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

blech

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
,anger,
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

So.

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.

So...

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**."




Oh.


Ohh!



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, helpless to calm the storm.

The witch is on the loose.  The world is tossed about.  So little seems certain.

Certain.

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



Friday, August 29, 2014

The Wire

I've been watching the news lately, keeping up with current events ~ and I mean actual, worldwide current events, not just what's coming across the social wire.

It's hard some days to keep my chin up, honestly.




I'm trying to work it out, to find the balance.

In every direction that I turn or look, there's trouble or dire threat.
Or the source of a hurting heart.
Or my own weakness.

In all directions, save one.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

Thank You, LORD, for your unending faithfulness to me, even when I am undeserving; and for keeping me steady, balanced, and hopeful as I continue to cross the wire.


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.

Apologies.

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.


*Ecclesiastes
**At The Moment, JOYCE SUTPHEN

***Making A Fist
NAOMI SHIHAB NYE
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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Oh, geez.

I have this sort of unspoken agreement with myself that, when making up my stuff - whatever it is - I'll avoid the overtly cliche.  What this one's called, however, seems less a chosen title and more a given task:  "Here ~ Explain this."

It's my own self that's seeking to understand.

I keep thinking about these last, oh, let's say five or six years.  These have been the grandbaby years - probably the most solid-seeming era of my life so far.  And yet, so little about this time has been stable and sure.  As familiar as I've grown with change through the years (and sudden, shocking change, indeed!), the pushes and yanks, the yeses and nos, the stays and gos of these most recent times have left me feeling, oh, let's say a little bit uncertain.

What would I have done with my life had all the choices been entirely mine?  How might I have plotted my course ... who'm I kidding there?  I never had such initiative as that!

But it does seem that a broadness has opened up in front of me.  Suddenly, I am without the daily tasks of grandbabies and there is all this time to fill.

Certainly, I could go and learn something new; however, it's hard to justify a pottery class at my age.  At least not when considering the reality of our diminishing income.  The husband thinks it's a great time for me to seek new income endeavors - but I'm convinced that nobody's going to pay me to just sit and stare.  That is, after all, what I do best and the idea of branching out ... well, again, there's my age.

It may be, however, that I have to make an actual plan, make some choices, plot a course. Oh, geez.

But there's time enough for that.  For now, I'm content enough to wander.

photo source:  mitchellkphotos.com

So there's no poetry here.
No Moral To This Story.
There's no scripture lesson.  
No real conclusion.
Except that 
- still - 
I know the way is forward and
I am never lost if I know the way.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stop And Stare

(I began but did not finish this on 05/31/14.  Much, much has changed but it's going to take me at least as long to record that bit of history.)


I made all these notes on a page yesterday that were supposed to become this.

This post, this explanation, this clearing-house.

I'm here now and can only hear



A post is missing.  I've been supposed to (by my own instruction) write one that's somewhat about being the mother of an addict.  It wouldn't be a novel post, no world-changing words.  I'm just swinging on that hinge between my recovery and my daughter's descent and needing some place to go with it.  Maybe I'll get to write that out.  Maybe it'll stay here with me.

All of it's so heavy and feeling so necessary to disclose but there's always, always that "other people's business" thing.  That's been a big part of the battle ~ to say or not to say.

But this is my business too.  This is my life and I've settled on saying, 1) because I know there are others in similar circumstances; and, 2) this stuff has to go somewhere.  So who's the lucky reader?!

I am raising my kid's kid*.  I've had him for a few months now, but after a very long and stressful year of fighting it - of trying to force an alternative.  [(That's code for trying to make my kid straighten up and fly right.)  (I do not have the power to make my kid do anything.  We can talk about that whole paradigm later on.)]

You know, I'm not really old by most standards.  Women my age are having their own babies so this should not intimidate me ... not as far as ability, endurance, skill, etc.  In many ways, I should expect to be better at parenting this time around.  But I catch myself wondering, "Do I really think I can do this again?!  Raise a kid from scratch again?" and a little "#*!! no!" crosses my mind.  But that's really just a joke I tell myself.

To note, big and bold, I am not doing this by myself, of course.  My husband ... I can't even go there right now.  Can the compassionate people just imagine what this kind of thing does to a marriage?  We are solid but also being tested daily.

