The Flight Safety Speech

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I flew to a conference last weekend, from Texas to Ohio with a detour through Florida, because honestly that’s close. It’s pretty exciting being crammed into a plane with recycled air with a bunch of children sporting Mickey ears shrieking about Disney and beleaguered parents praying their sugar high will last until the rental car. But even more fun is when you hear the same speech you have heard for your entire life from every perky flight attendant since the dawn of time and spacecraft.

The Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign!  I love this opener, because instead of just saying “put on your dang seatbelt because we’ll be taking human beings into the thin air in a large mechanical bird and if we crash your ashes will be spread out like dust over Birmingham,” they tell you the sign is on.  Like that ever works when you see the yellow light in a school zone.

Please make sure your seatback and folding trays are in upright locked position! I’m wondering if it would cut a human in half if the folding tray was down.  I’m also curious if some guy named Bob just made up this line twenty-seven years ago because they were trying to fill up space, like “make sure your shoestrings are tied!” and “take off your hats, ladies!” because the seats only move a total of 1.7 inches even when you force them with all your might by digging your heels into the cold floor and what’s the freaking point of the seats moving 1.7 inches.  And I’m imagining the gasping of a woman decapitated upon take-off, and her sobbing husband wishing he had only remembered to keep the folding tray in an upright locked position. 

If you are seated next to an emergency exit, please read carefully the special instructions located in the seatback in front of you!  I take this seriously, ya’ll. I glare at these exit row passengers with beady eyes to see if they’re paying attention to this immense duty that has been bestowed upon them, because if they can’t handle the exit row responsibilities I’m totally there to lead this ragtag crew in to safety. I’m ordering scared children toward open doors and blowing up life rafts saying things like “atta boy” and “you betcha” and high-fiving the flight attendants.  Also? I know there are a ton of exits, somewhere up front and blah blah down at the end that can only be recalled with some fancy two-finger arm movements that I can recall in a pinch if the plane is plunging to our deaths. I’m onto you, old lady who moves slow and is taking up precious exit row space.  Get with the program and read the handout in the seatback pocket in front of you.

At this time, we request that all mobile phones, pagers, and other electronic devices be turned off for the full duration of the flight! They LIE I tell you, because something as sophisticated as a plane that lifts us into space surely isn’t derailed by my itouch reader and an electronic Jane Eyre.  But then again apparently the seatback thing is a deal and people have to follow signs to remember to wear safety belts and you wait with crazy anticipation for a cup of soda the size of a sippy cup so perhaps we aren’t all that bright after all and the machine really has to dig deep to fly straight.  And Southwest took me through Orlando on the way to Ohio which means someone’s turning on their freaking cell phone.  Stop it, people.  Have mercy. This thing needs to fly in a straight line.

And lastly, it’s always nice to be reminded that it’s a non-smoking flight, in case you woke up from your nap and thought it was 1952. And in case you wanted to run off and light up in the lavatory, because we all still totally use that word, or tamper with, disable, and possibly destroy the smoke detectors, it’s a no-go, folks.  I totally caught some woman eying one, thoughts racing inside her head like she needed to tamper with it, or perhaps destroy it, but then the soda came and like Pavlov’s dog she was giggling and I realized she was staring at an exit row sign while playing Candy Crush.

The moral of the flight safety speech is that we are all morons, have to be told things of no significance, need to yield the exit row to my mad skills, may cut our bodies into two if we aren’t careful with the tray locking feature, have to resist urgings to destroy things, can’t smoke, need signs, and get super excited about small cups of Dr. Pepper. I’m confident about our future generation.  If we’re lucky, they will learn to actually turn off their cell phones.

Have a good flight!  If you forget something, there’s a sign. And a speech that won’t change for another two hundred years.

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomaspurves/2843427903/sizes/m/in/photolist-5kgj42-joqPeG-aRLCwa-6RxU3r-fqFhYx-54NVem-54NVfC-7nWXGn-kYTWc-fKuUDN-e39vBn-e39vG6-e39ub2-e3fbT3-e3fa8m-e39udc-e39vmz-8GQXYB-e3faqL-e3fcms-e3fczj-e39uMX-e39uDt-e39w4X-e3fctQ-e39u94-e3fcGQ-e39uqx-e3f9SS-e3faid-e3fbxs-e39vtr-e3fcju-e39vDk-e39u5H-e39u2M-e39ufx-e39v2K-e39uiH-e3fbZN-e3fa39-e3fa5u-9ixUfK-5VMNeQ-4uuDPQ-8w24ba-8w246D-5p7wiu-7FKdyC-8w564u-9ThobV/

The grey coat

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Some nights I curl into a ball tight under mountains of down with the anxiety of good, because I’ve grown so familiar with the weary.  Like an old peacoat I wore so many years that I reach for it’s tattered sleeves when they are long since gone. A prisoner who wishes he was back in the solidarity of grey.  It’ll be different this time around, I swear. And yet dinner will again grow cold.

So I take this fabric and rip it.  I sew round buttons upon it, and a ruffled lapel, and buy tall black heels with a hint of red underneath, because there is no price more worthy than to rise above the grey of ashes.

And in this coat I travel miles and heartaches to reach him. He is supposed to ride into this town upon a donkey, this man who changed things and built things and sees things, and yet I have no more living to do.  So I flap the wool before me like a parachute as I let it float softly down.  Down to a puddle on the ground, mixed with sand and leaves.  Sticks and ants.  It’s all just dirt and death to me. And below lay an old refashioned pile of rags, rain soaking in its fibers like the earth and the rain and the stones and the coat were all working in stride with one another.

