Burn up the Rubber

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Most of us live sensible lives.  We drive reliable cars. We ensure our children have green vegetables and eat organic chicken.  We rent bounce houses on birthdays and allow our daughters to be princesses and when Fridays roll around, men grill steaks in their chinos and their wives say “they’re wonderful, dear,” and at night these women take off their make-up.

And the days, they change numbers. The t-shirts turn to sweaters.  But it’s all essentially the same.  Day camp on Monday, spin class on Tuesday.  Pancakes on Saturday and church on Sunday.  And we smile and cook lasagna and say hello to Sheila-and-Bob that come over for a beer because that’s what good neighbors do. We have grown so adept at hiding all the pain that comes from living this bloated American life that we tell ourselves this is it – the life we’ve yearned for.

And then one day, when you are driving home thinking of making crunchy tacos, you hit the familiar turn toward suburbia.  The brick house on the left, third street to the right, named after birds or rivers or wildflowers.  And that stretch of curve comes a bit too fast before it’s upon you like a crosswind, and you have a choice whether to slow down or take it.

And by God, you take it.

Something strange and sinister swirls inside you like a demon. Instead of putting two hands on the wheel of your trusty Lexus and meeting up with Sheila-and-Bob and making tacos and pulling into Braeborn Court to the brick house on the left, you have a feeling akin to flying.  The tires grip the road and you narrow your eyes and you burn that rubber.  You turn that ache into fire and you realize the life you’ve been living is a shadow of the one you’ve imagined.

So you take a right instead of a left and head through the rolling hills without a plan, without a full tank of gas, without a good set of recipes or a dessert for the pot luck.  And it feels good to crank up the music loud and let it pulse with the beat of your chest.  You rip out the hair tie.  You open the sun roof.  You stick your hand out the window like an airplane dancing and you pulse in your seat to the rhythm of the street and you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, shining.  You sing loud, laugh hard, and wave at passersby’s like a damn fool.

And as the sun begins to set upon your sensible life, the one you don’t seem to fit into, you head that Lexus back home to tell your children there are no more tacos. There are only ice cream sundaes, eaten at night by the pool at 10 pm sharp, and one cannot use spoons but must dive face-first into a bowl of strawberry, and everyone laughs with hot fudge dripping down their noses.  There is no longer grilling on Sundays, and spin class on Tuesdays, for you pack up your things and move to the mountains,  where you stand in your underwear on the ridge and raise your hands high – to heaven, to God, and to freedom. And your husband sips tea and kisses your mouth hard, the one he loves more deeply than before.

Sometimes a sensible life is not enough for a dreamer.  Life must be lived with wild abandon, with hands out the window and the sun searing skin and music raging in places that were once nothing and empty.  And you grit your teeth at so many turns, because that’s what wheels are for, really, to burn up the rubber. And it feels good to go fast, and live full, and go out with a flame instead of a whimper.

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/30781947@N08/6154656560/sizes/m/in/photolist-anSdYh-6GmH8Y-89hsBV-5sXYn8-72wTKE-9hb8fu-6s7Xn5-o51QXS-89kHcC-89kHgA-76tkFK-8d1zXA-eDmG9b-eDmuKb-8dj1z3-4aYwnm-72wSBS-5kSaJg-6E2BRp-aAguJL-7ZWdQi-9UJbpN-5rNX5p-6Ne1NB-57QCbe-8kT1Pq-6E6MF9-6E6MoA-6E6Mud-yeaR-7zuodN-88jsAp-4W6Sig-9FptMT-72wSzJ-b4cR9-72wT2N-LtNrz-7LpxZa-75k8s5-7LpyQK-ccHcuA-7LpzDM-4W6Rke-bVkSTK-8dj1uG-58cTnx-c7A4Sd-5ZLmMu-8cXi48-8uvBW1/

A REVOLUTION [of kindness]

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I’m a Texas girl.  I grew up swimming in bluebonnets and sipping sun tea and trying to whistle a tune on a piece of Saint Augustine grass.  I’d sit on the porch and watch the ants race in neat little lines, and life was a string of hot summer days and sweltering nights. We’d go tubing down the Guadalupe and listen to the cicadas screech and rise each morning with the thought that life was good and holy.  Now that I’m all grown up I eat buttered biscuits with blueberry jam and I dig beef that’s charred around the edges. I somehow know words to George Strait songs.  And I still arise every morning with a renewed hope that life is beautiful. And yet I live in a strange world, where people can’t take people anymore.

It is becoming clear to me that this natural optimism is the result of my own rose-colored brain and not really how the world works.  After all – I don’t have cable and I generally avoid all that nasty division.  But there’s an undercurrent sweeping across our great nation like a flood that’s too great to ignore, and it’s making me uncomfortable.  And scared for the generations below us and for the world we live in.  And downright fed up.  We let ourselves get to this point.  We let ourselves be so ugly to each other.  Simply put, we have lost the ability to be kind.

I say we need a REVOLUTION.  

We don’t need a preacher or talk-show host yelling.  We need a true reforming of our human consciousness so that we can actually communicate with each other about gun deaths or homelessness.  Community health, foreign policy, war, and sexual violence. We need to be able to say “I dislike the President because of his position on certain issues” or “I really do like the President because I believe in his position on certain issues” and then we all meet for coffee at Jo’s and think it’s okay that you wear red / I wear blue because we are not all robots for crying out loud.  Jesus said that of all things giddy and awesome, mostly it was about faith and hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.