There are places to go for encouragement.  I have my man, as stated, and very good friends who are supportive and patient with me as I'm an even lesser friend than before.  Meditation and prayer, communion with Jesus ... this should go without saying, but, as many of you know, having a toddler impacts EveryThing.

Everything.

I still have favorite bloggers.  (They say that blogging is already dying out but I refuse to accept that.)  There are women my age who are writing ~ about watching their kids graduate from high school, a normal expectation, I think, for someone my age.  There are women who are writing as they have kids the age of my grandson ~ but they, themselves, are half my age.  I am inspired by their stories:  "I played Uno with my daughter."  "I cleared the stack of books from the dining room table."  But I am not really rising up as I'd hoped.

Instead, I just post a lot of pictures.  And those prompt friends to ask things like,
"Does that boy even have a shirt?!"
"Could it be that he eats too many crackers?"
"Do you always have a camera ready?"
(And y'all, please never stop asking these kinds of questions!)

There are other things I could or should be doing besides posting pictures.  I'd like to be writing.  Or reading.  Or making better on my commitments.  But again, everything has changed.

Picture-posting is just about my only viable creative outlet.  And there, my thousand words can usually be found.

Yes, the boy eats too many crackers.  Too many everything.  Honey calls me on it though he really doesn't need to.

Yes, he has shirts.  And it's turned out that dressing a boy is not so durn awful as I thought it might be.

But Lord, he is a boy and that's a whole other thing.




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

For The Zombie Mommas

I’ve pondered writing this for a long time but have a host of reasons for having not. I’m doing it now for this reason: I am not one to look back with regret; rather, I look forward and wonder what I’m going to regret.

That said,

I care little for the zombie culture.  For me, it’s just one more manifestation of a desensitized society.  (But you go ahead!)

I’ve had this really weird theory about the coming zombie apocalypse and how drug addiction will be its genesis.  Turns out, this is not one of my less plausible theories if you have a look at some of the latest drug trends.  Which I don’t actually recommend doing.

But I’m beating around the bush.

I’ve re-written this paragraph forty hundred times, trying to decide what to say, how to say it, whether I have a right to say it, whether it’s a good idea to say it. Finally, I’ve decided to say simply:  It seems I’m losing one of my girls to drugs.



That’s a sentence I’ve put off writing for a long, long time, thinking that I’m breaking some kind of hipa law, or at the very least, I’m disrespecting my girl by telling her business.

But.

She came through me.  I raised her (right or short-coming-like), and fought for her for all her years (realized or short-coming-like).

She is my girl, my daughter, my child.

And it seems that I am losing her.

It seems that we are all losing.

That’s all I wanted to say.

And needed to say.

Because I have no idea what else to say.
Or what to do.
And I know there are other zombie mommas out there, also not knowing.

So I’m raising this like a banner and a prayer for us all.

Monday, June 2, 2014

can we just call this poetry?

the incessant barking
that morning i walked to your place
two days before you would be gone to who-knows-where
to check on you for what may or may not be the last time 
(may or may not is always the thing with you) 
could not pray
could not concentrate
could only hear the dogs barking
and wonder
if i would remember that sound two days from now

Thursday, May 15, 2014

In Defense Of Heroine

Yes.

That is the Dumbest Title of Anything that I have ever written; however, try as I might, I could not write another.

Let's move on.

Remember when Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroine overdose a couple of months ago?  I'll be truthful:  I didn't cry or have a prayer vigil or even spend long periods of time in meditation over his particular story - though his story does make me sad and I feel that any life deserves to be seen.

He was certainly not the first person to die of an overdose or even the first famous person ~ which I'm pointing out as famous people tend to receive more coverage ~ but something about his death kept it very much on my mind in those first days, and still, it comes back from time-to-time.

It wasn't that I would miss seeing him, though I did somewhat enjoy his work.  It wasn't that he left behind three kids.  Or even the general sense of shock and grief for the rate at which drugs are wiping people out.

What got me most of all, what wore me down was the vitriol with which people discussed this man's death.

"Stupid, loser a**h*** deserved to die."

