Sep 3, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Love’s Side of the Street

There once was a house in which lived a family. Peeking into the window of this house, you would see a perfect little scene: There was no spilled juice on the floor. The refrigerator was always stocked with the perfect blend of nutritious foods and treats. The cars in the garage were paid for and well-maintained. And the people who lived there? The children didn’t scream at each other or their parents. They were respectful and well-mannered and knew exactly what was expected of them.

It was perfect. It was awful.

When those tidy little children grew up and moved out, they never came back. It wasn’t that they didn’t love their parents. It wasn’t that they were unhappy people. It was all about that other resident of the house, the one who’d lived there next to them all those years…quietly, silently sliding its way around their home, perching on the roof, always watching. It was a sibling, a parent, a patriarch. It was all of those things, and they never called it by its name: Expectation.

You see, in this perfect house, you were expected to fit into the molds from which you were formed: College-Educated, Middle Class, Church-Attending, Heterosexual. If the mold got stretched or cracked or otherwise bent, you were met with the wrath of Expectation: An anger which sometimes burned so cold that the mold squeezed you tighter, and sometimes bubbled so hot that the frames holding you in scalded you.

But just across the street, there was another house. Looking from the outside in, you’d never choose this house over the first. The yard wasn’t quite as tidy. The voices were sometimes raised. There were mistakes made and terrible word bombs that siblings passed around like a dangerous toy.

It was not perfect. It was, however, full of Love.

On Love’s side of the street, Expectation did not dare to travel. There was no room in Love’s house for silent intruders. Expectation’s molds did not work here because Love’s fire shattered their restraints into a million pieces. On Love’s side of the street, there were hurts, but those were followed by apology. There were erroneous maps studied for family road trips, maps which showed the One Way all good Christian families had to travel. Until the day the family decided that those maps made good kindling for Love’s fire.

In recent times, we have been handed lists of what a Christian should look like, who a Christian should love, and those lists have been met with counter-lists and counter-counter-lists. This is nothing new; these lists have been handed down again and again for centuries. But when people’s homes are crashing down around them; and children are slicing open their wrists because they don’t match up with any of those lists; and teenagers are afraid to talk to their parents, the very people who should hold their children’s hearts most tenderly and prayerfully? Lists don’t hold up. Lists are of no use when people are bleeding out on battlefields all around us.

As for me, I choose to put down the lists and live on Love’s side of the street. If, in the end, I am wrong, then I erred on the side of Love. After all, there once was a carpenter, a crafter of the wood that went into these very houses who spoke often of such Love. And then he proved it. That’s the kind of house I want to live and die in.

 

 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

 

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Aug 27, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Just The Facts

If I were to write my autobiography, I’d need to devote at least three chapters to how I spent approximately 18.4 months of this past year (I’m a grammar teacher, not a math whiz, people) starring in the roles of editor and proofreader for my kids’ homework papers.

For most of my kids’ lives, I have been their only teacher but, the past few years, we have added in online classes for them. This became a necessity just about the time I began teaching higher maths and sciences to my eldest son. Also known as the time when, forced to choose between that pursuit and the option of being repeatedly stabbed in the eyeballs with a toothpick, I would have told you that x and y need to stop playing passive-aggressive games. Do they want to be found? Why, exactly, do they keep hiding? Now pass the toothpick.

Since my kids now have other teachers reading their words, I am brain-deep into the phase of Motherhood Life known as Checking Their Homework. It’s as much a joy as it sounds.

While proofreading a recent paper (and please, take a moment of sympathy here for my poor kids who have to deal with a grammar teacher checking their work. It’s as much a joy as it sounds), I realized that the kid who was writing an essay about the events of September 11, 2001 had no actual memory of the day. He had, in fact, not even been alive then. So the essay, while factually correct and grammatically intact, did not capture the emotions for me, a person who had experienced that day in all of its panic and horror.

It did not recall the confusion I felt when, that blue-skied morning, I was gathering my two very young kiddos to board a plane for upstate New York. It did not recall the uncomprehending horror I felt as I watched, on live TV, a huge jet slamming into a skyscraper full of everyday people. It did not recall how my flight home that day was immediately canceled and how, instead, my parents and I huddled in front of the news, none of us able to turn away from the unfolding tragedy. It did not recall how, as news reports came in of other explosions, other planes plummeting to the ground, we wondered what was next. We felt the breath squeeze from our bodies as we could not imagine what sort of attack our assumed-to-be-safe country was under.

