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.)

Apr 12, 2017 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

What I Want My Kids to Know

I come from a long line of worriers.

I’m not sure where the Worrying DNA Strand originated, but I do recall that my dad would conveniently forget to tell my grandparents that we were going on vacation, knowing that my World-War-II Soldier/Body-Builder/Tough-As-Nails-Roofer Grandpa was so worried where the safety of his grandkids was concerned that he would insist upon No Swimming! No Canoeing! No Fun! And maybe, really, it would be a better idea if he just came along or if everyone just stayed home.

My own worrying gene burst into its full dominance when I became a mom. I just knew I’d neglect something important, something vital in the list of All The Things I Should Be Teaching Them. And now that the once-chubby-cheeked, tow-headed firstborn of mine is towering over me and reminding me of the shortness of time we have left together (to which I then begin hugging him and threaten to cry. Works every time), the fear that I’ve missed out on an incredibly important lesson for him is in front of me, constantly.

There is still time to teach him the ins and outs of sorting dark laundry from lights, of making one or two yummy, easy meals to impress a girl. Wait. Maybe I’ll skip that one. But my heart wants to tell all of my kiddos more. Here’s what I want him, what I want all of my kids, to know about the most sacred and yet, often most confusing part of life for me: My faith.

1. One of the most precious parts of faith? Doubt. Ask questions. Don’t run from it. Open up to it and welcome it, because it means you have a living, breathing faith, a rushing waterfall of belief, not a stagnant, dull pond. Faith can withstand your doubts, your skepticism, your not being sure.

2. Make friends with people with lots of different beliefs. Learn how and why they came to believe as they do. And tell them your story, too. Not just your parents’ story. Yours. You already have one. I’ve been honored to watch its unfurling green shoot come out of the ground, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

3. Don’t be afraid of the Hard Things.  I would give every part of me to keep you from the deep pains and agonies I fear life will bring. Because it brings it to everyone. But I have come to understand that anyone I know who has a character that is deep and true and a life worth admiring has come through Hard Things. It’s like reading a great book and coming to the rich, beautiful ending knowing that the crises and the struggles made it all make sense. I have to believe it will for you, too.

4. You don’t have to figure it all out. Be content to live in the in-between of mystery and unanswered questions. The universe is full of them. Come to a place of being able to say, like Emerson, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

5. You don’t have to choose between being a smart person and a faith person. Too many people will tell you that you do. But they’re wrong. In fact, it’s an exhilarating journey to take for the rest of your life….constantly studying and reading and exploring the world and the wonders and the known and the unknown and the way the divine is a mysterious, beautiful river running through it all.

6. Let Love be everything. Even as young as you are, you’ve already experienced the ugliness and hurt of people valuing what they see as Truth over Love. It’s honorable to appreciate facts and science and provable, empirical data, but sharing those things with gentleness and kindness and, above all, Love convinces more perfectly and honestly than the hammer of truth over someone’s head ever will. That verse about the truth setting you free? Rest in that truth and do not become anxious or fearful or threatened by others’ objections.

7. While we’re on the subject of Love, let Love also motivate you to DO. But know that, when you love other people and give and share with them, you have to do it with open hands. Sometimes people will take advantage. Sometimes they will not do the things you’d prefer they do with the money or possessions you give them. Who cares! It’s not your job to decide. Yes, it’s always best to give when your gift can be used to its best purpose, but this world is a gaping, bleeding NEED, and sometimes giving recklessly and with abandon is actually giving wisely. It is far better than turning our backs on a person we have the ability to help.

8. There will be a time (or times) when those you have chosen to worship with and do church with will disappoint you. Or even hurt you deeply. There are times when the way of wisdom is to leave those situations, and there are times when you will have to do the painful, hard work of forgiving people for just being human and know that someday, they will have to do the same for you.

9. You’ll make mistakes that will make you feel like a lousy person. You’ll wonder if you’re the only one who struggles with those things. You aren’t. Talk to people. Ask for help. Make amends where you can. And know, above all, that as deeply loved and treasured as you are by your earthly family? You are forever, perfectly, absolutely loved infinitely more by the one who lit the spark of this planet into existence.