I saw so many variations of that sentence.
What is wrong with people?
And I don't mean the drug users.

I also see people debating:


CHOICE <<<<<<< or >>>>>>>ILLNESS


It's both.

And, yes.  I do know.

Thank God in heaven that my patterns of addiction never took me down such a path as intro-venous drug use but I've used in other ways.  And I know people, very personally, who've not been so fortunate to avoid such a path.

Call them "stupid, loser a**h***" to my face, please.  Living with addiction and mental illness in any capacity is ... well, to say it's merely frustrating is absurd.  Not having any other ultimate solution, I sometimes think a good a**-whooping would do the trick.  

But seriously, we're in a state of decline:  morale, healthcare, community, compassion.  We can debate, call names, kick butt, change policy and law - all with the best or most un-thinking intentions, but people are still dying everyday.   Before you claim to know it all or have moral supremacy, consider that you may know someone who's dealing personally on this front.  There may be something more or better that can be done to help stop this plague.

I, personally, just don't know what it is.  I, personally, feel rather helpless.

For the record, I still internet shop and eat entire bags of candy when the pressure's really on.   For the most part, though, I have maintained my recovery.  I must responsibly note that Mr. Hoffman was clean for 23 years before his relapse.  How sobering a realization is that.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

In Defense Of Happy

I have about forty-seven drafts going right now, all of which will be great posts (for me, at least), but only about three of them have even begun to be put to paper.

It's been a rough few months now.  This whole past year, in fact.  Wait!  The past two years...shoot!  If I put our tests and trials down on paper, then we haven't really seen calm seas since......

.....

Anyhow!  This last year really has been especially trying and we (the man and I) are currently in the thick of some major life changes.  Specifics may be found scattered throughout those forty-seven other drafts.  Surely, they'll turn themselves out eventually so you just hang in there.

What I'll tell you now is that I've run the gamut of negative emotion:  anger, depression, bitterness, fear, anxiety.  A point came that I knew I was in over my head and so I did a round of Prozac.  My round ended recently but not so much on purpose as my need and remembrance for it just drifted away.  Thank you, God, for your presence throughout!

I've experienced plenty of good emotion* too:  elation, peace, satisfaction, bliss. There are plenty of days, though, when I am just plain old happy.  And in light of all that we've been and are going through, I am particularly grateful for happy.  And I try to be more of that and to share more about that than about any of the other stuff because I have this great hope for more people to have happy.

There are moments, though, when I feel nearly a tinge of what can only be called guilt...


That's my oldest granddaughter watching - for the first time - Pharrell Williams's 24-hour music video.  I smile every time I pull it up and she was smiling gleefully while watching it this morning and that made me smile until I nearly cried.  I posted this to Facebook and, within minutes, I was thinking about all the folks who might not know what their happiness is - at least not in this moment.

I am praying for so many friends with so many needs and hurts and causes of sadness.  I see things, hear things, know things, read things between the lines.  Not everybody out there can clap along as if "happiness is the truth."  Not everybody will be enthused by my hopeful, happy tune.

I could say or quote one hundred things right here about happiness being a choice but I'm betting you've already seen at least most of it (possibly from me.)  The thing that underlines all of this really is not about happiness, but joy.  It is because I have joy that I can be happy.  Because I am joyful, I can survive all of the not-so-happy stuff.  You've surely heard this one:  The joy of the Lord is my strength. (Psalm 28:7)

And so I'll keep at it - not because I have no thought or heart for your hurts or unhappiness but because I care very much.  I genuinely hope either to light your presently darkened path or possibly the way toward a joy you've not yet known ~ the true and everlasting joy of knowing Him.



*All emotion, certainly, is affected by synthetic drugs.  This topic is also for another of the forty-seven drafts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

FLAWED

"I think some people are in denial of their true character. I don't mean trying to overcome their character flaws; I mean hiding behind a computer pretending to be transparent when in fact, they choose who they are depending on who they're with. I want to be remembered as real, regardless of all my flaws." 