I suppose we were all preparing for a great love that marks you.  For a kiss that surprises you.  For a fire that refines you.  And I curl up in that familiar tight as he draws near, wanting to scrape the earth feverishly with my fingernails to let me in like a brother.  Oh please, hide me from this crushing sense of gratitude that I have not earned, and a grace I have not paid for, and a fear that I will not be enough for the lives I’m responsible for.  So much of my life has been altered, and my vision limited, and so many years pushed and crammed into this very old soul.

It is the same image I had years ago at a conference when the speaker asked where we might have fit in the loaves and fishes story. I was hands and face down, just swaying in the dust, eyes clinched shut.  I couldn’t get low enough.

And yet as tears fell into the puddle beneath me I am caught with the flash of a golden sun ricocheting from the dirty water, and I look up to see an animal’s hooves treading and stopping, and for a moment my weary eyes rise to see what peace looks like passing.  All I have is this one useless thing, and it’s all spread out and soaked up, but I don’t say those words because they’ve already been spoken.

My back, the one that was curved from all the hiding, straightens.  And the grey, it starts to shine like silver. I had no idea I was so broken because now I’m standing tall and I didn’t realize how short I had grown from the stooping.  The black hole of my eye is gone as I reached forward and I felt a brilliant light pass through me. He clicked the back of the donkey as it moved on, down the way, down the road, down around the branches and off beneath the setting sun.

I leave the jacket.  It’s warm out. I feel the earth between my toes and narcissus around my nose and my heart is a white-hot coal that radiates.  I step over the fabric as the dust settles – down the way, down the road, down around the honeysuckle branches and off toward the summer nights to come.

 

photo:

http://www.modcloth.com/shop/coats/midnight-in-michigan-coat

The Breaking of Bread

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I’m not Catholic.  And yet in church when all heads are bowed I make the sign of the cross on my chest because somehow it feels holy and special like I am a part of a secret club.  My Catholic friend Dawna invited me to attend her church once, and I gleefully knelt up and down and was practically giddy as I listened to the archaic priest-who-never-married repeat things in Latin. I proudly stand like a soldier when we repeat en masse the Doxology and the Lord’s prayer and I once sang in a baroque acapella group. So if you think this girl lives in a modern world you are SADLY MISTAKEN.  My soul is trapped somewhere in the 1800s and really only get out to drink lattes and watch Netflix and buy fun little apps on my iphone.  I love tradition, and things that are deeply rooted, and for this reason change is my adversary and I struggle breaking things apart that are long-lasting.

So when I see churches with names involving rocks and stones and new life and cafes in which people-drink-coffee-with-Jesus I get confused. Not because these are bad things.  There is no bad as far as I’m concerned when it comes to worship and love and being in community with people who are trying to row the same direction.  But I wonder how these churches will be able to build the type of roots that stretch deep through generations.  How one who is impoverished and hungry and living in a broken-down shack in Ireland where everyone shares the pisshole and living on the dole get excited about coffee with Jesus like they do about First Communion. Because there’s something holy and sacred about traditions, and relics, and stories that have been handed down from King James and wafers on tongues and the body of Jesus, broken.

Last Sunday, I thought about bolting after the last hymn.  After all, I had laundry to fold and errands to run and friends to text. The whole concept of communion is slow and old and antiquated.  It’s times like these I wish I were drinking coffee with Jesus and singing praise songs on a Jumbotron. I sat there and wondered what this must look like to the outside world.  Just a bunch of silly chaps eating bites of bread and taking grape juice shots in little plastic cups before noon.  But I waited, because it’s rude to leave and I had nowhere really important to be.  I waited while the choir sang and the little trays were passed around.  I wondered if I had a missed text or if I’d eat leftovers for dinner, and I looked at the ushers going from row to row to row like they did every first Sunday of the month.

And then the tray was passed.  The body of Jesus.  I smiled and took it, which I knew was just a loaf of Hawaiian Original Sweet Round Bread from Kroger and wasn’t the literal body of Christ, but as I tore off a hunk and put it in my mouth something happened.  It just cemented itself like a glob of peanut butter and I couldn’t choke it down.  Try as I might it wouldn’t move, and tears welled up in my eyeballs as I sat there in my new hat wondering if I had any missed texts and whether I should have bolted after the last hymn.

I could feel thousands of years crash into one. Tradition came up deep like drawing water from a well, and I remembered the times as a child I waddled up to the communion rail and sat next to my father in a suit and the nights I cried and sobbed over the fact that the son of God had to suffer on our behalf and how deeply metaphorical and beautiful and special this last supper was so many years ago.  And then the cup was before me and I drank the sweet juice and I felt small and humbled and so full of gratitude my hat couldn’t hold it all in so I held it down as I walked to my car and felt inextricably full.

I swallowed. Greedily my body devoured it.  Hungrily my heart absorbed it.  I accepted that love without feeling paralyzed by guilt or haunted by pain because it was freely given, and despite just being a loaf of Hawaiian Original Sweet Round Bread from Kroger it was the body of Christ after all, broken and torn and laid out for the redemption of sins.

 

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photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/5602245847/sizes/m/in/photolist-9x3YvD-9x3Ys8-9x6Yh7-9x3YtH-9x3YuH-9x6Ygw-9x6YfW-9x3Yu6-9x6YgL-9x6Yi1-9x3Ywn-9x6YgU-9x6Ygh-9x3YrH-9x3YvT-9x3Yun-9x3YrZ-9x3Ytz-9x3Yrx-9x6Ygs-9x3YtM-9x3Ywa-aWPv6e-dNiTEN-xfVBS-aa31Jj-7hob2i-asScmW-asSbDY-9qErJQ-azh1qr-3bN9e9-9rYS9M-9s2QiN-9rYRQP-6C3WyY-eUPpA9-FUyaf-9DTPeX-9qXbWg-4RbXLV-A5bAr-8sUosT-9x6YgA-9x3Yuz-9S1QCW-3rEUnT-QSCo4-dGyARJ-7BMWmN-7LZZav/

The Hot Chocolate Hike

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Texas weather has been a bit schizophrenic lately. One day we have an actual dusting of snow on the driveway that doesn’t immediately melt upon ground impact and Austin closes the schools for an entire day.  There’s a rush on grocery stores and folks bite their lips wondering if they have enough heat to make it through until the weekend.  But by Saturday everyone’s stripping off their hoodies because it’s 75 degrees up in here, ya’ll. Cedar pollen flies through the air like a wildfire haze and everyone I know has a Rudolph nose and sounds like Lauren Bacall with a smoker’s cough.  “It’s just allergies,” they mutter as they set their used snot rag on your coffee table.  Yeah, okay.  Pick that up.