And love, my friends, is wrapped up in kindness.  But how are we to be kind to each other if it’s not taught? If it is not a value that is held in high regard in our society? How can we expect our children to know how to do it, for crying out loud, when we all act like raging idiots? Because it’s simply not natural to reach out when it’s hard, and love when it’s not easy, and show consideration in all things.  It throws our instincts upon their head. And yet it’s the charge Jesus laid down.  Hence, a revolution.

A sample facebook post, for illustrative purposes only:

We need to arm teachers and get our damn kids out of these broken homes run by ragged moms and gay couples and it’s only by reforming our society and getting Hitler out of office that we can truly see a change in our schools and I say every teacher in America needs a concealed weapon.

Now you have several choices, depending on your beliefs.  You can: (1) Say “Bravo! You should run for Congress!”; (2) unfriend this person immediately; (2) comment on their post with hateful words you’d not say around your own grandmother; (3) or respond with love.  “But why?” you ask.  “Why would I dignify their comment with something loving and kind when I felt it was offensive and hateful?” This is what I’m talking about.  It’s not just saying you’re going to be kind.  It’s not just about reading this blog and moving on about your merry life. It’s actually doing it that matters.  And to join a revolution means taking drastic measures.  That never mean agreeing or capitulating regarding what you believe is wrong.  It just means being warmhearted and considerate and humane.  Always.  Regardless.  Period.

It’s a revolutionary concept to look into the eyes of someone and say simply, “I don’t agree with you.  But I love you. And I respect you as a human being on this earth.” You can’t change people’s minds.  You can’t carry on an intelligent debate with good solid points because most people have grown too divisive to look at both sides.  But you can say to this person, some random bloke from high school that lives in your hometown, that he’s clearly passionate (as we all should be) about protecting our beautiful, troubled, and innocent children.  And as a country we’ve got to figure this thing out.  That’s what we are all after, isn’t it?  And you don’t agree with his position at all, and think his comments about single mothers and a couple’s sexual orientation and the president were confusing to the issue at hand, and you also don’t believe arming teachers is the answer.  But you know what? Despite the vast differences in opinion, you appreciate him sharing his thoughts, and challenge him to think just a little outside his own box to try and find a solution.  We are going to disagree, but maybe we can all find common ground.  We are Americans.  We all want to keep our children safe.

That’s hard. Because it’s not often met with open arms. It’s often met with some snide response or more of the same.  Or you’re labeled something and called something and all that kindness for nothing. And you want to say “what a putz, man.  I was being so nice.”

Do it anyway. Keep doing it when your face is slapped. Keep doing it when it’s not met with welcomed smiles.  Because it’s not about getting positive feedback. It’s about challenging the established norms that we should yell at each other.  And hide behind an internet screen so we can be nasty.  It’s about putting kindness front and center, as in “I will not respond with hate because I love you as a brother or sister and I will be here, regardless.  I’m not going to unfriend you. You are worthy of respect and although we have vast differences I’ll continue to treat you as I would want to be treated.”

Are you with me? Can we just make small changes in our immediate world, and try to react to hate with love? We cannot put combination locks on every gun in this country.  We cannot ban television or transform people’s minds overnight. But we can be KIND.  It starts here.  Now.  With you, and me, and your Aunt Gracie in Wisconsin.

Soon it will catch on like wildfire, and we will all learn to be respectful, and we’ll try and teach our kids to do the same, and maybe – just maybe – there will be hope for our future generations. And they won’t kill each other in schools anymore but will go back to playing in the sandbox.  There will be less bullying and more kindness shown to the aching. And our beautiful children will sit around on boring summer days watching ants crawl in straight little lines and hum country songs. This is our goal – that we go back to a simpler and more loving place.

We simply don’t have the luxury to ignore Jesus anymore.   

 

Photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gypsydawg/14082144970/sizes/m/in/photolist-nsoF5W-gkyY8-4RaUZX-9XPWfA-7ygm9J-7ycGh4-fArKBp-88bb2r-bZaxNu-arQSus-6UjmQ9-anYDcU-5CVmoy-bA4X6s-bZCcuE-ehof5d-NRTYA-dtZi75-9NZDG3-7yguLs-7ycyEF-7ygzEh-7ygpJy-7ycAxt-7ycB8a-7yfCpS-6U4eRj-cuXBJm-6TTD46-cr25YW-6ERGDD-angBQP-5UBGQi-csPMmm-cv1kby-4xeJep-n3ngdM-jjsQ3c-7ycw1t-7ycvgx-cKDCs1-nwAmY8-euu8DT-5udFwy-5PD5Qz-axh3Mu-9NdC3y-76f3b4-dpNqBQ-asEkJJ-aFQYBX/

The truth about dating (and a bad pick-up line)

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Online dating is strange.  It’s a sign of how desperate us human beings have become to go around with our photos and profiles and witty one-liners like a pre-historic mating call morphed onto a website.  It should be so simple.  I think you’re cute / you think I’m cute.  We think mostly the same about things, have similar values, you do / don’t want kids just like me and we don’t clash on religion and politics, so WHAMMO.  Let’s meet for coffee. Or on a boat where you bring me flowers.  Or you drive for hours to take me to dinner because honestly our lives are just plot notes for my future novels and I need them to be dramatic.

And yet.

(1) I’m not sure who might think descriptors like “tummyrubbin” or “hero4you” are real hit attractions for the female sort. I could be wrong – those people might really be scoring.  I’m particular. But I consider online dating like a video game whereby I push the delete button as fast as possible when these type people email me believing they might destroy my secret magic castle.