As I read the facts of the essay, I realized how, over years and decades, other people must have felt the same as I. How they read the factual accounts of those horrific hours on the beaches of Normandy and knew it did not capture their experience on those blood-saturated sands at all. How others read the stories of  innocents slaughtered around them in genocides and death camps and shook their heads at what a tiny glimpse of their own firsthand tales those stories provided. How I, currently situated in my warm American home, continue to take in the story of refugees fleeing their lands, their own babies being torn from their white-hot grasps. Even in my shock and tears over their plight, what a tiny corner of the story’s landscape I actually see.

But this limited viewpoint isn’t just restricted to the big events, the larger terror of the world around us. It happens even in the daily conversations, the small moments, the short texts and the typed-out Facebook comments. We don’t know anyone’s full story. All we know is the facts, and sometimes, not even those.

We don’t know the broken heart behind the snarky comment.

We don’t know the insecurity behind the backhanded compliment.

We don’t know the years of suffered abuse hidden behind the eyes that don’t smile.

We don’t know the desire to self-harm behind the face of someone who appears to have it all together.

Sometimes, over months and through the slow-growing roots of trust, we will learn each other’s real stories. We will learn the pieces that make up the whole. Yet even then, the worn cliche of walking in another’s shoes can never capture it all: We may try on their shoes for a moment, for an hour, but we don’t inhabit their feet, with all of the weariness and weight and miles they have carried.

Let’s put down our assumptions and pick up the practice of being safe story-keepers. Let’s be the ones who are willing to look behind the social media data, to know the flesh on the factual skeleton of the tale. Let’s not be listeners who read between the lines for hurtful intent or for ways we can make the tale about ourselves, but true story-capturers who hear with our eyes, our hearts, and who then allow that story to change us.

Let us never forget how little we really know of another’s journey and let us be safe vessels for another’s story, fellow travelers who will walk their road with them.

“…grant that I may not so much seek…to be understood as to understand.” Prayer of St. Francis 

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Aug 24, 2017 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

Pencils and Paper

I’d like to raise three cheers to The Things I am Learning As I’m Getting Older. If only I weren’t too tired to raise three cheers. Maybe 2.4 will do.

After a night in which my body decided that, “Hey! Sleep is for sissies! Who needs sleep? Not you!” and the rain and dreariness of the day made getting out bed seem like a resurrection of biblical proportions, I gathered my people and we made our way, along with my brother, to the local elementary school building. There, we spent time unloading and assembling bags of school supplies for kids who, without the generosity of nearby groups of churches, would show up for the first day of school without so much as a pencil.

My kids, despite the intrusion upon their Saturday Sleep-In Sanctuary, never complained. They did ask questions, however. Why, for example, were school supplies such a big deal? Were they a positive thing? Didn’t getting up on a weekend to receive those seem like a terrible punishment to inflict upon a child?

These were good, albeit annoying to my sleep-deprived state, questions. I jest. Sort of. They were honest. Which I usually encourage. When I have slept. The thing is, my kids have never wondered where their pencils were coming from. They HAVE groaned over the past few days as UPS trucks/FedEx vehicles/USPS jeeps have bounced down our gravel drive to deliver textbook after textbook. They don’t know that their mom can just hop online and order what they need, or borrow it, or be gifted it. They have never questioned if the needed supplies will arrive.

As an adult, I know the crazy amount of money it takes to live this elusive American Dream. I don’t foresee ever making that amount of money, and I gave up chasing that dream years ago when we moved to Guatemala. When you drag open the iron gate you live behind to see a man, passed out, with a bottle of rubbing alcohol in his hand…When you and your children walk near people lying on the sidewalks every day…When sweet tiny ones you’ve cuddled and held on your lap die of hunger…When little girls in villages just down the road are shot as they walk home from school…You start to think differently about The Dream. You start to reject it. You start to wonder if those who offer a cup of water to the homeless…a literal cup of water…are more Jesus than anyone you have ever met. You know that his teachings become, as all things do in this country, messy and divisive, but that those who stop TALKING about it and start doing it are the ones you want to hang around with.