So when the weather warms up for a short reprieve I try to get the kids outside to do fun things together.  Like the other day when we went hiking.  I bundled the kids up into their best REI gear and decided we’d have a hot chocolate hike, which sounded exciting at the time, so I packed a large bag of pretzels and cheese and salami and fruit and a thermos full of thick hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Going anywhere with a three-year-old can present some significant challenges.  Like “I’m tired” or “carry me” or the favorite “I’m scared of the bears.”  Bears? Where are bears? There are no freaking bears.  Keep walking, kiddo.  Then my seven-year-old pipes up with “look the clouds/they are so magnificent in the sky” and skips along collecting items for her nature collection in total bliss until at some point she feels  something strangely wet and drippy on her neck, to which I respond “it’s sweat: you’ll totally survive.”

Finally about half a mile in, the children are panicked that they won’t ever again see modern civilization and I think it might be time for a hot chocolate pick-me-up, so I veer off the trail like ten measly feet and sit down upon the ground spreading out the trail-food bounty.  My daughter just stands in the same spot and points to the sign, which reads “Stay on Trail” and looks at me as if I’d decided to rob Target.  “But mom,” she cries in horror.  She points again to said sign as if I were a terrorist.

I convince my daughter we won’t get shot and confirm to my son the bears are hibernating and yell at them both to sit down and gather for snacks.  See, guys? Isn’t the landscape beautiful?  Do you see that cloud that looks like an alligator? A line of horses trot by which brings a look of sheer panic on my daughter’s face like they might be the regal trail-enforcement brigade and we have gone rogue.  I’ve had just about enough. This is supposed to be a fun family outing so EVERYONE ACT LIKE THIS IS AWESOME.  But my daughter is scowling and my son is so excited about the chocolate that he grabs a cup and begins to guzzle it like it’s Gatorade.  It’s been in a thermos, which means it will stay at exactly 900 degrees until I retire, unlike my crappy travel mugs that can’t keep coffee warm from the house to the car.

Commence the screaming. I leap up thinking there might be a snake or a venomous spider but realize he’s poured hot chocolate down his pant leg and man that must hurt. But he’ll be okay because he’s a tough little dude and all I can see is a slight reddish area on his calf. So I think he’s just being dramatic as he hobbles alongside of me back to the car.  My daughter is now breathing a huge sigh of relief that we’re back on trail and in the legal clear and I hear lots of statements like “will we ever drink water again” and “please hold my sweatshirt because it’s so hot I’m melting.” We’re a very dramatic lot.

Back at the car I remove my son’s socks.  To my horror I realize he has a third degree burn on his foot that’s all blistered up, which has rubbed against his shoes for half a mile. This makes me want to cry and curse the fact that I didn’t immediately call for a medical helicopter to transport him to our vehicle and I feel so terrible I just sit there holding compresses of water soaked towels around his injury and shushing him.  I hate you, stupid thermos.

When we get home, I have a wretched sneezing attack and I have to breathe into a wet rag just to get control of the cedar pollen.  I lay next to my son as he naps holding ice packs on his burn and think to myself how much more fun the day would have been if we just hauled our little selves to the movie theatre and ate popcorn with wild abandon.

And yet despite the dangers, hot chocolate risks, red nose of doom, and peril of going off-trail, I’m determined to get them outside as much as possible.  Nature is good for their skin and their soul and their curiosity and their placement on this earth, so when the weather lifts we’re trekking it to Enchanted Rock, whereby we shall all brave a large barren hill and I shall bring cold water and fruit roll-ups and allergy medicine for all. And we will like it.  Because there will always be movies to see, but they don’t present any real memories to build a life on.  But touching the sky with your hands, feeling the dust under your feet, and getting scalding burns from Williams-Sonoma peppermint hot chocolate – well, isn’t that what makes life worth living, after all?

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hills_alive/4803463651/sizes/m/in/photolist-8jt1oP-7vDBEk-bkEY4A-8HzXBK-dTpSnY-7FZ87U-b6P1px-4HQ2aA-4HQ26d-4HQ2ej-4HKLmH-4HKLbe-4HKLgP-4HKLsZ-4HKLL2-bW35PP-yEzN9-6kv14a-eNJAMS-5RqgrZ-5zZed9-5wqqau-7noLMY-6iudKg-82outQ-8UTd2c-nNJYK-nNJs4-nNHDN-dU5QYm-4dQkCz-nNNGz-nNN9s-7zs8Hw-95Jw2d-NL77Z-NL8Fa-NKsBC-dJiPrm-b8heCn-4kNHeB-gH2oUV-7uiJak-5TZQuV-8kwvAt-iBhBht-ak5CYZ-aGfZdv-egT72u-c7Vq7-4rjPMB/

Glory Days

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I abhor the ripping and tearing of lives.  The brokenness and isolation that comes along with One Who Has Lost Things.  I was a Grand Oak, I was.  Not some maple who burdened the land with the changing of color or a willow who drooped and swayed with a weary heart.  I was one who stood tall when others succumbed to rot or grew parched or sucked from the earth like a thorny Mesquite.  I offered shelter and always protected the home next to which I was planted.  I was a wind break,  you see.  An honored trunk of wisdom who saw all and bore all and kept digging roots deeper in the earth.  If you could only have seen me in my glory days.