10. Someday, I’ll be gone. I’ve already INSISTED that I have to go first, and you’d better listen to me on that one! When you think about me and tell (always flattering) stories about your mom, I don’t want you to ever think of me as a religious person who tried to force you into the mold of her own spiritual journey. I hope the truths I’ve read to you since before you were born and the mistakes I’ve made and the way I want to know more, grow more, do better, will be what you remember. I long to leave you more than a bunch of money (as a matter of fact, I can pretty much guarantee you that won’t happen. Sorry about that, but homeschool moms don’t get paid a lot). What I want to leave you with is a story with a thread of hope. And you can pick up that thread and weave it into your own gorgeous story….not for me.  For you and for the thread weavers following behind you.

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Mar 31, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Beginning, Middle, End

Anyone can begin. That’s the easy part.
We begin the school year with fresh, unsmudged notebooks, razor-sharp pencils, a lunchbox that doesn’t smell like week-old crusts, a folder with everything neatly tabbed and filed.
But come Christmas break, the lunchbox isn’t even used anymore, the pencils are missing all their erasers, and the folder? What folder? A backpack makes an excellent filing system, thank you very much.
We begin an exercise program with a plan, the best shoes to enhance our performance, catchy tunes on our iPod, and intensity in our hearts. A few weeks later, the snooze button is the only thing getting a workout.
We begin marriage fully convinced that OUR marriage will be the best, the most intimate, the one that defies every odd and every statistic. A few years later, we’re pretty sure we married the wrong person. It must be their fault we’re not happy, not feeling that first-kiss rush.
We begin parenting with great hopes, rock-solid plans that we will never, ever raise our voices at our children, we will spend beautiful afternoons making life-changing crafts, we will provide financial security for our offspring’s every need, we will play educational boardgames each night after our delicious dinner consisting of every required food group, and we will simply be the Best Parents Ever.
Beginnings are easy. It’s that tricky middle part that makes us want to quit. The middle of the school year, the long, mind-numbing miles 12-19 of a marathon, the everyday arguments with our spouse when talking through things feels like too much work and too much vulnerability, the afternoon hours of mommyhood when the clock seems surely to have broken.
I don’t want to be a person who just survives the middle. I want to begin and end well.
I don’t want to always be pushing ahead to the next milestone and miss what new things are happening in my heart, in my family’s hearts right now. And even though some days are endless, and some days are glorious, I know that the long days, the hard days are the ones that build my character, that prove the things of which I hope I am made. Character is a rather unglamorous word anymore. It is intangible. It certainly doesn’t stir great emotion, but when you know someone who demonstrates it when you need it most, you realize just how unimaginably valuable it is.
It has often been said that a marathon is a great metaphor for life, and as a few-times marathoner, I kept thinking about that comparison during my first 26.2-miler. During step and step again, I wished that I could JUST STOP MOVING. I wanted to have my finish-line moment already. But isn’t that the point? I can’t stop moving. And if “just finishing” a marathon is an accomplishment in itself, what does finishing well look like?
I want to know. And not just in a race. In life.

When I did finish my marathons, I didn’t win any awards, but I finished feeling the euphoric rush of having pounded out mile upon mile of training to get to that finish line. I finished with the people I loved cheering me on and, in my kids’ eyes, the medal that was draped around my neck WAS a win. That’s how I want to finish anything I set out to do in my short-and-every-day-getting-shorter-life….with the people I love believing that I did it well, and maybe more than that, believing myself that I did it well. Not perfectly. Not without blisters and pain and sweat and agony and a lot of prayers…and as I have learned while running, prayer isn’t the esoteric thing I’ve made it out to be. It is honest. It is one word matching each footfall. It is stream of heart and pure and humble.

Maybe running a marathon isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s the long commute to a job you don’t love. Or the rage against the injustice you see in the world and feel helpless against. Or the monotony of a chore done over and over without anyone recognizing and applauding and appreciating. But what if you believed that someone saw? That someone did watch? That it mattered? Because it does. Oh how it does.