(2) I get it that you have a cat.  Cats are nice.  They keep themselves clean and don’t require much maintenance.  But let me say this once: don’t take the limited space that people need to actually see what you look like so they know they aren’t going on a date with a four-foot tall Pegasus and post a picture of your feline.  I can’t believe I had to say that out loud

(3) If you’re a widower don’t say things like “well I’m finally out of my dark bottomless hole of grief after my wife died and my life totally bottomed out.  But I do like to walk around town lake and maybe someday I’ll love again if I can only find a shirt that’s not stained with my tears.  Wanna grab a beer?”  Buzz-kill.

(4) There appear to be a ton of really fit people in Austin who work out constantly and find time to concurrently run races and skip-to-my-lou to the whole foods whilst drinking wheatgrass shots and practicing hot yoga on the plane to Europe.  Seriously, folks. Slow it down.  We know you’re really just sitting around your oak table eating leftover enchiladas most of the time.  Playing with your cat, probably.

(5) A note about profile pictures – let’s not be lying down in a seductive posture.  Thinking about posting something shirtless on a boat holding up a fish? A bathroom selfie with your underwear showing?  Donning a Halloween costume or wearing a mask? In a dark crowded bar where the picture’s all blurry like you woke up in 1990 and only had a disposable camera? All of these are delete-button favorites.

(6) Please, men: don’t chop a photo down to where you cut out the woman next to you so some gal’s long red nails are clasped around your neck like an eagle’s talons. You’re not really trying all that hard here, dude.  How lame will our date be?

(7) If you don’t actually have a handlebar mustache on a day-to-day basis but just-did-it-that-one-time for a costume ball to be funny I’m not quite sure you’d really want to lead with that

(8) Don’t say you’re 39 when I can so tell from your photos you’re 52.  And the concert where you’re clearly standing is the ACDC world tour.

(9) There’s nothing wrong with tattoos, but you should inform women of this in advance if there’s something of concern that’s permanently attached to your skin.  If there’s a large winged Archangel on your back with blood on it’s teeth that’s not a discovery some girl wants to find out after a tipsy night at Pete’s Piano Bar.

(10) And to the dating websites themselves: please don’t tell me a guy is compatible with me because he likes to dine out! He has a dog! He has a degree, just like you! This information is MEANINGLESS.  What I’d rather be told is he’s going to love listening to your poetry! He’s from a rich pedigree of brilliance and wealth! He loves to be sarcastic and buy women orchids! This, dear websites of love and bliss and all things matchy matchy, is what really matters.

Given the above, I naturally decided to get off the strange online world and start meeting people the old fashioned way. Like at a bookstore or Starbucks or church. Perhaps I’ll run into a dude in slow motion in a park where we are walking our dogs and our leases get all tangled. That happens, right?

So last week I was in standing in line at Chipotle for lunch, after a break-up no less, so in my weepy state I look up to see a very handsome guy.  Ironically, the same handsome guy who was super tall who was there the day before that I so happened to notice.  What were the odds? This is so fate talking, you guys. I owed it to the universe to talk to him.  To make sure he saw me.  Because – naturally – if we looked at each other there would be birds circling and cherubs shooting arrows and we’d tell our grandchildren we met over burritos and he’d mutter how amazing I am in multiple languages.

So OF COURSE I decide to tap him on the shoulder and asked if he comes there often – yesterday, maybe? – or some other horrible line that I didn’t practice and no one should ever say to another human being ever. He looked at me as if I were an employee who had asked if he could move a few feet over for the sake of a mop and a disastrous sour cream spill and said “Why yes I was here yesterday at 11:20, stalker lady with frumpy shoes.  I come here often whilst texting my girlfriend Ashley who also happens to model underwear for the Gap because my own office is teeming with women who won’t leave me alone and this is my one safe haven.” Or at least that’s what his eyes seemed to say. Then he turned around and ignored me for the remainder of the line while I tried to fade directly into the concrete floor below and took my lunch to go, never to be seen in that restaurant again in my life. In fact I think I’ll stop eating black beans and chicken too just to be safe. This helped tremendously with said break-up, which meant I hid in my office and cried for an hour.

So there goes romance, both online and in real life.  I think from now on it’s just me, my books, and my two precious children, who think we all make a great team regardless of our shoes, and we can all just laugh ourselves silly until the end of time. And then, I pray, when I’m least expecting it, my prince will come around and hit me like a brick in the head with love.  And after the concussion heals we will welcome him into our crazy little fold. Come on, prince.  You know we’re worth it.

 

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ulinea/7797389352/sizes/m/in/photolist-cT2Ecs-ifRM4f-e97BNu-hGN3st-jYLUV-eg8tPA-32tMjk-aeCjy-bswaee-bdjU8M-hMR62b-8jYmzJ-nwaob4-dQTrtQ-5MuFiL-bya6Z6-5UirYQ-igh2gW-5UwNr3-7ubdJB-4Zrs3i-7kkMQU-Bk3c3-jBfoKT-jYY5wD-bsfyca-eSA6En-7LPjnH-cMZQCy-61GMpQ-4mvv88-74hJrn-dY7XHd-5qKcuc-4HuoXc-bJDFje-4rWXxZ-97ABKN-vGVF-mvCB2T-ji1XDy-5oorJt-9pXWzY-nvtve-fje14f-4YdnpZ-5ZB89U-9wxEZ9-eZfwXj-a6w12f-9e66Yw/

Stitch by Stitch

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I walked out of an OB/Gyn’s office today, thinking of lunch dates and meetings, deadlines and duties. I slid into a crammed elevator next to a woman clinging to a lab slip, trying so very hard to stifle her tears. I watched her struggle for breath.  Struggle to keep angst trapped inside the thin walls of her own self.  I wanted to reach out to her, past her messy ponytail and smudged mascara and trembling fingers.  Yet I stood still as stone as the lit-up numbers ticked down.  My heart was yearning to whisper in her ear that this shall pass.  Pain doesn’t linger.  After the band-aid is ripped, my sweet girl, numbness will settle. And yet the elevator door opened and we all filed out, us Busy People.  The woman turned left and I turned right, my high heels clicking along the floor like a woodpecker.

