yes, I like to think I'm somehow kin, even if only on paper.

So to see this news is like, "Oh crap, man.  If he lost it, then..."

And I'm making this all about me again.  Apologies, again.  All is vanity, indeed.*

But I'm not the only one, I know.

I'm not the only one trying to come to terms.  Or who does, in fact, relate somehow.

By now, many of you know that many years ago, I was engaged to a man who took his own life.  I've had a myriad of contemplations and questions I would ask the man, but, because he cannot answer, I've chosen to rest on a certain possibility.  I've chosen to believe that he believed he was choosing in favor of those he left behind.

(Very Important Note: I recognize the potential here for pain, anger, and backlash.  I've read plenty of commentary on this subject and know too well, too personally, the ways that it affects those left behind.  Please understand:  I've chosen to believe...)

And that choice is rooted in another way that I relate to the subject.  It's not really been a secret, but I've also never said it on paper (or possibly outside my head)...  I have - many times, in fact - considered writing my own exit scene.  Not so often in recent years (thank the LORD), but there's also a sharp contrast between my youthful and more recent contemplations.  When I was a child, it was a fanciful, nearly romantic, and admittedly entirely self-centered thing to consider.

(This is hard.  How on earth do you measure every. single. word. in a very best attempt to do no harm?)

(Switching to summary format.)

I'll dare not say that it's ever anything other than self-centered.
But I'll also dare not say that it's not ever anything else.
That's that.

When I was a very young child ~ as young as seven- or eight-years-old, perhaps ~ a very close family member used to tell me about his passage strategies.  And I mean the whys, the hows, the possible very specifics.  I've thought about it through the years, but not a lot.  I could be (could have been) angry, bitter, or just disturbed that I would be introduced to such a concept at such an age.  I used to think this sort of early education set a certain stage for me - one on which I would always only walk in circles but never actually exit.  Again, however, I've made a choice and that is to believe I was (strategically) given an early glimpse into the battle that too many of us would fight.

(Whether or not the introduction was some sort of poison dart is something I may or may not think more about later.)

I have a favorite poem** that starts...

Suddenly, I stopped thinking about Love,
after so many years of only that,
after thinking that nothing else mattered.
And what was I thinking of when I stopped
thinking about Love? Death, of course—what else
could take Love’s place? What else could hold such force?

I cannot read this but that it seems the reverse of my experience.  I began with so keen an eye turned toward death, but have replaced its force with love.  Death is ever-present but I choose love.

Oh, how my heart hurts that Mr. Williams chose to exit.
I'll dare not say, however, that I can't imagine what brought him to it.

Oh, Lord, I pray this post does no harm.  I pray I am not writing too soon or too personally or too thoughtlessly.  And I pray for all of my fellow citizens, but especially for those who find themselves sometimes in that place.

Please, please, when you feel caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, make a fist*** and push through.

**At The Moment, JOYCE SUTPHEN

***Making A Fist
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.