None of us know where we are in our races. None of us know how many miles are ahead. So let’s run like the finish line is in sight, like that celebratory pizza is being ordered now. Like the glasses are being filled and the cake is being cut. And let’s finish stronger than we knew we could. Not perfectly. But well.

 

lasrosas

friendsrace

Mar 17, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The Monster at the End of the Book

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When my kids were little, reading a book (or twelve) before bedtime was the delight of their days. Mostly because it delayed the whole getting into the bed part of bedtime.

Hours were spent in the rocking chair, Golden Books in hand, as my tired voice (or the equally tired one of my husband) read aloud the tales of a talking train and his pals, a talking bunny and his friends, a talking veggie crew. Sidenote here: Why did they all talk so. very. much? Where are the books about quiet  fictional characters? When my kiddos were toddling toward the bookshelf to pick out a tome, I’d sent them silent messages with my brain: Please choose Goodnight Moon. Please choose Goodnight Moon. It only has a few words. Kudos to all the children’s authors who leave out all that dialogue nonsense. Exhausted parents everywhere rise up and bless your name.

One of my kids’ favorite choices was the Sesame Street classic, The Monster at the End of the Book. I supported that choice. How could you not adore “lovable, furry, old Grover?” If it’s been a year or eight since you’ve read it, let me give you a plot summary of this classic:

Grover hears a terrible rumor that there’s a monster hiding at the end of the book. He then spends the next several pages trying to convince you, the reader, NOT to turn the page!  He ties intricate rope knots! He nails the pages together! He builds brick walls! Alas, nothing works. The mighty reader turns the pages and, spoiler alert, finds the monster at the end of the book, who turns out to be sweet, dear, cuddly Grover. Sigh. The end. Let’s all go to bed now.

I hadn’t read the tale of Grover’s plight in far too long, until recently, when a little preschooler who lives nearby began spending a few hours a week at our house and turned out to be Grover’s biggest groupie. As I walked about the kitchen each afternoon, wiping the invisible-to-everyone-but-me crumbs off counters and pondering about the great life mystery that is the plastic container drawer, I overheard my daughter reading and rereading the story to our little pal.  And I understood that I, in my Very Adult Life, function exactly like that furry friend Grover.

I walk about my life with an undercurrent of worry. Sure, everyone is healthy now. But it’s been awhile since we have had an E.R. visit. There must be something dreadful up ahead in the next few pages of our story!

Two of my kids are of driving age. What if they text when I’m not in the car with them to tell them not to? What if they don’t yield when merging onto a highway?  Maybe the new drivers don’t realize that one little mistake is not a little mistake when you’re piloting a passenger-laden vehicle. What if some idiot driver runs a red light? What monster could be waiting to hurt them?

All of my kids spend hours a day online. What if they accidentally reveal too much information to the wrong person? What if someone fools them with charm and the right words their tender teenage hearts need to hear? What monster could be waiting to harm them?

We have enough money to pay our bills and take a family vacation this year. But college looms very closely ahead. Cars are falling apart and need repairs. Medical expenses apparently grow on trees, or at least the ones in my yard. Septic tanks overflow. Wells collapse. Experts (who live in some mysterious perfect world I have never visited) tell me to have three months of income stored up. So I worry.  What monster could be waiting to bankrupt my family?

Monsters feel very real. They take the form and shape of hurting people who, in turn, hurt us. They appear as worrying medical diagnoses. They wait in the dark, cloaked as addictions ready to upend our lives. They hide under our beds as relational betrayals we think we will never recover from. They hover in the shadows as pain-shrouded issues our precious kids are struggling mightily against.

I recently read a quote, a gem buried in what I thought was a fun, escapist novel: “In the absence of facts, we tell ourselves stories.” There is so much wisdom packed in that little line of dialogue. In the absence of real data, I will spin a horror story of monsters and their encroaching dark figures.

In the absence of facts, I will believe the new path I’m choosing to walk today will have the same old, tired ending it always has.

In the absence of truth, I will believe the lies that snake around my brain and twist and root in until they begin to feel more real than what I know to be true.