So imagine my horror at the uprooting.  The condo development.  The cement trucks and white haze of caliche dust and sheetrock leaning against me like a foreboding call of death.  The contractor said he’d save me.  Swore to the city he’d built a fence around my body and erect little benches made of bronze.  He made promises it might still work, my years not spent in vain.  Children would still swing from my branches and my growth rings intact. But it was all a bald-face lie, one I didn’t quite believe until the chainsaw ripped into my flesh and my branches were cut off.  Like a blow to my heart.  One by one they broke and for a moment they hung in the air spellbound, before landing in the trampled dirt where workers sauntered to lunch or took Dr. Pepper breaks and called their girlfriends.

It was there my pride fell.

I wake up now to a new reality.  I’m cut in neat little stacks in a grocery store floor.  You can pick up my soul, piece by piece, for $6.99 a bundle.  Some people do, but set me down again.  “Seven dollars to burn for a few hours time? Well, I’ll be a fool,” they say as they walk on by toward the Fruity Pebbles and cheesecakes, burgers and sodas.  And I am left weeping like the damn willow, remembering my former self.

I am not good at letting go.  I hold onto old pictures and handprint wreaths and have all kinds of problems letting friends slip away through the years.  I want to hold onto them like warm blankets, safe and folded, loved and cared for, put away in a cedar chest.  I want to hold onto a better time or a better place when secrets were yet unearthed and I was an oak who protected.  I want to go back to a time when I didn’t believe anyone could really chop me down.

And yet sometimes we have to be stripped down to be built up again.  Ripped into bundles and packaged differently and oftentimes devalued in the world’s eyes to realize what our true worth is.  A piece of wood cannot again become a tree, but it can light a glorious blaze of sacrifice, to be used to extinguish prayers one writes on slips of paper and needs to see forever burn.  It is as high a calling as any to be a vehicle for prayer. I’ve been there many nights, pouring my heart into words on paper that vanished between the fiery waves the oak provided. This is a worthy calling as great as a tree standing tall, for “we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Don’t look backward. Let the past slip through your fingers like fine sifted sand, knowing that God will reshape, and reuse, and redirect into something magical. Your glory days are ahead.  Brilliant blazing bursts of light that will dance and spit and pop with fire.  I’d say that’s better than an old dying life, staring at the bleached walls of a condominium.

Burn bright. It’s what you were born to do. 

Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chefranden/235575105/sizes/m/in/photolist-mPogK-4Htf4e-dtzJcQ-6gPv2g-6gTDBj-6gTC2w-6gTH7A-6gPsyT-6gTGid-6bqTX1-6bqQnd-6bmEtB-6bmDKr-6bmH9Z-6bqLX5-9NXc6U-5jBh38-dL62Q8-dUvQLn-do5dgy-8Zh6B-dUBGWG-6WCQ8n-8p2Swq-dGJ7Jz-9QWSQn-52fjV5-aFRyQk-ahat2G-aroJrX-a25mgn-aroK6X-7nhvuE-5jBgVn-6UACpy-6UjqCm-6UfoxR-6UwzfX-fdzWD9-6UjqLN-6UfoXv-6UfoEa-6UjqeW-6UfoQc-6UfoLg-6Ujq5C-6UfowM-6Ujqt3-6UACkL-6UjqGw-6Ujqpb/

Odd and curious thoughts (about glue, knives, and unconditional love)

 

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(1) I got an email from a very trendy store today that said “Start Your New Year off right with a new set of knives.”  Instead of just deleting it, I sent them back a response asking if owning new knives really set you up for a successful year.  Is it even possible there are other more prevalent issues that would set the tone for another three hundred some-odd days like being healthy and volunteering more and caring about homelessness?  Because I have a feeling that ordering a new set of knives will only cause one to feel as crappy as they did back in the dull butter knife days of December.  Stupid trendy store don’t care.  Stupid trendy store just wants to sell some mother-lovin knives up in here.

(2) I hosted a brunch today and several people asked me “but where do you have the time to do all of this?” and I don’t think it was a compliment but more of a “honey, you might need some more friends or take a yoga class” type of statement.  My response was to show them how I made party favors by hand stamping “Happy New Year!” on little brown bags and I realized as the words were falling out of my mouth I was making their point exactly so tomorrow I’m signing up for a gym class. But it was hand stamped.  And the bags were tied with grosgrain ribbons.

(3) As I’m writing this I noticed my daughter’s Elmers Glue on the desk and it says “visit us at elmers dot com!” and why, I don’t mind if I do! There are many articles with drop-down menus on what types of glue are appropriate in certain situations. I can assure you I’ve never wondered mid-craft project which type of glue would be the best possible choice.  I might have called the Butterball line on Thanksgiving once but undercooked turkey can kill people and glue just sticks things onto construction paper, for heaven’s sakes.

(4) I’m attempting to date post-divorce, and I have this complete prohibition on dating guys who smoke.  I realize the irony as I found myself at a restaurant talking to a cute dude who owns a tobacco shop. If he wants to know how to adhere the smoking papers together, however, I have this secret insight into glue.

(5)  At dinner this evening I was trying to cut up cherry tomatoes for a salad and my FREAKING KNIVES ARE DULL. If only I had newer, sharp ones.  It would really project my year into total awesomeness.

(6) I told my boss I like to garden and he was all “you have time to garden? Do you really have that much free time?” and my response was “absolutely not I work so hard and so many hours my snow peas are drying up and I LOVE MY JOB and the kale’s eaten by rabbits why would you think I’d ever have the time to garden OMG I get home at bedtime and gardening is the lamest hobby ever I WORK SO HARD.” Maybe that was overkill.