It's funny (but not funny, haha.)  I'd actually spent the morning contemplating my "true character", my identity, when the above comment rolled through my newsfeed.  I didn't write it, of course, but it's certainly written about me (though not explicity, I'm sure.)  In fact, I recently told a friend - one of my very closest, smallest-circle friends - that I am guilty of this very thing:  presenting only the best of myself via the social network.*


It's all true, though not at all times.  I would like very much to deny my true character.  My mind, my heart:  deceitful, desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9.)  I have not the capacity to recognize just how deeply my motives are flawed.  Having the desire to examine myself, to see my flaws, to air them out on my front lawn - even harder to muster.

That's why, however, I have a "very closest, smallest circle" of friends.  These are the folks I can be my most honest, real-est self with, free of condemnation, and know that we'll still be friends tomorrow.

Am I choosing to behave differently with different people?  Absolutely!

As Paul said, "Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life." 1 Corinthians 9:21-22 (MSG)

Do I always get that right?  Absolutely not.

Do I share with everyone, all the time about the times I get it wrong?  Of course not. I do, however, try very hard to be as open and honest as I can muster the courage to do within my small groups ~ those gatherings of like-minded, equally flawed believers who are also doing the best they can.

* "Presenting only the best of myself via the social network."  Even this is all true, though not at all times.  I'm not inclined to [intentionally] draw negative attention to myself.  I had enough negative attention in high school to pretty much get me through.  However, I've tried to be transparent with some of my deeper, darker stuff via this very blog.

Bad Teacher, for instance.
I Am His Beloved?, probably the first really hard thing I shared.
Loose Lips Sink Ships.  I'd do my own self some good to re-read my own stuff.
Live Free Or Die.  Here are a few of my bad habits.
You Can't Write If You Can't Relate still embarrasses me somewhat.
Share Much? because I know I share too much sometimes.
Alleluia because sometimes that's all that I have.
Public Hearing because I've been here already.  More than once.
This Is The What Is The Happening.  Just trying to keep it real.
Betwixt My Lines.  Sometimes that's very, very hard to do.
A Picture's Worth.  Sometimes there just aren't enough words.

Have I shared everything?  Do you know exactly who I am?

Nope.  Some things are just between me and Him.

And I cling to that, knowing that however flawed I may be, He still loves me beyond measure and has made me a promise.

Several, in fact.

"I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

"I am sure that God, who began this good work in [me], will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 (GNT)

"I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live I live by believing in God’s Son, who loved me and took the punishment for my sins." Galatians 2:20 (GW)

My identity, my character, my 'all that I am' is rooted in my relationship with Jesus Christ and God, the Father.

I want very much to be remembered as real , transparent, and flawed.

"Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at." 2 Corinthians 4:5-9 (MSG)

I hope that somehow - through my flaws, in fact - you'll see Him.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Small Matters

I've heard some folks say that God's not in the small things, that He doesn't care about the details, that because He is GOD, He only has time for the big prayers, the big miracles, the big stuff.

I'll make two assumptions about folks who believe this way: 1) you acknowledge God exists; 2) you believe He created what you see (skipping any debate about the means by which He did it.)

And so I ask:  if the small things aren't important, why create the cell, the molecule, the subatomic particle? Why don't we human folks - and all living creatures, for that matter - exist as solid blobs? How come the human eye is so durn complex? Why so many colors (and more that we can't even see yet?) Why a dandelion? Why does every species of bird have its own song?

I propose that to believe God does not care about small matters is a reversal of image, a transference of personality. Perhaps we have trouble seeing, focusing on, or caring about [what we may consider] trivial matters. Or maybe we don't always believe or sense that it's possible for anyone to care about the small things of our lives.

I assure you, however, that God does care about every single enormous and tiny part of His creation. Including you. You matter.  And you're no small matter to Him.

“What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries." Luke 12:6-7 (MSG)

I pray that today and every day, you'll sense just how much you matter to Him.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Love

Recently, one of my g'babies was feeling pretty sickish and I found myself falling further and further behind with my agenda as this baby requires extra loving when he's ill.  There was a lot of sitting-holding, standing-holding, lying-around-holding as I tried to console his senses and make him well.

It was a sort of novelty for me as I'm not the sort to give up my agenda so readily. My preference might have been to do working-holding but that would have divided my attention too vastly to meet his needs.