In the absence of peace, I will corrupt the power of my brain and my imagination. I will take the dark shapes and make them into something they are not, giving them power over my life. I will allow that undercurrent of fear to become a tumbling, roaring white-water river that will knock away my oars and upend my raft and capsize all who ride with me.

Or I can learn a little lesson from my friend Grover and his adventures in Monsterland: In the upheaval and stress and overwhelming moments and pain of life, I don’t need to wait in worry for the monster at the end of the story. I don’t need to pull out the hammer and nails and bricks and mortar and rope and attempt construction of some sort of protective barrier around my life and my loved ones. In fact, I can’t. I can’t possibly protect the ones most dear to me. While that knowledge used to cause panic to rise like bile in my throat, I now am learning the practice of acceptance: That I am not in control. I do not have to wonder if I have prayed the exact right words of a “hedge of protection” around my family. (By the way, that much-called-down “hedge” is a description found in the ancient story of Job when the character of Satan describes Job. Before all the tragedy befalls him.)

I can stop being my own worst monster lying in wait. Instead, I can spend my days embracing the small, beautiful moments and knowing that, yes, the scary and dark times will come, but I will only exhaust my resources ahead of time if I waste them on worry. I can open my heart to the small pleasures of today:  of ducks squawking in the pond, of chocolate-studded ice cream treats, of good books and better friends. I can breathe out a prayer, knowing that it does not act like a magic spell cast around my people. Instead, it turns my heart to what is good and right and true.

Thank you, Grover. Who knew you’d turn out to be such a wise teacher to us all. And by the way, forget that usurper Elmo. You’ve always been my favorite.

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(The Monster at the End of the Book, John Stone, Michael Stollin, 1971, Golden Books)

(Quote from Before the Fall, Noah Hawley, 2016, Grand Central Publishing)

Mar 10, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

To All The Girls With Glasses

Dear Girl With Glasses,

I know you cried when the eye doctor told your mom you’d need them. You thought you’d hidden the strain from everyone so well. You thought you’d been so very surreptitious when you “just needed to get a little closer to the board” to evaluate the math equation chalked there.

I know your breath caught in a gasp when you put those plastic, round, oh-so-eighties lenses on your face for the first time and saw the actual lines of leaves upon trees instead of green impressionistic blurs. I know you read aloud every single billboard sign on the way home. Just because you could.

I know you were shocked when a schoolmate called you “Four Eyes” for the first time. What was the big deal? Why couldn’t mean girls leave you alone to read? Until you quickly switched from deciphering the newly-visible multiplication problems on the overhead to figuring out that glasses equaled nerd. And nerd equaled unwanted.

I know you accepted your role in the Movie Plot of Life as the best friend, the encourager, the one who sits alone at home, ice cream bowl in hand, ready to cheer up the pretty girlfriend who just experienced a terrible date night. You played the role of the one who never gets the boy. Because everybody knows the love interest of the movie doesn’t wear glasses. That prop is designated for the smart, invisible-to-men sidekick. It is meant for the librarian before she becomes beautiful, the princess-in-hiding, the frizzy-haired gal-pal before the transformation. The glasses are always meant for the girl who is waiting to become.

I know, in high school, you stopped wearing the glasses you so desperately needed, in the off chance that you might be allowed to shift out of your role for awhile. You would rather put up with headaches from straining to see. You would rather walk about the school in a hazy cloud of missed moments than be stuck in your predetermined place as a glasses-wearing geek.

I know, a few weeks ago, you, a grown-up adulting woman, wore your new fun lenses out and about. I know that, in the first five minutes of their debut,  a man you are friendly with asked you if you were “trying to look smart.”

I know there are many, many girls just like you: The ones who are told, on their wedding days, not to wear the glasses so as to look “prettier.” Because prettier is more important than being able to clearly view one of the most beautiful events of your life. The ones who are asked, over and over, by helpful strangers and friends who are in the makeover business, why they don’t just try those newfangled inventions called contact lenses? Perhaps the glasses-wearers have never heard of them.

Here’s to all the girls with glasses. May you wear them because you want to.