I find it ironic that I moved from Guatemala to one of the poorest counties in all of Virginia. I don’t think that’s something I can ignore. I drive past people, every day, who are living on land bordering other land from which they were swindled because of their race. I shook hands today with people who, not long ago,  weren’t allowed to go to the local school simply because of the shade of their skin. I live near people who freeze in the winter and suffer in the summer. I can’t look away from that. Not when Americans, including myself, spend more on trash bags than half the world spends on all goods combined. We are spending more on throwing our stuff away than they have to spend on anything they need. I hate it when those facts are in my face, but the truth is, they are. So I have to either do something or just pretend I can’t change anything.

Today was nothing. Other people did all of the work. We were just the delivery van. But the fact that my kids asked questions about how much OUR books cost and wondered about it…maybe, just maybe, they thought a little more about how lucky we are. It’s a start. It’s not enough; yet we can take that start and not file it away under Nice Feelings We Have Sometimes, but take action on it. There are crazy, ridiculous amounts of need all around us, and around us all.

In the meantime, instead of getting frustrated when my 13 year-old breaks his mechanical pencil for the 82nd time in one day, I’ll decide to be grateful that we have more pencils and that, thanks to the love and tender care of people all around us, children down the road will, too.

(Poverty statistic: John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas Naylor, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2002. Quoted by Jen Hatmaker in Interrupted, NavPress, 2014.)

Aug 2, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Summer Survival Skills

If, during these last chokehold days of summer, you are already at your wits’ end, here are some time-tested, veteran-mom-approved suggestions for you:

  1. TBT to 1982. Pretend that the children will survive if they spend more than 2.6 minutes outside without copious applications of sunscreen, Lyme-protective hazmat suits, and a GPS-enabled smartphone. To paraphrase the words of the immortal animated classic we would all like to forget: Let Them Go.
  2. Embrace the community pool. Yes, yes, there are mystery objects floating about. Of course there are used, crusty bandaids brushing up against your legs and better-left-unexplained warm spots to swim through. Take a deep breath (just not underwater, mind you), and recall that this is what chlorine was invented for. Be grateful for the smell of it that will never forever alter the color of your hair and will completely destroy your overpriced mom-appropriate swimsuit. It is saving your lives. Also, sidenote to moms of littles: Take heart! One day you, too, will be one of the Lucky Ones sitting on a lounge chair with a book, periodically counting heads to make sure the twelve year-old life guard hasn’t lost anyone and holding up score cards to acknowledge the skills of your Future Olympic Divers. Assuming they’re even allowed to dive at your pool. Ohhh, America. Bless your overprotective heart.
  3. Abuse your library card. Our librarians are on a first and middle and nickname basis with us. I’m pretty sure they’re showing up for Thanksgiving Dinner this year. And that’s how it should be. They know what books all of the kids have checked out. They know what genres your people will actually read. They will even….gasp….order books for you upon request. We are all paying approximately 1,256% of our annual income in taxes to cover said library. So celebrate it! Use it! Love it! And just consider that the $10.50 you pay in fines every week for forgetting to return a movie the people never actually watched is a charitable donation toward keeping you sane. It’s so utterly worth it.
  4. The grill is your best friend. There is no limit to the amount of sauces and rubs and sorceries and bacon-wrapping you can do to a slab or two of meat. You pretty much cannot ruin it. And a word to the wise mother: If you slap a veggie on a kabob and grill it, they will come. Moreover, they will not complain. As much. Grab the biggest bag of charcoal you can find and pray it lasts the week.
  5. Encourage your kid to be the next Lance Armstrong. Well, minus the doping and drugging and other-such nonsense. Bicycles are summer’s best investment. Slap on the legislatively-required helmet and hit that Tour de Driveway with all you’ve got. Shirt and shoes optional.
  6. Accept Conflict. As a person who immediately begins to scroll through the Suddenly Very Important Emails on her phone when people around her have disagreements, I know how painful this can be. But let it be. They won’t kill each other. They will figure it out. Besides, file this under “conflict resolution skills necessary for life and marriage and navigating social media political minefields.” It also, and perhaps most importantly, accomplishes a vital goal of summertime: Wear them out. At all costs. Wear the people out.
  7. Buy all of the water-related toys your local dollar store has in stock. Pull out everything you can find. Water balloons! Slip n slides! Squirt guns which fire one shot about a centimeter in front of you and then choke! Creepy-Spinny sprinkler heads! Your stockpot! Whatever can and will hold a liquid is fair game. Set them all up in a shiny row, lock the doors, and pour yourself a bubbly beverage. You’ve earned yourself the 3 minutes of peace these items will give you.
  8. Sparklers. Wait. These require supervision. Scratch that.
  9. Youtube. When those rainy days come, and they will, and you shake your fist at the weather gods, settle in with anything you can write off as semi-educational and pop some popcorn. Microwaveable is perfectly acceptable. Let’s not get organic-non-GMO-crazy here. Remind yourself that you are providing knowledge and junk/brain food for future generations of policy-makers and world-shakers and it’s ok to be exhausted by such responsibility, so dozing off during the show is certainly justifiable.
  10. Lastly, enjoy your summer days. Popsicles will come and go….let’s be honest, mostly go and mostly go kersplat on your freshly-vacuumed beige carpet, but let’s remember this:

 

There will be wads of wet, smelly towels left on the floor that only Mom will have the superpowers to see. There will be more chores forgotten than there should be. There will be sugar crashes and “I’m bored” days and we will all be very ready for routine by the time August’s last days arrive. But until then, we’ll all enjoy the slower, steamier, sweeter pace. And if we don’t enjoy it all, we will at least enjoy some. And we’ll make memories along the whole way. Here’s to your summertime!

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Jul 26, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The Risk of Loving

(So I wrote this post, read it to my daughter, and was ready to publish. And then, that night, tragedy struck again, and 2 ducklings passed away because of the ridiculous Virginia summer heat. And yet…we still choose to believe in Love and we still don’t fear Love’s Shadow of Pain. It’s more true now than ever.)

In the third grade year of my life, Laura Ingalls was my Spirit Animal. My friends and I saved our monies for the long-awaited Scholastic book sale each year, where we’d buy and read all of Ms. Ingalls’s books: Little House, Little Town, the one where she went into entirely too much detail about food (I’m looking at you, Farmer Boy), the tales of the sod home they built. Each copy was shared and re-shared and treasured.

During recess, which was an actual thing in the 1980s, we gathered on the playground and pleasantly discussed (read: argued) about who would play the role of Laura that day. Everyone wanted to be her. Mary was pretty, but boring. Nellie Olson was the only B word we sheltered schoolgirls had ever heard of: A Bully. Ma was just too….motherly. Once our casting was set, we imagined new and thrilling adventures that we were sure, if the author had been around to hear us, would have resulted in a new book immediately being added to the Little House canon.

Now that I live in a rural area, I have realized, to my great sadness and to the astonishment of exactly no one who knows me, that I am no Laura Ingalls. The fact that I call my location “rural” even though it is within 30 minutes of a real, live Starbucks is evidence enough. However, my family recently became Country Enough that we decided to raise ducks, and by we I of course mean my daughter. My main role in the Duck-Raising Operation has been to take photos of their progression from fluffy bundles of yellow fuzz to quacking lap-swimmers of the pond in our yard, to watch my daughter mother them better than any waterfowl mama ever would, to observe as she extended her little hand into their crate and allowed them to sleep on it for hours just so they would imprint on her. I have witnessed her tender bandaging and medicating of injured webbed feet as her sweet and unflinching care brought her beloved ducks back to health.

Until it changed.  A few Sundays ago, I was the first to arrive home from church, and the sight of two trembling ducks huddled under the porch immediately alerted me to the fact that something was very, very wrong. My eldest child arrived behind me and joined the search for the missing third duck, and it was he who made the tragic discovery: One of the ducks had been savagely attacked and mauled and left to die in the pond.

The days that followed were ones of tears, of reassurance that it was no one’s fault, of laugh-crying through old photos of the fluffy babies, of remembering the missing sweet pet and watching in great sadness as her sisters searched everywhere for her, calling out and hearing no reply and calling out again and again, their little feathered heads peeking in every hiding place to see where she could be.