(7) The kids are with my ex this week and I miss them so much I found myself talking to their picture and lovingly touching their piles of clean laundry like stroking tiny corduroy pants would somehow reach their little beautiful souls.

(8)  I went to Texas Tech so when things get hard at work I imagine that I’m a superhero and say to myself “you can so totally revise this contract and create an amendment to the existing agreement and rock those meetings before heating up leftovers in the break room for lunch because you have RAIDER POWER.”  But I don’t say it out loud because that’s weird.

(9) I looked at a glue website and pretended I’m a superhero.  Weird has already been established.

(10)               A guest at my brunch today brought over this fancy bottle and she whispered “it contains alcohol” like that might be frowned upon and I said really loudly “are you kidding? I so totally love alcohol!” which might have been a reason the folks referenced above were concerned about my well being.

But let’s be honest.  We are all like children, ready to create a project of our colorful life, envisioning things of beauty being cut with sharp scissors and plastered onto a poster board to show off to our family and our neighbors that we are valuable.  Worthy.  Important.  We want to make good impressions and be appropriate and stay within the lines to show that we bear good fruit and that we are clever little soldiers. And on facebook and twitter and every social media site on earth we want to portray our lives as a scrapbook of our best selves.  Because we are constantly trying to prove something to somebody.

But might I challenge you this year to throw those conventions out the window.  Push the limits of your faith.  Bring your true fears to the table and talk to God about them.  Be weird.  Be yourself.  Dice and glue and run around hosting ridiculous brunches with full silver service or laugh off a few extra pounds and hug your children and look at a glue website if you must because YOU ARE ALWAYS LOVED by a Father more miraculous that you can imagine.  He touches your face with his angel wing like a million stacks of corduroy pants and says come home to me, you strange little bird.  I love you exactly the way you are.  If you’re goofy or messy or strange or need attention or crawl into a hole in fear or like to make party favors from tiny brown sacks.  It’s okay.  You’re still invited to the table.

And that feels good.  Even better, I dare say, than a new set of knives.

 

Happy New Year, my friends and faraway people.  Make it weird and wonderful. 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michale/152764508/sizes/m/in/photolist-euXyQ-eNkZNL-eN9Dcz-eNm2nw-eNm1Ds-62DnQ8-8vzNbx-6DDzGg-6DHziq-6DDsTF-6DHH3o-6b8b16-7ooSjk-7ooSei-8FbH3W-8FbAbb-8Fbk1w-8F8Vvg-8FcxKh-8FcfuW-8F8VSC-8F7REV-8Fb3wW-8F9ryh-8F6Mtr-8FaKeN-8Fa3ib-8F7pdx-8FbRjQ-8F9Qnq-8F9dhL-8F6qx4-8F5Y36-8FbD8j-8F9BK5-8F73X6-8Fapt7-8F9LMm-8F7yzP-8FbWGf-8F8P1r-8Fcn7E-8Fb7th-8F7ixt-8FaWzs-8F9iLL-8FaN4Q-8FaAZ9-8F6koT-8F6awe-8FarSY/

Use it or lose it

 

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There are times I want to write but the words freeze like cold air and what was once winsome turns rigid, just cracked brittle words falling down like chunks of ice instead of snowflakes.  Fear enters my fingers because it’s not good enough or not worthy enough so I fill my time sulking and texting girlfriends who would rather watch Modern Family but humor me out of obligation. I rattle on during the dinner hour about online dating or my love of roasted kale or the fact that some store clerk told me that my new boots weren’t going to last more than two years and I might as well just buy the six-hundred-dollar ones but I looked her straight in the face and said “I ain’t ropin cattle in these fancy things so I’m sure it will all work out.” 

My brain crescendos into a fury with words, and they must escape somehow, even at the most inopportune times.  Singers sing and trial attorneys litigate and engineers create and painters color and we all just have to do what we are built to do.  So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to all my best friends’ husbands who have to tolerate my incessant and time-consuming word dumps because they alone allow me to live a relatively normal life without the need of asylum.

But there are times when they jumble, my thoughts, like scattered stamps on the floor. I must gather them and press them into ink and secure them in some form of order on the page with no one around so that I can turn out the lights with a sigh that matters.  Because falling in bed at the end of the day without worthwhile word order is cheap and thin and I like my days to be thick like French bread, rich and ripping apart with a jagged edge.

But there are days I feel like a failure.  Failure at work, mothering, writing, home.  Failure to be thin and keep my perspective and to be the perfect image of who I want myself to be.  You know what I tell my kids? We are all failures. If not for that, what’s God’s love for anyway? 

In the depths of our fear, when we slam the phone down and there is no centering stone and we feel lost and trapped and frozen – when we feel like peeling off our very own skin and we can’t move or breathe and just want to invert into ourselves and be invisible and we are so weary of throwing down dirty cold ice– that’s where we pray.  We cry out from our deep places and ask God to take it, bear it, and hold it.  Because Jesus, we are not enough. We are never good enough.

That, my friends, is truth.  Words stick in my throat like peanut butter and I fear what might come out, and there are times I can’t move forward because I’m afraid of where I might land. I don’t want to face a future alone and I don’t want to cry any more tears and there are times I want to fall down and rip my clothes and never write another word.  But then I hear the words of Isaiah pulse through my veins: “Be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  And I lesson the grip of fear, and the words come out easier, and I can feel a lifting. And the gift that God gave me resonates, and penetrates deeply, and I thank Him for this ability to speak when others cannot. So I trudge upstairs and write, because what the Lord gives  is right and true and it feels good to be following the yearning of your heart.