May you wear them because you understand that a device intended to help you see the world more perfectly tells us exactly nothing about the capacity of your brain, of your heart, of your potential to rock this planet.

May you find people who look into your eyes and not at what frames them, who see the soul that is you, not the shape of the plastic pieces that surround them.

Here’s to all the girls with glasses. May others start seeing the truth about you….who you are and who you are not.

May you no longer wait to become. Because, dear girl, you already are. The rest of the world is just a bit behind you. But maybe that’s where we should be, because your clear-eyed focus sounds just like what we need to follow.

Rock those glasses today, and the next time someone tries to decide who you are, remember that they probably, like all of us over scheduled humans, skipped their annual eye exam this year. That’s ok. You can lend them your view for a minute, and maybe, just for that moment, they’ll see clearly, too.

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Mar 6, 2017 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

That Time I Gave Up Running Water for Lent

 

I grew up a Good Little Baptist Girl. We didn’t know what Lent was. But we certainly celebrated Easter with a bang. I mean, it was a biggie. It was in the Top Tier of spiritual holidays. We embraced the festivities: The new, poofy, springtime-exploded-all-over-my-body dresses, the plasticky woven baskets overflowing with pastel-foiled chocolate candy (or carob when my mom was on a health food kick. Blech. Bless her well-intentioned heart.) We had the 12 Easter services: Sunrise, late-rise, accomodate-the-once-a-year-church-rise. We gorged ourselves on the glazed ham and the cholesterol-laden macaroni and cheese for Easter dinner.  But we avoided Lent. Because Lent was one of those Catholic things.

It wasn’t until the past few years that I baby-stepped into what Lent was, how it was a moment, a pause, a reflection, a stop and a breath and a reminder of our own mortality before the tiptoe began into the season of hope and spring and new life.

So I embraced it. I gave up the wine, the sugar, the unnecessary spending. I was going to do this Lent thing right. I would be an A-Plus Lent Overachiever. But this year, it was suddenly Ash Wednesday, and I realized I hadn’t put any thought into what I should give up, what thing I was leaning on a little too heavily. I’d think about it at some point. When I’d had coffee. Which, obviously, was NOT the thing I’d be giving up. Let’s not get radical here, people.

One morning, post-coffee, I reached out to turn on my faucet, the little thing that brought water into my house without me even once considering how it did such a task, how marvelously convenient it was to have water at my fingertips, on demand. But this time, water did not come out. Now, I lived in Guatemala for four years. Water not coming out happened with regular irregularity. “Hey, the water’s out. Again,” was a constant refrain in our house there. I’ve lived in a rural area for the past three years. When the power goes out, so goes the water. So this did not make me overly concerned. What DID cause me to maybe let out a very……censored shriek was the fact that huge, thick globs of muddy rivers were plopping out at quite the impressive rate. From every sink. Every tub. Every place. The toilets looked like something a toilet should never look like unless your entire house has been struck with The Dysentery of Death.

Texts and phone calls began to fly back and forth and, by the end of the day, we had secured a little cottage down the road that we could borrow, just for a few days.

Except that the few days turned into weeks. The highlights of those weeks involved toting supplies back and forth to the house so that some school could be accomplished there while others of us spent our days at the cottage. I may be a homeschooler, but a literal, actual one-room schoolhouse is completely outside of my skill set. Kudos to Laura Ingalls. Dirty dishes came one way so clean ones could go back. Five people learned how to schedule around one bathroom. When days turned into more than just a few days, bags and baskets of clothes and food went here and there more times than I even attempted to count.

The coldest weather in years and power outages and heavy snowfall and wells needing to be dug and redug and pipes freezing and being flushed clean of their muddy refuse meant we were three weeks in the little home away from home.

There were many moments that nerves were stretched as thin as guitar strings ready to pop, while the three kiddos all piled onto air mattresses in one room, and while the mom continually shushed her people so that the office sharing the cottage building could function in relative quiet all day long.