As I passed hallways I’d trod before, on carpet I’d worn down, I headed to my car praying hard.  My mind raced and my lip quivered as I saw those same lab slips before me, dripping with blood cell counts and cancer.  And yet despite that fact my soul was ripped and my own blood shared,  I bore children on this earth who will outlast me.  Fruits of my womb and outpourings of my own tender heart. As I climbed into my car balancing papers and bags and keys and all the luxuries of modern civility, I wept.  For the woman in the elevator. For my friend who lost her father.  For a life that is so rich and bountiful and for a God that is the only water who will satisfy my unquenched lack of worth.

Before a meeting began I remembered the fire that raged in my abdomen after my daughter was lifted.  I recalled the black nights of a marriage ending.  I remembered being on an elevator, stifling back my own tears and wondering if morning would come.  And yet like old photos in a box I saw my mother’s smile and the way she pulls at her shirt for no reason whatsoever.  I smelled my dog’s rotten bad breath.  I peered at onions shooting from the garden ground and the way oak limbs rub against my old metal roof.  My home, my books, my lover’s eyes that are piercing blue. They all blended together, the ugly and the good, the lab slips and valentine’s days, to form a quilt that enveloped me. Busy People showed up for the meeting and we began to talk about surveys and statistics, contract terms and deadlines.  But my mind was on the woman in the elevator.

Oh, my friends and enemies and dear sweet strangers  – I beg you to be kind to one other.  We are all part of this great journey, and this story, and this collection of people.  Some days are glorious and you dance atop clouds and other days you are sitting slumped by a dumpster wiping sweat and drool from your lips. I regret not reaching for her.  If I could take back time I’d lay my hand softly on her shoulder right there in front of everyone and say I’m sorry.  I’m so very sorry.  We are in this together.

Woven in this quilt of life is suffering and singing, weeping and guffawing, the death and the living and the love and the darkness all connected stitch by stitch.  Let’s envelop each other in the dark times, so we can remember the good, even when our own fingers are trembling.

 

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Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/joodles/3191641279/sizes/m/in/photolist-5S2ZKV-bVJ9MY-dJLqbN-dtNfft-dQYU6B-dR5sLu-dR5tcQ-5FWKKU-ab9xDF-682qzR-682qFk-93zoX6-7sZULv-ccwekw-c1PjZh-35TgfG-35TgK1-dJFRGu-c1Pqyd-9YYtmz-4xTwMk-c1PBZ5-c1PBDw-gk9tk6-4PYAK5-9XCymz-6HUnZX-6HUnux-eXBR7x-5U1m9S-jVpoiJ-4ksPTW-3kZshr-eGzLzE-e8M5Jg-4e1xUW-viu9M-azidZw-7pWSoD-7bRFJm-a9qiLL-a9nvwM-5BxZHq-682qut-aWyA8k-fHKkhu-2EZ5Pc-7bRDD9-6DMP3L-9TNNXy-dLCYdd/

Before the dawn

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Before I wake I want to feel breezes dust my face and kisses so light they fail to touch my skin and I want to roll to my left and curl up in you.  And when I close my eyes I see bursts of blue and gold and crimson red and I will shudder at the  chill.

Before I dine I want to slow cook and rise high and marinate for a long while so you’ll see my heart poured into what is spread before you.  A feast that I created for the first look when you take a bite and nod.  Yes, my love. Fit for a king.

Before I hit midlife  I want to cry so hard for a suffocating loss that takes my breath and stomps it into concrete.  Because when redemption gallops through darkness I will admire it more like a stallion racing and sing my thanks like butterflies wings flapping, fast and quick my heart will dance as his muscles pound on racetrack sod.

Before my heart is hardened you appear like the twinkling of dawn and you take my breaths and blow them back inside of me. And as I run you run and as I dance you dance and I scream for you to leave me be because I do not deserve such pretty talk and such beauty.  But as you drive away in a cloud of dust you turn the truck back around and come back to the place where you started.

Before I sleep I want to see you resting on your left arm because I’m reading and you can’t stand it when I’m reading so you tickle and fuss and we roll together tangled in heat for your fierce jealousy of the words that capture my heart.

Before I grow too damn old I want to rest upon your strong arms and you will remind me of our summers and our winters and our glory days.  I will smile and shuffle on at the memory and the taste of you when you’re long past gone.

Before I die I want to have strength to offer praises, for as it turns out, this ain’t no middle-ground life.  I thank God for what was good in my future that I was too blind to see. For redemption that was inches from my face and yet my inveterate stubbornness prevailed.  And with wrinkled skin and a burned heart I turn to God and cry out in gratitude for the blessings so freely given.

Before I complain, instill in me gratefulness.  Before I judge, let me show mercy.  Before the dawn, grow my boldness.

Before I give up completely, allow me to persevere, for the future is coming right around the bend.