The days that followed have been reminders that, when we love, whether it is a precious pet or a trusted person, we risk everything. We are guaranteed that in order to feel the greatest joy of this planet, we will nearly always feel the greatest pain as well. My heart has shattered as I have watched my daughter grieve, as she has perched herself by the pond, not wanting to leave the ducks alone, her tears streaming, the sadness mingled with the new and terrible understanding she now possesses: She cannot ultimately protect those she loves. She sits, watching over them and I sit, watching over her and wishing I had the choice to change it all. But I know that my daughter, as I, will only ever have one choice…

Once pain has touched our lives, we cannot change it, but we can become changed by it.

In the days when the grief is newly-carved on our hearts, the wounds pulsing and aching, we do not want to hear these words, nor are we ready for them. But as the stretching and pulling of the healing begins, we can choose. We can decide to try everything to forget the hurt, to numb it, to pretend the deep scars it has etched upon us aren’t truly there; or we can open our hearts to it, brave right in the midst of our fear, acknowledging that this dark visitor has already arrived at our doorstep. We can stop our futile pushing against its entry and allow it in, allow the hurt to move us, knowing that this uninvited guest will come again and again. Our choice isn’t in the allowing of his arrival but in the acceptance of it.

We will never put out a welcome mat for pain. But when we make the choice not to deny it, when we sit with that visitor, we open up the curtains to throw the light upon his shadows, and discover that we, the ones who considered ourselves the small and the weak, are stronger than the pain.

My daughter’s ducks still look for their sister. They are more skittish around the tall grasses and reeds surrounding the pond. The pain’s effects still exist. But not that many days ago, I drove my girl to the post office to pick up a new shipment of fluffy yellow babies. All the way home, she cradled their fragile, newly-born selves in her arms and whispered to them of the food that waited at home, the waters they would explore, the dog that would sniff them curiously. My daughter had opened her heart again to Love. With that open door, she knew Pain could be following close behind. After all, it is Love’s shadow. But she would take them both on, the Love with the Pain. It would always be worth the cost to open that door again.

 

“This is the sound of surviving. This is my farewell to fear. This is my whole heart deciding, I’m still here, I’m still here. And I’m not done fighting This is the sound of surviving” Nichole Nordeman 

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Jul 11, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Inspire Envy

I’m pretty tired of being bossed around by inanimate objects.

It all started with a particular brand of chocolates deciding that, when I opened their bite-sized squares of lusciousness, I should be greeted with instructions on how to live my best life. Excuse me, what? I just want to put something yummy in my mouth. Be quiet already.

Next, soft drinks decided to enter the bossy-pants game by determining that personalizing my drink wasn’t enough.  Now I’m feeling the pressure to match the can’s words to my mood or my tribe or whatever catchphrase I’m willing to adopt for the moment. To this trend I say, 1. I’m exhausted and 2. Just no.

It all came to a head when I twisted open my cough drop yesterday, assuming I’d find within its paper cell a….hold please…cough drop. Instead, I was assaulted with the completely non-common-cold-related advice printed within: “Inspire Envy!” it screamed at me.

CAN EVERYONE JUST LEAVE ME ALONE TO EAT CHOCOLATE AND DRINK CHEMICALS AND NOT COUGH IN PEACE?????

Once I finished rolling my eyes at the absurdity sitting in my hand, I decided that this phrase should be filed under Absolutely and Decidedly The Worst Advice Ever Received.

I don’t think most of us consider ourselves to be particularly inspirational people, but we are. We are all inspiring something, and I’d hate for my offering to be Envy.

Let’s inspire Laughter, with our people and even at ourselves.

Let’s inspire Reflection, taking a breath, pausing to create quiet in the middle of the noise.

Let’s inspire Grace, both quickly-offered forgiveness and long-fought redemption.

Let’s inspire Change, a dissatisfacton with the status quo.

Let’s inspire Contentment, a lack of comparison of our homes and bodies and accomplishments.

Let’s inspire Bravery in the larger moments of great action and in the smaller, quieter moments when just getting through the day requires our courage.

Let’s not use up our days inspiring envy and jealousy, swallowing the lie that we must look and own and showcase a comparison-breeding life.