God has given each of you a unique gift.  Use it.  Nurture it.  Support it and pray about it.  Realize that your gifts are like an oiled slide that allows you to fly sometimes, and even in the midst of winter tragedy you land like a sunny afternoon at the bottom, and for just a little while here on earth, you were free.

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/2923173128/sizes/m/in/photolist-5sj2wG-d32a5b-aN1GpT-catm93-aoxyFG-9MLCso-sLt62-9bojCy-9bojxf-7jK2dp-eFjCYL-5oiRLb-LPn9H-62Yv2h-gJ5aHT-gJ5E3X-gJ5BiZ-gJ4HJu-gJ6zyK-gJ5xu6-gJ4Rc3-gJ5i9c-gJ5Kgx-gJ4QyS-gJ5jmf-gJ5Mmz-gJ53Q5-gJ5a9N-gJ5bZQ-gJ592Y-gJ5YJz-gJ5GcB-gJ5mQ2-gJ4BBs-gJ55ty-gJ5piZ-gJ4fvu-gJ5Mvz-gJ5iJc-gJ4UBu-gJ4sXA-gJ4yft-66s5Ly-c6e1Rf-cihsbN-x2XfK-dTav48-5PWc59-83KUrK-3AawJw-5tXr65/

Odd and Curious Thoughts

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(1) I said “thank heavens” the other day and my daughter was all “I don’t understand why you say that – what’s heaven got to do with it?” She found that so clever that she began pointing out all kinds of things I say that don’t make sense and noting spelling errors in books and “why does this seed packet not say ‘seeds’ plural” and by the end of the week I was like “seriously honey, I love you but this is really turning into quite a nerd fest. Tone it down, Webster.”

 

(2) I went to the store the other night after dark and bought milk, dog food, a ton of organic frozen meals, and coffee creamer.  I was wearing a suit and heels and forgot my recycle bags so I was hoisting boxes of veggie lasagna under my arms and I’m pretty sure I was blowing a wisp of hair out of my face. I could have been the poster child for an overworked mom who needs some sort of juicer from an infomercial. Those always have someone with a broken heel juggling groceries blowing hair out of their face, so I felt proud I was living up to some form of stereotype.

 

(3) Do they still make Merle Norman cosmetics? It’s like make-up designed specifically for 80-year-olds wearing a large amount of fuchsia.

 

(4) Mary Kay’s all I got it going on, girl.  In comparison to Merle Norman, maybe.  But that’s like a fight between a Buick and a golf cart.

 

(5) I was in Target the other day and saw a t-shirt with snoopy laying on his house with the caption “Doesn’t care. Sleeps on roof.”  I thought it was so funny that I texted it to all my friends, but it’s like that moment when someone walks into the elevator and it smells bad and you’re the only one there.  Nobody thought it was funny.  But it’s snoopy, all “I don’t give a rip. I sleep on the freaking roof.” That’s funny, ya’ll.

 

(6) I swear I didn’t produce that smell.  There were like ten other people on the elevator.  It was that big guy from IT.

 

(7) I wore tight khakis and riding boots to work last Friday, and if one more person asked me if I was going to ride horses after work I was going to have to just say nothing clever because I had no good comeback. Preparation is key in these situations.

 

(8) I met a lovely physician the other day wearing a pretty scarf and she had a raspy voice and I thought that poor woman has such an awful cold so when I walked out I told her I hoped she felt better and then as the words were leaving my mouth I noticed she had a trach and she simply said “it’s permanent” with a smile and I wanted to sink into the linoleum.

 

(9) I bought new drinking glasses from Pottery Barn and they say the word “drink” on the glasses, which my daughter was about to comment upon when I stopped her and asked if she wanted a cookie. Don’t disparage my new drinking glasses, sarcastic seven-year-old.

 

(10)               I ordered a hot water bottle with flannel LL bean cover which is really code word for “I’m never going to date as long as I live.” Ain’t nobody want to be with a woman who has a hot water bottle, ticking duvet cover, likes to bake, and wears Merle Norman.  See also: piano in living room and my affinity for brown antique plates.  I’m going to change my name to Doris.

 

(11)               My son told me he wanted to be a space firefighter and put out the sun.  I told him that was a lofty and creative endeavor, but unfortunately that mission would kill off humanity and leave his sister and mom alone and freezing in subzero temperatures.  So he asked for a band aid instead and we called it a wash.

 

(12)                Today at work I was like “hello lady in the office next to me.  I know we’ve never spoken but I dig your boots, I’m divorced, and I like fortune cookies.” Then I felt all weirdly open and over-sharing and I’m sure she was like “my name is Alice, not Amber, and you just told me more about your personal life than I know about the Kardashians.” And now I have to see her on Monday. Awkward.

 

(13)               The aforementioned lady told me she lived on 85 acres of ranch land with cattle, and that’s speaking my language.  I’ll bring over the knitting and we can make homemade cinnamon rolls.  We can toast the sunset with hot tea with lemon and dish on men’s underpants.

 

(14)               I was at lunch with a CEO the other day and she asked what I did for personal wellness.  I wanted to tell her I’m not really thin as much as an excellent purchaser of larger pants that gave the impression of thinness and my current health program is mostly aimed at reducing my tator tot intake.

 

(15)               A trach.  That woman had a trach. You can’t take me anywhere.  Except apparently nursing homes, antique fairs, quilt shows, and bake-offs.

 

(16)             I might be single forever.  But that’s okay.  There’s just more love for my two kids to go around, with me buried in old blankets, laying in the middle of my king bed, with one child on my left and one on my right, all cuddled up.  If an astroid hit and we were covered in ten feet of ash, you’d find our bones buried there, with my arms fiercely protecting them, my eyelids aimed at heaven, with the former beating of my heart keeping us warm.  Well that and the water bottle with a red flannel cover.

 

Thank heavens.