 

Photo:

http://(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/wynandbasson/11449434875/sizes/m/in/photolist-irKm6z-8Sbek8-32Re6G-cZXNW-dS2LVn-dB8JTy-jde5Tm-9epjtp-9UMsaB-dEtbXt-4yaQVV-awwtbq-9PN17E-9PMYMq-9PMYqb-9PN21G-9PN2kE-9PN1AE-9PMZDU-71cMAJ-foyNxk-9PN2GJ-ihF34z-6AbJYU-2iJ35S-7Xso5Y-cZXLN-cZXSP-cZXEG-cZXR5-cZXGz-iq6i5A-4f4Vfh-dPR9zF-jX6rc-7ipEVu-d1cqUq-8goiju-9DxCgU-3F7r2Q-7D6pQk-5YQfMp-7xzQtA-2JKNkb-7xzPME-7xzNYd-kLWHV-aNuK86-737Y7b-545aje-ab4dUT/

An Oath to the Sea

The sea, he is alluring.  The first time I saw him I was drunk in his spell and I longed to jump into the waters deep.  Passions rolled high and broke down fast and they crashed with a foaming mouth like a thoroughbred racing.  I was drawn to the mystery of the water, with pools of undercurrent and life looming dark, and I knew I would be loyal ‘til death.

I took an oath to the sea,

A covenant between God and the sea and me

I planted my feet on the shoreline

And swore I’d never leave.

An oath means yes and never no, and by God, that means something. So I planted my legs on the shifting sand, wiggling my toes deep for foundation.  I was a palm tree to its high currents and when hurricanes came, I’d weather them.  People came to picnic there, and I showcased his shoreline with dignity.  I sang lullabies to mermaids that came a-sunning along with whales and fish and debris.  I gazed out beyond what my eyes could see – the in and out and the pulling hard.  I loved it fierce and hard and long, waves crashing over me and I braced them.

I took an oath to the sea,

A covenant between God and the sea and me

I planted my feet on the shoreline 

And swore I’d never leave.

But a boulder disguised in surf came raging down, gashing my legs and the salt blood burned. I screamed at the horizon until my throat grew hoarse because the wind was drowning and the surf was high.  My ocean, my love, my heart and my life – can you not hear my sting? But the waves grew larger and the sea cackled loud and my trunk was caving in.

I took an oath to the sea,

A covenant between God and the sea and me

I planted my feet on the shoreline

And swore I’d never leave.

With no help my wounds grew infected and swollen, rotten fish bobbling about my ankles. It was hard to stand in such shifting sand with legs that needed amputation.  So they hacked my legs off at the knees despite my ripping and biting and fear.  They wheeled me away as I turned around, to God and to waves and to he that I loved, and I stretched out my arms wide to spread salt tears with my fingers.  I’m sorry, so sorry, that I failed you.  Because I took an oath.  I swore by my life and the blood of my stumps that I’d stand and fight and never leave.  And yet here I am with no feet to stand on and no more to give, and God is pushing me in a wheelchair.

So I lay in a hospital, so white and bare, like my dress and the color in my cheeks.

I miss summer days when you tickled my toes and I nodded to sleep by your cadence.  I long to return yet I can no longer stand so my life will remain at a distance.  I’ll look out my window and see you there, laughing at children building sandcastles and lovers walking far. How can you not notice my rotten feet, buried in your shoreline?  I have become a part of you, my skin and nails dissolving into coral.

I took an oath to the sea,

A covenant between God and the sea and me

I took an oath, and it meant something.

But what, we did not agree.

Years went by and I learned to stand, on prosthetics custom fit for a queen.  I live in the city far away from the waves, and try to focus on law and caffeine.  Yet at night when my children are fast in their beds I dream of my past, my post in the water, the waves that I let roll over.  And yet the sea, he rages and consumes and swallows up, and he will never be satisfied.

I took an oath to the sea,

Before I was a double amputee,

As God as my witness I almost died

Trying to protect you and love you and be your devotee

 

Drunk Love

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Having kids changes things.  It forces you to think beyond yourself, beyond coffee, beyond 4:00 pm, beyond dinner, beyond bedtime.  You are planning and praying and cooking and cleaning, and then the next day you just hit repeat with different color t-shirts and different vegetables. 

Sometimes it feels like I’m trapped in a blender, all the toys and dirty clothes and wet swimsuits and snacks all whirling around me and it just meshes together into one big smoothie of midlife. And there are times it gets culture poor, and monotonous, and just flat-out hard.  I yell when I  wish I didn’t and give in when I said I wouldn’t and for goodness sakes pick up your shoes and shut the stupid door and I apologize for saying stupid but I can’t keep being your maid and waitress and clothes changer and bottom wiper and still have my own freaking life.  Now go to bed for the last time before I lose it completely. Some days I wish I just had a day to myself to finally get the house clean.  But then I do, and I sit around wondering when they’re coming home again.

But then there are the drunken moments, when I am simply intoxicated by the flesh of our own flesh, and I can only sit on the porch and bask in the high of them, laughing and throwing their hair back and playing and waving at me with their dirty hands.  “You are the best mommy in the world,” my son calls out, covered in mud, his wet shirt clinging to his chubby little tummy.  I smile, because this is his world, and his happiness, and it’s all so perfect I can’t stand it.  My daughter feels she’s missing out on the love so she shows off and it also makes me laugh and she goes into detail about a box of magical rocks and a house thatched out of limbs and the fact that someday she’ll be famous.  The drug is so addictive that I never want it to end, so I nod and don’t say a word and try to catch glimpses of them in my soul, burning them there so that if I lose my mind I’ll have a tattoo of them on the inside.   