There’s a whole world full of Better Things to inspire. Let’s spend our rapidly-disappearing days inspiring those.

Although, let’s not get crazy: I’m totally still buying that chocolate. Chatty wrappers or not.

 

 

May 28, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Memorial Day

It was the only place the kids had stated they really wanted to visit when we moved from overseas back to the States. So one sweltering June day, we made the trip to Washington, D.C. We did the touristy things. We visited the museums, stood outside the White House. Walked and walked. Visited the pandas at the National Zoo. Walked and walked. Took the obligatory selfies by the monuments. Walked and walked.

On our way out of town, we accidentally missed a turn (because really, it’s not a family vacation until Mom and Dad engage their Let’s-Pretend-We-Aren’t-Upset-Voices while trying to decide who was right about the directions), and detoured to Arlington National Cemetery. It ended up being a profound detour.

Endless white crosses stretched before us, around us, encompassing us. To us silent observers, the crosses represented a group of people who had died. Yet to others, each cross was a singular: a person, an individual… a husband or wife or daughter or brother who would never share a laugh at a family cookout again, who would never hug a mother goodnight, who would never again kiss a cheek, who would never rub a dog’s belly, who would never again be given the chance to love anyone.

The breadth of loss to us, the recipients of the sacrifice, was overwhelming, and it reminded us anew of the truths we conveniently forget:

We don’t need to agree with the war in order to support the warrior.

We don’t have to agree with the politics in order to support the person who is serving.

We don’t have to be so busy persuading others about the right answers that we neglect to pray for the hearts of the broken today.

Memorial Day is about honoring those who gave all. But today, as we go about our weekend, let us also not forget those who were companions to the ones who gave all, those who question why they survived when friends fell all around, those who need acknowledgement and understanding as they navigate a new minefield now: the minefield of memories and flashbacks and rebuilding a life in a world where they often feel they do not belong.

Thank you sounds weak and thin in the face of the mighty gifts these warriors have given us. But we say it. And we say it again. And we will not forget. Today and every day.

 

 

 

 

May 23, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Not So Very Far From Here

Not so very far from here, a mother waits by her front door for her daughter to come home. Or for the uniformed officers to knock on that door and tell her the worst news a mother’s heart could ever know.

Not so very far from here, a father sits by a hospital bed, his child’s hand in his own, knowing that there will be physical agony and emotional horror ahead for his teenager, that the bomb which lasted but a moment has brought a new resident to his doorstep, a terror which has forced its way in and will never be forgotten.

Not so very far from here, those whose job it is to investigate, to identify, to interrogate are working without sleep, without respite. Those of us who are protected by their work will never comprehend the terrible things they see, the things they do not turn away from, so that all of us may be safe.

Not so very far from here, my kids are waking up and walking a dog down a very safe road. They are eating breakfast and sighing over final exams. They are putting dishes away in the wrong places and forgetting to do homework, and not listening to the 10,000th time I tell them what time we need to leave for the dentist.

And I couldn’t be more grateful.

Because I could be that mother not so very far from here. In fact, we all are. Those babies who died because of someone else’s rage and insanity belong to all of us. May we love each other better and love each other more. Because there is no difference between here and and not so very far from here.

 

May 22, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

I Believe It Enough For Me

 

I press my weary hand over her fresh, smooth one and my water-filled eyes meet her own.

I tell her she is enough, just as beautiful and incredible as she is.

I believe it enough for her.

I cry into the phone with the one whose betrayed heart is shattering.

I tell her she is bravery itself; she is a woman of valor who walks the tightrope balance of truth and grace.

I believe it enough for her.

I tell them not to use words like “stupid”….”idiot.” Not to be so brutally hard on themselves, in school and in life. I tell them we all have to start at the beginning of a concept, to practice it and fail and fail again before we master it.

I believe it enough for them.

But I don’t believe it for me.

We are eloquent in our love. We are powerful warriors of words, lifting the weary arms and patching the shattered spirits of our friends and sisters and coworkers. But why can’t we believe it enough for ourselves?

Why will we bully our own souls, batter ourselves with harsh words and criticism? Why do we leave our own hearts tender with bruises, marking ourselves over and over with the bludgeon of how we have failed here, fallen there?