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/screaming_bears/6872768453/sizes/m/in/photolist-btjJBP-atqEXt-atqF1t-atqF3e-atqEZn-6G7kVR-psQkA-6o5nUU-aDwVac-cVCXdb-oN4ga-j6mb-49FRKh-4Kkujv-cidG89-5cH1Js-fmbCQ-7PyyNe-u9keb-7D4mYU-4LKrYJ-67DkLw-5mPxzk-7iHedj-6b5S1E-6GbpQh-2UwSUo-6PRwUc-aaY7Sj-4LKs61-8aTpqn-2L6aSG-6G7kTa-8en5DK-2L1Nac-6ryJRx-6GbpLW-4fLyjE-4j11ZU-fhn5Nx-9bMGY9-9rxwyF-FeCC-5MioEG-ccFN1h-5Qhn18-99UrKG-7CZwAz-7K3PYS-62YRha-7USF9v/

Blogging the Bible: David & Goliath

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Caravaggio, my favorite painter of all time, painting David and Goliath

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I think everyone knows this story – there’s this big mean giant that keeps taunting everyone, and the Israelites are afraid of him, but young handsome David rolls his eyes like “seriously ya’ll – he’s only like six feet tall, so quit shivering in your sandals like total weasels and buck up already.” He casually walks over to the front of the line, picks up some shiny stones, pulls out his little deerskin slingshot, and hits the giant with a pebble square between the eyes. The giant falls down, David chops his head off like “that’s how I roll, folks,” and there’s probably a Jaz-Z song playing in the background.  David walks in slow-motion up to the commander, and at the end of the day he’s writing folk songs on the hillside and later becomes king.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.  And honestly, that’s not super practical for my day-to-day life.  But now that I read it with new eyes, more emerges.

So the story begins with the Philistines on one hill and the Israelites on the other with a valley between them, gathering for war.  I suppose in those days, war was a more civil affair, with no fear of chemical weapons or hidden warfare or land mines that blow shrapnel into your armpits and eye sockets, and they all just charged at each other like buffalo.  And Goliath stood out in line and taunted the men of Israel for forty days, which seems a little excessive if you ask me, like “yes yes, we know you’re a bad-ass.  Please stop it already with all that narcissistic bravado.”

But one day when David, a mere shepherd, was bringing food to his brothers, he overheard a discussion about Goliath and asked who this fellow was that kept causing all the fuss.  He was told by the men that whoever killed this man would have all sorts of cool things like money and the king’s daughter and an exemption from taxes.  Don’t get me started how kings are always passing their daughters off like trophies.

So David was pumped, because who wouldn’t want money and a fair maiden and no taxes?  Now I see how he’s able to play the guitar in the meadow.  So David went to the king and indicated that if he can fight off bears and lions while tending sheep, this arrogant prick was not going to be a problem.  He shrugs off armor – what good is that anyway? – and goes straight up to Goliath and his shield bearer.  I really want to explore more about this poor little shield bearer – did he have to lug that heavy thing out there every single day for forty days? If the fighting got super icky did he just hide underneath it like a turtle? Doesn’t that seem a little wimpy for Goliath to need a caddy?  These things are not explained.  Figures.

But here’s where I really spent some mental energy – David said some pretty strong words to this Philistine.  He stated: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

After reading that, things shifted.  I didn’t just see David as some punk teenager killing a giant with a slingshot.  He might have had the body of a child, but he had a brave heart that belonged solely to God, with a confidence that the killing of this man was a mere afterthought.  It was as if he was setting one foot atop the water and knew that it would hold his weight.  David was making a statement that the things of this world – swords and spears and harsh words and burdens and death and cancer and all other worldly things – are nothing compared to the strength our Lord Almighty provides.

God’s name would not be defiled, and the battle, my friends, had already been won.

Jesus commanded that “if you have faith and do not doubt. . . if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.  Matthew 21:22. But rarely is such belief displayed. David believed so assuredly that with the power of God he could defeat this man that the entire Israelite army feared, and only with a stone. There was no quiver of fear from the depths of his heart, and no arrogance in his claims.  This was not about David himself, or winning money, or being tax free.  Only arrows of truth were proclaimed, and it was to be.  God had won this fight.  David was only His servant pushing that message through the air with string.

I’m bowing down today at this assurance.  That I will not be shaken.  That when the taunting begins, and a giant is yet again in front of me, I will fear no evil.  For God is with me, His rod and His staff -  they comfort me.  And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  David wrote that, in Psalm 23, because he had a personal relationship with the Father. He knew that there was nothing bigger, and no giant greater, and all those gathered will know that it’s not by sword or spear that the Lord saves, but by grace, and mercy, and love deeper than any man.

Sometimes the battles we face are not on a hillside, but in the relentless grinding of the day.  The taunting of one who hates us.  The anger at one who is shamed.  We sigh deep at the reality of cells eating at our breast tissue, or weep at the coffin of a small child that was ripped from our arms.  We keep wiping away tears in the carpool line because ENOUGH, Lord.  It’s too much, and too heavy to bear, and we don’t have any reserves left to fight.  And sometimes, we just want to lay down our weapons and curl up in a corner, unable to keep rising, and keep smiling, and keep moving.  There is only so much we can take, and we are bending under the weight of it.

So we lay in a ditch with a dusty throat, shivering in fear, unable to croak out even a prayer, and see a child walk by.  Just a boy who watches sheep.  And he says with all assurances that we are more than this.  That God’s name will be praised in all things.  That the Lord will deliver those who are faithful.  And we are paralyzed as we watch him defeat a giant, and use his own sword to sever his head, and we are in awe of such courage.  It’s then that we swallow hard, walk over to David, and fall at his feet as king.