The other night after reading book after book, hours past their bedtime, I just looked at their little sun-bleached heads and sobbed big fat momma tears, because I don’t want them to grow up and shed their baby skin and leave me.  And I realize it’s my own insecurities screaming out loud and clutching my children by the necks, saying to me “You need them.  You feed on their love.  You aren’t worthy alone.”  My daughter just hugged me and my son told me he would never grow up, and I told him that was just fine by me.  And I told that voice to shut up, that I deserved this happiness without all its ugly baggage.

Because the truth is that I squeeze my eyes shut during these precious times people are always chiding me to cherish, because I am really trying to live into these days, and lean toward happiness, but it’s all too tragically good.  I fear the worst, and know it will end, and I can’t seem to just be content with the flowers that my kids pluck from the earth, desiring a juice cup full of water to store them.  I want ten more of this same exact afternoon, and I want to curl up in their messy hair and fat cheeks and precious little words.  I tell them while they are sleeping that they are beloved, and could never disappoint me, and I fear what will happen of me when they leave.  I fear the coming down from this high because it will be a bitter pill, but that’s the devil’s tongue and I see it like a rope around my own throat.   

So I breathe in, and think how much I am loved, and tell myself that I am enough.  If I can feel this way toward my children with the sheer immaturity of human emotion, imagine how much more my Father loves, and desires, and protects.  Yes, yes. I might soon be back at work and won’t have lazy summer afternoons, but I do now, and that’s what counts.  So I let it out, the breath and the fear and the anxiety.  And I bask, and watch them sleep, and just utter thank you over and over until my eyelids fall. 

Despite the drunkenness of love, I don’t wake up with a hangover.  There is no hangman’s rope. I open my eyes to see a delighted three-year-old in my face, proclaiming that it’s morning time, and the sun’s up momma, and what are we having for breakfast? And joy again resumes, and I am reminded that this is a beautiful season in a rich life.  And I tell him the first words that escape my mouth –the only words I can muster. How about oatmeal, kiddo?

A perfect answer.  And the day begins again.  

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/27384147@N02/4849189554/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Blogging the Bible: Daniel and the Lion’s Den

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Okay, folks.  Let’s set the stage.  King Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon in 605 A.D., and was a powerful ruler.  Whenever he raided a country, he took the most talented and useful people back with him to Babylon. He ripped off the young, flawless, handsome, winsome, and well-informed. Then he gave them food and training and groomed them to enter the King’s service.

 

Now I don’t know about you, but if I saw my nation overtaken, was taken captive and held in a strange land, and had to watch the king’s court suck down wine in sacred goblets, my heart would burn with anger.  I’d be like “no thanks for the astronomy lesson, my dear chaps” and develop an elaborate plan to escape, or try and overtake this evil reign of power, or maybe even drink too much wine and do something stupid and end up scrubbing toilets.

 

And yet when Daniel was offered royal food and drink that went against his own religious culture, he asked for permission to not partake.  He didn’t hold his hands up in dramatic protest or throw himself on the ground in some religious frenzy. He simply asked if he could refrain.  When the guard scratched his head about it, Daniel said to just observe him for ten days and see if he looked just as strong and healthy eating salads from Whole Foods.  So the guard just shrugged it off, and Daniel and his companions were given knowledge and understanding and studied literature whilst eating healthy vegetarian meals from the royal kitchen.  Daniel sounds remarkably calm and serene to me, like a true celebrity of the Bible with apparently good working kidneys.

 

So then there were the King’s dreams, which no one could interpret, and the King was so pissed off that he’d been training all these young handsome people, all the while giving them good food, providing them interesting scrolls to read, teaching them to recognize constellations, and speak in persuasive sentences, and when he has one freaking dream, no one can help.  All he hears is scratching and burping in the distance.  What’s the use of all these people, anyway?

 

Kill them all, he shouts.

 

I envision him retiring to his chambers with handmaidens and fans.  So a decree was sent out for all the wise men to die, and people naturally looked for Daniel to help, and Daniel went to talk with the commander of the guard “with wisdom and tact.”  He sought out his three best friends and started an all-night prayer vigil, basically saying “we best figure this out, dudes, or our heads will literally roll.”  So Daniel praised God for a while and then asked if He could just please show them the dream of the king so we can all live to eat our spinach lasagna tomorrow?

 

And God did. And Daniel ran to the temple all sweaty and out of breath asked the King to give him a chance to interpret it, and he was spot on, and the king placed him in a high position and was impressed with this God that Daniel so often prayed to. And again if it were me, I’d be like “thanks a ton God – I owe you” and then just sit back and get fat in my purple robe and cheese nachos, backsliding in my newfound Kingdom love, but Daniel was always consistent in his praise to God and humility in all things, and his powerful witness changed the heart of the King himself.

 

So fast forward a few kings, more vision interpretations, a few more grey hairs, and we get to King Darius the Mede.  Jealousy abounded in his kingdom due to Daniel’s position of power and he was envied, so the administrators set a trap for the King to kill any man who worshipped someone other than the King. And of course Daniel was a man of God, as we well know by now, and prayed three times a day on his arthritic knees, and was brought to this new King for violating the law.  King Darius actually liked Daniel and tried to find a loophole to save him but was unsuccessful, so he begrudgingly threw him in a den of hungry lions.  Why the King didn’t just hang him and thought having ferocious animals gnaw him to death like Sunday chicken is beyond me, but it makes for a great story so let’s just go with it.