Novelty, for real, because I'm generally too selfish to put other folks's needs ahead of my own.  I say this sort of thing out loud sometimes and friends tell me it's a ridiculous notion, but regardless of the words I say or put on paper, I still know me better than the "public" does.

Anyhow, there was this moment when I was brushing the hair across his brow and whispering lullabies to him that a thought occurred to me:  I would take this on for you if I could.  I would be sick on your behalf if it were possible.

I'm sure that in all my years of mothering, wife-ing, friending, I must have said this before and probably more than once but I don't think I've ever felt it so intensely or so intensely understood the implications of such a statement as I did in that moment.

I started to think about my prominent relationships.  I would be sick for the g'babes so that they might be well.  I would ease the burdens that my daughters carry in order that they might have fruitful, happy lives.  I would relieve my husband of the emotional weight he carries so that he might have all the joy and buoyancy that I know he deserves.*

What we're talking about now is sacrifice.
I would take it on (whatever it is) so that they might live more freely, more abundantly.

That's when I start to wonder just how far I'd go, how much I really would give up for the sake of those whom I love.  I like to think I'd give it all but I've not faced that kind of reality.  I begin to reflect on 9/11.  It's hard, I know, but you do that too for just a minute.  Stop and think about the hundreds of men and women who gave their lives on that day in the service of others ~ who gave their own lives so that others could live.

Now.  The astonishing fact is:  One Man gave His life so that every single one of us might live.

What we're talking about now is love.

Look, for real, I know this makes some of you angry - this notion, this concept of unconditional, limitless love.  Angry in ways that can't be squished into words.  I know because I've been in that too.  What I'm telling you now is the truth, though, and I'm telling you from the free side:  Jesus really does love you.  His father really does love you.  Together, they implemented a plan to pursue and rescue you from the illness and anger and slavery of this tainted world.  "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly," said Jesus. (John 10:10)



He requires nothing in return for that except for you to accept the offer.

Dear Jesus, I fall so short of my goals and so often.  Thank You for loving me anyway and for giving it all so that I might live forever with You.


*I must acknowledge that sickness is a fact of life and so are burdens and that a purpose may be served through it all.  There is so much that I actually would not take from those whom I love as I've seen the growth and wellness that is possible to achieve through hardship.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Step One

My husband occasionally asks if we have too many toys and my answer is usually a resounding, "No."  However, on one of these recent days while I was all alone in the house, I saw a slight absurdity at my entrance-way:  it generally takes about five minutes to open my front door, should anyone come to it, because I have to rearrange the "stash."



A thought crossed my mind when I realized this and I decided to make a note: Children Play Here.  Was I going to write about it?  Buy a plaque?  Share somebody else's blog?  I don't know, but when I got to my desk, this is what I found:




Cool, right?  One blank sheet where I could make a note.  It's obvious that children play here.

Okay, well now for the real story...

I now have four g'babies:  two pre-school girls and two infant boys.  When these guys first started coming at me those few years back, it was more than just a slight shock to the system.  Honey and I had barely experienced the empty-nester phase. The years previous to that (the time since we'd blended) had been tumultuous to say the least.  There was always good.  We were (almost) always (trying to be) grateful.  But raising our kids to adulthood was a feat and we were ready to rest.

Things don't always turn out the way we'd planned or hoped, huh?

During the past four to five years, my life has been pretty much centered around g'babes.  Honestly, it's not something I would have expected at any point in my life, really.  I've never really understood kids and certainly never thought I'd have a preference for their company.  What was the alternative, however?  This was the path that unfurled before me.

These past four to five years have been as tumultuous as any previous period but there's always good.  We're always grateful.

Even now, as things are once more not how I thought they'd be.  These days, I hardly see my g'babes.  True, that's "hardly" by my standards but it's still an accurate depiction.  True, it's partly due to the natural process of life but there are other factors that I can't tell about.  Those parts belong to other people and I must let them tell their own stories.  Also, there's some hurt and it's just hard to talk about.

When the new babies first started showing up, when our lives first started to shift, what did I lose that I'd anticipated so much before all my kids were gone?  The hours and hours of quiet time, perhaps?  The clear path to the doorway?  A notepad with more than just one clean sheet of paper?

I wouldn't trade those babies for any of it.  For anything.