Thank you, child, for reminding me that I am protected.  That when I wander, even though I am one of ninety-nine billion, God will not leave me to my own devices.  He will search, and ache, and reach to the depths of the earth to find me.  Who is the greatest in heaven?  Jesus placed a child among them, and preached about the lost, and the found, and the faces of the obedient, and the lowly.  And in the dust and the bloody chest of a fallen giant, I see the greatest among me is not me, but He.  I see that this child has believed, and accepted that the battle has been won, and I surrender.

Thank you, oh God, for this victory. 

 

photo:

(three w’s)then: flickr.com/photos/ergsap/9633080076/sizes/m/in/photolist-fFf46w-fEXtHt-fEXtHZ-7K5Ub9-532XUQ-69N7De-8SikSL-bpdJED-8teVbd-6qidN1-6Qk1K8-6Qk1UX-Mh25N-6Qk24n-6Qp7Q5-5i6BER-BwEYH-fgLmmb-6mnXxg-8piu6J-8tPR7F-g1Xxj-b663Rr-4DVv3y-6Qk1En-kSF8j-9unWjj-N3juc-5yvQ6U-6Qk2nv-sxX1G-5HtV7G-a9NCgb-6Qp6Qo-dX9jfB-6Qp8bG-5JHbBC-7YKJS4-azcujL-bFAMgZ-5PvKMp-8xoWUe-dDqZW-6Qk1kn-4MiyPD-2BBeQE-62dUqo-5nWy8Z-hr5UZ-bFqZoB-51LZBc/

Life is like ice cream

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Sometimes life feels like a root beer float. You just don’t know which direction to turn and whether to eat the ice cream first or suck out the soda and if you dawdle too long you’re left with a half-flat syrupy melted mess of calories that makes you want to throw up.  Nobody likes wishy-washy. Be decisive: life is short and the world needs more leaders that can make decisions.

But sometimes it’s like a banana split, where there’s a healthy mix of fruit and flavor wedged in between.  But I never eat the banana and I can’t stand strawberry ice cream so it’s all just for show and you might as well ditch the ice cream altogether and go for yogurt with granola.  Or perhaps you could just dive right in with chocolate almond fudge and be sure to have a salad for dinner, drink water, and run on Tuesdays.  Be true to yourself: do what you love.

Oftentimes, I find life resembles vanilla.  Not the from-scratch version with condensed milk your grandmother used to make that can totally hold its own, but the generic kind that comes in a box that tastes a little bit like cardboard.  And as the days plod on you just eat it because, well, it’s better to end with bad ice cream than have broccoli lingering in your mouth.  Some days are like that.  Be grateful for what you have: better days will come.

But there are times – oh the beautiful times – that resemble Italian gelato on a hot steamy night, when your breath is short and your hand brushes up against his and you feel so very lucky to be alive.  These moments might stay or they might vanish with the seasons of life, but let them roll around on your tongue so that you won’t ever forget them.  Be reminded from time to time of these special memories, even if they disappear: at least you had them and took a little break from cardboard vanilla.

I hate the vegan frozen yogurt phases, when you try so very hard to do the right thing but it’s all mucked up and funny-tasting and you just wish you could go back in time and just buy the damn sherbet.  You’ve wasted money and wasted time and it all feels so futile.  Be forgiving of yourself: we are all human and make mistakes and you need grace to start over.

And then there are the Sundaes, where things are sloppy and hot fudge is melting and we are all just lazy and droopy and sit around thinking of doing laundry but instead watch entire seasons of Homeland.  That’s a good refueling time, and necessary to counterbalance our hectic pace, and sometimes we just need to sit and hold the people we love without getting all Italian about it.  Be careful to schedule time to rest and gather your strength for the race ahead.

The crazy thing about life is that we all have our own precious identities that we cling to and people get all weird about it, like if you’re in Austin you go to Amy’s but if you’re in Upstate New York you might lick a cone at Stewarts and it’s all good because it’s ice cream, for freaks sake. Try new flavors and new stores and new ways to eat it.  It’s fun and sweet and usually not eaten at funerals. Be creative: you might be surprised at what you’ll learn about yourself.

In my sights ahead, though, is always a double scoop of gold medal ribbon and dark chocolate, because dreams are meant to be large and bold, and life should be lived with hope and expectations of great things to come.  If you constantly think Wednesdays will be filled with soupy floats there’s no being friends with the likes of you.  The weekend is coming, my friend.  The taste of salted caramel and the smell of baked waffle cones and the thrill of what is yet to come is what we live for. Be bold: there are dreams to be realized, and lived out, and embraced.

Life is like ice cream, only better.  It’s stressful, and at times we melt, but we can harden again.  We do not diminish but grow richer with time and experience.  There are so many colors and flavors to choose from, and ways to serve and enjoy them, and at the end we all go down smooth and mesh into the earth and our goal really should be to try to make a child happy on a hot summer day and have Jesus be pleased with our efforts. Be an example of a life well lived, full of richness and sweet.

Don’t live life half-way. Ain’t nobody likes low-fat buttered pecan. Trust me. Nobody. 

 

Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsdkrebs/6933384423/sizes/m/in/photolist-byFpCK-5hkCrr-3bWyVU-ow536-3bS7Tp-34aLuU-8zNN1q-atGn2m-atGpFb-atDHKr-atGoQ7-atDGck-atGoVq-atGnxU-atDJUz-atGpTs-atGpa9-atDK36-atDJmx-atGneJ-atDJNz-atDJAV-atGpeS-atDHpe-atDJ74-atDJFi-atDGND-atGnjN-atGoJd-atGorb-atGpmj-atDHBM-atGod3-atGo6f-atDH1H-agqsR9-cJTeAW-8cPxTs-8cLf2M-8cPxUf-8cPxRC-8cPxSG-6UK4iX-4dVuvo-9j4hTb-6TWSdi-ac2UXD-6kmHQ6-fjPwLR-fk4EQu-fk4EMf/