And then the big day came: The water was working! The mud from now-thawing pipes went spraying all over bathroom walls and floors. But it was working! The only small, minor, tiiiny little detail left to do was to make sure the water was drinkable. Until the lab results told us that, absolutely, certainly it was not. No. Not at all. No way.

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Back and forth went water jugs, filled from the clean faucets of our friends and family. Until the driveway, one day, became a giant slip and slide of mud and there would be no driving down it to retrieve water. Let me pause here to mention that our driveway is a quarter mile long. Well. That wouldn’t deter us. We had seen enough movies to know how to arrange clandestine drug…er…water deals. Our action sequence looked something like this: Me, shuffling down the driveway being simulaneously stabbed by ice pellets and jumped on from behind by our neighbor’s very energetic puppy, bag full of empty jugs slung over my shoulder to be left at the base of the oak tree at the end of our driveway. DID I MENTION THAT OUR DRIVEWAY IS A QUARTER MILE LONG? My sister, upon receiving the bat signal, retrieving the package and returning it full of fresh water, so back down the driveway  I could go to get it, this time accompanied by my own personal sherpa…also known as my eldest child. He might have been less excited than if I’d asked him to actually sherpa me up Everest.

Sometime during this slippery, icy, muddy trek (and just to be clear…the length of my driveway? Yes? Ok.) the thought flew into my growing-more-negative-by-the-step brain that I couldn’t believe my life had come to THIS! Toting potable water to my house. In the slush and muck and goo. This was not acceptable.

Except…and really, this was incredibly inconvenient timing…I couldn’t stop thinking about the particular river that ran near my house in Guatemala. My friends and I had nicknamed it “The River of Life.” You smelled it well before you actually glimpsed it…a river that stank with human and animal feces and was filled with the flotsam and jetsam of trash. A river which people used for their water. To drink. DRINK.

 

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I couldn’t stop thinking about my friend Audrey and her description of the weeks she had spent in a poverty-ridden community with tiny kids who walked miles back and forth for water. And that was every single day of their little lives. That was their normal.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the people living down the road and around the corner from me who didn’t have the luxury of testing the water coming into their houses. If it was unhealthy for them, they’d never know it. They just drank it.

Most of the time, when my brain won’t let me stop thinking about these things, I avoid talking to people about my time in Guatemala. I’ve seen their eyes glaze over. I get it. That was then. This is now. I should move on.

And trust me, I’d really LIKE to move on. Except I can’t. And actually, I won’t. I won’t forget the man lying outside of my gate one morning, a bottle of rubbing alcohol clutched in his hand. I won’t forget our little friend Benito, brought to the malnutrition center just a bit too late for his broken body to recover from the fact that he hadn’t had a real meal in far too long. I won’t forget my students who worked long, grueling, physical days and gave up their evenings to learn English, all for the hope of better lives for their families.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I had to live in another country to know how very lucky and ridiculously rich I was in the States. Apparently, I am just that hard-headed. But I got it. I get it now. And what I am learning to reconcile in my heart, what I was reminded of by a sweet friend the other day was an important truth: that I don’t have to feel guilty about my good fortune, the good gifts in my life. Not at all. But in the midst of my own abundance, I can be both grateful and giving.

Grateful that there is provision for those I call my own. And Giving to assure that there is provision for those I call my own in the sisterhood and brotherhood of humanity.

Grateful for running water, for spring peepers beginning their songs all around, for a front porch to sit on and watch birds gather up seeds and kids gather up sticks to battle with in the fantasy lands of their imaginative games.

Giving to the needs that come across my sometimes-muddy path….and if it’s been too long since I have seen any in my little world, then making sure I enlarge my world in order to find them.

I’m sure there will be muddy, tricky, pipe-exploding days ahead. It’s a little thing called Life. In the meantime, the way I see it,  I’m pretty sure I’ve got the Lent thing covered this year. I just did it a little early. So bring on that wine and chocolate. I’ll enjoy it with a heart full of thanks that someone invented such magical stuff and a heart ready to share when there is lack nearby. It might be with my neighbor down the mud road. It might be with my neighbor in another country.

And I won’t forget that spring is coming. Fresh new life. Fresh new hope. Fresh new water.

 

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