Thinking back on my mothering years, for all the mommy dearest that I was at times, for all the coulda-shoulda-wouldas, I'm just grateful to have had them.

And the meemee years?  Thank you, God, for each day with a g'baby.

Maybe I haven't gotten the life I would have planned but I'm grateful for the life I've gotten!

Would I control it more if I could?  Would I develop and execute the most appealing plan?  Well, who wouldn't, really?!  The thing is, though, that life happens by a series of events over which I am powerless.  I totally admit it.  I also totally know that God, however, has the power to work it all out.

This post happens not to be about the addictions and compulsions that I seem always to be facing but the twelve steps are still relevant and restorative. One Step and then the next and then the next.  Sometimes we start over.

And my new mantra:
Everything will be okay in the end.
If it's not okay, it's not the end.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

One Is The Loneliest Number

"We are never more than one generation away from apostasy."

I can't seem to determine the precise source of this statement but I'm in a hurry to put this down.  I like to give credit where it's due, but sometimes, perhaps, it's more important to be timely.

I actually considered calling this one, "One is the Timeliest Number."

Anyhow...know what apostasy is? It is, according to dictionary.com, "a total desertion of or departure from one's religion, principle, party, cause, etc."

Joshua sent the people of Israel on their way, and each man went to take possession of his own share of the land.  As long as Joshua lived, the people of Israel served the Lord, and even after his death they continued to do so as long as the leaders were alive who had seen for themselves all the great things that the Lord had done for Israel.  The Lord's servant Joshua son of Nun died at the age of a hundred and ten. He was buried in his own part of the land at Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim north of Mount Gaash.  That whole generation also died, and the next generation forgot the Lord and what he had done for Israel. Judges 2:6-10 (GNT)

Never more than one generation...

My congregation* began a new series this morning called Parental Guidance: Raising Up The Next Generation, and I'm stoked.  While it's true that my own kids now have their own kids, and true that what's past is done, there's still a new generation coming up ~ one that needs guidance and good examples ~ one that stands to be a very lonely generation if they don't know the LORD.  There is a new generation and they need us to raise them up.


There was a Whole Lot that resonated with me this morning, but there's one particular point I'd like to share.  Over these few years that I've been involved with my congregation, I've seen a lot of things change.  Some of it was hard for me to accept (cough, "contemporary service", cough, "casual attire", cough, cough), but I've warmed to most elements of our evolution.  I should think it would be hard not to come around when so many new folks - and especially children - are coming around (to church now.)  My pastor gave me a good, little reminder this morning.

The message does not change but it is okay for the method of delivery to change. What's important is that we get the message through to the next generation.


*Crosspoint United Methodist Church
Worship service videos can be viewed here after a couple of days.
Worship services can be viewed live via webcast here.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Picture's Worth























This is my family.*
This picture was taken on Christmas morning and promptly posted to Facebook.

This picture possibly received more 'likes' and positive comments than anything else I've posted.

"Beautiful picture."
"Blessed family."


And each such comment causes me to snicker cynically.

Sorry, folks.  Just trying to be honest here.

They say, "a picture's worth a thousand words," and I can go along with that, but what does this particular one really say?

To me, it says that having us all in one room, so close together, all smiling so gleefully is an astonishing feat.  But then, I'm reading it with a bias ... as one who knows the back-story.

I happen to know how much anger and disappointment and hurt and frustration and dysfunction is contained within this frame.  I know how hard a year it's been, how hard it's been to bring us all together, how hard it is for us to smile when we're all in one room.

Sorry, folks.  Like I said...

However, believe it or not, this is not a pity party.  This is not me telling you how bad things are around here.  This is me pointing out that things are not always as they seem.  For all the "perfection" that a picture can portray, there is always something behind the scenes.  Something you don't see.  Something you can't know unless someone tells you.

What I'm telling you is that my family is not perfect.

And - if I believe what I say, that things are not always as they seem - then even I can view this through another lens:

  • Four healthy g'babies have been born and all remain members of our family
  • We've grafted in a couple of sons and another g'babe
  • One of us has survived a heart attack
  • An antidepressant is working for at least one of us
  • Each of us is still here
  • None of us have been to jail
  • Okay, at least not lately
  • Okay, at least not for more than a few minutes

There's good here even if there is some bad behind the scene.
It really is a beautiful picture.  We really are blessed.
I think I'll focus on that!