 

I like what the King says next – he says “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you.”  I got a sense that this King knew somewhere deep inside that the God of Daniel was true and powerful, and the next day the King ran to the den (that was sealed with a huge stone, because the Bible is so into foreshadowing) and called out in an anguished tone, as if there was hope Daniel might still be alive.  And he was, probably wishing he could brush his dentures and have a pillow because this nasty smelly floor gives an old man a backache. Daniel told the King that God sent an angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions, and they did not hurt him because he was innocent and had done no wrong.

 

Let’s pause here.  Why did God sent an angel to shut the lion’s mouths?  If God is all powerful, which he is, and has dominion over all the earth, which he does, it seems to me he could have simply ordered the lions in whatever language lions speak to stay away from Daniel, and they would have purred like kitties and rolled their bodies down at Daniel’s feet for a belly scratch.  I think there is a lesson in even this.  I find God to be infinitely more creative than we can imagine and uses all forms and methods to fulfill His ultimate purpose.  And what we ask for in prayer doesn’t always end up in the way we expect. I sat wondering if the lions were filled with hunger, and had angry faces, and wanted to devour Daniel but couldn’t because of their closed mouths, and this forced Daniel to continue and rely on God for his strength throughout the night.  It reminds me of the verse in Matthew when the disciples were filled with fear during a raging storm at sea.  I mean, they were there with Jesus, for goodness sakes, and they were still scared.  “Save us, Lord; we are perishing,” they pled.  And Jesus responded with, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

 

But Daniel, oh Daniel. You and Job were kindred spirits and loved God through the hard nights.

 

So Daniel was steadfast, and sure, and took the sins of Jerusalem upon himself and begged for forgiveness, even though later when faced with an angel he admitted that his strength was gone and he could hardly breathe.  And even after he saw the hand of God shut the mouths of the lions, Daniel was visited by the angel Gabriel himself, who said “as soon as you began to pray, an answer was given. . . for you are highly esteemed.”

 

The thing that strikes me most about the book of Daniel is the notion of steadfast allegiance.  A determination to serve God at all costs, without a single doubt. I honestly don’t know if I would have the power to serve so blindly – so unequivocally – so assuredly, especially at such a young age away from the comfort and security of my family.  I’d be sobbing and looking around for help and rocking back and forth.  But maybe Daniel did some of that too?  Maybe his young bravado spirit was also interlaced with shreds of doubt and fear? Maybe even decades later, Daniel sat there all night watching the fierce hungry eyes, shaking in his own sandals.  Even if the beasts couldn’t rip his loins apart with their teeth, they might scratch out his eyes with their claws, no?  And when he said the next morning, “they have not hurt me,” it might have followed a very long night of constant prayer just in case.

 

Let Daniel’s story be a reminder to us that if he could make it through dictators and death threats and drooling fierce lions, we can make it through cancer and death and divorce and all kinds of other modern-day peril.  It’s okay to be scared, and the lions don’t magically disappear, but their jaws are clenched shut and we shall make it until dawn.  The God of Daniel is the God of us, and He hears our very first plea-fueled prayer on the subject of what’s desperately plaguing our hearts.  In the end, God reveals to Daniel that the wicked will always be wicked, and yet the wise will understand.  And he was told to close up and seal the words of the scroll.

 

The time is coming near, my dear friends, that God will separate the weed from the wheat, and this story needs to be saved and sealed and retold to give us all hope.  We need to be reminded that being steadfast and sure is the only way through a night of hungry eyes.  God’s path will prevail, and His love will lead us through the dark night, and in the end all we can hope for is to rest, and rise, and be steadfast in the morning.  For the Lord gives what we do not deserve, and loves when we have no reason to be lovable, and sends angels to protect us when we need protecting.

 

The story of Daniel is one of great hope and safety, even when we are standing, screaming, sobbing in a den thick as thieves, with claws and hungry eyes.  But alas – an angel is with us, shutting mouths.

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ru_boff/8418090146/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Be still, my soul

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(The Long Center / Blue Lapis Light Production)

I am blessed to know creative people. People who understand the need to create, and honor their gifts, and offer sacrifices with a brush or a song or a poem. So a few nights ago I spread out a blanket in front of the sweeping Austin skyline to watch one of my friends dance, thirty feet off the ground, like an eagle taking flight.  The choreography was amazing, with dancers zip-lining off the roof and prancing on suspended platforms and circling large pillars on harnesses that reflected their every move on the outdoor ceiling.  Through the red light it resembled devils at war, prancing and leaping and crouching low.

And the silks, oh the silks.  Without a harness at all, these incredible species of human beings climbed and bowed and swayed and made love to dangling ribbons from the sky, their bodies covered in nude bodysuits adorned with dazzling crystals, and they were the most perfect renditions of angels I’ve ever seen.  The daring moves made me gasp and draw in my breath tight as salt ran down my cheeks.  Sometimes it was too much, like pictures of children being pulled from wreckage and placed in their mother’s arms or soldiers returning from war.  I could scarcely take it in.

And then the duet began, man and woman both dangling in the sky.  She was holding onto him as he swung her free and they twirled and climbed and she trusted his grasp, her back arching and his legs splitting strong and they were so deliciously intertwined. And the concept of the marital union pulsed through my veins, remembering St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians about how two are forged into one.

A new-age voice came pulsing through the speakers, and though the rendition was new the lyrics were penned in 1752, and I’ve sung it since childhood, and I knew that God was there and is and forever will be, even through storms and death and the rubble of tornado tears.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake


To guide the future, as He has the past.


Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;


All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Because sometimes it’s not enough to express love in words.  You have to open your eyes and see it, and shut out the world to hear it, and open your heart and feel it.  Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that it’s all too mysterious to explain, and there’s no reason to trust, except you know you must, and you do, and you somehow survive.  God is not simply my friend, or my teacher, or level-headed adversary.  He is not just a crutch for my weakness or a pillow I grasp up in the long nights.

My God is the creator of the universe in which I stand.  He displays love in ways I cannot understand, mercy in a way that I do not deserve, and tears for the lost that is deeper than I can fathom.  And I accept this love, and the creative spirit, and the sweat that flows out of the pores of his children.   I applaud loud, and stand, and bow my head in thanks.

After the dancers swept across the stage and said their goodbyes, I pointed my car toward home.  In that dark and quiet night, I was thankful for the ability to accept mystery through the loud cacophony of life.  Love was born into the world at night with a star blazing, and mystery abounded.  Such love prayed for the cup to pass in the hours which we comfortably slept, but God bled out our sin into darkness once again.  Against the backdrop of the world then, and now, and what is to be.  But the rising, it was revealed.  The son, He rose. And the beauty that resulted was blinding.

Be still, my soul.  At least long enough to take it all in.   

Bring on the Rain

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“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21

Yeah, yeah.  I read that over and over and just couldn’t get my hands around it. It sounds good in theory, like love your neighbor and tithe and eat your broccoli.  My therapist texted me this verse, with no comment but the underlying “read this, you idiot” and I went home and stared at the words while sucking down a re-heated breakfast taco.  Then I folded laundry, and held my kids so tight they wondered what the heck had come over me, and after they went to bed I sat rocking back and forth like it might sway away the pain and swish out the hate and I then drank wine like the tannins might draw out forgiveness and tomorrow I’d wake up with a dull sense of benevolence.

But I just lay there in silence, drawing mental pictures of hate and revenge and the unfairness of this life.  I curled up tight because all my prayers were spent and used up like tissues, all wadded up and tossed aside.  I drug myself upstairs in the wee morning hours and typed out a long prayer and just demanded that God read it directly off my computer screen, because I was too angry to speak and all I could do was write in a choppy bulleted list.  I sulked and stomped back to bed like an impetuous toddler that had just screamed at her father.  Because honestly.

I want to repay evil with evil, and I am too tired and haggard to do what is right.  Maybe I can just repay evil with a little tragic harm?  The next day, I got pulled over for going 50 in a 40 and I sobbed big fat tears.  I lay my tossled, unbrushed head of hair on the steering wheel because Enough Already.  The officer just handed me a warning and a look that was as compassionate as I’ve ever seen and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he reached over right then and hugged me through the window.  I just drove home with a tear-streaked face, going 20 miles per hour and lusting for a cheeseburger.

Sometimes, it’s easy to hate.  Let’s not kid ourselves – it’s always easier to hate.  Because this life is full of disappointment and pain and fear and when we put our trust in humanity it just bites us in the ass.

What’s hard, friends, is to love.

And I don’t mean love as in butterflies and roses and beautiful cards and elusive smiles on second dates.  I don’t mean love your children or love your mother or love your BFF’s who come over and bring you brownies. I mean loving the man who betrayed you.  Loving the stranger who raped you.  Loving that father who beat you and the mother who abandoned you and that dirty, rotten, self-absorbed, abused pitiful self that you’ve been dragging around for so many decades.

Evil is banal and hideous and frankly, doesn’t deserve your respect.  Because friends, you are above it.  You are mightier than it is.  You have the power of God crawling inside your veins and the Holy Spirit dancing in your vessels and your heart is made anew with light and life and freedom from the chains that only darkness brings.

So bring on the rain.  

Let it pour and soak and drench you with sorrow.  Lament and cry and curl and drink and scream.  But in the end, realize that it doesn’t own you.  Allow yourself to look at that man, woman, teacher, stranger, drug, depression, or self, and say: My God is more powerful than you. You can pound and beat down this house but you’ll never consume me. You are standing in this body and the walls might be falling down around you, but you aren’t dead yet, and you have power unimaginable.  Power that moved mountains and raised the dead and caused the lame to walk.

When the mask is removed, that demon is just a poor needy child, so here’s a sip of cool water for that parched tongue, my sweet darling.  I’ll sit with you and smile at your ugly and stroke your dirty, vodka-soaked hair.  You hear me, darkness?  You can’t survive with me around, because I’m all light up in here and rats flee and Satan runs and evil just bares his teeth but it’s all a mirage that disappears when I get close.  Begone, you fool.  I ain’t got time for your stupid, cunning ways.

What are you afraid of, anyway?  That the person that hurt you most will get away with it?  That they might take you for a fool? That they might get a free hall pass for all the damage they’ve caused?  Oh dear friends, they will have to live with the consequences of sin, and vengeance is not yours to take.  Make room and step aside as God enacts his own wrath.  Our job is only to love, and love when it’s hard, and love when it’s not realized, and love even when we are bruised and torn and left alone in front of that mirage we thought was water.  But we can repay evil with the pure, clear, smooth freedom of love, which washes much more clean.

And then nothing will ever chain us.  Nothing will bind us.  We can stretch out our wings and stand before God with bulleted lists of prayers fluttering to our feet, our soul smiling and our hair getting drenched with dew from heaven, and God’s redemption, and we can know that we are living, leading, learning.  Uncurl.  Unclench. Undo the chains around your hardened heart, and bring on the rain.

Overcome evil with good. 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/megyarsh/2501775595/sizes/m/in/photostream/