What if, instead, we took the little, glowing pieces of wisdom we dig deep for and, placing them as gifts in the hands of those we love, remember that we can hold some drops of light in our own hands as well. That we can set those shining pieces in our hearts, chasing away the self-cruelty with the truth: We have all messed up. It doesn’t make us ruined. It makes us humans in need of light and gentle grace.

Believe the truth and grace today, enough for her, enough for you, enough for me.

 

 

 

 

Apr 14, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Where the Light Lives

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It is 4:30-something in the afternoon. It’s the Bleak Midwinter, so the shadows are already drawing in hard, and the little battery-powered candles in my farmhouse window are beginning their flickering glow. The sky behind us begins its daily transition from blue to pink to purple to flame. The light holds on tightly as long as it can and then relinquishes its grip to the dark. I can almost hear the sky sighing in resignation, “Ok winter. You win for now.”

I’m not a fan of these early sunsets. By 8:15 it feels like it must be nearly midnight. I can see why, a century ago in this very house, people must have had no trouble getting their recommended 8 hours of sleep. No wonder the cows got up at 0 dark 30. They probably were asleep by 5p.m. They, too, were sighing and lying down and waiting for the light.

Lately, the word Light has been rolling around in my head a lot. It has been popping up in songs I hear, in books and articles I read. I am getting old enough and less hard-headed enough to know that when this happens, I had better stop. And wait. And think about why.

I think I know why now. My family…my extended family and my little nuclear group of people…has been through the ringer the past few months. It always pains me to watch people go through difficult times and to keep having Bad Things happen to them in seemingly unfair proportion. And it pains me most when it is happening to those I love the most.

The thing is, I have prayed. I have begged. The thing is, before I did those Spiritual Things, I mostly sweated it out and woke up at night in a panic and tried to figure it all out in my mind. I did the math. I did the figuring. I did the what-if-ing. I did the stressing. Shockingly, none of that “ing-ing” changed anything. I couldn’t fix what my people were going through. I couldn’t alter it. I couldn’t will it away.

My first instinct, upon realizing this was…ok, well my first instinct was to yell some creative language into my shower stall or pillow or anywhere my kids couldn’t hear them….so, my second instinct was to just give up. Just resign. Just say, what the heck. This is life. Life is hard. Sometimes life keeps hitting you when you’re down. It isn’t fair. But it’s life. Now let’s all go have a good cry. And a Starbuck’s mocha.

Sometimes life does throw a lot of darkness at us. Sometimes darkness seems like it is taking over the sky, the land, the house, the whole world. But the truth is, it can’t. It Can’t.

We can choose. We can choose to stand Brave. To be Light. To push back the Dark. To say, “Go ahead. You have a few hours. You have the night. But that sun is going to rise again over those beautiful fields in the morning. Those fields? They are sown with winter wheat which has been buried over and over and over again in frost and ice and wind and snow and brutal cold. But that wheat WILL push up through that ground right in front of our eyes. It will triumph. It will win. It will grow and flourish and be harvested. It has happened year after year after year. And you won’t stop it.”

If we could stop the hard things happening around us, if we could be Hermione Granger and wave magical spells over all we love and protect them and put them in a beautiful, ache-free bubble, I am infinitely sure we would choose that course. But that’s not the choice given to us. We have only one decision to make: We can be a fighter or a lie-down-in-the-driveway-and-give-in-quitter. Now, I’m not strong. In my head, I tell myself I am. I tell myself I am supremely capable. Yet when those defining moments come, I know how utterly weak I am in myself. I know I would prefer to curl up in my bed and turn on a sound machine and hide until daylight. Or…. I can remember that the darkness hides things.

In the dark, a coat in the corner becomes a monster. In the dark, the nightmare seems utterly plausible. In the dark, the scared child is inconsolable. In the dark, the sunrise seems impossible.

But the LIGHT. The Light changes everything. The Light reminds us that all is new. That we are still here. That the fever has broken. That the daylight has come.

The only way to BE light is to keep filling ourselves with that Light. To keep believing that the Light will always, always win over the Darkness. To read books and poems and authors and verses and sing songs that remind ourselves that Light wins. That Hope wins. To remind ourselves that we can only choose death or life, dark or light.

And I want to be Light more than anything.

 

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)