Some folks might say I've used this for some kind of divine photo op.  Okay.  Maybe.
Some might say that I'm hanging all my laundry in the yard.
Okay.  Maybe some of it.

But what I mean to be is telling you to look very closely and consider very deeply everything you see in life.

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." John Lubbock


*I have folks and a sister and a niece who reside elsewhere.  And cousins, and in-laws, and, well, more family than is pictured here.
*Also, that blur at the bottom of the picture is my cat.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Where Have All The Good Words Gone?

Once, on a whim a few years back, I decided to draw.
Serious stuff: I bought pads, pencils, and fat, grey, official-artist-looking erasers.
I had a fervor for about a week, and somewhere in this house is a drawing pad with a couple of not entirely crappy sketches.  (By my own standards.)

I’m pretty sure that “artist” was on my list.
You know: the third-grade “What do you want to be when you grow up?” list.
The top of mine, I still remember very well:

-President
-Nurse
-Singer
-Poet
-Teacher

Maybe not in that order, but I dreamed of manifesting myself in every one of those occupations.

It seems reasonable that “writer, author, story-teller, world’s greatest blogger” would be somewhere on that list, even if farther down, right?  It’s not too high a goal, right?

Of all my dreams and goals and fervors, I think I’ve never had such a need to follow through as I do for writing.  Looking back, I see I’ve always done it.

It started with songs:

Ohhhhh, you’ll meet the cute kittens someday
They’ll make your day bright and gay
And if you shout it all around, you’ll dance like a clown
Then we’ll have some fun 
Dancing in the sun
And everybody is happy!

Wrote that one for my club, The Cute Kittens (myself and two other six-year-olds), in about ‘76.  (Quick, what rhymes with six?!)

Then the more melancholy:

Fly, fly, fly far away
Fly little birdy to the land of the great
Fly little birdy and fly little bee
And fly butterfly that is looking at me

Wrote that one in just one afternoon to soundtrack my couple of hours of jumping off the bed into a pile of laundry.  I was the bomb.

Later, it was poetry ~ some of it sweet, most of it dark, nearly all of it private.

I’ve journaled off and on, in one form or another, since I was in my teens.  (How many diaries have I thrown away?  How many times have I thought that it was time to start over and that starting over meant trashing any record of the past?)

As I illustrated at the beginning here, I’m not really a follow-through sort of girl.  I don’t decide to do a thing and then do everything necessary to be good at the thing. I don’t take classes.  Don’t watch tutorial videos.  Don’t read “_____ For Dummies.”

Generally, I’ll take a shot if it interests me and then I’ll generally grow bored and quit.

Not so with writing.

Understand that I’ve no inclination that I’m carrying the great American novel in my heart or that my memoir would touch and change lives forever or that I might write words to change the tide of history.  It’s not that I think my writing is good or important or even read by people!  It’s that I need to do it.

And these last few months have been hard because I haven’t been able.

Great things come to mind.  Drafts develop.  Inspiration and excitement ensue.
And then all of it dissipates rather quickly.

I keep reviewing my year, looking for answers.  There’s a pattern that only I may recognize.  (Or so I’d like to think.)  There’s a lot of stuff betwixt my lines.

There’s so much behind the scenes that, as much as I might like to run screaming it through the streets, too many standards prevent me from sharing.

And then I have to consider the possibility that I am simply done.  It’s not that I’m bored because the urge to write things down is sometimes the only thing that moves me.

But maybe it’s supposed to be private.  Maybe I’m not supposed to write it publicly. Or maybe I’ve said all that I’m supposed to SAY.

I just really hope not.
Or I hope, sincerely and mostly, that God will show me what’s next (any time now!)
And that I will follow through when He does.

Is this piece it?  The follow-through?  Nope.
But it is an attempt to revive my fervor.  I really need to write.

And to close, I hope only for now, here’s a really cute video that I found while perusing just last night.  Obviously, I didn’t write it ... but I sure do wish I had!


Mason Jar Music presents Laura Gibson